31 January 2011

February 2011: OMENS


Back in September, the awesome David Bishop at Hoping for Something to Hope For came up with this rather brilliant idea: with the rather ginormous library of instant streaming media on Netflix available, spend an entire month watching one film (or TV pilot) a day and blog about it. Helps keeping regularity in posting, chums down ones Netflix Que, and adds content and new reviews to your blog.

Well, I plan on doing that as well.

For the month of February, I will be exorcising the weekly features (with the exception of The Watcher) in favor for One Month Exploring Netflix Streaming. I have one hell of a giant streaming Que and it's about time I watch some of these bloody films, and with me unable to get rides back home making me stuck at school and thus in the presence of high-speed internet and all the Netflix I could ever want, there's not a better opportunity.

As per Davids rules, they are as follows:
  1. Watch something new (never before seen) via Netflix Streaming for each day of the month.
  2. It can be either a full feature film or a pilot episode of a television show.
  3. Report the Netflix rating given along with justification each day.
C'mon, how can this not be fun? If anyone else has interest in doing this, the more the merrier. Anyhow, I hope you all enjoy the daily dose of content! Don't be surprised if I accidentally post a homework assignment instead of a movie review...

I kid, I kid.

I hope.

At the end of the month, I'll post a tally of what I reviewed, the Netflix ratings I gave 'em, and just a small wrap-up of the month. Reviews will usually be up around 5 PM. Cheers!

MMAM - Vol. 27

A few short years ago when the Judd Apatow group of comedians made it big at cinemas - as in a new movies of theirs came out every other week - the one I was most looking forward to was FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. Truth be told, it was primarily because of Kristen Bell and how gorgeous she is, and to a extent Mila Kunis, but lo and behold, SARAH MARSHALL was a hilarious, awesome film that even spawned a pretty damn good spin-off GET HIM TO THE GREEK [review here]. Hot women aside, the real highlight of the film was Aldous Snow, played by Russel Brand. He's the very epitome of a stereotypical rockstar who just doesn't give a shit about what he says. A more out-there Steve Stifler, I guess you could call him. So with the presence of Aldous, we also get some brilliant original songs (continued in GREEK). Maybe in other editions I'll post 'em (I don't want to repeat myself just yet, maybe at number 50), but for now, let's get Aldous' message across, cos we gotta do somethin'!

28 January 2011

Lost - Season 6


Lost - Season 6

Created by Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
Starring Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Jorge Garcia, Terry O'Quinn, Henry Ian Cusick, Michael Emerson, Daniel Day Kim, Yunjin Kim, Emile de Ravin, Alan Dale, Nestor Carbonell, Zuleikha Robinson, Jeff Fahey, Ken Leung,
Transmission season: 2010
ABC, 16 episodes, 43 mins.

Note: This review is written with the assumption the reader has already watched the entirety of seasons 1-6, for there are spoilers abound.

Plot: It's a fight of good vs. evil on the island as the Smoke Monsters puts its plan into fruition to finally get off the island, and the LOSTies need to stop him to save everything they hold dear.

Letting go. What a powerful message, and one that seems utterly simple to execute. But it’s not; it’s difficult, and it goes against our nature. All six seasons of LOST, and especially this sixth and final season, is about each character on the show – including and especially Jack Shephard – letting go. It’s simply beautiful. No matter the amount of grievances fans point and shout at executive producers and show runners Damon Linelof and Carlton Cuse about the lack of answers or some other problem, what they have accomplished these last six years is nothing short of extraordinary, and they exit this grand show in spectacular fashion. All these years in the making, and the messages and themes the writers have explored since Day One come into fruition: the goodness and darkness within ourselves, free will versus fate or destiny, and of course, simply letting go. These wonderful and timeless themes are juxtaposed against a thrilling story of good vs. evil this season as the LOSTies face off against the Man in Black, briefly seen in the season five finale “The Incident”, the notorious Smoke Monster (“security system”?) of the island who wants nothing more than to be free.

Episodes
Juliet detonates a nuclear bomb. Um, okay. So...what the frak happens now? New timeline? Alternate reality? Nothing? "LA X" opens with everything as it should be: Oceanic 815 lands, all is good. Yet we flip back to the island, where everything has gone to shit again. Welcome to the flashsideways, apparently some sort of consequence of Jack's plan that doesn't seem to actually include them. Now that would suck: executing the bomb plan, only to not have yourself be brought back to the beginning. In this world, Claire's still preggers, Jack has a son, Sawyer's a cop, Desmond's the shiz, Kate's still innocent but fugitivy-Kate, Charlie still loves him some drugs...there's similarities and differences in what came before and what happens now. Watching the Sideways world unfold is one of the true delights of the season. With each clue, with each flashback to something that happened on the island or some sort of shout out, what the Sideways world is becomes a question that's just as exciting as 'how is it all going to end?'

On the island, friendships are crushed and unexpected allegiances are formed. The Man in Black is doing everything in his power to get the frak off the island, and many of the surviving LOSTies aren't exactly opposed to the idea themselves. However, the ghost of Jacob isn't too keen on his brother getting out, so he uses the LOSTies to foil his plan.

Anyway. So: answers. The Man in Black is the Smoke Monster. Alright, coolio. There are some confusing elements about past explanations of the Monster that doesn't seem to correspond with this revelation, but I'll go with it. Also, to no surprise, the LOSTies were brought to the island by Jacob as a means to protect the island when he's gone...which was, like, two days ago LOST time. Alright, I dig that explanation. I especially liked the whole lighthouse stuff, explaining how Jacob's able to leave the island and 'touch' each of the candidates in "The Incident" flashbacks. However, my only complaint is that he shoula oughta been preparing them or something all these years. Really, what was the purpose of staying idle until he got murdered to prep them? Did he wanna see who would be the last ones standing? And isn't Jacob more or a monster than Flocke for allowing all the non-candidates to die just for, what, six people? By non-candidates I mean casualties on the plane and the people who died since...Libby, Anna Lucia, Shannon, etc. I know, I know, reading too much into this.

Although each episode of the season was pretty damn good, my favorites include: "Sundown", which was one hell of a stellar episode. Sayid kicking ass! Smokey victorious! Now that's always good television. "Dr. Linus", where even in the Sideways world Ben can be a manipulative small person, but the best part was the interaction between Ben and daughter Alex. "Ab Aeterno" (of course), with every bit of its 48-minute running time as compelling and cinematic as a feature film; "The Candidate" is just plain extraordinary, from the emotional character goodbyes to the action packed moments; "Happily Ever After" is wonderfully written, and a brilliant tease at what the Sideways actually are; and "The End", which still has some problems creatively, but is still one hell of a exit and works on so many levels thanks to the powerful performances, script, and of course, Michael Giacchino.

I Are Actor
I love the entire cast, you know I do. I love 'em, and they are all fantastic. But there is one particular individual that deserves significant mention this season: Terry O'Quinn. Yes, he's done some absolutely splendid work for the show before, but nothing can compare to his performance not only as the Sideways John Locke but also the Man in Black. With words, MIB comes off as a pleasant man, but his face and eyes convey a animalistic, wicked personality, a snake ready to lash out if you displease him. Forget Jack, Desmond, Kate, Sawyer, or even Ben, but this season was completely Lockes, and Terry O'Quinn milked the opportunity for all his worth, and it was magnificent.

Not saying Michael Emerson didn't get to play. Gosh, no. It is true that for the majority of the season, Ben was mostly overcome with a guilty conscious about killing Jacob and being manipulated himself. Ben wasn't up to his normal games or standards we've known of him since season two. Instead, like many have noted, he sort of underwent a transitional period, slowly becoming one of the good guys that's officially cemented in "The End" with his anointment of No. 2. Now, is it possible to parade a actor with accolades because of one single episode? In "What They Died For", when Ben watches Richard being thrown into the jungle by Flocke, Michael Emerson gives such a cool performance. After seeing Richard disappear, Ben just has that face that says, Oh. He slowly walks to a nearby porch, sits down faceforward, and just waits for Flocke to show up, and when asked by him where Charles Widmore is, he coldly says "in my secret closet" (or something like that). Excellent, excellent performance, and one of my top five favorite moments of the season.

Naveen Andrews provides just the right amount of disconnect to Sayid's zombie-like state. Matthew Fox can do this role in his sleep, but luckily he doesn't sleepwalk through his performance, instead allowing Jack to smile for the first time in what seems like eons and actually lead without commanding. Josh Holloway gets his grieving going on in the real world, but it's his performance as a police officer in the Sideways that had me applauding and demanding a spin-off with Miles, played to perfection (once again) by Ken Leung. Jorge Garcia - he can do no wrong, and with his escalated importance to the story this season, he rises to the challenge and is one of the most memorable elements this year. Emile de Ravin shines most profoundly in "The End", not given much to do other than 'crazy girl' for most of the season. Henry Ian Cusick commands the screen just as strongly as Terry and Michael, and any episode with Desmond in it is a blast. Evangeline Lilly is thrown to the sidelines, unfortunately, but she gets her due in the Sideways. Yunjin Kim outshines Daniel Day with emotional intensity and complexity. Nestor Carbonell gives the audience something they've never seen before in "Ab Aeterno", and Alan Dale is basically Alan Dale. As for Zuleikha Robinson, she's....okay. At the end of the day, was her character really needed? Well, I guess she did provide the necessary exposition.

