18 August 2012


[Welcome to the return of The Rambling of a Minnesota Geek's project to watch every and all movies from the trailer-compilation video Fantastic Dinosaurs of the Movies. My goal is to locate and view all the films that were trailed in the video, and review 'em as honestly as I can. I love me monster movies, and I love me dinosaur movies, and this allows me the opportunity to visit some classic oldies of the sci-fi/monster genre. There's gonna be some winners, and undoubtedly some clunkers, but that's part of the excitement, innit? Enjoy 'em, mateys!]


proudly presents

In this Fantastic Dinosaurs of the Movies set, the one trailer that really pushed me into the territory of wanting to actively seek out and watch all of the movies included in this compilation, was The Loch Ness Horror. For some odd reason, the trailer left quite the impression for my four-year old self. The dark colors and the scary underwater cinematography of a Nessie mouth itching towards the camera, unmistakably ready to kill me! I was captivated by the trailer, someway, somehow, so finally finding a copy of the film - no mere easy task - was met with loads of exuberance. All excited like, I threw in The Loch Ness Horror on my television, and within minutes, I hated it, and within the first twenty minutes, I was already bored, and continued being so for the remainder of the movie.

It was that enormously sad moment when something you were so excited to see for a long while is finally screened and it turns out to be a giant festival of utter shit. This is The Loch Ness Horror.

Frankly, my attention span was all over the place, so I can't necessarily tell anyone a good premise of the movie, but based off what I could cobble together from the narrative and online sources, there's this Nessie egg that is important to this "Yankee" scientist (*) and Nessie wants it back, an airplane that crashed into the Loch in the '40's becomes of enormous importance to some soldiers in the '80's, a group of teenagers convene at the Loch for purposes unexplained (although there is a nice slideshow about the monster, so I assume it's some sort of, er, expedition to check the place out), some mad old man who kidnaps a gal, this gal being one of the most upright button-up proper gals in all of sci-fi/horror cinema, and there's a trillion actors with horrible accents spouting off nonsense that doesn't propel the plot. Basically, airplane is a big deal to some military guys; Yankee scientist and proper chick have a connection whilst searching for Nessie; Nessie terrorizes random folks (I'm unclear if this is the first time Nessie has done this or if it's a common thing, which I would think would attract more attention than the Loch does now) and wants her egg back, and, er, I think that's it. Stupid people talking and wasting screentime until the titular monster comes onscreen.

*Each time a character says "yank", take a shot. I guarantee you'll be drunk before the film reaches its halfway point.

Nessie seems to have forgotten its body under the neck.
The single greatest disappoint - worse than finding out a movie I was eagerly anticipating turned out to be a load of shit - is the titular monster itself, the Loch Ness Horror: Nessie. Composed of nothing more than a bumpy hump and a long head on a stick (view right), Nessie is nothing horrific or monstrous, except in the level of laziness that went into the animal. That said, the Nessie face seems to have a mouth that can partially move and, when it roars (which is actually a pretty cool sound, terrifying in its own right) breath can be seen leaving, a simple aesthetic that somehow impresses me. To put it simply, Nessie sucks. I sought out The Loch Ness Horror because I wanted to see Nessie in action, and instead, we're treated to ninety percent lame human talky stuff and limited, embarrassing shots of the monster. Ugh. At this point, I'm quite looking forward to what The Crater Lake Monster has to offer. It seems the special effects team took the extra mile to use stop motion to visualize the creature in its entirety.

The conclusion reminds me of Jaws 3 and Jaws: The Revenge, with unnecessary slow motion implemented at chaotic times to make everything seem grander and more intense than it actually is. Taking place in the Loch, deep in its trenches, lots of red blood and extreme close-ups convey a battle between man and monster that ends in an stock footage explosion! Except I wasn't entirely sure what the hell happened, so I had to, once again, consult the interwebs to explain everything. Either I needed to pay more attention (which I blame pretty much everything about the movie for making me lose interest every minute) or the flick did a piss poor job explainin' what the hell was going on. I give up. 

