Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Movies Part 1

Summertime is always a fun season for movies, particularly for comic fans like myself. The summer blockbuster has become a pretty steep competition between studios, with questionable results. They can't all be winners, I guess. Here's what I think of a few of the big ones...

Iron Man 2: Saw it and liked it. I've never been a fan of Iron Man as a character, so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed these movies. As sequels go, this was a pretty good one. The additions (and changes) to the cast were all strong, and the returning players were still as good as in the original. My favorite addition was Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. That guy can do no wrong in my book. I'm glad Scarlett Johansson didn't put on a fake Russian accent, but I was disappointed that Black Widow didn't have one. I guess that's unfair because Mickey Rourke's accent was fine, so there's no reason to think Scarlett's wouldn't have been. Robert Downey Jr. owns Tony Stark of course. There was a half hour in the middle that got a bit boring, and the final action scene was a bit disappointing, and but all in all, it was a fun movie.

Robin Hood: No thanks. Russell Crowe is old and annoying and I just don't see him as Robin Hood. Also, this looks like some big war epic (like Gladiator) but I like my Robin Hood stories to be about a gang of thieves hiding in Sherwood Forest, stealing from the rich, giving to the poor. I know some people who have seen it and liked it, so maybe I'll get it on netflix eventually...

Why mess with classics, anyways?
MacGruber: I don't watch SNL, I've never seen these skits. I'd rather have a normal MacGyver movie (starring Richard Dean Anderson) than this spoof.

Shrek Forever After: All of the Shrek movies are fun and clever, but I'm not too worried about catching them in the theater. I get tired of these animated movies being too full of pop culture gags, but the Shrek movies seems immune to my annoyance. Maybe their gags are more clever than the rest...

Sex and the City 2: I'm sure it'll be a lot like this.

Prince of Persia: Jake Gyllenhaal is one of my favorite actors and he usually picks solid roles. Even if the concept of the movie or character is stupid (I'm looking at you, Bubble Boy) he usually puts his all into the role. It looks like he's just in this for the paycheck, though. I'm afraid not even he can save this movie. When I first saw the preview for this movie, it was shown with the previews for Clash of the Titans and Sorcerer's Apprentice and all three previews were set up exactly the same. CGI CGI clever quip CGI hot girl CGI flipping around rumbling sound villain CGI title. I saw Clash of the Titans and was not impressed. I'm sure Gyllenhall, Arteron, Kingsley, Molina will do fine, but it doesn't look like their going to have much to work with. Who knows, maybe it will be awesome. We'll see in about six months.

Get him to the Greek: Could be funny or could be stupid. I've always liked Jonah Hill but never had much use for Russell Brand. He looks like he tries too hard to look like he doesn't try. I heard P. Diddy did a good job. Well good for him, he could use the money.

Splice: I've heard great things, but I'm too scared to go see this.

The A-Team: I enjoyed this movie. I said my piece here.

Karate Kid: Blah. The Movie Maven says it better than I could.

Jonah Hex: Already talked about it here.

Toy Story 3: I'm sure this will be fantastic. I was a bit bummed when, after Up, I heard that Pixar's next two movies were sequels (particularly because I have an unreasonable dislike for Cars), but Toy Story 2 was good so who cares. I probably won't see it in the theaters though. Apparently Michael Keaton's Ken is a really funny villain. I don't know who this Blake Clark is, thinking he can imitate the late great Jim Varney, but I guess someone has to.

Knight and Day: Tom Cruise is trying to get on our good side again, and he's bringing Cameron Diaz along to help. This movie does not appeal to me at all. Unlike most of you, I don't hate Tom for jumping on Oprah's couch or being a spokesperson for a weird religion. At least he hasn't been openly racist or anything

Right, Mel?
He just annoys me and the preview for this movie annoys me. There are several scenes where ridiculous shit happens. For example, he's riding on the rook of a car and another car is flipping toward them or something and he narrowly dodges a flying car. Or how about when they're driving the motorcycle and she flips around and shoots both guns backwards. These scenes are stupid looking. Maybe if they were superheroes or cyborgs or something but these action movies have these normal people doing more and more extraordinary things and we're supposed to buy it? It bugs me. I guess it's nothing new, but damn.

Grown Ups: Adam Sandler hasn't made a funny movie since 1998 but I'm not sure that even applies here. I think this movie is one of those feel good family dramedy's dressed up as a comedy. I'm willing to bet that the funniest parts of the movie are in the preview. There will be some theme about growing up and connecting with children, blah blah blah...

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: I admit that I read the first two Twilight books. My whole family loved them so they say I had to read them. They were easy enough to read. I started reading the third one. I got a few chapters in, I remember the exact moment I stopped. I was sitting on the toilet and I literally threw the book across the room in disgust. The book was more disgusting to me than the pile of crap I was creating. Worse than shit. The movies are even worse than that! I am so sick of seeing these pale kids with stupid hair and their Zoolander poses and being told they are the most beautiful people ever. These movies are dumb, If one more person compares them to Harry Potter, we are going to have serious words!
Like Avada Kedavra!