The Season
If there is one absolute, unequivocal, strength with the show, it’s its unwavering dedication to their characters. Toss in as many intriguing mysteries and mythologies into the mix as one would like, but at the end of the day, LOST (and the strikingly similar science fiction show BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) are first and foremost all about the characters, the good and the bad. This season, more than anything, is a complete service to these flawed people we’ve grown to love these past five seasons, as each of them make difficult choices and in the end, face their destiny.

Hell, the writing in general is just fantastic, and pretty much some of the best that was found on television. Week after week, be in present time, a flashback, flashforward, or trip into the Sideways world, the writers of LOST created such unique, individualistic characters with distinct voices and so many dimensions. If it wasn’t for the writers, the actors wouldn’t have such strong material to work with, and the emotional stakes for each character episode after episode wouldn’t be so high and involving. LOST deserves a lot of accolades, and next to the wonderful performances, the writing is next in line.

Since I breached the topic of writing, let’s take a stab at story and the flashsideways for a little bit. Season 1 was all character, Season 2 was about mysteries and questions, Season 3 more about destiny and choices, Season 4 – hell, I don’t know, it was all over the place: love, science fictionyness, action/adventure, etc. – Season 5 was time traveling and purpose, and Season 6 is a fight of good versus evil with the greatness emphasis on character than ever before. It seems appropriate for the series to culminate in such a biblical, mythical storyline. But next to that theme and continuing the character arcs, the writers brilliantly provide us with what seems like an alternate reality: what would happen if Oceanic 815 didn’t crash and none of this destiny mumbo jumbo stuff happened. The flight lands safely, and everyone goes on with their lives. There’s little differences here and there, and lines of dialogue that are callbacks to the first season [sort of OT: I cannot believe how stoked and in love I was when the Man in Black screamed at a ghost of Jacob: “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” Goosebumps successfully bumped], and for the majority of the season, we, the fans, are completely stumped at what the hell was going on. What is the Sideways world? Why take up time in the shows final season to do this weird…thing? And when everything turns crazy in “Happily Ever After” as Desmond Hume starts a chain of events that lead up to “The End”, I was confused, worried, and filled with theories. How it all comes together and the final, painfully obvious in retrospect answer to what the Sideways world was is brilliant and just as emotionally moving as anything seen on television. I love what Lindelof and Cuse did with the Sideways, I love that this aspect of the story needed to be told. The series could not have worked without this new device, I now believe. It’s so important, so integral to these characters (and especially Jack), that there would be so much weight and story untold and unfelt with its absence.

So, the Man in Black, or ‘Smokey’, the big bad of the season, and, it seems, the entire series. Alright, I’ll give it that. I always love the theme of good versus evil, and won’t fault LOST for centering its final season on such a mythic storyline. But the more we get to see how the unnamed Man in Black came to be who he is, why he wants to kill Jacob, and what his whole motivation is, not to mention his upfront and rather suave personality, I don’t really see this entity of pure evil that, if unleashed, will cloud the world, as Jacob seems to think will happen. Yes, he did kill Jin, Sun and Sayid (and other non-Candidates), but either I’m a heartless bastard or just peculiar but that alone doesn’t make him an evil person. If Cuse and Lindelof failed in anything this season, it was their inability to make the Man in Black’s so-called ‘evil side’ live up to the hype. Instead, I quite found myself not minding the guy. He has a valid reason to hate Jacob by all means, and with the exception of a manipulative side (which Jacob himself has in spades), I get this character, and I don’t fault him. MIB just came across as a desperate man who will do anything to live.

On that note, R.I.P. Jin, Sun, and Sayid. Concerning their deaths, and I’m singling them out because I daresay they made the most impact, I thought there was some poetry and beauty to it. True to, say, the mind of Joss Whedon, it makes perfect sense to have the long-apart couple that once united must die. It just fits, and I applaud the writers for going that route, not to mention how stunning and beautiful and heartbreaking it came across on film. As for Sayid, it’s unfortunate that the kickass individual he could have been was unrealized, but just like Jin and Sun, there is something strangely right about Sayid being a emotionless shell of the man he once was. He felt nothing, he cared about nothing, and he had no hope or (seemingly) conscious. It was a fitting ending for the character, really, when he made his final choice.

One of the amazing things about LOST since the first season is it’s wonderful pacing. This is especially abundant from season four onwards. From the first episode of the season to the last, every beat and every episode feels perfectly placed and planned: where all the characters are geographically from beginning to end, where the characters are emotionally and story-wise, where the plot is at, etc. There’s this amazing coherency and inevitable destination vibe to the whole thing that I don’t see often. And this season is no different. In no time after starting ‘LA X’, we’re at ‘The End’, because the story moves so melodically and smoothly. There’s almost poetry to the whole thing.

I understand there were questions left unanswered, and I frankly didn’t expect any sort of Answer of the Week type thing happening. But there were a few that I felt were far too important and repeated that just didn’t get their just rewards. For one, this whole Walt thing. Now I get that behind-the-scenes, the actor playing Walt just grew up way too fast, so he had to go bye-bye. But all this emphasis on him (and other characters) being “special” [a phrase I so hate after being overused to death in HEROES] goes nowhere. Not even “The New Man in Charge” really shines a light in this area. I don’t care if it was an offhand comment about his specialness, like Ben just saying something to Hugo when Hugo says perhaps, “Hey, Ben, why were you guys all batshit about Walt, again? I forget.” One line, I’d be happy. But most importantly, I wanted a bit more details on the island. What I understand of the island comes much more from interviews with Damon and Carlton than in context of the show itself, and when that’s the case, perhaps there’s something wrong. I’m appreciative that we got “Across the Sea”, showing how long the island’s been around as well as its mystical properties; I appreciate season 5 with all the stuff about electromagnetism and Dharmaville. But the question Charlie asked in the “Pilot” remains largely unanswered. With the Man in Black being so intent on leaving his prison, it was the perfect opportunity for him to spout off some exposition like, ‘in my attempts to destroy/get off the island I discovered…’ Easy peasy. Yes, the characters were the number one most important element of the show, and they serviced them exceptionally well, but the question of what the island is – and more of its history – should be just as important. At the end of the day, obviously nothing I can do about it now other than guess and make up my own history and opinion of the place, but I just feel it was a important question that was left unanswered, and maybe to the shows detriment.

One last element – and perhaps one of the single most crucial if not the crucial – is the score, provided by Michael Giacchino. Anyone reading my LOST season reviews back-to-back will notice one thing in particular: I friggin’ love this guy. Each season Giacchino delivers new themes, new renditions of old themes, and suites that just sink your heart (in a good, I-need-a-cry type of way). With season 6 good and done, it’s safe to say that Michael Giacchino is truly one of the top five best composers working in the business today. You need proof? One could literally pick any episode at random and listen to purely the music, and the evidence is right there on the table. Without Giacchino’s transcending awesome score, would LOST carry the same emotional weight and impact it would otherwise? I personally vote no. No matter the writing or the outstanding and nomination-worthy performances, it’s completely the work of Michael Giacchino that brings everything home, that will, in the end, resonate with the audience more than the events of “The Candidate.” This season, Giacchino’s mastery over music is best exemplified in the season premiere “LA X” [as everyone gets off the plane for the first time since ever], and the series finale “The End” [the CD tracks “The Hole Shebang” and “Moving On” deserve awards on their own]. Seriously, my love for this man has basically cemented my seat in any movie he composes – with the exception of a HANNAH MONTANA sequel because I don’t think my conscious could cope (although it would be interesting to see how he deals with that…). So the point is Giacchino rocks, and one should appreciate the awesomeness of the music. There’s a reason he wins awards (although I wouldn’t necessarily had given it to him for UP).

In the end, season 6 of LOST is a masterpiece of television, of storytelling, of staying true to characters, and of maintaining the same integrity, originality, and brilliance since day one. For all the naysayers who aren’t interested in LOST (and subsequently most likely wouldn’t be reading this, but in the off-chance you are, this is for you), I absolutely recommend it. Initially I wasn’t in the fan-loving league, either, wondering where the excitement of a show about people stuck on an island could possibly come from. But lo and behold, I was captivated from the “Pilot”, and I will think of this show often and analytically. It demands careful attention; it demands thought and self reflection. It demands to, most importantly and impossibly, let go.

