Top Ten Science Fiction Films

June 28, 2010 at 10:39 pm (Movies, Top Ten)

1.   Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)-You just can’t beat the classics. I had a hard time deciding between this and Back to the Future Part 2, and both are incredibly great films that have both served deep cultural impacts, but Empire Strikes Back just has a tad bit more oomph. Sure, this entry also includes New Hope and Return of the Jedi (and in a lesser extent Revenge of the Sith), but this film proved to us what a bounty hunter really is, how cool Billy Dee Williams can be, and what it means to be a nerfherter. When I tell this film I love it, it simply tells me it knows.

2.   Back to the Future Part II (1987)-It was a tough time picking between this film and the first part of the series, but there’s something about how the stakes slowly ramp up in this second act in the trilogy, and how Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd seem so much more comfortable in their parts that makes me love this film that much more. This film has a real sense of adventure, taking us to 3 separate time periods like no other film could, and introduced the staple of science fiction films, the hover board.

3.   District 9 (2009)-This is one film that to this day, almost a year after I first saw it, I can’t stop thinking about. Maybe it’s the deep-seated message buried under an incredible 2 hours of brilliant (and first time) filmmaking, maybe it’s the film’s haunting African-chant score, maybe it’s Sharlto Copley’s outstanding performance, maybe it’s just how great this film looks for being made for almost nothing, but whatever it is, I’m certainly glad District 9 exists as the science fiction masterpiece it is.

4.   The Prestige (2006)-There was some debate in my mind as to whether or not this is a science fiction film, and although a good 2/3rds of this film only dips in and out of a sci-fi aire, it’s the final resolution and the revealed structure of the film that Christopher Nolan gracefully reveals in the final minutes, leaving his audience breathless, that makes this film just like a magic trick, and a great piece of science fiction.

5.  Star Trek (2009)-Possibly the most fun of the science fiction films on the list, J.J. Abram’s Star Trek definitely delves into the matters of science fiction-giant monsters, time travel, spaceships, heck, it’s Star Trek, and yet the cast and crew have so much fun bringing it to life. The fights all look great, the actors are top notch, and the film is even one of the best looking I’ve seen in a while. It’s science fiction, but for a younger crowd.

6.   Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1990)-The perfection of the Terminator series came in 1990 whenever James Cameron turned the idea of the first Terminator on its head by making that film’s antagonist a protagonist of sorts, and even a hero. Films today look upon this masterpiece for inspiration, and there’s so much to learn from some unbelievable action shots, some great irreverent humor tossed into the moments of darkest despair, and an ending that’s been burned into our brains forever.

7.   Moon (2009)-Sam Rockwell really impressed me in this summer’s Iron Man 2, and I was really happy to finally get to check out his starring role in last year’s Moon. The film delves deep into the ideas of science fiction, and to tell you the truth I can’t delve in too deep into the film’s story to risk spoiling the major notion of the film. However it is worth saying Moon is definitely an emotional, yet exciting and nailbiting adventure to take.

8.   I Am Legend (2007)-This movie catches a lot of flack from people, thanks in part to its ending. (Spoilers ahead) However, the real reason this film succeeds the way it does to me is thanks to the incredible display of range by Will Smith in the film, watching his character slowly fall to pieces and crumble within the film while this science fictiony apocalypse slowly unfold around him. Towards the end of an admittedly weak third act, sacrificing his life really was the most poetic and emotionally hard-hitting end to the film.

9.   War of the Worlds (2005)-No other film on this list affects me the way this film affects me. Steven Spielburg shot big for the adaptation of War of the Worlds in 2005, and in my view, it payed off. All the while this really horrific alien catastrophe is going on, you get the sense that you’re really there, that you really feel this sense of paranoia all the characters are feeling, and if you can withstand it through the whole film, you’ll ride with the characters all the way through this film that brilliantly creates emotion and fear.

10.   Transformers (2007)-Sometimes science fiction is smart and quiet, other times science fiction is loud and dumb. Transformers falls into that latter category, and unlike it’s quite simply idiotic sequel, this film succeeds in being fun and at the same time tell an effective story. You’re interested in where these characters are going, you’re enthralled by the gorgeous action, but at the same time you don’t have to be treated like an idiot by Michael Bay.

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The Top 15 Animated Films of All Time

June 28, 2010 at 4:38 pm (Movies)

1.   The Lion King (1994)-No other animated film has had this deep of a cultural impact. I’ve seen the show at Disneyworld, I’ve watched the film countless times, and no other animated film hit the same emotional level or  come near that feel of an epic conflict. The Lion King is a film that effortlessly and perfectly blends action, comedy, and sweet drama to make it a film children and adults will see for years to come. There’s not a single person who doesn’t know the song “The Circle of Life”, and this movie goes beyond with it’s dramatic weight and at times unmistakable comedy. This film has in being a modern classic, and the best animated film of all time.