The Last Airbender: I think this will be pretty good. A lot of people are up in arms about the fact that there are absolutely no Asians cast, despite the fact that the original show celebrated different Asian cultures. I can see why people are upset by this, but it's really nothing new.

It could be worse...
The thing is, I think M. Night Shyamalan is a very talented director. It's too bad that he seemed to have pigeonheld (pigeonholded?) himself in the twist ending plot device. This seems to be his attempt to escape that. The thing is, his annoying tendency to seemingly try to outsmart us began to overshadow the fact that his movies were pretty well made. I think this one will be pretty good too, if people can get past being offended.

Predators: I love the original Predator movie. It remains one of my personal favorites. I enjoyed the sequel, and choose to ignore the glaring flaws. I even liked the first AVP, if only because of the concept (I did not see the sequel). I think Robert Rodriguez is a good fit for a director and will do the franchise justice. I like the concept behind it: a group of the worlds most dangerous people find themselves on a planet that serves as the Predator's hunting preserve. I have a few misgivings; the fact that there is only one woman always bother me. It makes it seems like she's a token, the damsel in distress. Also, the one asian in the group is proficient with a sword, of course. Isn't that cliche by now? Another thing, second billed on imdb is Topher Grace. I haven't noticed him in the previews so I don't know his role, but I doubt I could buy him as one of the most dangerous men on the planet. Apparently he's a serial killer or something. I am looking forward to this. I noticed that there wasn't a lot of CGI in the trailer, which is heartening. We shall see.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Zombies on the brain

Over the last decade or so, zombies have become somewhat of a fad. It used to be that zombies could only be found in relatively cheesy horror movies, but now it seems liking zombies is the cool thing to do. I hate people who insist that they liked something before it was cool, so I won't say it here. (Even if it's the truth.)
Anyways, the benefit of such a surge in popularity is an increase in zombie related stories, across many mediums. This is a good thing with any subject, until said subject is over-exposed and then it becomes annoying. I fear that this may happen to the zombie genre (?), even more than I fear an actual zombie outbreak. But, until either of those things happen, we might as well sit back and enjoy the various forms of zombie fiction that ensue.

Like Zombie Strippers!

And there's a lot out there. Of course we are all aware of the movies. You can't talk about zombie movies without mentioning George Romero, who is pretty much credited with the creation of the zombie genre. His first movie, Night of the Living Dead (1968) is famous for not only scaring the crap out of us, but being a relevant social commentary as well. And there lies the true nature of a good zombie story. Zombies aren't the scariest monster ever imagined, but the effect they have on our society, and what people will do to survive, is what really draws our attention. World War Z is a fantastic book by Max Brooks that serves as an "oral history" of an all out war between humans and zombies. It really is a well written and fun book, I highly recommend it. But if I list every bit of interesting zombie-media, this would be a very long entry. There is an impressive amount of stuff out there, ranging from webcomics to music, and I just don't have time for it all. So I'm just going to cut to the cream of the crop.

Perhaps you've heard of this, The Walking Dead is an amazing comic book by Robert Kirkman. Yes, he's the same guy who writes my favorite superhero comic, Invincible, but that's not why I like it. This book follows a group of survivors across America during a zombie outbreak. Well duh! you might say, that's what they're all about! There's some truth to that, but this book is just so well written. Kirkman has a way of making you like his characters and then ripping your (and their) heart out. This book, which has gone over 70 issues, just keeps you guessing as to what will happen next. I tell you, I am more emotionally involved in this book than I have ever been towards any movie. But you're a comic geek, of course you're going to like it, you say? Well first of all, that's insulting, and you don't have to be such a jerk. Second, this book has hooked a lot of "non-comic" readers, including my wife and sister. In fact, my friend just bought the first compendium for his father for Father's Day and not even he reads comics. It's just that good. Still, you say, comics are expensive and for kids and I don't care enough to go buy this. Well, my lazy ignorant friend, you're in luck because T.V. once again will save the day!

Television, you magnificent bastard!
It turns out that AMC is currently filming pilot episodes of The Walking Dead to air in October. Naturally, I was a tad nervous when I heard this because live action television and comics haven't always made the best pairing, but I have faith in a) the source material, and b) the channel. AMC is home to two of my favorite shows, Mad Men and Breaking Bad (Yay alliteration!). Both shows are based on concepts that could easily be portrayed as cheesy. The former is about chauvinistic advertisers in the sixties (starring this guy), and the latter is about a high school chemistry teacher who, upon learning he has cancer, decides to cook and sell crystal meth (starring this guy). Both are incredibly addicting shows because they have such strong acting and writing. Were this show being made by a station like FOX, I'd be worried (FOX does occasionally make good shows, they just don't know what to do with them), but I have a lot of faith in AMC, so I am really looking forward to this show. Just don't let your baby watch:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Running to the A Team for Help