Series Review
I had watched Season 1 long before I started really getting into the show, and although I felt it was a very good show, I wasn't particularly enthused to continue. That and the library didn't have the next season (this was before I had Netflix). So for over a year I had seen those first twenty-plus episodes and read some spoilers on the island shenanigans (knew about the time travel aspect of season 5; knew about a few deaths here and there and the infamous Nikki and Paulo storyline), but never really gave it a shot. Then with the info that the final season was about to start, the girlfriend and I thought it'd be fun to fast-track through all previous five seasons and (by that time) the season 6 episodes that had aired by the time "The End" aired. So, in mostly rapid succession, we watched the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth season, and only three of the season 6 episodes before we decided "screw it!" and watched the series finale. I know, I know, dumb choice and all, but it's not as if I was overly spoiled by some aspects.

The entire series is amazing, and it's just as amazing to see the continuity from episode one to the last. Although it does feel like this one grand over-arcing story, anyone else feel there's a sort of double trilogy thing going on? The first three seasons were purely island and character stuff, and the last three was time travel, character, fate material. Just thought it was an interesting observation.

So, my favorite seasons in order: 5, 6, 3, 4, 2, 1. Five is just superb. Six was, as you've read, great. Three was compelling as hell. Four had a good middle and end, rough beginning. Two was pretty damn good. One I need to rewatch again, but still loved. Basically, I loved them all, and a complete series marathon is mandatory during the summer. Perhaps I should post my thoughts here. Again.

I would be remiss to end my coverage of LOST without mentioning something no fan of the show should be without. First and foremost is Nikki Stafford's comprehensive and always enlightening FINDING LOST books, delving into the mythology, characters, mysteries, theories, and other anecdotes relating to the series that is absolutely riveting and insightful. $14.99 a piece, these are must-owns in any fans collection. Online, I direct you to We Have to Go Back - A Year-Long LOST Rewatch. At the time of this writing, they're six episodes into season 2, and their insights and retrospective look is always worth a read. Coming from a vantage point of people who had already seen the entire series, they note correlations with later seasons, themes, character arcs, dialogue motifs, etc. Great stuff.

In the end...
I'm glad I watched LOST.

Misc. Season Notes:
- It was fantastic and immensely satisfying to have Nestor Carbonell elevated in his importance to the story, and he gave hell of an great performance each episode, making him undoubtedly a series highlight.
- Miles: "Well I lived in these houses 30 years before you did... otherwise known as last week.”
- Jack in the Sideways: I loved the continuous nods to Jack's fate from "LA X" all the way to "The End", with the puncture wounds showing up on his neck and side. Moments like that just make me giddy.
- Juliet. Not entirely sure if it was necessary to have Juliet in "LA X" just to die at the end, because really, I don't think her presence in the premiere helps the story along at all. There's dialogue between Sawyer and Juliet that echoes "The End", but when Miles reports her last thoughts ("it worked") it doesn't really mean anything to the characters but more to the audience, so I question her inclusion, welcome as it may be.
- Crazy hair Claire. Yikes.
- Dialogue and STAR WARS references at an all-time high, although nothing can quite compare to Hugo rewriting THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in season 5.
- Even though it was a tad corny at the beginning, the Jack vs. Flocke fight in "The End" was epically awesome. There's even a pretty decent YouTube rendition of this fight with lightsabers!
- Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore's final moments in "What They Died For." Fantastic.



Goodbye, LOST!

27 January 2011

The Watcher: 01/21/11 - 01/27/11









S01E02 - "There Goes the Neighborhood (Part 2)" (24 January 2011) - Frankly, although I anticipated such a resolution to the cliffhanger in the premiere, I'm a bit disappointed. Well, a lot, actually. I understand the insanity that is the explanation and expectation of Josh's sister Emily to understand his 'condition' is rather great, so perhaps the predictable and cop-out fashion that story beat was resolved is best, but I can't help but think how much more interesting and dramatic it would have been had Josh been flat out honest and Emily to have seen a flash of the wolf before she was zipped outta there. That would have been some powerful stuff, and hell, it would have created more angst (!), which is what the writers are looking for. Speaking of the writing, I like the show, but can they scale back a bit on emphasizing the characters' desire to be human every three minutes and twenty-five seconds [not a exact science, mind you]? I get it, guys! You don't need to reiterate it all the bloody time. There's a little thing called subtlety that could be rather useful to you, right about now.

But the good news is that this cast is charismatic and has the necessary goods to keep me interested, so I'll keep tuning in. Sam Witwer is perhaps the breakout performance as Aiden, displaying all the lust for blood and restraining urge on his face for all to see. Theatrical, maybe, but he gets the point across. Sam Huntington seems to go for the more subdued performance, relying on his eyes and facial expressions to do the acting for him. As for Sally, not entirely set in stone about her yet, but I'm interested to see where her character goes, and I really hope the writers don't do verbatim what the British one did. Now that they've set up the characters and their specific dilemmas and fears, it's time for the Canadian writers to branch out and do their own thing. One thing is for sure: I can't wait to see how this whole Rebecca fiasco evolves with this series. Actress Sarah Allen displays just the right amount of sexuality and life-taking glee needed to make Rebecca a menace, but provides just enough of a hint of humanity that she might be redeemable after all. And Mark Pellegrino as Bishop: well, it's interesting seeing blond hair, for sure. The interaction between Bishop and Aiden is heating up, and hopefully the two will hit heads later on in the season.

"There Goes the Neighborhood" was a decent series opener, setting up the dilemmas and personalities of the characters nicely. The same chemistry inherent in the UK production is thus far absent, as is a real emotional weight to the series. But I'm still giddy, and I'd still recommend any interested parties in taking a dive into BEING HUMAN.








S01E04 - "Scales" (24 January 2011) - Oh my. The seemingly impossible has happened. Four episodes in, THE CAPE has produced a good, and dare I say it - layered - episode! Good thing I didn't decide to abandon the series, cos this just might be a indicator that there are good things on the horizon. Well, hopefully. "Scales" was all about Vinnie Jones being Vinnie Jones: condescending, tough, and ready to beat the shit out of people. He outs Peter Fleyming as Chess to a literal busload of passengers, but they just laugh it off, much to Scales' mighty pissyness. In the end, The Cape has to work with Chess to save the lives of everyone on that train, and Vince finds himself at odds with his own circus 'family', realizing that eventually, what they stand for will inevitably come to a head. Basically, "Scales" is a good episode because it's more complex than the previous ones, held some surprises, and wasn't all around painful to watch as the last three were. It enables the villains to be crazy and the good guys to be determined yet defeated. Everyone's at a crossroads, and it promises to elicit some juicy storylines from this as well. And I may be the only one in the world, but I'm sort of digging the idea of a Vince/Summer Glau hookup. Anyone else? "Scales" points the show in a positive direction. Now let's hope they keep it that way.











S04E12 - "Chuck Vs. the Gobbler" (24 January 2011) - Timothy Dalton. Yep, he rocked. I never saw Dalton as James Bond, as in I never saw those movies, but with this, HOT FUZZ, and his work as the Lord President in DOCTOR WHO, I have grown to not only appreciate Timothy Dalton, but love the guy as well, and he's doing fantabulous on CHUCK. Hell, Dalton, and the uber sexy new look for Sarah Walker, are the only reasons why this episode is at the top of the season. This whole rogue agent thing is a nifty but tired storyline, but it's the execution that has me a bit worried. Nonetheless, "Chuck Vs. the Gobbler" was the most entertaining and fun episode in a long while where I could just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. I dug Chuck using the Intersect to fight in prison. I didn't dig Captain Awesome and Ellie bickering over baby names, although I did like her complete ownage at episodes end. It's unfortunate Alex and Morgan's relationship is shown on the side and never given the appropriate and damn-well-deserved attention it needs to grow and get the audience emotionally attached. As for Casey, I can't wait to see how he bounces back and pissier than ever. Adam Baldwin needs more to do this season, and this seems like the right time for him to get his ass kickin on.














S03E10 - "The Firefly" (21 January 2011) - I love when events from the past come kicking people in the ass years later. When Walter stepped into the other world to retrieve that Peter Bishop, he set up a chain reaction of events that lead to this episode, "The Firefly", and the Observers are intent on making it right, even if it comes at a cost. Of course, the true purpose of the episodes events is told in the final seconds and offers up even more questions and potential juicy storylines that will see us through the next twelve (!!) episodes. One of the great things about FRINGE is that these characters make choices, and these choices absolutely have repercussions. It could be gathered that nearly the entire show is a result of Walter's choice to take the Other World Peter, that it's been Walternate's obsession with destroying us that occasionally triggers a majority of these scientific anomalies (that and William Bell, 'course). Guest star Christopher Lloyd fared better here as a out-of-lock ex-musician than he did in CHUCK earlier this season. By that, I mean that I can actually mostly understand what he's saying! The Peter/Olivia relationship is still at a standstill, but there is the slightest glimpse that maybe Olivia might be able to forge ahead after all. But, in true FRINGE fashion, something (instead of someone) interrupts the nice quite moment and life is on the line.