2.   Up (2009)-I know I’ve said this hundreds of time, but no animated film has come close in the way that Up connected with me. Up inspired a true sense of wonder while on screen, and by the time the credits had rolled I wasn’t ready to leave. It’s a true mastery of filmmaking (10 minutes into the film without any dialogue we have a perfect understanding and sense of sympathy for the main character), and not only left me in a state of excitement and joy throughout most of the film, it also brought me to tears many times, crafting three of Pixar’s best, most realistic and most enduring characters to date. You care for them all, and throughout all the tears, and the moments of pure thrill, you can’t wait to continue your adventure with them.

3.   Toy Story 1 (1995)/Toy Story 2 (1999)/Toy Story 3 (2010)-I had just finished my review of the third installment in the Toy Story series, and after thinking it through I didn’t consider it fair for the three films to take up three separate spots on the list, especially when you could consider the three films one long story of three equally excellent films. The film series has followed me throughout my childhood, and held a special place in my heart all these years. They’re what made Pixar famous, and for good reason, when it comes to animated storytelling, it doesn’t get much better than this.

4.   How to Train Your Dragon 3D (2010)-This may come as a shock to some, but whenever I got the chance to see this film back in March, I was completely blown away. Part of this film’s achievement is in how a seemingly forgotten child of animation production (Dreamworks Animation) crafted a truly amazing work of animated cinema. Whenever we were taken to the skies, I was in complete awe. The characters are all greatly done, the animation is gorgeous, and to this date it’s my favorite 3D film thanks to how well it’s used to strengthen the flight scenes.

5.   Aladdin (1992)-This film withstands as one of my favorite two dimensional animated films from Disney back in the 90s. The film crafts a truly memorable villain and hero, and brings that sense of amazement with a loveable genie and pure scale of storytelling that Disney really knows how to do. It’s one of the few perfect animated movies, and I could watch it time and time again.

6.   Finding Nemo (2003)-When it comes to sheer beauty of an animated film, Finding Nemo is definitely Pixar’s Mona Lisa. Not only did Pixar make some loveable characters that are still quoted by children to this day even though it was a film popular in my childhood (ask any kid who Crush the Turtle is), but it also creates this beautiful world, an inspiring two hour quest (spoiler alert, they find Nemo), and some beautifully diverse characters.

7.   Ratatouille (2007)-This was one of those animated films that the movie’s perfection slowly seeped in on me. Ratatouille serves to me as Pixar’s most mature piece, not only by the design of the characters and the film’s slower pace, but just by how poignant the film can be in its message. The play between Patton Oswalt’s Remy and Peter Sohn’s Emile is absolutely hysterical at times and is some of Pixar’s best work, but the rest of the film only further cements the beauty of making such a beautiful film out of a rat as a main protagonist.

8.   The Incredibles (2004)-Possibly serving as Pixar’s most visually diverse but at the same time one of their most beautiful, The Incredibles was the team’s first and incredibly successful foray into the world of the superhero genre, and created more excitement and tension than a lot of live action super hero films try to achieve. The action scenes are gorgeous, the voice cast is amazing, and by the end of the film we’ve went through this adventure that is truly adventurous.

9.   The Fox and the Hound (1981)-This film holds a special place in my heart as it was the first film I ever saw, and the first VHS I ever owned. (Consider the fact that I was born in 1992.) The film jumpstarted my interest in film (although a lot more simple at that time), and to this day stands as a testament to friendship.

10.   Monsters Inc (2001)-I got to see this film in my fourth grade year, right after touring the WC Handy museum, and I distinctly remember myself and my classmates quoting this film for weeks and months to come. Monsters Inc, although a little more shallow on the dramatic end, is still a incredibly fun and funny ride, and serves as a testament to Pixar’s enduring creativity.

11.   Hercules (1997)-It’s a little odd that one of my memories that stands out the most about this film were the toys from McDonald’s and how much I wanted to play with the toy of the giant lava titan. I still have the plates from the film, and still remember how much fun this film was. The score for the film, as for so many Disney films, is unforgettable, and the sheer quality of animation especially towards the end of the film is amazing. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, the characters are great and fun, and by the end you get the feeling of accomplishment.

