27 March 2012

Good and Bad of 2011: Television

This has been one stellar year for television programming, absolutely stellar. There honestly has not been a better time this last decade to be a TV addict, as I have shamefully become. As a result, my movie watching has suffered. My bad, ladies and gents, my bad indeed.

Often, when a show hits its fourth season, the Idea Well starts to dry up, and the series just isn't as memorable as it used to be when everything was fresh and creative and original and bloody amazing. Surprisingly, this was not the case with Breaking Bad, a series that entered its fourth year in 2011 and delivered one solid episode after another. More than that, Breaking Bad gave us the most holy freaking shit! and did that shit really just happen?! moments of the year. The writers constantly pushed the envelope, delivering episodes that defied expectations, that went places no other show had gone before, and sprung on us a finale that was methodically paced and then smacking us in the face with one hell of a conclusion to an ongoing storyline. More than that, the last three episodes of the season is perhaps the most magnificent examples of excellent, nearly flawless television writing of all time. It will be difficult to trump what happened here.

Tommy Gavin is a character very much like Vic Mackey, in that I feel you can’t stop him, he doesn’t have an ending point outside of the very finality of death (at least in the real world). So how would Denis Leary and Peter Tolan, the creators of Rescue Me, conclude this seven season series? I knew there was no way Vic was going to die in The Shield, it would have been tremendously unsuiting, and the same can be said for Tommy Gavin, because his death would be nothing less than a cop out, a lazy move. What we have instead is actually a pretty decent series finale, but it’s not everything it could have been. To its credit, “Ashes” has some pretty clear ties to the pilot, and closes out several storylines in a nice, neat bow. But there's something immensely unsatisfying about this series ender. Be that as it may, Tommy ends as a new father, with a new direction in life, and sober. So happy endings, all around. Minus the big death. Just should have been more impactful - more meaningful.

BEST NEW SHOW OF 2011: New Girl
Not a show I was expecting to fall in love with, but hell, it grabbed me pretty much instantaneously. Zoey Deschannel is one of those comedian actresses you either really love or really hate, with very little in between. Luckily, she uses her charm brilliantly here, being the absolute perfect Jess. Her flatmates Jake Johnson, Lamorne Morris, and Max Greenfield are also just as brilliant. Johnson and Greenfield steal the spotlight from Deschannel at pretty much every chance, and are absolute highlights. 20 episodes in, the show is (understandably) still finding its footing, but on the occasions where everything comes together, its comedy is unmatched on TV today. Jake Johnson's Nick just spouting off random phrases is comedy gold, Deschannel has harnessed Jess' awkwardness, and Greenfield has proven himself a shameless, fearless comedy actor. Marvelous show, here.

SCI-FI FAIL: Torchwood: Miracle Day

Don't get me wrong. I love Torchwood. Will continue to love Torchwood to the end of my days. That said, Torchwood has been absolutely dreadful for a good portion of its fourth series run, the 10-episode Miracle Day that ran on STARZ during the summer. This is one of those circumstances where a pretty cool idea - that death stops for everyone everywhere - is dreadfully executed and nearly ruins the entire show. With the exception of, say, three episodes, the rest of the batch are abysmal. Just ridiculous padding until the conclusion comes about. Characters are annoying, subplots are so completely stupid and worthless, and at times I was wondering if showrunner Russell T. Davies had suffered some severe brain trauma which resulted in his poorest series of a show to date. The whole middle area of Miracle Day is crap. But the beginning and end? Damn good writing and acting. Oh, there's still loads of problems in both the good and bad, but not nearly as detrimental to the enjoyment factor. Major drop of the ball, but mind, I'll still be there for whenever a fifth series of Torchwood hits the airwaves.


What a overall FANTASTIC season, only to be brought down by this ridiculous and highly disappointing finale. The Smallville finale gives credence to the 'an ending can ruin your enjoyment of the whole' argument. Ten seasons, most 22 episodes a piece, of Clark Kent fighting bad guy after bad guy and loads of soap operaness, us fans clung to the notion this would all be good in the end, because Mr. Tom Welling will grace the Superman suit and take up the mantle of the Man of Steel. It would happen, it would be extraordinary, and it would be one hell of an event. Now, Smallville has a limited budget, so I kept my expectations at a minimum. Besides, the finale was more of a delight for me because of the return of a one Michael Rosenbaum, who over seven seasons delivered what I consider to be the definitive portrayal of Lex Luthor - nemesis to Superman. But I wanted Tom Welling in the Superman suit. Just give me that, and everything would be great. You could have Superman farting on Apokolips and whatever asinine conclusion to the show you want, as long as we get to see the Superman suit. Nope. What we get is some CGI mess of bullshit. It's been nearly a year since the finale, and this cop out still rubs me wrong. I hate this, I hate this, I hate this. Poor move, guys. I don't know why he wasn't shown in his full glory - this moment that we've been waiting for over 100 episodes - but nothing can be done about it now. Season 10: GREAT year, HORRIBLE ending.

Maybe it's because I'm still a kid, really. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for relationship drama and messed up characters. But I liked MTV's Skins. It wasn't even remotely as risque as every imaginable news outlet made it out to be, and was - honest to blog - the best show MTV had on its roster [which doesn't sound like much, I know, but it's a compliment]. The writing may not have been stellar, and the performances not jaw-dropping amazing, but Skins presented a raw, clever look into the lives of these teenagers, and it was damn good. It's unfortunate a show like this gets canned but One Tree Hill can run on for nearly a decade. The show is currently streaming on Netflix - give it a try.

  • "Crawl Space", Breaking Bad, season 4, episode 11
  • "Day of the Moon", Doctor Who, series 6, episode 02
  • "Remedial Chaos Theory", Community, season 3, episode 04
  • "Box Cutter", Breaking Bad, season 4, episode 01
  • "Let's Kill Hitler", Doctor Who, series 6, episode 08
  • "Bloodline", Fringe, season 3, episode 18
  • "Eura; Everyone", Skins, season 1, episode 10


And that concludes 2011! My thanks to everyone who came to the Geek to read up on closing the book on 2011 and lookin' forward to the future. See y'all next year.