FRINGE did actually pretty good ratings in its new Friday night timeslot. Unfortunately for myself, FRINGE airs the same time as SUPERNATURAL on The CW, so I'm torn. SUPERNATURAL is nearly guaranteed to be renewed for a seventh season, yet FRINGE is up in the air. What do I watch and thus support? I love both shows, and I don't want FRINGE to go! Oh, the strenuous situations I face.











S01E02 - "Tea" (24 January 2011) - Just as compelling and dimensional as the premiere, "Tea" allows actress Sofia Black D'elia to shine. Whereas Tony was the hothead, know-it-all, talk-himself-out-of-any-jam dude, Sofia's Tea is a much more difficult character to fully understand. She's complex and interesting. A closet lesbian to no one but her family, Tea is struggling with finding a girl who challenges her, excites her, and isn't ashamed of who she is and what she does. Tea is attracted to another schoolgirl, and they spend a night together, but yet she finds herself drawn to Tony, and they share quite the awkward hookup. The chemistry with Tony and Tea is definitely there, and they seem like a good match: both are each others rivals, really. The episode ends without anything getting resolved (except the Stoner Man's $900 tab on Stan, which seemingly did get concluded), and I hope these plot threads linger and evolve in the next batch of episodes. For all the ridicule, ratings decline, and parental outrage concerning the show, I'd just say watch the damn thing. It's far more complex and intelligent and honest than any other 'teen'-oriented program on right now.











Thankfully - I mean, regrettably, there was no V tonight. Thank you, President Obama!

26 January 2011

Buried


Buried

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Robert Paterson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Samanta Mathis. Chris Sparling. Directed by Rodrigo Cort├ęs. Release: 27 September 2010. Lionsgate, 93 mins., Rated R

Plot: Paul Conroy wakes up to find himself buried in a wooden coffin. Oh, shit.

They did it. They actually did it. Somehow, someway, they made an entire 1hr. 33 min. movie set entirely in the confines of a wooden coffin, and made it as riveting and pulse-pounding as a Jason Bourne movie. Major kudos to Ryan Reynolds and director Rodrigo Cortes, especially for Cortes who had the difficult job of filming such a confined space and ended up using that to his advantage: the best example I can think of immediately is some exquisite use of zooms on Paul's face in moments of heightened excitement or tension.

Although the situation is dire, that doesn't mean there's not room for comedy. Perhaps this is why they cast Reynolds, because he has this amazing ability to be dramatic and comedic at the same time. Rare gift, and he pulls it off in spades. Not saying this happens a lot, but just enough to make Paul an instantly likable personality.

Perhaps my most appreciative thing about BURIED is the intelligence of the script. Although we follow only one character the entire movie, thanks to the presence of a cell phone (which makes sense in the context of the film) he's able to talk to multiple people (wife, wife's friends, Company Man, hostage negotiators, etc.), and with each conversation the script delivers enough hints and information about Paul's life and personality that by the end of the movie, we get a pretty good idea of who this man is, the life he leads, and a bit of his history. Nothing is outright spoken like exposition, instead the script and director allows the phone calls and actor performances tell the story. Great stuff, there. Now, a complete 360 from that: the script has one of the top five most intense scenes of the year: Paul vs. the Snake. Similar to Indiana Jones, I HATE snakes, so those five minutes nothing could have pried my eyes from the screen to see how he got out of that particular situation.

Another fantastic moment is a phone conversation between Paul and Alan Davenport, a representative of the company Paul was driving trucks for. It's heartbreaking, moreso than his call to his wife Linda, and Reynolds delivers not the comedy, but the drama and outrageous proportions of the conversation magnificently. Really, I can't give this movie enough accolades.

In the end, BURIED was spectacular. Sure, there was the side of me who had KILL BILL VOL. 2 on my mind thinking, 'Why doesn't he just pull a Pai Mei and punch his way out?', but that didn't distract from the intense and dramatic experience of the film. I'm sure if I watched this in theaters I would have been even more glued in and sucked into the events unfolding, but on DVD it did just fine. 30 minutes had passed before I even thought about checking how far in the flick was in (something I regrettably do quite often), and I was befuddled cos it felt nothing more than five minutes had passed. Reynolds, the script, the camera work, and even the music all come together to make one hell of an unforgettable movie experience. BURIED is highly recommended.

25 January 2011

Tuesday Cap - Vol. 17



Title: The Mask

Notes: The most perfect vehicle imaginable for Jim Carrey's personality, THE MASK is ironically restrained with his trademark insane shenanigans. I was sort of expecting balls-out crazy. What we got instead was 'mostly crazy' with enormous doses of LOONEY TUNES inspiration thrown in (not like I'm complaining about LOONEY TUNES - I love 'em). Still, THE MASK is a pretty damn good and immensely enjoyable flick, even all these years later [just watched it last night]. Perhaps it's greatest accomplishment with me is it triggered a intense desire to own a dog, specifically Milo. How awesome is that dog? Awesome! Forget Shiloh and Lassie, Milo is 'da bomb diggity! Other great thing about THE MASK: Cameron Diaz. Absolutely, she has a thankless, dimensionless role, but holy crap, that woman is hot! What? I'm supposed to write something more intelligent than that? Surely not! I saw this movie as a child, loved it, and haven't seen it in a long, long while. Revisiting it again, the same amount of fun and, dare I say, insanity is still there, asking me to put the mask on myself. Now that'd be fun. And no, I haven't seen SON OF MASK, and I'm not sure there's much in this universe that would compel be to do so. That's just crazy talk.

Discuss: Do the visual effects still pass 17 years later? Is this Jim Carrey's best performance? Did the Big Bad at the end remind you of The Hulk at all? Wouldn't it be fantastic to have Milo as a dog? Is the reason this takes place at Edge City because the filmmakers wouldn't want to piss off authority figures for how completely stupid and lazy they're portrayed in the movie?

24 January 2011

MMAM - Vol. 26

TRON: LEGACY [review here] was a pretty effin' awesome production, displaying some absolutely mesmerizing visuals and action scenes. The revenue from the film is apparently decent enough - albeit not groundbreaking - for Disney to be pursuing a third TRON film as we speak, or so the rumor says. But perhaps a good chunk of the talk about TRON: LEGACY doesn't stem from the SPFX that, dare I say, rivals James Cameron's AVATAR, or, as I've mentioned on a few occasions in my review, the uber-sexiness of Olivia Wilde as Quorra, but the score composed entirely by the band Daft Punk.

Personally, I agree, it's a pretty good score. Not sure if it deserves all the attention it's being lavished with, but it's still a solid listen that definitely pumps me up to do my homework or clean the house. Speaking of homework, the folks in the dorm next to mine have their speakers attached to the wall (on my side through the wall, basically), and they play this particular track on repeat a good eight or ten times over, so I'm quite used to it at this point. Initially, I thought it was Hans Zimmer's INCEPTION score because, admit it, there are quite a few similarities in the following track. It nicely epitomizes the movie: the action, the overall feel of the score, and most of all, it reflects the 'running-out-of-time' subplot of the film. So, ladies and gents, appreciate "Fall" by Daft Punk.

22 January 2011

Stargate: Atlantis - Season 1


Stargate: Atlantis - Season 1

Created by Robert C. Cooper & Robert Wright
Starring Joe Flanigan, David Hewlett, Rachel Luttrell, Rainbow Sun Francks, Toni Higginson, Paul McGillion, Dean Marshall
Transmission season: 2004-2005
Syfy Channel. 20 episodes

Plot: A expedition team locate the lost city of Atlantis, created by the Ancients millions of years ago, and find themselves stuck there without the necessary power to travel back to Earth. But all fun and games takes a backseat when the Atlantis crew come face to face with the nefarious life sucking Wraiths, who intend on seizing Atlantis and making their way to Earth for a whole new crop of feeding - unless this crew of scientists, civilians, and military can stop them!

The Stargate franchise. 10 seasons of STARGATE: SG-1, five seasons of STARGATE: ATLANTIS, and 2 seasons of STARGATE: UNIVERSE. These guys must be doing something right, or how else in the hell do they have seventeen seasons worth of program produced?

Mark this as one of the few successful spin-off shows, especially in the sci-fi department. Now, I’ve tried watching the original show, STARGATE: SG-1, but failed to really get into it. This, though, I quite honestly couldn’t stop watching. I rented the first season from the library and watched this whole shebang in a very, very short amount of time (three days, which included going to work here and there). Quite in love, I stopped over at a local DVD store and to my absolute pleasure, found a set for $24.96 that included not only the first season I had just finished watching, but the complete second season! How am I supposed to beat that price, exactly? And the following week I stopped at Sam’s Club and found the remaining three seasons for $9.98 a piece. Suffice to say, I now own all five seasons of this spectacular and awesome show, and in-between schoolwork these days, I am fully committed to the show (as of this writing, I’m halfway through the third season). Point is, I didn’t expect to get past the first disc of this season, and here I am head over affordable shoes in love with it.