Cast of characters include Spencer, the aforementioned Yankee scientist, who is a bit of a douche and lacks proper conversational skills, Jack the old Scotts man who boasts the most irritating accent of all creation, pressing his 'rrrrr's' too hard making him an instant nuisance, and Kathleen, Jack's granddaughter, the uptight proper gal who schools Spencer in all things Scotland and niceties. All these characters are annoying and deserved a most gruesome death, especially the grandfather. Some other characters include a crazy old man who kidnaps Kathleen, a Scottish scientist who spouts off science-y stuff to basically say 'I Believe in Loch Nessie', and two all-important teens who decide to get their whoopie on but end up plesiosaur chow.

Loads of bad sci-fi/horror movies can get away with positive reviews because the watcher genuinely had a fun time watching the flick, whether it be because the movie is just so bad it's good, or the watcher really does enjoy himself bad creature features. Unfortunately, I can't regulate Loch Ness Horror as one of those 'gems' that are simply so bad they're worth watching. The movie doesn't quite reach that level. If it wasn't for the absolutely rubbish script - the clunky dialogue, the sexist remarks, the subplots upon subplots, the incoherency, the clunky dialogue - there just might have been a chance this movie could be recommended on sheer bad-but-fun levels. Instead, in the end, it's all just one, big, boring mess. Despite the obvious budgetary restrictions and severe lack of a complete Nessie or proper screentime, it was a pleasure watching the monster in action, and that's about all the positive I can get out of this experience. Long to the point that every minute is felt, performances by folks who would make Hayden Christensen cringe, and uninteresting to the point that I was only half paying attention to the actual movie and instead concerned myself with matters far more important, like securing a copy of 20 Million Miles to Earth, next on my list of creature features to sit through.

Really, properly sorry to say firmly: skip this one, not worth the effort to find a copy and watch it. Instead, resign yourself to replaying the trailer, as found in the Fantastic Dinosaurs of the Movies compilation, which is far more creepy, horrific, and interesting than a single second of the movie itself. Just...ugh.

16 August 2012

FANTASTIC DINOSAURS: King Kong vs. Godzilla

[Welcome to the return of The Rambling of a Minnesota Geek's project to watch every and all movies from the trailer-compilation video Fantastic Dinosaurs of the Movies. My goal is to locate and view all the films that were trailed in the video, and review 'em as honestly as I can. I love me monster movies, and I love me dinosaur movies, and this allows me the opportunity to visit some classic oldies of the sci-fi/monster genre. There's gonna be some winners, and undoubtedly some clunkers, but that's part of the excitement, innit? Enjoy 'em, mateys!]


proudly presents

King Kong vs. Godzilla

There are two movies that general audiences typically associate to Godzilla: [1], that piece-of-garbage-Godzilla-in-Name-Only American translation GODZILLA from 1998 that was both a blessing and a curse to North American Godzilla fans, and [2] King Kong vs. Godzilla, arguably the most widely known piece of giant monster entertainment and has thoroughly placed itself into mainstream pop culture. Similar to [1], this is a good and bad thing. On the level of good, this is a damn fine entertaining flick with plenty of monster vs. monster action, and on that level, will definitely entice younger viewers to pursue more Godzilla productions (fingers crossed), and is overall a well made movie. Downside: there's a high probability that folks will tune into this movie and this movie only, thinking that this is all Godzilla is and leave it at that.