26 March 2012

Good and Bad of 2011: Movies - Vol. 5

Welcome to Day 5 of 6, the last of the movie chronicling. I've given accolades, I've listed my favorite ten flicks of 2011, and now it's time to discuss the really shitty productions of last year, the ones I don't have a place for, and the flicks I'm really looking forward to in the coming months.

The SHAMEful Side of 2011

Green Lantern
This movie has not aged well. Just the other day, Green Lantern began airing on HBO, and I decided to sit back, relax, and take it all in. After all, my original review was critical but forgiving, having found myself enjoying the narrative despite it's miscast of Hal Jordan and poor handling. Now, I look at nearly every frame of this movie, and I see what could be improved, what should be changed, etc. Hell, the whole damn movie needs to be retooled, starting from the ground up: the screenplay is absolutely, faceplam-worthy horrible. I don't want to get into specifics, because I'll be writing all day, but what I'm just going to say is that characterization is non-existent, or at best thinly drawn. Additionally, Ryan Reynolds is not Hal Jordan. The story is weak and unspectacular. The special effects needs lots of tweaking, although I will give the creators credit for trying something new. Basically everything about this movie needs help in one way or another, and it's unfortunate that Green Lantern was thrown into theaters in this state, effectively destroying its ability to leave a good impression on audiences and, for that matter, franchise possibilities. Oh well. I hope this isn't the last we get of Green Lantern, but if that's the case, something major needs to happen with the next one to pull people in, because that's what it's going to take to make people interested after this. [Review Here]

Shark Night 3D
1999, Mall of America, at the age of 9, I sat in a movie theater and was scared as hell by the Mako sharks of Renny Harlin's Deep Blue Sea. I was terrified, but oddly enough, that cemented my long brewing fascination and love for sharks. By that age I was already a Creature Feature Connoisseur [e.g., Carnosaur, Crocodile, Alligator, Octopus, etc.), so I devoured those nifty animals-on-the-loose flicks that showed on Sci-Fi Channel often. I'm saying this so you understand that I had semi-high hope for Shark Night 3D. Every inch of me felt that this was going to be a disaster, absolute horrible rubbish, but I also foolishly clung on hope that in this day of age with big special effects and decent 3D in gory horror flicks, that this might be a fun adventure. I was wrong. It took many days for the hatred I felt for the people involved in this 'movie' to alleviate - it's still there, sorta - but I can now come to terms with how much money I wasted for the 3D glasses, and how much money was wasted by the studio bringing this piece of shit to the big screen. This wasn't the return of Creature Features as I had really wanted, this was the extinction of hope that there was any chance of good animal/creature-on-the-loose coming out anytime soon. Fuck you, Shark Night. [Review Here]

Hangover Part II
Entertain me. That's all I wanted. The Hangover didn't wow me back in 2009 like it seemed to most all the kids my age. It had a few chuckle-worthy moments, but not a movie worth all the applause and accolades. So here we have Hangover Part II, which had a lot of pre-buzz because, obviously, the success of the first one. I saw it, expecting to be entertained, like I said at the beginning. I was not entertained. Not even a little. I did not chuckle. I found no humor in this comedy. Now, as for the complaints about sameness, yes, this movie is highly guilty of that. What I expected was the same premise, that these dudes don't remember what the hell happened last night. Okay, we got that. But after that bit, I expected the movie to deviate, defy expectations, go crazy routes that would be laugh-out-loud funny. Instead, the humor was right on track for sixth graders, and the film's content really does feel like a regurgitation of scenes and even dialogue from the first. Bring some damn intelligence to the equation, guys. Because this doesn't work. [Review Here]

Sucker Punch
My roommate can confirm: I was soooooo looking forward to Sucker Punch. Just look at the trailer! What an amazing trailer! And Vanessa Hudgens, Vanessa Hudgens is going to be in the movie! And dragons! There are dragons! And...big...samurai...bad guy thingies... Whatever, point is, I was curious how everything was going to be connected, and I was highly looking forward to the fight scenes. I love me some fight scenes, especially sci-fi/fantasy fight scenes. And then that thing happens where you see the movie you've been looking forward to, and it disappoints you to no end. Nothing mattered here. The fights - well, they're all happening in her head, everything pretty much was happening in her head as a method of escape from reality. Nothing mattered. So why should we care? There wasn't a real emotional stake in the whole damn thing, not even when the other girls got involved. Hell, Zack Snyder even made action scenes seem boring and far too long. Action scenes! That should be an impossibility, guys and gals. What Sucker Punch is, is an mess. One, big, sloppy, enormous mess. [Review Here]

I Am Number Four
Alfred Gough and Miles Miller, writers of this wonderful teen superhero epic, took everything bad they did during their tenure writing a young Superman in The WB's Smallville, and put it on the big screen for all the world to see. Every nanosecond of I Am Number Four is a message to aspiring writers: "this is NOT how you write a superhero movie, let alone something resembling a movie." I don't want to waste another second on this piece of garbage, other than to say: big pile of stupid soulless, mindless shit.

Your Highness
Look at that adorable face. Right there, on that frame, James Franco is enjoying himself far more than I did at any one second of Your Highness. I was looking for a clever satire on the fantasy genre. Instead, what I got was a stoner sword & sorcery pile of shit that relies on tired jokes and gags and boasts not one ounce of originality or, more importantly, funny. I roll my eyes in your general direction.