The series follows an expedition team venturing off to the lost city of the Ancients, Atlantis, located in the Pegasus Galaxy. Unfortunately they don’t have enough power (sourced from something called a ZPM which looks like a thick orange crystal) to dial Earth through the Stargate, so they’re sort of stuck there. Along this expedition are some absolutely great characters: Colonial Jack Sheppard (Fanigan) is a wise-cracking action hero who more than once gets compared to Captain Kirk for his tendency to act the hero, save the day, and attract the attention of alien women. Dr. Rodney McKay (Hewlett) is the brilliant, egocentric scientist who knows more about the Ancients than everyone on the team combined, saves the day just as often as Sheppard, and works well under life-threatening circumstances. From the first episode onwards, Dr. Rodney McKay became one of my favorite characters of all time, his hilarious and deadpan dialogue and performance making him not only hysterical but emotionally moving. Hell, I nearly love the guy more than the complex Gaius Baltar of GALACTICA.

Leading the expedition to Atlantis is Dr. Elizabeth Weir (Higginson), a woman whose life ambition is to find Atlantis and learn more about the Ancients. She gets her wish. As a civilian, she leaves the military decisions to Sheppard, but for the most part, she’s in command of Atlantis and it does take quite the toll on her throughout the season. Friend of Sheppards is Lieutenant Aiden Ford (Francks), loyal and willing to go head-first into combat, Ford also never fails to match Sheppard and McKay with the wisecracks. Introduced in “Rising” is Teyla Emmagan, an Athosian who accompanies Sheppard and his team to Atlantis in hopes of escaping the Wraith along with her people. Over time, she becomes a trusted and valuable asset to the team, what with her kickass girl power and knowledge in trade with other planets.

All these folks and more create an interesting family dynamic, where everyone looks out for each other and saves the day on an episode by episode basis. It’s a great cast, and this show wouldn’t be half of what it is without them. The actors are phenomenal in their roles, and thanks to some equally fantastic scripts, each episode is major amounts of food because of them.

Like any good science fiction show, there needs to be a deadly end-of-the-world type villain, and in the case of STARGATE: ATLANTIS, it’s the Wraith, long-haired blood sucking creatures that harvest humans and feed on their life source in order to live. It’s their hunger, mahn! Initially there were only a few Wraith around the galaxy causing trouble, but thanks to Colonial John Sheppard and his team, they inadvertently caused the entire Wraith civilization to wake up from hibernation and get a tad antsy. With food sources becoming increasingly limited around the galaxy, the Wraith find themselves quite interested by a new food source: earth. Oh shit, is right, ladies and gentlemen.

Not only do the Atlantis team need to deal with the Wraith, but there’s also this group called the Genii, a military team intent on destroying the Wraith. Sounds good on paper, but they’re not exactly the kindest human beings in the world, and are more than willing to kill and torture people, not to forget mentioning overthrowing Atlantis, to achieve their goals. Basically, they’re merciless good guys without conscience, making themselves quite a problem for Atlantis.

ATLANTIS’ freshman season has some absolutely outstanding episodes. The two-part series premiere, “Rising”, is every bit as epic and jaw-dropping in its execution as a big budget cinematic venture; the two-part midseason finale/premiere “The Storm/The Eye” is basically the sci-fi version of One Man vs. An Army with a giant life-threatening tidal wave thrown in for good measure; “Thirty-Eight Minutes”, a seemingly stand alone episode that has greater importance to the signature villain of the show as well as featuring some great comedy and genuine tension as Sheppard and his team are stuck halfway through a Stargate and only have thirty-eight minutes before certain death; “Home”, a welcome departure from the normal DNA structure of the show where certain members of the Atlantis expedition return home, but not everything is as it seems; “Letters from Pegasus” is an heartwarming and emotional charging episode as the characters send videos to their loves ones through a wormhole to earth, and we get to see another side of McKay; and of course the two-part season finale “The Seige” which is every bit as stunning and big-budget feeling as “Rising”.

There are, of course, many more very good installments in this 20-episode season, but in an attempt not to seem overly in love with the show, I decided to hold back. You’re welcome. Although the show does have some very, very good episodes, characters, visual effects, and even a great writing staff, it does, as expected, falter on occasion. For one, there are far too many cases of Deus Ex Machina, most head-shakingly in “The Seige” as out of nowhere a military team from Earth arrives to assist Atlantis against the Wraith. Sure, enjoyable episode and it helps even the odds (sorta), but the sudden and entirely random appearance of this ‘salvation’ is so abrupt and obviously a Deus Ex Machina, even my mom (who was partially watching) cried foul. One aspect of this type of series I couldn’t stand in STARGATE: UNIVERSE actually works surprisingly well here: how the problem of the week gets tied up in a nice little bow by episodes end. Mostly it works, other times I wished the writers allowed time for characters and story to breathe, but it’s only a small complaint to an overall immensely enjoyable series.

If my description of the series sounds even half interesting, I can't recommend enough giving STARGATE: ATLANTIS a shot. It's great science fiction, and more than that, it's a great program with some really human characters in an brilliant adventure. Bad guys, attractive alien girls, Problem(s) of the Week, certain death, laugh out loud humor, great characters, and the promise of enterprising stories and galaxies to be explored (which strangely look A LOT like Vancouver...) episode after episode...what's not to love? Highly Recommended


20 January 2011

The Watcher: 01/14/11 - 01/20/11









S01E01 - "There Goes the Neighborhood (Part 1)" (17 January 2011) - BEING HUMAN transitions to American television screens quite faithfully. Of course, it isn't a scene-by-scene remake [although I initially feared it would be; although the preview for the rest of the season holds many similarities to the first six-episode series of the British original]. Simply, all the elements are there: the vampire (Aiden), the ghost (Sally), the werewolf (Josh), and the police vamp in charge (Bishop), not to mention Aiden's victim (Rebbecca). But this version, produced in Canada, has its own distinct elements. The best example is the introduction of Josh's sister Emily is a fine and interesting aspect added, and the cliffhanger involving her and Josh was certainty pretty awesome. Of course, nothing will happen, but hopefully there will be some sort of fallout from it. SMALLVILLE alumni Sam Witwer fills the shoes of bloodsucker Aiden quite well, bringing the amount of inner turmoil to the table in bucketloads. Jimmy Olsen himself Sam Huntington is also pretty fun as Josh, and Meaghan Rath comes off as an exact replica of Annie. To her detriment or success, dunno yet. "There Goes the Neighborhood" is a odd experience, really, since I had seen the original series beforehand. By all means, this incarnation of BEING HUMAN looks to not only be faithful to the original, but also can be quite good and entertaining in its own right. But as of right now, the show lacks the friendship and chemistry the original had in spades. Again, not saying it wasn't a good 43 minutes of television, it just shows some room for improvement. I plan on staying with BEING HUMAN for the remainder of its 13-episode season, so we'll see how the show evolves. As of now, it got off on a pretty decent start.









S01E03 - "Kozmo" (17 January 2011) - By now THE CAPE is nicely settling into its comic booky routine: villain, Chess, family, "I AM THE CAPE!", "Who are you, really?", heroic shot, finale. Similar to V, I don't think THE CAPE has any plans to really expand or stretch to become something really, really good, which is unfortunate, but I give kudos to the producers for knowing what type of show they want to make and stick by making it. However, it's just not the type of show I'm currently giddy about. Dunno, maybe a bit down the line when the First Season DVD release hits stores and I choose to revisit it, I might sing a different tune. For now, I liked the guest villain of the week, the supremely awesome Thomas Kretschmann (KING KONG), who really does come across as a threat. Summer Glau is nicely getting comfortable in her role after a shaky start, and I'm beginning to like Vince's wife starting to unravel the set-up. Otherwise, I dug "Tarrot" more.










S04E011 - "Chuck Vs. The Balcony" (17 January 2011) - It's been so long I nearly had completely forgotten what went down in the CHUCKverse last it aired. I remembered the uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner party with Dalton and Hamilton, but not much other than that. A sign that perhaps this season of CHUCK hasn't been its strongest? Anyhow, this episode was all about Chuck's anxiety to make the best possible proposal to his Too-Hot-For-Him girlfriend Sarah. The opening scene was actually really funny, I give them props for that. Morgan never fails to elicit laughs, and even Lester was humorous for the first time in an eternity and a half with his whole blowing-the-relationship-out-of-proportion thing. I also liked how the writers stayed true to the character of Sarah by having her completely take over Operation Proposal, and even Casey's commentary about Chuck's situation. So, yes, there were some good things in this episode, some very promising things, but I'm not too sold on the final 'twist'. I don't buy it. Sarah go undercover as a traitor? Destroy Volkov's operation from the inside? Um, what? Volkov has extensive knowledge of Sarah already, and he should know that there is hardly a thing that would make her betray her country. So why? How does the CIA plan to pull this off? From a story aspect, it's interesting, but it's execution is flat out blah, and I normally can forgive these type of plot messes. On the plus side, Sarah will have sexy black hair next week, so I think I can make this work.