Off the heels of its recent 50th Anniversary (as of August 11th), I thought it appropriate to breathe new life into this Minnesota Geek feature with this little gem. In the simplest of histories, based purely off my memory, how King Kong vs. Godzilla came to be is a result of this: Willis O'Brien really wanting to bring back King Kong, and proposed a concept called King Kong vs. Frankenstein, with the intent of realizing it himself via stop motion animation, the same technique that O'Brien received a few accolades for with his 1933 production. Apparently, no dice. American producer John Beck got his hands on the proposal and shopped it around, still with O'Brien on board but who, it seems, wasn't very "in" with the meetings. Eventually Beck brought the project to the attention of Toho Studios, and a joint production was initiated. Dropped was the idea of Frankenstein's monster as the co-villain (although the Monster later shows up in a Toho production titled Frankenstein Conquers the World), and instead Toho inserted their own monster into the mix: Godzilla. Premiering in 1954, Toho's Godzilla was a behemoth both in physical appearance and in profits, so much so that within five months the sequel, Godzilla Raids Again, landed in cinemas in '55, but that didn't go over so well. It was one of those obvious rushed productions. Thus, Toho looked at this as a opportunity to bring back their ace in the hole. With Beck and O'Brien seemingly having no involvement in this production whatsoever, Toho did what they did and Beck was handed the final product. Instead of stop motion there was the more cost-effective special effect of suitmation, with King Kong now a man in a rubber suit and extendable arms. The original 1962 King Kong vs. Godzilla still had a underlying sense of satire that translated well into the Americanized version, but a lot of the seriousness of the script was lost by Beck's meddling. Through Beck, King Kong vs. Godzilla received an extensive overhaul, with newly filmed scenes inserted into the narrative, over twenty minutes of the original movie lost, and the dialogue essentially rewritten. No other film in the history of Godzilla productions, with the sole exception of the original 1954 film, has been manipulated/changed as much as this one. 

*Also, just to note: the score has nearly entirely been exercised from the Japanese version. Composer Akira Ifukube's work only remains in the Faro Island dance/worship, otherwise the film cobbles together cues from several other prominent science fiction titles. Most recognizably, tuned ears will be greeted with Creature from the Black Lagoon more than once. Hell, far too often. And this is a huge shame, as Ifukube crafted one of his true masterpieces with this flick. Sigh. Oh well. All we can hope is that the original Japanese makes its way somehow to the U.S. market.

So it's nothing short of a miracle that King Kong vs. Godzilla, the American version, turned out as well as it did. Satire and pure science fiction cinema rolled into one, it's the Big G's most financially successful outing, and, as stated above, the most widely recognized Godzilla film. Today I'll be talking about the American version, currently readily available on DVD (packaged along with the other Toho King Kong-suitmation epic, King Kong Escapes).

Also before venturing further, a nasty rumor and commonly held belief is that a major difference with the Japanese and American versions is the ending. For the Japanese, it is said, Godzilla swims away victorious from his melee with Kong, while the Americans get to see their crowned gorilla as savior of all mankind. Truth be told, the same ending is in both versions. Godzilla and King Kong plummet off a cliff and into the ocean, a giant tidal wave erupting around a nearby town, and as reporters and citizens look on with shock at the sight, King Kong emerges from the depths, and only Kong, slowly lumbering towards (presumably) his island home. The idea of different endings is a neat one, but entirely false. Sorry, folks.

These days we got Freddy vs. Jason which wasn't the colossal misfire many expected to be, and we have Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, which is about as low on the totem pole as you can get. King Kong vs. Godzilla is one of those rare times when two franchises mesh together so well, the whole experience is a damn good one. Since I'm reviewing the American version, let's get right down to it:

First and foremost, with repeated viewings, there's few scenes in the Godzilla franchise as annoying as these constant 'newsroom' interruptions and the terribly made-up set these scenes were shot at. The first five minutes is nothing but one guy on the phone with another guy giving us the plot, and this happens at least even eight minutes afterwards. What I'm most angry about is that the American version refuses to allow the story to speak for itself. Instead, we're told it, and shown only select bits, it feels like. Of course, this is all a consequence of heavy meddling and editing, but taking it as the final product we have, it's freakin' annoying.

But everything else? Solid fun. The dubbed dialogue hits all kinds of fantastic comedic moments, such as a character's tendency to ache and complain about his 'corns' or the behavior and stuttering of Mr. Tako, the guy who takes over custody of Kong (bet he wishes he didn't do that now, eh?). Normally I'd be a bit peeved at the infusion of comedy in a monster movies - I tend to like my monster flicks taken seriously - but considering that the humor and satire is part of the script's DNA, well, I don't quite mind it at all. And that adds substantially to the overall funness of this flick. This really is one of the franchise's better dubs (interestingly not handled by American International Pictures, but by Universal), and with the exception of the obnoxious American-added scenes mentioned above, it's one of the movie's best qualities.