And the In-Betweeners

Super 8
I so desperately wanted to fall madly in love with Super 8. J. J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg were gearing up to unleash a movie that was made directly for me, it seemed. First and foremost, you always get my vote if there's a monster in your movie, always. Secondly, J. J. Abrams, I love that man, and I love lens flares. Third, J. J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, both men I have tremendous respect for and love their work. Fourthlyish, children as protagonists, striking the vibe of E.T. and The Goonies, but this time with some sort of alien problem. I so completely support this idea and love it, and it was executed just fine. But why, then, do I just not feel anything towards Super 8? It's gorgeous to look at, the score - as I have already mentioned - is amazing, and the young actors are tremendous, each and every one of them. But there's some sort of emotional disconnect that forces me not to fall in love with the movie as I expected. Even now, months past, and multiple rewatches later, I can't articulate what doesn't quite do it for me. There's just not enough of the emotion, there's not enough of the human element, I feel, at least not enough for me to connect and be wrapped up in their story. And beyond the children, I also have some rather sizable disappointment in the presentation of the creature, which echoes the monster from Cloverfield far too close for comfort, and whenever the beast is onscreen, save for one scene, he's nearly indistinguishable against the darkness. I want to love Super 8, it just seems to be missing something, that big, vital ingredient... [Review Here]

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Not good enough. Simple as that. Rooney Mara wasn't the girl with the dragon tattoo, she was the girl trying desperately to be the girl with the dragon tattoo. The screenplay was just fine, it actually improved and clarified elements of the story that left me puzzled/lost in the Swedish film, so I was thankful for that. Daniel Craig was fine, but just fine. David Fincher brought his Fincherness, but that was that. There is nothing remarkable about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and if this Fincher version was the first (or only) I had seen, I would be very underwhelmed. With Noomi Rapace in the role, there was an inherent badassery and mystery to the character of Lisbeth Salander. You just had to look at her and you knew everything you needed to know - that she could kick your ass, that she was independent and a bit of a loner, that she was skilled in many ways, etc. Rapace was Lisbeth. And for me, the success or failure of this Fincher version depended squarely on the shoulders of Rooney, and that didn't work out quite as they planned. It was a fine effort, but like I said, just not good enough.

Midnight in Paris
Yeah, yeah, go ahead and disagree. This has been on enough ‘best of’ lists to know that I’m in a very, very small minority. Nothing about the flick resonated with me. Sure, there were some funny bits of dialogue, because Woody is, as we all know, gifted with that sort of thing. But the actual content, looking at the movie as a whole, just didn't dig it. I felt that Scoop was a far stronger effort [yes, yes, go ahead and block me, I get it]. None of the characters were defined all that well, not even protagonist Owen Wilson. The supporting characters were given the bare minimum of pretty much anything. And maybe I'm just thick, but I didn't get it until near the third act that Wilson was, I believe, transported in time to this era of artists. I assumed he was hanging around a bunch of blokes who liked to play dress up. Whatever this movie is, I get that it has struck a positive cord for some people, but for me, the entire time, I kept waiting for the answer to my question, 'What's the point?'

Water for Elephants
When Christoph Waltz was not onscreen, I did not care. I didn't care for the 'romance' between Reese and Robert. It wasn't important, and it wasn't believable. I did not care for the elephant. I did not care for the story. I did not care, period. And for what Water for Elephants strives to be, that isn't a good thing.

Red State
Last year, Red State was on my list of Most Anticipated films, and when it finally was released via Video On Demand back in September, I pounced on the chance to watch it. Ultimately, after all that wait, maybe I had too high hopes, because as the credits rolled, I didn't feel much of anything. I had plenty of sporadic thoughts, but not enough to form a coherent opinion. So here I am, several months after the fact, and I still don't have a complete review, don't fully know what to say. What it boils down to is that I think Smith wrote a damn good script. Like, really, really good. There's still flaws: Cooper, primarily, and the general feeling that there should be more, more to the story, more to the characters, more everything. As for what we have onscreen, the performances, the cinematography, editing, etc., it feels hollow. I love me some Michael Parks and all, but it feels like he's just recycling a Hannibal character, not giving the audience something new and spine-tingling. Smith has the camera always in motion, because it's that type of movie, alright, I can deal, no problem there. But the whole enterprise feels hollow, and I don't know why. From everything Smith says, he is clearly passionate about the project, obsessively so, it's just bizarre that it doesn't translate. One of the year's true oddities.

Cowboys & Aliens
I so, so wanted Cowboys & Aliens to be a runaway success, to be something extraordinary where I could turn to my non-geeky friends and say, 'look at this super awesome fun action flick where there's cowboys...fighting aliens!' I've given this movie a lot of thought, and I've come to the conclusion that Jon Favreau was faced with a no-win scenario, really. Every consumer was entering the movie with a different want. It would be bloody difficult to please. And trying to find that right balance, that right match shifting between cowboy and alien flick, man, it must have been tough for the guy. I get that. The western element of the movie is spot on. They adhere to it perfectly. Where the movie falters, though, is the aliens. Furthermore, the reason they've set up camp. It was one of those explanations where I just thought, seriously? This is why? There needed to be more aliens onscreen, there needed to be a bigger threat, and there needed to be this sense of jeopardy, that lives were at stake. I got none of that. Sure, characters died, but nothing felt legit. Now, I enjoyed Cowboys & Aliens, and there is the framework of a movie that could have been truly excellent. I don't know what they needed to improve it - make it grittier? Emphasize the aliens? Make Daniel Craig's character more interesting? Make it longer? Make it more epic? More personal? What? Suffice to say, the flick needed a few more drafts to find that right tone and direction, and then it would have been brilliant. As it stands, it's a fun two hours, but it's not a product that's worth the man power and millions of dinero put behind it. Sorry, Craig and Favreau, you gave it your all.