S01E01 - "Tony" (17 January 2011) - [What a coinkidink - this edition of The Watcher features two shows that are remakes of British programs] What a opening sequence. The first nine minutes is freakin' compelling and so well done, providing the audience with just enough glimpses and info about this large cast of characters to pretty much 'get' them ASAP, not to mention the kinetic pace that it was delivered. It was like David Fincher had directed the opening scene fresh off his SOCIAL NETWORK experience. Anyway, I hadn't really planned on watching SKINS cos I'm not that big a fan of MTV, but my curiosity obviously got the better of me. And I'm glad it did, because "Tony" was actually a pretty good 40 minutes of television. Far more grittier and realistic than, say, GOSSIP GIRL or THE O.C. (and especially ONE TREE HILL), SKINS tries to position itself in the 'real world' of crazy shit that happens in teen life. Of course, there are probably some liberties taken here and there, but for the most part, it rings true. The basis of the premiere is that Tony, the quick-mouthed smartypants and all around 'Awesome' guy, is trying to help his bud Stan to pop his cherry before his 17th birthday. But this is a tad more complicated because Stan actually is quite smitten by Tony's girlfriend Michelle. The rest of the day just goes downhill from there. Perhaps it's the soft side in me, but I always enjoy the romantic plotpoint of the dweeby character not settling with a girl because he really loves someone else, often the attractive girl who's with the jocky jerk. So, to see that triangle on display on this first episode - well, gave me a mini delight. Right now, the characters are already rather dimensional, and the next nine episodes will only enable the realism of these characters and their 'drama' to grow, and I'm excited for that. Plus, the entertainment value of the show goes up a few notches due to the fact the actors are actually around the age of their characters, instead of being 26-year old-somethings. Overall, the premiere episode of SKINS was quite engaging, and holds the potential to be something pretty - dare I say - 'special'. So I'll keep tuning in. One complaint, though: do they really need to show the SKINS logo each and every time there's a commercial break and when it comes back on? Really?











S02E03 - "Laid Bare" (19 January 2011) - Does 'Best episode of the Season' count as something? And really, I attribute that entirely to the deadly cold and freakishly awesome skin pealing sequence with poor Tori (yes, I know that's not her V character name, but damnit, she will always be Tori to me). It was brutal and heartless, just the way I wanted it. So thank you V writers for doing something pretty damn nice. It's still a tad sad to see her go, though. Earlier this week I re-read a interview with executive producer Scott Rosenbaum on how they're not going to hold anything back story-wise, how there would be six reveals at least per episode. Well, I'm waiting, guys. Right now, we know one thing that was expected (Tyler), and one thing that was quasi-smart (Red Sky first step in V/human breeding), but since the first episode, there hasn't been much movement in the 'reveal' department. Sure, we got Anna's mom who just make jabs and suggestions we know Anna will ignore, and we also have the pursuit of destroying the human soul, which could be nifty if handled better. The one aspect of the story I'm really looking forward to is the inevitable confrontation between Anna and, um, Erica (almost called her Juliet there). Now she knows about what happened to her during pregnancy, about Tyler's missing DNA strands, and probably soon how Lisa's mutating mating-ready body is gonna get her freak on more with her son to pop out an alien/human hybrid kid. Erica should be pissed (as viewers we don't really know, because none of the actors have emotive skills; Vandervoot and Baccarrin the amazing exception), so I expect to see one hell of a final brawl between the two mothers. That would be a satisfying series finale. Screw the aliens invading Earth - that hasn't been a story of interest for awhile - I wanna see Erica vs. Anna. Stakes of the world on two women, victor takes all. That kinda thing. C'mon, couldn't it be cool?


Next week, the return of SMALLVILLE, SUPERNATURAL, and NIKITA to this rotation. w00t!

18 January 2011

Tuesday Cap - Vol. 16



Title: The Princess Bride

Notes: It's THE PRINCESS BRIDE, ladies and gentlemen. Not much to say about the film other than, well, I'm a dude and I love this movie. It's pretty much the perfect form of spectacular fun.

Discuss: Note your love (or non-love [how dare you!]) of the movie here.

17 January 2011

MMAM - Vol. 25

In celebration of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' THE SOCIAL NETWORK composition , winning Best Original Score at the Golden Globes yesterday evening, I present to thee "Hand Covers Bruise" from the CD release. Enjoy!


16 January 2011

The Green Hornet


The Green Hornet

Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Edward James Olmos, David Harbou. Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Directed by David Gondry. Release: 14 January 2010. Original Film, 108 mins, Rated PG-13

Plot: Billionaire playboy Britt Reid (Rogen) takes up the mantle of The Green Hornet, under the guise of a villain meant to infiltrate and destroy corruption in the city, after the passing of his father.

Well, now ain't that surprising. THE GREEN HORNET is one hell of an awesome movie. I really, truly mean that. And this is coming from a dude who had some reservations. I mean, c'mon, Seth Rogen as our hero? The guy who has a obnoxious laugh and plays a stoner in nearly every movie he's in? Plus, the initial trailers didn't really sell the title. Nonetheless, my interest was peaked enough, and for the love of the superhero genre, I'm glad I saw it. Thanks to a really good script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, a statement I thought I'd never say about those two, GREEN HORNET hits all the necessary hero tropes but somehow miraculously comes off not only as entertaining and fun, but also fresh. The story goes places I didn't expect, and the overall arc of the story and characters was far more dimensional and human-based than anyone would probably give Rogen and Goldberg credit for. First, let me specify: GREEN HORNET isn't good based simply on the merits of Rogen's talents, but because it's generally good as a hero movie. I became invested, I laughed, I was awed, I was trippin', and I was ready for a second helping. Now how about that for a selling point? I went into the screening with major reservations, and left wanting more.

The film opens (post-flashback sequence with a young Britt and father) with Christoph Waltzs' Benjamin Chudnofsky arriving at a local joint where the city's big mob boss is staying, and Chudnofsky, after having to recite his apparently difficult-to-pronounce name for the boss (a brilliant cameo from James Franco), tells him he needs to close up shop. This scene pretty much epitomizes the entire movie. Either because of the rather great script by Rogen and Goldberg, James Franco goes off on a Tarantino-esque monologue/tangent that had me smiling the whole time. And Christoph, nicely echoing his previous BASTERDS performance, portrays Chudnofsky as a seemingly innocuous and nonthreatening man who doesn't seem to have the gusto to kill you until ya realize he just blew two bullets through your body. He's like a more reserved and tad less crazy Joker. This opening conveys all the elements of the movie: a serious yet quasi-slapstick tone; a intelligently written script; cameos; and awesome performances.

As Britt Reid/Green Hornet, Seth Rogen is solid, and I dig his work here. On the downside, when he's the Britt Reid persona, he's very much like you expect Seth Rogen to act in a movie, but when he dons the Green Hornet outfit, it's like the action hero in him bursts out and he's ready to kick some major ass. So yes, he sells it. Jay Chou is great fun as Reid's friend and sidekick Kato, given many of the really funny lines and awesome martial arts scenes. Really, his only downfall is his wavery grasp of English, making his dialogue occasionally a mumbled mess. Cameron Diaz comes out of nowhere midway through the film, seemingly present just to add a potential love interest for Britt, but as the film continues her rather important function to the plot becomes more realized. And Christoph Waltz gives yet another superb performance, selling even the most insane lines of dialogue and crafting a unique and highly entertaining character to boot. With the great combination of a wise script and gifted actors on the payroll, that alone is kudos enough. Plus, the presence of Tom Wilkinson just sorta solidifies the movie's awesomeness. Wilkinson is one of my personal favorites, so whenever he's in a flick, it sorta gives it a unofficial Seal of Approval, and he doesn't disappoint. Except his role is basically 3 minutes of screentime, which is sad.

If one were to compare this to other comic book movies, I'll say that GREEN HORNET is far, far superior to ELEKTRA and DAREDEVIL. And keep in mind I'm just making that comparison between those two films seem to be the most commonly used examples when people are dissing HORNET. It's the IRON MAN to BATMAN BEGINS, in a way. The cinematic quality of Jon Favreau with that exact same tone (minus Downey) with the aspiration to hold such complex themes and elements of Nolan's masterpiece(s). By all means, GREEN HORNET was an awesome movie, and I highly recommend a watch. Dunno if the 3-D element is worth it, but for what it's worth, I was quite content with my 2-D screening.