Why care about dub and dialogue when the real reason to watch this movie is for none other than watching Godzilla, King of the Monsters, and King Kong, Giant Gorilla from Faro Island, kick and beat the shit out of each other? The two times these titans meet up, it's well worth the price of admission/purchase. First round is short and sweet, cementing Godzilla's upper hand with that whole atomic-ray-coming-out-of-his-mouth thing, and Kong beginning to understand exactly how deep in shit he's in. But then the last twenty-five minutes come about, where Kong basically wrestles himself free from his captors so he can get his revenge on the giant dinosaur. And ladies and gents, for twenty-five minutes we're treated to giant monster gold.

Sure, I got problems with Kong apparently gaining strength from a all-too-convenient lightening storm, and the horribly obvious and badly done long shot puppet work, but overall, we got two men in rubbersuits punching and kicking and doing all these amazingly fun stunts. It really is a knock around, drag-out fight. We even have this ridiculously humorous and horribly well done can't-turn-away stop motion moment where Godzilla pushes himself up with his tail and uses his feet to kick Kong backwards! I would have rather like to have seen it done with suitmation, but I understand the limitations of such a effort, so I'm happy with what we got. For now. Pity that Toho's efforts to make a sequel/remake have yet to pan out. So in a nutshell, forget about Freddy vs. Jason, these two monsters wrestling up in the mountains is glorious, absolutely, mind-boggling glorious.

As for the suit designs, well, I weirdly have a fixation with this Godzilla suit, "kinggoji", even though he looks a bit like a doofus. Special effects wizard Eiji Tsuburaya was quite intent on making Godzilla and King Kong lighter and heavily kid-friendly, so naturally the harsher design from the original movie and sequel were toned down considerably. These monsters are bright, bulky, and cartoonish, all deliberately, and in the context of this, shall we say 'world', that King Kong vs. Godzilla inhabits, it all works. I personally have my own issues with the King Kong design, but realistically, if you're going to film a rubber suit Godzilla engaged in combat with a big but not nearly as giant gorilla (as is the case of the original '33 King Kong, who is substantially smaller than the monster king), you are sort of forced to modify it accordingly.

Overall, I cherish this movie. I remember throwing in my Goodtimes VHS into the player over and over (mostly for the monster scenes, of course) and loving every minute of it. And this movie boasts one of my favorite introductions to Godzilla ever (clawing apart his icy prison). It's funny, it's extravagant, and the American version is pretty well put together all things considered. If you haven't had the luxury of experiencing this monster match-up, I'd recommend you get on it right away. Of course I wouldn't hesitate to emphasize the superiority of the Japanese version, but if that's not possible, this variation will do just fine.

Happy 50th Anniversary, King Kong vs. Godzilla.

08 August 2012

The Watcher: July 2012

Awkward, Season 2. Episodes 2-5
I fell in love with Awkward. back with the very first episode, and as I said before, it's absolutely fantastic seeing it back on my screen. Well, computer screen. Don't have cable. It sucks. But even though I'm over the moon with its return, five episodes in, I'm just not loving it nearly as much as I have. And I can't pinpoint the culprit. The writing is just as strong and full of zingers and new words describing human genitalia, the actors are just as funny and angsty as before, and Ashley Rickards is hotter than ever. So where's the problem? Right now, the one thing making rounds in my head is the Jenna/Jake dynamic, that is so full of Jenna second-guessing herself and her feelings that the pair never seem to really 'click' for us. In season one, he was that fantastic, special Prince Charming that genuinely cared for Jenna, and this year, he's still the guy who cares for her - perhaps a overbearing too much - but the fireworks just ain't blastin' and blowin' as they have before. Amazingly, despite how nice of a person Jake is - and I can't believe I'm thinking this - I'm becoming more and more a fan of Matty. Blimey! And I would like for Jenna to assert her independence more, show that the letter her mom wrote has made a substantial, life-altering impact, that she's a better person because of that letter. She's no longer the awkward girl who wouldn't stand up for herself, but she's not as strong as I would like her to be, either.