2012: Must See

Wrath of the Titans

Do I expect it to be good? No, I learned my lesson from Clash of the Titans. That said, I do expect to be entertained, or, at the very least, be in awe at the beautifully rendered CG giants that ravish the lands. I am, first and foremost, a monster movie fan before I am anything else, so that chance to see monsters brought to life on the big screen in this day 'n age - it's too wonderful of an opportunity to pass up. Succeed or fail like the first, doesn't matter. Monsters are back, Liam Neeson is Zeus,

The Avengers

Analyzing publicity photos, screenshots, writer/director/actor quotes, and dissecting trailer after trailer, and I still don't know exactly how I feel about The Avengers. It could go either way. What I really want to know about at this point of the game is character development and story, which we haven't got a real crystal clear picture of yet. But right now, I'm going to say that it doesn't matter. I Believe in Joss Whedon, through thick and thin, and I believe he will deliver us a good Avengers movie. So my ass is there.


Do you know what it's about? I sure as hell don't. Origin of the universe, you say? That's interesting. Noomi Rapace, it says? Sci-Fi? Big budget sci-fi? There!

The Amazing Spider-Man

Cannot wait. With each new bit of information and/or footage, this looks to be the Spider-Man movie I've always wanted. So very much excited. And look at how badass that suit is, man!

The Dark Knight Rises

There is nothing I look forward to more than this. Not even if I was getting married this year.


I loved me some Stallone Dredd, now it's time for the spectacular Karl Urban to knock my socks off with his no-doubt spectacular portrayal of the character.


I was never a huge James Bond fan until Daniel Craig took over the role with Casino Royale. It was about as perfect of a James Bond movie as I could ever want. And then Quantum of Solace destroyed all the good will Casino Royale acquired, and now I'm back to being hesitant about Bond and just not caring all that much. Still, that said, I want to see where the story goes, I want to see Daniel Craig as Bond, and I want to see if they can redeem themselves for one hell of an abysmal second outing. I don't know if Sam Mendes is the man for the job, or if Javier Bardem is going to be a good foil

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Over the last couple of days, I came up with a brilliant way of not doing homework: throwing in the two extended edition discs of each of the Lord of the Rings movies, watching them in their entirety, and then going back and listening to the writers/director commentary. Translation: time well spent, homework successfully postponed. But by watching those movies again, I was reminded how much I love the Tolkien universe, and I am beyond static that I have the opportunity to theatrically jump back into that world of hobbits and wizards and elves. The Hobbit clearly is bridging this wonderful style of being both familiar and quite, quite different from the Holy Trilogy, and that, too, makes me excited. Basically, there's nothing about the movie I'm not excited for. I don't even mind the wait another year for the second part, just means I get more Tolkien.

Django Unchained

I'll follow Quentin Tarantino to the ends of the earth and back [actually, I would quite like to see a Tarantino movie about that; be nifty, wouldn't it?], so naturally, I'm quite psyched by this latest outing. The casting has me a bit...hesitant [Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Fox in a Tarantino movie? Weird], but hell, it could have the worst word of mouth in the universe and I'd still see it.


So many people hate 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick, and has been a subject of discussion many a time during my tenure at my old movie store, but no matter the hateration from my fellow movie buds, I love it without compromise. Ergo, naturally, once this third Riddick outing was announced, simply called Riddick, I became a squealing fanboy doing a jiggy dance of happiness. Frankly, the dance was pretty good. The '04 film ended on a super interesting note, and although the premise of this second sequel sounds phenomenal - Riddick left for dead on a shitty planet, mercenaries from all over the galaxy come to claim his head - I can't help but be a little sad that Riddick as king or whatever won't be explored all that thoroughly. Whatever. Until I see a trailer, I'll withhold any complaints. As of right now, I've waited long enough for another Riddick movie, and this film better the hell come out this year damnit! Screw the bloody Fast & Furious franchise and just concentrate all your power on popping out more of these, and the world will be a better place. [TBD]

25 March 2012

Good and Bad of 2011: Movies - Vol. 4

And my favorite movie of 2011 is....

X-Men: First Class

I'm going to write this post differently from my impassioned and lengthy declaration of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World's sheer brilliance and status as both my favorite and the absolute best of 2010, and instead have a bit of fun with the presentation. Obviously X-Men: First Class isn't the crystal clear best motion picture of 2011, but why shouldn't it be? It's one hell of a marvelous, pretty much perfect film [unless you're one of those folks who balk at the incongruities in the films continuity; I like to look at this flick as its own entity]

And finally, before I move any further, I wish to give credit to Ruth's passionate Top 40 Reasons I Love X-Men: First Class, which echoes my thoughts and feelings quite eerily well and served as an inspiration with what follows. I hope this post does hers justice. My list won't be as detailed, but instead will be numbered to 20, because...well, I don't really have a huge reason behind it.

Finally, finally, I just want to say: before X-Men: First Class, I can't honestly say I gave a bloody damn about any of these characters minus Wolverine. I didn't care all that much about the overarching theme of the franchise of prejudice/mutations, or the opposing sides of the argument. These were action movies, nothing more. Jane Goodman and Matthew Vaughn presented audiences with a movie that wasn't about flare, action scenes, or a being a vehicle for money grabbing studios. This film made me care, because everyone involved cared. X-Men: First Class is the beginning of a battle of the minds, the splintering of a brotherly friendship, and the formation of two powerful groups. This is quality filmmaking and storytelling. This is why this movie stands - excuse the following - above the rest of class.

1. Erik/Charles relationship. The most telling moment in the X-Men trilogy, the most significant and powerful moment, was after Xavier's demise at the hands of Phoenix in X-Men: The Last Stand, as Magneto defends Xavier even in death: "Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you will ever know. My single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live." Now we get to see the birth of that friendship, that bond that defines the whole damn set of movies. To me, you can throw away Cyclopes, Storm, Jean, Wolervine, Rogue, the whole group and just concentrate on these two, and you would have a very fulfilling, riveting series. They're the Anakin/Obi-Wan of mutants - their choices decide the fate of the whole world, basically. Here in First Class, that relationship is brought to life beautifully. They instantly respect one another - who they are, what they represent, what they hold dear and believe in, etc. Every scene with those two is charged and powerful. Regrettably, for a movie so jam-packed with story and character beats that needed to be addressed, there just doesn't seem to be enough Charles/Erik scenes. Sad face.