Despite serious misgivings, I was all set on going to see Jonah Hex today. I had read some scathing reviews, but pretty much wanted to see it so I could write a negative review myself. Half the review was already written in my head as I was driving to the theater. I was going to lament the fact that the powers that be in Hollywood obviously don't understand what comic book fans really want, the death of good western movies, and how CGI is becoming seriously overused, blah blah blah. As I was in line to buy my ticket and I found myself staring at this movie poster:
I realized that the main reason I was considering watching this movie is because I've been on a bit of an old west kick recently. We've been watching the Deadwood DVD's and I've been playing Red Dead Redemption (fantastic game), so I think I was hoping for a good western movie. This poster does not represent a western movie. First of all, what kind of weapons is he holding? There's no six shooter in sight. Instead we see some gatling gun thingy, a crossbow flashlight, an orange of doom, and Megan Fox's requisite pea shooter (to prove she's tough). And that's where I got lost, gazing into Megan Fox's vacant stare. I realized that her inclusion in this movie is ultimately representative of what kind of film it would be; all flash and no substance. I know it's unfair to come to such conclusions about a movie before watching it, but I can't help it. I've been burned enough to know a flaming pile of shit when I see one, so I panicked and bought a ticket for The A-Team.
How was I sure The A-Team wasn't going to be a flaming pile of shit? I really wasn't, but I didn't have any expectations for it so I knew I couldn't be as disappointed. I've always liked Jonah Hex as a character, and I had always fantasized that the movie adaptation would be a return to the gritty westerns I grew up on like The Pale Rider and Back to the Future Part 3, but this looks like a CGI heavy cheese-fest made by people who never even read the comics. So I took my chances with The A-Team, cause you know, I'm not completely against CGI cheese-fests.
Right, James?
I think I made the right choice. I actually really enjoyed this movie. Sure, there was a lot of CGI and crazy action scenes, but they were fun. The final scene got a little ridiculous in this respect, but by this point I was pretty sold and forgave it. The thing is, I really liked the main characters, and although most of the action was borderline absurd, they seemed to realize it too, but were having too much fun to care, so why should I?
Liam Neeson was born to play a leader, so I never really doubted his cigar chomping Hannibal Smith. Hell, he could play Papa Smurf and I wouldn't complain *. There was no dressing up in different disguises for this guy, though, he was just the man with the plan. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is no Mr. T, but I must say he's a better actor. He was responsible for some of the funniest moments in the film. Well, his interactions with Sharlto Copley's Murdock that is. Murdock was fricken funny! Sharlto has only been in two movies so far, but he's two for two in my book! He made me laugh out loud several times (When he thought he smelled gas on Face and lit him on fire to see if he was right was awesome). Bradley Cooper as Face was as handsome and cocky as you'd expect. His "chemistry" with Jessica Biel was annoying, and her character was pointless. It's a shame that the only female in the film was the weakest part. It doesn't have to be that way, but it seems to be the case in action films these days. The character was just written poorly. She doesn't really do anything except fall in love with Face. Finally Patrick Wilson was really fun to watch as the CIA agent, Lynch. John Hamm had a all too brief cameo that he was perfect for, of course.
So yeah, I really enjoyed this movie. It was a lot of fun. I never had a lot of love for the original show, so I didn't have expectations. It seems like they stayed pretty faithful to the spirit of the show, while eliminating some of the more corny stuff. I'm giving it an A because, come on, how can I not? Well, closer to an A- I guess, but it really was a fun movie.

* Literally seconds after typing this I learned that there is a Smurf movie coming out soon. Sheesh! Everything eighties is coming back, apparently.

Friday, June 4, 2010


This is a photo of a "sinkhole" in Guatemala:

The news organizations of the world report that this is a sinkhole that was revealed by the actions of a tropical storm. This is a report designed to conform with the publics general idea of how things work, and keep us all moving on our very merry way. The truth, however, is much more unsettling. Gosh darn sandworms! Now, the pure size of this hole, and the fact that it was tunneled through cement rules out the wussy desert loving Tremor worms.

Sorry Kevin, this is out of your league.

No, this hole is obviously the work of something much larger. It turns out that there is some truth to the novel Dune and mighty sandworms roam the world. These unstoppable juggernauts from below are insatiable, and could change the balance of earth as we know it. There are, however, factions who are prepared to battle, and hopefully control these beasts. Their tactic is to consume pound after pound of Spice (cinnamon) to gain characteristics of the Fremen, and learn how to tame these sandworms. So far, the only result is diabetes, but these C-Men (as they prefer to be called in reference to the cinnamon) are hopeful that diabetes is merely the first step toward total enlightenment.

He is the Kwisatz Haderach!

So for now, be vigilant of the ground you walk on. You never know what monsters lurk underneath. Also, sandworms are probably enraged by the sounds of masturbation, so you'd better just cut that out altogether. You've been warned.