Luckily, Ming and Tamara are given substantially more time to develop as characters, and they've been a blast. Tamara is still boy obsessed and fast-talking, but she's coming into her own. Ming was the most underdeveloped of the friendly trio, and this year she's maturing into a gal who is very forthright in what she wants and what she says. It's much appreciated.

Season two doesn't have the beat-by-beat comedic and dramatic brilliance of its freshman year, but it's still fantastic to have Awkward. back, and with its recently renewed 22-episode third season, the show isn't going anywhere anytime soon. So for now I'll sit back and enjoy the ride, because we have more of Jenna Hamilton and her voice overs to look forward to, and I'm absolutely giddy bout that. Grade: B

Breaking Bad, Season 5. Episodes 1-3
With season four ending with a literal bang, a jaw-dropping collection of episodes that became increasingly more and more intricate and compelling, Breaking Bad's final season was one of my most eagerly anticipated shows of the summer. Three episodes in (four as of the time of this writing, but three in July), that same intense speed of the previous arc has been expunged for what is, understandably, a slow build. The season begins with a year jump ahead, as a bearded and disheveled Walt purchases a machine gun from Jim Beaver at a Denny's, apparently running from something, or perhaps towards something. As for the present, Walt is soaring on a ego-trip from his dispensing of Gus Fring and, with the assistance of Jesse and Gus' previous right hand man Mike, slowly starts up the methylamine business again. Estranged wife Skyler silently accepts the reality of her situation, but the mute exterior is slowly eroding as she's reaching a breaking point. There's a inevitability of badness coming, but right now creator Vince Gilligan and the writers are content with building this new arc of Walt rising to the top and the family complications that come out of his status.

Only eight episodes make up this half of the shows final season in 2012, and with that knowledge, I'm holding out hope that that same intensity of the previous year and promised villainy of Walter White comes into play. Many commentators have said that Walt has already passed the Point of No Return, and although I do agree with them, I don't exactly feel Walt's darkness or the Heisenberg persona coming through too powerfully. We see Walt as a intelligent man who thinks every action through several steps ahead, but as far as a man who could convincingly take over a drug empire, just don't see that yet. But as for what we do have here, there's three exquisitely written and performed episodes. Bryan Cranston no longer has the strut of a man who displays nervousness or fear, he walks like he owns the ground he walks on and is in complete control of every situation and word. Aaron Paul is obviously relishing going back to the calm and easy going Jesse from the earlier seasons, though in episode two his acting chops are on full display as he breaks down in front of Walt over 'locating' the cigarette full of ricen that resulted in a sticky situation last season.

Walt and Jesse are currently buddy buddies, and with Mike in the mix - a excellent addition, I must add - these are the Three Amigo's who are keeping the meth business alive and lucrative. Already, however, we can see the cracks in Walt's readiness to part with a substantial amount of money, hungry for more. Equally as engaging is Hank's vindication in his search into Gus Fring and his newfound celebrity status at his department. I am so very eager for the time when Hank faces off against Heisenberg, only for the face under the black hat to be revealed as his brother-in-law. At least, here's hoping. And finally, the looks and movements of Skyler and all the unspoken feelings beautifully portrayed by Anna Gunn. Now, with the addition of a new female co-star with Lydia, a tightly wound, paranoid gal, the series is expanding its universe to what will either be Walt's impending partners or adversaries.