I dug it. May not be for everyone, as a majority of online reviews indicate (as well as fellow LAMB members), but for me, it exceeded expectations and actually became a movie that was fun and entertaining. With the original 70's SUPERMAN, the press was that you'll believe "a man can fly." Well, in the case of GREEN HORNET, you will believe "Seth Rogen can really, truly be a good lead in a hero movie." C'mon, it's not he could be any worse than Affleck, yea?

15 January 2011

Simply Script: No. 4


SERENITY


Screenplay by Joss Whedon



MAL
You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. 'Cause as sure as I know anything I know this: they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground, swept clean. A year from now, ten, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people...better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I am to misbehave.

14 January 2011

Dipshit Endings Double Whammy: Skyline, Last Exorcism

Here's two 2010 releases that are relatively decent flicks that just become rather rubbish with their WTF?! and LAME! endings. Read on for more!


Skyline

Starring Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel, David Zayas. Written by Alex Babinsky & Dennis Clausen. Directed by The Brothers Strause. Release: 12 November 2010. Universal, 94 mins., Rated R

Plot: Six or so friends wake up in a expensive hotel suite to aliens that want to basically destroy the world.

Man, Eric Balfour just can't catch a break.

Them pesky aliens are at it again, demolishing and enslaving the world, harvesting human brains, and all around being a nuisance. This time, though, we the viewers have to deal with about seven incredibly stupid people stuck in a hotel room doing incredibly stupid things and being incredibly rubbish acting-wise. SKYLINE is all visual. Beautiful shots of the, ahem, skyline, as well as the star aliens, but as for the humans - from what's written down on paper to the delivery - each line of dialogue and attempted performance is akin to nails on a chalkboard. Nah, scratch that. It's not ungodly horrible, or intolerable. It's just simply bad. A perfect vehicle for people to sit back and enjoy riffing on the script and actors.

There is honestly not one line of dialogue in the ENTIRE script that isn't just asinine, cliched, or completely redundant. By that, I mean a teenager with no interest in screenwriting or movies for that matter could write this script, pretty much maintaining the same lines spoken here. There's no creativity, originality, or even enthusiasm in the script, and that's shared by the equally rubbish actors. Sure, poor 'ol Balfour is trying to emote his heart out, being full of angst at hearing his impending fatherhood and his thick-headed resolution that he's always right with What to Do When Aliens Attack. Not even seasoned David Zayas of DEXTER fame is any good, doing his best bit in his last scene which is mostly dialog-free. It's a tad disheartening to experience the overall badness of the human front, but at the same time, I can't say I didn't expect it.

After all, I'm watching a movie directed by the two people who made Paul W.S. Anderson's ALIEN VS. PREDATOR look Oscar worthy when compared to their horrendous sequel.

As expected from a directorial team who specialized in SPFX most of their career, the visual effects are amazing, from the cinematography to stellar rendering of aliens, their spacecrafts, and composting digital works in a live action shot. Amazing, amazing, amazing. Hell, and I'm sure I might get some flake for saying this, but it was on par with the aliens in Spielberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS (and yes, that's a compliment, haters). With the Brothers Strause forcing the camera always in some sort of movement, even in the talking/exposition sequences, there is a sense of realism that makes even the dodgy effects nearly believable. From a technical, visually pleasing standpoint, SKYLINE more than delivers.

Even the score, provided by "additional music arranger" (IMDB's credit) Matthew Margeson, isn't that bad. Hits all the right notes, but never reaching anything amazing.

So, the ending, half of the whole reason for the blog post title. Well, if I were to comment positively first, I can say that I give kudos to the writers for nicely portraying how friggin' futile trying to survive a alien invasion force is. For awhile there, it's one hell of a downbeat ending, with our 'protagonists' (SPOILERS) being sucked up in a space craft. Balfour's character Jarrod gets his brain taken out and implanted into a alien while Elaine, being scanned as pregnant, is thrown into another facet of the factory with some other pregnant gals. As some sort of alien device thingy is making it's way towards her, she screams loud enough that the newly infused alien with Jarrod's brain stops what it's doing as Jarrod takes over the creature's body and charges forth to save his beloved. Post saving her, Jarrod and Elaine face the rest of the alien craft as they close in on 'em. Points for originality, sure, but it is sorta stupid. First, yes, Jarrod and Elaine are a couple expecting a baby, but you don't really get a sense of a strong bond between the two, making this grand act of love and compassion rather hollow. Additionally, JARROD'S BRAIN IS 'STRONG' ENOUGH TO OVERCOME THE ALIEN PROTOCOLS (or whatever)? This coming from the guy making the second most dumb decisions next to SCRUBS alumni Donald Faison? Nah, I don't think so. And thirdly, it's just not satisfying. I would have much preferred the single narrative of CLOVERFIELD, where the ending was very conclusive instead of this rather crazy and blatantly obvious attempt at building some sort of franchise.

If the series is to continue, and the theatrical gross and home video revenue just might make it a real possibility, than the best thing for this franchise is for a new creative team to be in charge of the material. Find someone who can blend CGI with the human side of the story well enough, because we don't deserve to suffer through the badness that is SKYLINE.

In the end, SKYLINE is simply a bigger budgeted B-movie that excels in pretty alien ships and blowy-uppiness, but epically fails in the human department.



The Last Exorcism

Starring Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Louis Herthum, Iris Bahr. Written by Hucko Botko & Andrew Gurland. Directed by Daniel Stamm. Release: 27 August 2010. Lionsgate, 87 mins., Rated R

Plot: Pastor Cotton's last exorcism is filmed documentary-style, and it goes batshit crazy.

The demon-possession field of horror films hasn't had a lot of good luck lately, minus, of course, the success of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies. After THE EXORCIST, universally considered the quintessential demon-possessed film ever made, there just didn't seem much a filmmaker could do with the 'genre.' There needed to be a clever gimmick, and with THE LAST EXORCISM, director Daniel Stramm and writers Botko and Gurland found a nifty device: film it documentary-style, a highly popular craze the last two years (e.g., DIARY OF THE DEAD, CLOVERFIELD, and the abovementioned PARANORMAL ACTIVITY), as the camera captures the action as if it were happening right then and there.

For the most part, LAST EXORCISM succeeds in its premise. Pastor Cotton Marcus is a entirely likable man who has lost his faith and is making this documentary to exploit the sham that is 'exorcisms'. With this rather interesting and unexpected viewpoint - of a man setting out to dismiss exorcisms in general - the film immediately peaked my interest, that plus actor Patrick Fabian's instant charisma. Even Ashley Bell as the possessed-or-not-possessed Nell succeeded in the creepy factor, especially near the hour mark when the cover-worthy body twisting takes place. Nicely filmed and full of tension and utter creepiness, THE LAST EXORCISM features several such well done scenes, such as the scene from the above screencap where the lights of the hour are extinguished and darkness falls. Overall, it works, I dug it. Good script, creepy girl, and a overall interesting angle with a pastor wishing to show off the fraud that exorcism is.

However, in the final closing moments, it all turns to shambles. THE LAST EXORCISM is a testament to how a bad ending can pretty much spoil a relatively decently made film. Those disappointed, even remotely, with the conclusion of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT will be met with something similar, especially the final seconds. (SPOILERS) Pastor Cotton, seeing that most of the townsfolk are in on this demon possession thing to bring the demon Abalam into the world, goes out to confront the evil cross in hand. Meanwhile, the camera crew run for their lives, only for one to be separated and murdered, and the cameraman himself getting his throat sliced by Nell's brother (who was absent for the last thirty minutes).

Alright, alright. I get what the writers were going for. One big, incomplete, epic finale that would in most cases make a viewer exit the theater with their mind blown (complete with a vocal "woah!") and hope and hope for a cash-demanded sequel. But perhaps what the writers weren't banking on was Patrick Fabian's performance of Pastor Cotton. Maybe it's my fault, really. Cotton comes off as a interesting enough character and his attitude is infectious as is, what is for me, the Question of the Movie: will facing this true demon possession reinstall Cotton's faith in God? In the end, we don't get a conclusion to that burning question (which I guess can be talked out of by saying "that's life"), nor do we really get a 'moment' where Cotton fully realizes that everything around him is real and turns to God for guidance and (expectantly) forgiveness. We get resolution and understanding to Nell and how her whole possession and arc came about, but with Cotton, the main character of the story, we don't get enough. The entire film was about him exploiting a fraud, and we didn't get the far more interesting character beat of him realizing his wrongness and the realness of the situation.

Or it could just be me and the ending is totally epic, revolutionary, creative, and flat out A-W-E-S-O-M-E!

That being said, I'd still recommend a watch. As I mentioned above, the field of creative or even relatively spooky horror movies is quickly diminishing, so this quasi-inventive and fresh take makes it something worth watching.