12.   WALL-E (2008)-To this day WALL E stands as one of the most artistically strong Pixar films with it’s messages of isolation and at by the end of the film consumerism greed. The film does look beautiful and is one of my favorite films thanks to the sheer likeable-ness of WALL E and the beauty of its message and its many scenes in space, but when it came to it it wasn’t higher on my list thanks to the fact it’s a little hard to sit through.

13.   The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)-Possibly being one of my favorites thanks to the musical quality in the film, Hunchback of Notre Dame institutes some of the most haunting and rousing musical numbers in the film, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the movie has some insanely like-able characters and humor.

14.   Lilo and Stitch (2002)-This film is still quoted to this day and vastly remembered by those of my age. I was in the perfect age demographic when this film came out and I remember begging my parents to go see it. While it didn’t really break ground in terms of characters or the quality of animation, the film has some rousing music and is a great and heartwarming time that kept many kids my age laughing for weeks.

15.   Robin Hood (1973)-As I was beginning to look through the list of all the animated films that had ever been  made, this one caught my attention by just how much I remember really enjoying it.

Honorable Mentions-

  • The Princess and the Frog (2009)
  • Kung Fu Panda (2008)
  • Shrek 1 (2001)/Shrek 2 (2004)

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The Search for Spiderman Goes On

June 27, 2010 at 8:26 pm (Movies)

You might remember I did a post a couple of weeks ago about why I’m such a huge supporter of the new Spiderman film. Just like Batman, the Spiderman series is one with plenty of potential to be updated and brought to light in a new perspective. Just as a refresher, Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) is directing the film, and they’re shooting for a more high school, smaller scale, teenage angst-y Peter Parker. Now as shooting for the film and work for it comes closer and closer, the quest is coming closer and closer to finding the new Peter Parker. Now Sony has been reviewing screen tests for the select few actors in the run for the part, and there are even a couple of other dark horses in the run-

Jamie Bell-Probably the most experienced actor on the list, Bell has had his part both major and minor in a number of films. He’s English (which means a natural English accent), is 24 years old (tad old to be in high school but he can pull it off looks-wise. He’s been in the following films-Billy Elliot-Lead Role, Death Watch , Peter Jackson’s King Kong -Jimmy, Flags of Our Fathers, Jumper-Griffin, and has a part in the upcoming films Eagle of the Ninth and Jane Eyre. He seems to be one of the most likely candidates, and he definitely wouldn’t be a bad choice, but I’ve never been blown away by any of his parts.

Anton Yelchin-Yelchin, Russian born, 21 years old, has already had a huge film career in a number of legendary roles. He’s been in the films Alpha Dog, Charlie Bartlett-Lead Role, New York I Love You, JJ Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek as Chekov, Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, and will be starring in Disney’s The Winter Queen and this year’s comedy with Mel Gibson, The Beaver. He’ll also be reprising his role as Chekov in the sequel to Star Trek. He’s also had a lot of parts in television including parts in Law and Order and Without a Trace among others. He’s also been nominated for many small awards for his roles in film. To this day he plays in the band “The Hammerheads”. Personally, he’s my choice for the part just based on sheer acting talent and the look of Peter Parker.

Aaron Johnson-One of the more ironic picks considering his role in Kick-Ass, Johnson proved he really had some talent. He’s 20 years old (he fully convinced me of his high school age in Kick-Ass) and was born in England. However aside from that film he’s not been in many other roles aside from a part in Shanghai Knights and The Illusionist, not to mention playing John Lennon in the film Nowhere Boy. To be honest I don’t like the idea of him playing it simply b/c I think he should stick with the Kick-Ass series and lampooning the idea of superheroes.

Andrew Garfield-Garfield is age 26 (definitely stretching it with his look) and was born in Canada. Garfield has a pretty slim acting career with parts in Lions for Lambs, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and this year’s The Social Network. He started his career working on stage, and won a BAFTA for his work in Boy A. He’s been positioned as new talent, but has also taken up work in modeling. I’m really not a huge fan of this guy and his modeling work looks like it might tie him up, but who knows.

Alden Ehrenheich-Born in the U.S. and only 20 years old, Ehrenheich hasn’t had any huge film roles, but was discovered by Steven Spielburg at a barmitzvah which led to him getting a few television roles in CSI and Supernatural. He’s currently majoring in theater in New York, which makes him more likely to be too busy to take on the role, even though I’m not that excited for his chances, I could already here the barmitzvah story on the E! True Hollywood Story.