It's exciting times being a Breaking Bad fan. We're still in setup mode, with the best yet to come, but these amazingly talented writers and actors who never settle for anything less than a perfect note continue to create some of the most compelling television ever made. So here's me not complaining. Breaking Bad is back - for a truncated period, but still - and I couldn't be happier. Excited to see where this all leads... Grade: A-

Bunheads, Season 1. Episodes 4-7
Three fantastic introduction episodes, and a handful of so-so episodes, I'm still at the 'I like it, but it has its problems' phase with Bunheads. Naturally, as a Gilmore Girls fan and overall digging this series, I want it to succeed creativity and with its ratings, but there's less and less appealing elements of the series to make it appointment television. With the first three episodes, a lot was accomplished - there was a wedding, a death, a inheritance, and a introduction to several supporting characters. Now that the world is, for the most part, established, it would be expected that Michelle would begin to gel and assert herself in that world. Seven episodes in, after some rather directionless installments with her revising the past and uncertain about the future, I think it's time for Michelle to make a decision and start a new chapter in her life. Of course I'm rooting for the series to be picked up for a second season, but if that's not the case, I want Michelle's arc to be as developed as it possibly could be in these circumstances.

Michelle's growth is getting there, but the most rewarding part of the series has been the cast of teenage characters at Fanny's dance school. Boo, Ginny, Sasha, Melaine - these four teenagers have their typical teen angst and problems, fantastically executed by these tremendously talented actresses and great scripts. I love these characters, and if the show doesn't move past season one, the real shame will not be seeing these girls grow as individuals and actresses. Kelly Bishop's Fanny is slowly coming to terms with the death of her son and moving on with her life. She's still not the biggest fan of Michelle - the two of them bicker constantly, and not in the fun, entertaining way.

Overall, I still quite enjoy Bunheads, it just seems to be in a holding pattern right now. Well worth the time of any interested viewer, I believe in the show and hope it hits a second season. Just right now - I want more. Grade: B+

Parks & Recreation, Season 4
This will be, perhaps, a sort of cop-out review of Parks & Recreation, a claim I won't entirely refute, but this series doesn't need reviewing. What I will say is this: I have avoided this series over and over, never one to be all that interested in that sort of Office-documentary style sitcom. Through happenstance, I saw a episode. This lead to renting the first three seasons from the library. In one week, I watched every episode. I laughed and laughed and, most importantly, I fell in love with this show. With 22 or 24 episodes each season, there were maybe only one or two that didn't hit all the right notes, and for a sitcom, that's fantastic (by comparison, 24 episodes of The Big Bang Theory, I loved maybe no more than 5, mildly enjoyed 12, and strongly disliked the rest). I immediately downloaded all of season four, and just a hour ago I finished my obsession.

This is comedy gold. If anyone is unsure of pursuing this show, I present to you the above screencap. Ron Swanson (standing) and Chris Traeger (meditating) are the two single most funniest characters in a sitcom I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Rob Lowe has literally had me laughing at his speech patterns and obsessive behaviors, and Nick Offerman has forever redefined my ideal boss. Lovely, lovely show. Watch it. Now. You'll literally love it. Grade: A+

True Blood, Season 5. Episodes 4-8
Getting weirder and weirder and more interesting and interesting. Sure, there are still those subplots that simply annoy me with their idiocy or irrelevance to everything else in the narrative, but that's small potatoes compared to the multitude of very interesting ideas that I hope pay off big by the finale. In succession, I'll just quickly say the stories I dig: (1) Sooki's arc this year has nothing to do with men and romance, it's her confronting her inner faerie abilities and that really weird world which opens one gigantic question, what really happened to my parents? They didn't die as reported, instead, the culprit is a vampire who latched onto the scent of Sooki's faerie blood. Cool. Now, where does this lead? (2) Tara as a vampire working for Pam and adjusting to her new station in life has been fantastic, especially when Pam captures a woman that ridiculed Tara for far too long, allowing the newly turned vamp to exact her revenge. For four years Tara has been hit and hit and hit with nothing but tragedy, and now, through tragic circumstances, she's for the first time strong and in charge of herself. It sucks what happened to her, but I've never liked Tara more. And that's not just because of the pole dancing. (3) Jason Stackhouse is all over the place this year, but his digging up the murder of his parents and really messed up dynamic with Jessica has been well worth watching. (4) The Authority, run by several old vampires who worship the old vampire god Lilith of whom all vampires originate. Their politics and religion has been quite interesting, and with Russel back in a prominent way leading the Authority, it's really compelling drama.