2. Raven/Charles/Erik relationship. Leave it to this flick to give more dimension to Mystique than the entire trilogy. Turns out Mystique/Raven was best buds with Charles (even though there is no hint to support this in the Trilogy, though there isn't any evidence to negate it, either), living together in a brother/sister capacity (in a fashion), using their powers under the radar just enough. Raven uses her ability nearly every waking minute of the day, and Charles uses his to pick up the ladies. And then Erik comes along, and tells Raven point blank that she doesn't need to hide who she is, that she's beautiful, that when she's, shall we say, Jennifer Lawrence, she's not completely 'her'. She believes in Erik's belief - mankind won't accept them, they can't, and makes her choice in the end, with Xavier's blessing. This whole dynamic is wonderfully played. It's this layer of complexity that I appreciate out of the screenplay.

3. Cameo! ....... sorry, did I spoil it for anyone?

4. This scene. Mentioned it the other day, but my Lords of Kobol, how is there not a more touching scene in 2011? [oh, right, nearly the entirety of this movie]. Erik is a walking vessel of anger and rage, and in this scene, this one, simple, beautiful scene, Charles enters Erik's mind and releases a memory Erik had long forgotten, giving the man of pain one wonderful moment of serenity. Why does a movie have to be a political thriller, or Holocaust drama, or just some big snazzy drama drama to be recognized for their powerful strengths? This is an action/superhero movie, and this is just one small example of why, with this new breed of post-Dark Knight productions [minus Green Lantern], these movies have a complexity unmatched before, and deserve to be recognized for their outstanding achievements.
"There's so much more to you than you know, not just pain and anger. There's good in you too, and you can harness all that. You have a power that no one can match, not even me."

5. In the Trilogy, the costumes were black. Just black. Meant to go with the realism. I can dig that. Here we are with First Class, and we've gone black and yellow....and I am really, really groovin' on that design train. It's perfectly, simply retro, but also kickass effective. They're also nice transitional suits, beginning with these and eventually forming into what we know from the Singer productions [assuming we are to believe in the continuity of all these X-flicks].

6. Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn's screenplay. If Christopher & Jonathan Nolan's names aren't attached to a reimagining or some other big property that deserves nothing but the best, I expect Jane and Matthew to be a part of it at least, and if none of these folks are, I already expect it to be doomed. After Kick-Ass and now this, Jane and Matthew have proven themselves amazing writers. They have a true talent in regards to characterization, specifically the ability to bring a lot in something not expansive. In just a few quick lines of dialogue (and the help of Fassbender), Erik is established fully and deeply. In Kick-Ass, the action and reaction of the characters made them three dimensional people instead of plot puppet pals. They added heart, drama, tension, action, politics, and heartbreak all in one two hour movie.

7. Erik is the cause of Xavier's wheelchair-boundness. I'm unfamiliar if this ties into the comics, but I found this turn of events to be marvelous and ingenious. I wasn't too fond of how everything seemed to be thrown into one movie, this included, but if they had to do it, this was the way. Have Erik's bullheadedness, his descent into Magneto, be the crippling of Charles Xavier. Beautiful, really.

8. Normally I find period movies to not be all that fascinating, even ones from the 1960's. Leave it to the X-Men team to turn my displeasure into pure entertainment delight. As if this flick needed to become any more epic in scope, the first X-Men leap into battle to stop potential nuclear war! How much awesomer and high-stakes can you get? There's the James Bond-y element that many people take note of, specifically how Fassbender seems to channel his inner Sean Connery/Daniel Craig (for realz) by playing Magneto: 00M. And plus, you get period clothing! As for the pic I chose above, the subtleties of why I chose it for costume design may not have be apparent. It's a deep, complex reason, no doubt.

9. James McAvoy as Charles Xavier. Originally, I didn't see it, didn't like it, etc. Patrick Stewart is Charles Xavier, yo, simple as 'dat! Well, then I saw the flick, and McAvoy sold me. Yeah, he's the young Xavier all right. Completely and utterly sold. I LOVED that he was a bit of a ladies man, using his telekinetic abilities to hit on the women. I LOVED how he was so enthusiastic and firmly believed in everything he was saying and doing. And I LOVED how McAvoy made this character very much his own, but with just enough to make you believe in him, that yes, the bald Patrick Stewart comes of this.

10. Henry Jackman's appropriate and rousing score compliments the action-y vibe of the flick when need be, and gives us chilling bits with 'Frankenstein's Monster'. Definitely one of the Greats of 2011.

11. This Guy. Glenn Morshower, known primarily to me as Agent Pierce from several seasons of 24, or to the general public, the guy who dies a lot but keeps coming back in the Michael Bay Transformers franchise. He's had roles in at least a half dozen major Hollywood productions and countless TV shows. Seeing this man always brightens my day.

12. Fast-paced editing. The movie starts and then - holy crap! It's the end already?! By the films insane final 20 minutes came to a close, I was ready for another outing. This is one spectacular film, firing at all cylinders, how could I not want another dose? Director Vaughn never allows us to be bored (or at least a good amount of people; lots seemed to have been less than invested in the story, or are nitpicking at its inaccuracies). It's always a balancing act for directors to juggle the characters, the drama, and the action - Vaughn makes it look easy. Bastard. Love you!

13. To Blow Up or Not Blow Up? Next to the crumbling building scene in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I don't think I've been more - to use the tired phrase - at the edge of my seat than here. Magneto and Charles russlin' it out on the sand, a bazillion missiles ready to blow Americans and Soviets into nothingness. This is the power struggle of the whole series, personified in one hell of an amazing scene of physical violence and visual gorgeousness.

14. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. A hard role to pull off, perhaps more than Fassbender and McAvoy had to - after all, this was a character who was known only for her sex appeal in the Trilogy, and now she's being given depth! Lawrence had to bring heart and soul to Raven, to make her choices understandable, and her arc in the Singer/Ratner films more meaningful. Beyond all odds, she does it.

15. X-Training. Usually the area in most 'coming-of' superhero films that are least enjoyable, and could easily be cut. Here, I wouldn't slice a frame. Every second of the training exercises is hilarious and, sorry to go general here, awesome. From Banshee gaining his 'wings', Beast getting his run on, Erik pushing himself further, the Summers boy harnessing his flamey-thing, and Raven understanding how her fear limits who she is. Character building and fun - another testament to Goldman and Vaughn.

16. The Baconator. Man, can this guy pull of Evil Bastard. Loved it. Still the essence of cool.

17. In the Trilogy, Magneto was often just your regular everyday villain, but here, in First Class, he's a living, breathing character with his own ideology and attitude. He was pissed on by a pre-mutated Sebastian Shaw, hardened by the environment he grew up in, treated like shit, pushed into using his abilities for the gain of another, and all around been given a really unfortunate life. In the finale, Erik/Magneto stands at the beach, addressing his fellow mutants, and summarizes his stance well enough here, "Open your blinders, my brothers and sisters. The real enemy is out there - Americans, Soviets, humans. United in their fear of the unknown." Sorta sounds like Batman Begins, dunnit? "People always fear what they don't understand." Nice, Vaugh/Goldman, nice.

18. I relish when characters begin to push boundaries and cross lines. Erik leaps into action without a plan, and allows his anger to overcome reason, pinning Emma Frost to the metal bedpost in one of the film's most riveting scenes. And I recognize that this whole post may sound like one Michael Fassbender love letter - and rightly so - but that dead look in his eyes as he begins to break Emma's crystal exterior, it's frightening. A complete turnaround of that look of serenity Charles released earlier in the narrative. This is one of the many glimpses of Erik's rage, of that beast inside him, a furnace that refuses to be extinguished, and it's terrifying. Here I can see why people fear Magneto, I can get a picture of the complicated, pissed man under the helmet. Want to find an interesting, compelling character in 2011? Erik/Magneto is that character. In the next flick, say Second Class, the movie should focus solely on Erik and Charles and their friendship, and see how Erik's revenge has either given him peace or brought him further down.

19. When it comes to superhero movies, so many things are imperative to make a fine production, from script to actors, but perhaps one of the most important element that must be strong is the director. After all, a director brings his own 'style' to the mix. The 1989/1992 Burton Batman movies are very much Burton through and through, same with the Schumacher movies and the Nolan movies - visually, you can just tell. I'm not to a point where I can tell Vaughn's style off a quick three-second clip or anything like that, but watching his movies, there is a distinct look, and Vaughn brings his very cool look/style to the X-Men franchise marvelously. Let's take Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand, Gavin Hood's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Vaughn's First Class and put them next to each other, and each director's style is pretty damn obvious. I can't put into words Vaughn's style - it needs to be seen and enjoyed. He's a unique talent, and news of his return to the X-Men franchise with the sequel gives me hope for the next installment that would otherwise not be there. Vaughn owns the screen.

20. I'm going to make this coin disappear. Yeah, you are. [What a friggin' intense scene; also, more major kudos to Matthew Vaughn for excellent directing here]


So, yeah, not a normal choice by any means, but isn't it fun to not play safe? The good of 2011 has officially been handled and done with, now what's in store for the bad? Any guesses? Thoughts on my top 10? Leave your thoughts below!

16 March 2012

Good and Bad of 2011: Movies - Vol. 3

2011: What I Loved

Two weeks ago, I sat down with one of my co-writers at the student newspaper at school, and we started talking about our best and worst lists of last year. There were a few points where our tastes matched, and when that happened, on those instances, it was uncanny how in tuned we were with each other. My feelings were basically the same as his. But when it came to one we disagreed, there was no way we found common ground. Thus, our Top 5 Best/Worst list was a weird mess of action movies. I didn't want to repeat that with this blog edition. So these ten choices are my definitive choices. Some titles will be a bit of a question mark, which is understandable, and I give my reasons, but at least it's sort of interesting to have a diverse list instead of the same old, same old, eh?

Indeed, these aren't the BEST of 2011. Very film films, I think, of last year were masterfully made. Very few. But the following are movies I would gladly pick out of my DVD/Blu-Ray collection any day of the week and watch with a stupid grin on my face. Without further ado, the Minnesota Geek's take on 2011!


The Green Hornet

Oh, yes. There are four movies in my top ten that could have been absolutely disastrous, but none had that high of an expectation like The Green Hornet, and it's nothing short of amazing that this movie is as good and damn fun as it is. A large part of that goes to - and I can't believe I'm actually going to type this - but Seth Rogen, ladies and gents. This is the one role that he could have truly screwed it big time and would have ruined everything. Instead, Seth Rogen nails Brit Reid. Yes, there are hints of his normal obnoxious guy role rearing its ugly head, but that's part of Reid's character, and when the Hornet becomes something more to Reid than a way to sell newspapers and have fun, that's when it's really obvious Rogen's putting on a true performance, not just showing up for a paycheck. It's Rogen and Jay Chou's hilarious relationship that holds this movie together. I was floored when they have their 'falling out' scene and kick the snot out of each other at Reid's mansion. I haven't seen two 'heroes' duke it out like that in a long while, and thanks to their very real, very honest friendship, that made it all the better. Christoph Waltz gives yet another spectacular performance as Chudnofsky, stealing every scene he's in with suave ease. I love this man, he's terrific, and his one-on-one with James Franco near the beginning reminded me of something taken out of a Quentin Tarantino script. The Green Hornet is a surprise through and through - Chou, Rogen, and Waltz are marvelous (I'm still wondering why Cameron Diaz was even in this movie...), and the script is genuinely fun. Directed by Michael Gondry, the movie passes by at a brisk pace, the action scenes are nicely shot and edited to elevate the excitement factor, and overall, it's one of the better hero experiences of the year. [Read Review Here]