13 January 2011

The Watcher: 01/07/11 - 01/13/11








S01E01 - "Pilot" (9 January 2011) - It's nearly impossible to write a satisfying 43-minute introduction to a superhero show, and ultimately, THE CAPE attempts to cram something that should be at least two episodes worth into that time frame to rushed and overall 'bleh' results. In ten minutes they introduce a corrupt city, this new organization that is pretty much taking over Palm City (lame name), the villain, the setup, and in thirteen minutes there's the usual montage of how our main character, Vince Faraday (David Lyons, in a better than average performance), becomes a lean, mean, fighting machine with a few tricks up his newly christened superhero persona; and then the final ten minutes, where Vince makes his debut as The Cape, nearly dies but is saved thanks to his 80's montage training sequence which lasted all but two minutes, and then saves the day...sorta. Oh, and he also gets a sidekick in the form of Summer Glau as the enigmatic eyes-and-ears of Palm City Orwell who wishes to expose the city's corruption. OK, while it's true that THE CAPE doesn't present much in the department of newsness, I'm more interested in how the story is executed, and if the "Pilot" is any indication, it's a show that will swerve between the lines of seriousness and cartoonishness. Still, I'm already finding myself liking it better than HEROES. The tragedy is that the premiere of THE CAPE could have been frakking awesome...if they had just allowed themselves the time to let storylines develop. It's like friggin' STARGATE: UNIVERSE, repeated. A show with potential that's just rushed each and every episode lacking anything in the way of stakes for our characters. Oh well, let's see how the next episode holds up...

S01E02 - "Tarot" (9 January 2011) - A improvement over "Pilot", and undoubtedly a sign of what's to come. Alright, so I take it the tone is very live action comic booky, like the two FANTASTIC FOUR films of the past few years; serious on occasion, but mostly a comic book come to life. Well, OK, not entirely a fan of this tone, but I can deal. After all, still diggin' it over HEROES. The most notable thing is that Vince Faraday completely resolves to become The Cape, and even dons a black mask to cover his face (smart move), and begins to study poisons, fight techniques, and other miscellaneous things to keep him alive in combat. Basically, he's doing exactly what Batman did in BATMAN BEGINS, and I love that movie, so kudos to the creators for doing that. I also liked the moments where Tripp went batshit on his mom about not using Dad's last name. Good, emotional scene that holds some promise this show can become something pretty damn good. That said, I do appreciate that the show also spends time with the mother and child. Also, I'm really beginning to like James Frain as Chess, although his obsession with the game (where it creeps into nearly every scene and line of dialogue of his) can get a little tedious. But "Tarot" shows some promise, that even if it's not a particularly great or revolutionary or altogether really well done show, it will be a week to week hour of fun, similar to HUMAN TARGET on FOX. Not sure if that's much in the way of positives for the show, but it's not bad, either.













S03E04 - "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?" (14 November 2010) - Awwwww. Why'd you have to die, Newton, why? You were a compelling and overall kickass bad guy. Sure, not as sadistic as the season one villain Jones, nor as creepy, but you were kickass, as evidenced by your assault at the hospital. Cruel, precise, unflinching, and fearless, that was some serious Terminator moves over there. It will be very sad to see you go, Mr. Newton. As the title suggests, there was greater emphasis on the shapeshifters in this episode, exploring the multiple emotional strain on them during extended assignments as well as the inner workings of their body. So...shapeshifters are embryo grown machines? I'm still not 100% on what the shapeshifters are, or what they are made of, but their threatiness is without doubt. Plus, they're pretty damn cool. The car chase at the end was pretty epic, as was Olivia demanding the storage unit from a broken and battered Newton. Again, it's sad to see Newton go, cos I'm not really a fan of this parallel universe Olivia. On the plus side, Anna Torv has been amazing in creating two distinct personalities. However, I'm sure she's not too thrilled about dyeing her hair every other episode. On that note, wowness for "Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?"

S03E05 - "Amber 31422" (4 November 2010) - Parallel universe. Two Ashmores (Shawn and Aaron) reprising roles from the Prime universe in season two. And Olivia hallucinating Peter, who is actually giving her pretty big hints that she's not of this world, and she needs to get back. Overall, "Amber 31422" is a decent episode that becomes better than it really is thanks to Anna Torv's awesome performance, a bit more history of all the bizarre events that have plagued this universe for the last 20+ years, and a nicely nuanced story about family that speaks volumes for the entire show.

S03E06 - ""6955 kHz" (11 November 2010) - Hmmm. The First People. Now that sounds interesting. Oh, the limitless possibilities, but judging from the next three episodes, it's a plotline that doesn't seem to be top priority for the FRINGE writers, and I dunno why. It sounds utterly fascinating! I'm not going to say much about this episode other than it's the first in a Trilogy of Awesomeness, but I am pondering the whole gizmos and gadgets things that the Fringe Division are finding thanks to Astrid deciphering the coordinates. Now, it's revealed that these things are part of Walternate's doomsday device (speaking of which, what the hell is Peter thinking about continuing the develop the device? I can't see any rationale. Please explain), but if they were placed there millions of years ago, does this mean Walternate also developed time travel and put them there, or am I missing something entirely?

S03E07 - "The Abducted" (18 November 2010) - Parallel universe. The Fringe Division is tracking "The Candyman", which immediately made me think of Tony Todd (although it sadly wasn't), and becomes another Broyles-centric episode. But best of all is the moment when Broyles realizes Olivia knows who she is, and instead of doing something, just shrugs and decides to go home. Amazing scene. But it's sort of funny...if the original parallel universe Olivia stayed where she was without the body switching, she would have been dead weeks ago; it's our version of Olivia that continues to get herself out of jams and save the day repeatedly. How did the parallel universe Fringe Division survive without her before? The episodes end is stellar, and sets up for one of the best FRINGE episodes ever, as Olivia is able to momentarily cross over and send a message to Peter. Things are gonna get interesting.

S03E08 - ""Entrada" (2 December 2010) - What a riveting, pulse-pounding episode. Wowzers. After the finale of "The Abducted", being watched at 1:12 AM, I simply couldn't sleep without seeing how the Olivia/Peter storyline was resolved, and I am so freakin' happy I did. This, ladies and gentlemen, is television writing at its best. Not to mention one of the few times I really, really liked Broyles and he became a real character instead of Mr. In Charge Guy. Great, great episode, and a great example why people should watch FRINGE.

S03E09 - ""Marionette" (9 December 2010) - After the amazingness of the last two episodes, FRINGE settles back into the Case of the Week format, choosing a crazy man who is pulling a Victor Frankenstein and harvesting organs to bring someone (he loved) back to life, and the final moments were an attempt to reflect on the Olivia/Peter relationship. Not very subtle, but hell, it works. First, I gotta mention: it's nice having the original, unburdened Walter Bishop back. His love for drugs and food and his infectious smile definitely makes him one of the more cooler characters on the television, so it's pleasant to see him not all gloomy and doomy as he was in season two. But as for Peter telling the truth of the past two months to Olivia (good for you, chap) and her subsequent response to it...well, I understand the writers need to create some sort of drama between the two characters, and I am appreciative that it comes out of an outstanding scenario of body switching, but at the same time, I did sort of roll my eyes. However their relationship ends this season, I simply hope the writers don't extend it further than they downright need to. That being said, I am quite interested to know what the Observer meant at the end, "He is still alive." This should be good... Oh, and one final note, and this is one of the many reasons why I love FRINGE: the scene about halfway through the episode, when the Frankenstein man is moving his beloved's body via wires (like a puppet), the music, the performances of both actors (if it was an actress there) and the cinematography created one of the spookiest two minutes of the season. Bravo, dudes.











S02E02 - "Serpent's Tooth" (11 January 2011) - My hopes for the show improving has been squashed. Admittedly, I do like the inevitably of Anna pursuing a futile quest to destroy the soul and quench all human emotion from Vs and humans, because it seems epic and awesome, something V desperately needs right now. Unfortunately, the writers don't know a thing about subtlety or good writing, so "Serpent's Tooth" was a exercise of a viewer's tolerance of 41 minutes of plain garbage. My initial goal was to stick around for the rest of the season seeing as there are only eight episodes left - and I just might do so - but episodes like this make me really re-evaluate my wisdom in this regard. Or it could simply be me: perhaps I've been far too spoiled by science fiction richness like BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (the reimagined series) and the gritty real nature of THE SHIELD, both shows boasting exemplify creativity behind the scenes and in front of the camera, and I just haven't had the opportunity to see V as a good show. Or, of course, my instincts have been right all along, and V has been on a rapid decline in quality after its fourth episode (if not sooner). Point is, if I continue to review the show, I doubt these will be much in the way of reviews but more or less my bitching about lack of quality. Nonetheless, I'll do my best. It's moments like these when I must question the wisdom of ABC canceling INVASION all those years ago (a pretty much perfect alien-invasion show in the same serialized vein of LOST) and finding the work of V satisfactory. Ugh. In other news, Morena Baccarin is still hot, and still the best thing on the show. Oh, and Rekha Sharma (Tori from BSG) is a V! Did we know that before? Frak if I remember, cos it seems like everyone's a V these days.