(5) Eric is beginning to suspect something's up, thanks to a visitation from ghostly Godric, and I can't wait to see where this leads, while Bill allows himself to fall deeper and deeper off the wagon, into this belief of Lilith. At one point, Bill, Eric and all members of the Authority look up as a bloody, naked figure rises from carnage - Lilith, the original God reborn on earth. Ultimately, it's revealed to be nothing more than a hallucination, but imagine how utterly fantastic and interesting having Lilith, a God, walk on this earth again. Now that would be a season-long arc worth exploring alone. (6) It has its ups and downs, but Terry's thing with the vengeful spirit has promise.

Now, for the shit: (1) Lafayete. Just leave the show already. You suck and have overstayed your welcome. (2) Hoyt, grow up. You suck and have overstayed your welcome. (3) The Obama Patrol, these group of thugs who hunt and kill vamps as a political statement. Ties into the Authority storyline (barely), but not worth it. (4) Everything Alcide and werewolf and shapeshifter. Pointless.

Overall, though, the positives outweigh the negatives. This fifth year has by far been the most intriguing, with the fourth right behind. I like where most of these characters are going, and showrunner Alan Ball has concocted quite the story to leave the show with. Honestly, it sucks that there's only a few episodes left and then we have to wait a whole 'nother summer for more, but until that unfortunate hiatus, I am genuinely enjoying the ride. Grade: B

02 August 2012

Movie Prowlin: July 2012

Doing these month-by-month reports on what one has watched seems to have quickly become a 'thing', and by golly, this Minnesota blogger will not be the odd man out of writing a 'thing'! Thus, instead of doing four volumes a year, I'm making this monthly, with some comments (because all the cool kids are doing it) and humorous asides, and pictures! Before going on, I must apologize - July has been superhero month, and anyone who knows me even the slightest know I love me my superheroes, so, um, there's a lot of Spider-Man and Batman this month. Rewatched. Frequently. August should be more diverse. Enjoy!

Andy's Watch List: July 2012
90. The Amazing Spider-Man - Initial thoughts: Wow, that was worth it. Not the 3D, but the remakingness. Well worth the time and energy, and I frankly am not super looking forward to a sequel!
91. The Amazing Spider-Man - Again, thought it was great. Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker.
92. Top Gun - Movie theater had a Classics Night, and this was my first time seeing this Tom Cruise vehicle, which, for the most part, was pretty enjoyable. However, confession: whenever it was flight time, I became terribly lost at who was who, and completely lost during the climax with some bad guy jets, where I gave up figuring out the good guys from the bad guys. Still, enjoyable flick.
93. Snow White and the Huntsman - Charlize Theron still owns this movie, but I found myself less impressed with a second screening. But gee, the digital work on the elves continues to make me giddy at how well it was done.
94. The Amazing Spider-Man - Double feature with the above movie accompanied by a friend, who, to my happiness, liked Amazing Spider-Man more. What can I say? Director Webb and the screenwriters know how to build character, and those first forty minutes are superb.
95. The Dictator - Stupid, like really, really stupid, but I hate to say this, I actually enjoyed myself and laughed here and there. But if you ain't a fan of Sasha Baron Cohen, this isn't for you. At all.
96. Moonrise Kingdom - A miracle has happened: the second Wes Anderson movie I liked, the first in live action! A sweet blossoming love story with two great young leads, and a style that didn't pull me out of the film like I feared.