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

You better believe it, bub. Okay, so reasons why you shouldn't believe that this flick should be on this list and that I obviously don't know movies. I'm 21, and as a young male, I have a tendency to love/enjoy flicks that have lots of explosions, attractive females, rapid pace editing, and giant fighting robots. It's just part of youth, right? And let's not forget that Michael Bay doesn't make art films, he doesn't make conventional movies - he just films entertainment blockbusters. And, yes, of course, this is a movie about alien robots duking it out in Chicago. So there ya go, a few reasons why you shouldn't take my inclusion of this flick here seriously.

But let's get down to business. This is a good movie. I will not walk up to customers at a video store and tell them to buy Transformers over Citizen Kane because, c'mon, robots are way cooler than finding out the origin of this enigmatic "Rosebud." So let me take a second to make my very simple, direct case. [1] Michael Bay and his style. At this point, his style is part of the Transformers DNA, and it's because of Bay these movies are so damn successful. He is a real director, and he crafts some absolutely beautiful shots. Don't forget that in order to bring these digital entities to life, Bay had to design the shots and figure out how to frame everything. Additionally, action movies are difficult to get right. For Bay, it seems engrained in his blood. So Bay is a major part of why I dig this movie so. [2] Superior script. I won't defend Revenge of the Fallen at all - except to say it was in just as tough a position as Quantum of Solace - but Ehren Kruger's script for this 'final' flick in the trilogy is actually really damn good. Sometimes I wish the story was as simple as the first movie, the simplicity of good guys vs. bad guys and that's it, but in order for a franchise to find its legs and justify further episodes (outside of money wanting by the company), you need to have an intricate script, with a lot of beats and a lot of shit happening. At least I, personally, would much rather have this type of script than 'more bad guys threaten the earth.' [3] The actors seemed to care. At this point, the actors are either happy that their contract is up and they're done so they're giving it their all, or they genuinely enjoy what they do. I hope it's the second one. But everyone's great here, even the blonde newcommer. Nobody is as godawful annoying as pretty much everyone was in Revenge of the Fallen. [4] Digital effects - wwoooww. [5] I had fun. Most important, most important, indeed. This is sci-fi for this generation, and it works. Yes, it appeals to the young adult male part of me, but y'know, I just think it's a damn good movie. [Read Review Here]

The Artist

Believe it or not, I originally had Scream 4 in this spot. I just felt I had to honor the horror franchise that I fell in love with. But this was before I saw The Artist last week, and once I did, well, there was no possible way it wouldn't be on this list. There's a half-billion reviews circulating for this movie, so I'll keep this short and simple. Far too often a movie receives praise that I feel doesn't warrant it. This is not the case with The Artist. All those accolades, all those awards - the movie deserves it. I love that damn dog, Uggie the Jack Russell. I love the meta quality of it all, where George is repeatedly berated by his wife for not talking. I love Peppy Miller, because she is absolutely gorgeous. I love the scene that above screencap is taken from, because it was absolutely hilarious and charming and told you everything you needed to know about these two characters without an ounce of dialogue. I love how the movie is both an homage to the silent era and also becomes one. I love pretty much everything minus two points. One, I didn't dig the score as everyone else. It just didn't feel...enough. Second, when George (not really a spoiler at this point, but, um, SPOILER!) speaks in the end, it's rather startling and throws you off completely when a thick French accent comes out of his mouth. Pretty much one of those "Wah...?" moments. But obviously the pluses outweigh the negatives, and The Artist damn well deserves to be on this list.


Another movie that lived up to its hype. Drive isn't as near perfect as The Artist, but it's damn mesmerizing and amazing. I find fault with some parts of the script - specifically instances where Irene and Driver are bonding where the dialogue is far too clunky and should have been revised - and the too frequent a use of pauses that it nearly reaches uncomfortable proportions. But aside from those minor quibbles, ladies and gents, I bloody love Drive. That opening scene and that tense elevator ride are two examples of "mint" filmmaking [thank you kids from Super 8 for 'mint']. Ryan Gosling is chilling as Driver, a sort of closeted man who doesn't raise his voice or appear to be anything other than what he is on the outside, only to have a darkness erupt out of him when necessary and become some violent, cool-headed brute force. How the narrative goes to shit in the second act and the fallout that brings us to the climax, it's tense material of which I can't pull my eyes away. I've watched Drive four times now, and it does not get old. And I frankly don't expect that's gonna change anytime soon...

Crazy, Stupid Love

What the hell is a romantic dramady doing here? Oh, fine. Thing is, Crazy, Stupid Love falls into the same category as Dan in Real Life [both surprisingly starring Steve Carrel!]. Both are clearly set in an exaggerated reality, but they are so deeply rooted in reality, in a world familiar to us, that I feel like part of the equation. It's, shall we say, an intimate experience. I'm living Dan's search for love or I'm living Cal's messed up marriage. These two movies, Dan and Crazy, work so well because they have well thought out, identifiable characters that are three dimensional and captivating to watch [and yeah, it doesn't hurt to cast Emma Stone]. This movie is fun. It's dramatic, and it's hilarious. Yeah, the ending could have used a bit of a touch up with how it's all sussed out, but screw it. Everything that came before is pretty much perfect, why complain about a good thing? Also, this is one of those rare cases where the ensemble cast feel absolutely genuine. This is a family unit, I don't question it. This is Cal and Emily undergoing marriage issues. This is Jacob's story from womanizer to monogamous man. These actors work so well together, that their relationships are real, and their stories are real, and consequently, I became damn well invested in 'em. So why is this on my top 10 of 2011 list? Because damnit, so few movies actually achieve that.


There was a battle inside myself on whether to go with Thor or The Ides of March, both movies that I cherish dearly and have an insane affection for. Obviously, Thor won out. And amazingly, it mostly had to do because of story. Oh yes, the performances of everyone involved was spot on, with Tom Hiddelston giving us a tour de force portrayal of Loki, but this story of this powerful family being ripped apart by secrets and character flaws, and how the material is handled so perfectly when it could very well have turned to be one of the biggest embarrassments of 2011 - that's worthy of praise. When I think back fondly on Thor, this is what I think of, and this is why it's on the list: Kenneth Branagah, whose visual style is perfect for this type of film. I love the heavy use of dutch angles, I love the color scheme and the wide, sweeping shorts of Asgard. The Shakespearean-esque story of a society on the brink of war and a family being ripped apart from the inside out. I love Asgard. I love the balance of screentime for Asgard and earth. I love Thor. I love Loki. I love manipulative Loki. I love Thor's interaction with S.H.I.E.L.D. I love the emphasis on character and, furthermore, the impact of choices within the narrative. I respect and hold Thor above so many other movies because first and foremost this is a story about a man who needs to be humbled to be a wise ruler, and this is his journey. This is not just a superhero action movie, or a tie-in to The Avengers. This is what I'd call a definitive Thor tale. [Read Review Here]

The Adventures of Tintin

One of the problems of making a definitive list for a blog is that you may be just about to post the list of your favorite movies of 2011, and you just might come across another one you fall head over affordable TARGET-shoes in love with after you post said blog...er, post. Luckily, the day before I post(ed) this, I saw The Adventures of Tintin. My God. How absolutely amazing to watch. First, I take back my proclamation of Rise of the Planet of the Apes as the best visual effects Hollywood had to offer. That was before I saw this. Nothing bests Tintin. It's been a long while - well, eh, maybe since Rango, which wasn't too long ago, but feels long enough - since I've been so completely impressed by special effects. Not only that, but this is utter perfection of the motion capture style. Now I really, really want Robert Zemeckis to go back to Beowulf and attribute this new foundation of excellent effects work, and then it will be one larger step closer to being perfection. So special effects: not a single bad thing to say about it. Adventures of Tintin is pure Steven Spielberg. The movie is pretty much an animated Young Indiana Jones adventure. Hell, even John Williams' music echoes the Indy trilogy (notice: trilogy). There's adventure, there's exploration, there's gold, there's clues - all that interesting journey stuff. And the best part? It's fun! To be upfront, I didn't really care about the big mystery, this Unicorn/ship stuff, it didn't concern me. What I paid attention to were the characters, the special effects, and additionally, the writing [after all, it has two of the Big Names Who Can Do No Wrong: Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright], and nothing in that area disappointed. Oh, and Spielberg - this must be a dream come true. He is the master of the camera, and with it, he commands the screen like a excited kid creating some truly nifty shots. This is Spielberg at his most creative. Beautifully, beautifully shot. I am immensely glad I had the pleasure of seeing The Adventures of Tintin before I published this post, and now that I have, I implore you all to check it out. It's a true Spielbergean adventure.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

In what universe would this movie not be on the list? This is it, this is the end [as Agent Smith said in The Matrix Revolutions], and what a finale to close on. A couple of names: Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Daniel Radcliffe. Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is one giant love letter to these three actors and their jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring talent. It's because of them (and, of course, Jo Rowling's/Steve Kloves' story/script) that each emotional pull is a sucker punch leaving even the strongest of men 'emotionally compromised', that the battle of Hogwarts is thrilling and magical and tragic all at the same time. Harry Potter has been my life since the age of 12, and these movies are extraordinary, and these actors and directors and writers and crew members deserve every bit of applause imaginable. To know that a Harry Potter movie won't be on this list for 2012 is heartbreaking. I don't want it to end. It did, for many months now, but, well, can't we just use that nifty time-turner gizmo from Prisoner of Azkaban? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (both parts) is phenomenal, a thrilling tale of bravery, sacrifice, darkness, friendship, and most importantly, love. Goodbye, Harry Potter. [Read Long Review Here]


The biggest surprise of 2011. Honestly. I don't remember what precisely had come out during this time theatrically, but I do know that as the tickets were bought and mom and I made our way towards the screen [it was a birthday present, seeing Bridesmaids], and I didn't even have the slightest interest in watching this flick. And then the movie started. And Kristen Wiig is riding Jon Hamm, and there's that instant uncomfortableness of watching this sex scene with your mother, and then it became less unconformable because Jon Hamm's character is a dick, and from that moment on, the laughs didn't stop coming. Me, mom, the whole damn theater laughed our asses off. Bridesmaids is frakking hilarious. Perhaps a large majority of people I know saw the flick after all the hype and thus were a bit disappointed by it, but I honestly don't know why they dislike this but love both Hangover movies. Whatever, irrelevant. Point is, on a bad day, there are now two movies I will throw in: the first is American Wedding, because I love that movie, and the second is Bridesmaids, because it will make me smile and laugh and I'll be in a better mood afterwards. The script is air-tight brilliant, and every member of the cast should get a standing ovation [didn't they at one of the award ceremonies earlier this year? Can't remember]. Unless my brain is forgetting some important moment from 2011, sitting in the theater and watching Bridesmaids was the single funnest experience watching a movie last year. What a fabulous, brilliant, hilarious movie.


Now that a good portion of the usual suspects of most 2011 top ten lists have already been accounted for, what on earth could possibly be Andy's favorite of 2011? And will you think he's on crack when he reveals it? Tune in tomorrow for the answer! Questions? Comments? Hit me up below!