97. Batman -Still strongly, strongly dislike Jack Nicholson. Still feel there are problems with the movie. Still not my favorite. But I favored it more now than ever before. So, progress (?).
98. Batman Returns - When folks complain this movie is too dark, I think they refer to the lighting, because there is barely any light in this flick whatsoever. Oh, Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne's chemistry was pretty good. Otherwise, meh.
99. Batman Forever - Go ahead and hate me for saying this, but of the older movie productions, this one is my favorite. It's just so...fun!
100. Batman & Robin -If one looks at this as a big budget homage to the 60's Adam West series, than this movie is Batman gold. But that's only if you taint the film in a specific way. By all other avenues, this is a piece of trash, and I was hoping I wouldn't feel nothing but disdain towards it when I rewatched this '97 disaster, that perhaps I would find some value in its content. Nope.
 101. Batman Begins - Still what I consider the best of The Dark Knight Trilogy. Had to watch this and...
102. The Dark Knight - ...this before heading out to see....
103. The Dark Knight Rises - Initial viewing: disappointment and satisfaction. Weird night.
104. The Dark Knight Rises - Still has problems, but y'know what? Worthy ending to Nolan's vision.
105. The Dark Knight Rises - Back-to-back screening, nothing new gained.
106. The Dark Knight Rises - Now that's more like it. Fourth time's a charm. Official stance: really good conclusion, but still boasts noticeable problems that drive me a bit bat-y.

107. Ted - Still as funny as the first time
108. The Watch - Baffling, really, how little I laughed and liked this garbage. This group of comedians facing off against alien invaders sounds, to me, like comedy gold. Instead, it's reduced to dick and sperm jokes. If you're going to do that, give this material to Kevin Smith who can infuse some damn heart and coherency to your story. This is what not to do, folks. .. ... ... still, those aliens did look pretty cool.
109. King Kong vs. Godzilla - [American Version] Preparing myself for a month of monster movies, this film is both absolutely hilarious and absolutely fantastic fun. Anyone not seen this flick needs to remedy that pronto.
110. The Raid – Redemption - As amazing as everyone has said, this flick has some of the most extreme, original fight scenes I have ever seen, I was glued from start to finish. Can't recommend this enough. Amazing.
111. Abduction - Wow, this was bad. Taylor Lautner, please don't pursue acting after your tenure as Jacob concludes. Please.
112. God Bless America - America is shit, and one old guy who thinks he's dying decides to buy a gun and take out his aggression towards the people who make America a piece of shit. Had potential to be something truly phenomenal, but it doesn't push itself as far as it should, and the overall film isn't as deep as it should be. Missed potential, but for the overall product, not bad.
113. Jeff Who Lives at Home - Just when I was feeling that Jason Segel was starting to repeat himself and not really offer audiences anything new, he springs this on us. Fantastic work by Segel as Jeff, a dude who sees signs around him and seizes control of his life, the movie has one great performance after another, and these characters are so richly realized I didn't want the flick to end.
114. Johnny English Reborn - Was hoping for something funny and enjoyable, instead I was left with a movie that made me embarrassed for everyone involved and for all the folks that saw it and liked it.

M O V I E        O F        T H E      M  O  N  T  H
Yeah, like this was much of a surprise. When the title card hit the screen at the climax of The Dark Knight (2008) as Batman takes the fall for the crimes of Harvey Dent, right that second, that's when my anticipation for what would become The Dark Knight Rises began. And then the title was announced. And then the villain. And slowly plot details. And then pictures. And trailers! Lots and lots of trailers! Frankly, I'm not sure if my own future wedding will have me as excited as this event motion picture did. Ultimately, even after four viewings, I still don't quite know what to make of it. My expectations were met in some areas, and were not met in others, areas that I thought were critical to the trilogy narrative (e.g., Bruce and his arc in relation to Gotham's arc). But this is what we have. And although I'm less than over the moon with The Dark Knight Rises, I still cherish the damn film. I will always remember the anticipation, the pre-release buzz and hype and viral marketing and hours upon hours of podcasts I listened to debating what exactly was going down in Nolan's final Batman movie.

This may be blasphemous to say, but Christopher Nolan did present to this generation the Ultimate Trilogy. There's the original Star Wars movies, or The Lord of the Rings trilogy, or The Godfather trilogy, but this Dark Knight Trilogy, three consecutive movies of sheer, utter brilliance - it's one hell of an accomplishment, and I'm glad to have been a part of it. So in conclusion, no, I'm not in love with The Dark Knight Rises, but there's no way on this planet 2012 will be remembered as anything less than The Year of Batman.