Logan Lerman-Back to another bigger name, Lerman, American born and only 18, had a lead role in this year’s previous hit Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The kid has a big interest in film, Eternal Sunshine being one of his favorites and David Fincher being a favorite director, and has a part in filmmaking from a young age as well in commerical parts. He has been cast in the newest adaptation of The Three Musketeers as d’Artagnan, a role he got without even an audition (which may cause some scheduling conflict). The guy has a history of big films, including roles in What Women Want, The Patriot, The Butterfly Effect, Hoot, The Number 23, 3:10 to Yuma, Gamer, and of course Percy Jackson. Lerman definitely wouldn’t be a bad choice, and if scheduling could work out I wouldn’t mind him taking the part, it seems possible.

Other names that WEREN’T screen tested but have been rumored include-

Frank Dillane-Dillane had a part in the 2009 film Harry Potter in the Half Blood Prince, but is going to be studying in drama and arts this fall in college, which drastically complicates his chances of getting the part.

Josh Hutcherson-A more well-known name from films like Journey to the Center of the Earth and Zathura, he’s often known for playing bullies which really oddly throws me off. He almost seems like the kid actor of our generation. He’s from Kentucky, is 17 years old, and his part in films like RV, Cirque Du Freak, and American Splendor definitely help his chances, but in my own mind he seems a little too young-looking for the part.

Michael Angarano-22 years old and currently residing in Los Angeles, Angarano seems fit to play the part, especially thanks to parts in 24, The Forbidden Kingdom, Gentelmen Broncos, Sky High (lead role), Seabiscuit, Almost Famous, and so much more. I could definitely see him in the part, and behind Yelchin and Lerman he’s one of my top picks.

*Note-The pictures in the post are the actors in the order that I named them.

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Inception Preview

June 25, 2010 at 10:05 pm (Movies)

Time is getting closer and closer to the release of this monumental film, so I figured it would be appropriate to take a step back of sorts to see exactly what we know about Christopher Nolan’s new “in-between” project of sorts, Inception. The film is another one of Nolan’s projects to work on between the smash hit “The Dark Knight” and the third Batman film set to start filming next March, and just like his last “in-betweener” The Prestige, Nolan’s Inception looks to be no different in the mind-bending aspect. Nolan has the ability to craft the audience’s mind and perception of the world his characters inhabit, and often times he’ll twist your expectations and beliefs until the very end when he lifts the veil over your head and reveals to you exactly what you’ve been seeing, demanding a second and often times third viewing. Of course with the Batman features Nolan focused less on twists and “inventive” storytelling, even though his two Batman films so far have been works of art in that they re-define the genre by crafting engaging characters and truly magnificent stories and scenery by using virtually no computer generated imagery, something rare in many comic book films now a days. Once Nolan lets his true creative juices go, there’s no stopping him, and no telling what the end product may be, which is why Inception may have some troubles appealing to a summer demographic. In a series of films that contain little story and maximum action and explosions, it’s rare to see a film that puts story and mind bending in the forefront, sometimes being “hard to follow”, and putting brilliant action setpieces, although still thrilling, in the background. The film was made for $170 million, which while really evident in the trailers for the film (the film has some massive builds and looks incredible), is going to be a daunting task for the film to make back by the end of its run. It’s reasonable for the film to make $60/$70 opening (and that’s lucky), but by the end in international markets if there’s some good word of mouth it should do fine. Here’s practically every other reason to look forward to the film-

  • The Story-Based on what little we know about the film, Leonardo Dicaprio plays a con man, trained in the art of stealing thoughts. He goes into people’s minds, takes out thoughts while the victim is in their most vulnerable state in the dream, and using it to exploit them. In the film he’s faced with the task of placing a thought instead of taking out a thought for his final mission so he can get back his normal life, he must complete the task of “Inception”.
  • The Cast-Sir Michael Caine once again appears in a Nolan film as a professor, Leonardo Dicaprio (who was incredible in this year’s Shutter Island) as the lead, the very talented Ellen Page is the sidekick of sorts to Dicaprio, Ken Watanabe serves as the villain of the film that blackmails Dicaprio into the mission, Joseph Gordon Levitt who is also very talented and up and coming is an assistant to Dicaprio, Tom Hardy is a member of the team, and Maria Cotilliard is Dicaprio’s wife. Each and every one of them is incredibly talented.
  • The Visual Sense-One of my favorite aspects of storytelling is when a filmmaker is able to transcend the sense of normal story and take us somewhere else, and vividly show us a world (the dream state in many cases) that isn’t too flashy but is nonetheless amazing to look at. Nolan looks like he’s done that just like Gondry did in his own, more fantastical way in one of my favorite films “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. Nolan’s way is more subtle, but at the same time you can’t stop watching it. He’s taking us to familiar but brilliant locations and some places we couldn’t have dreamed of. The scale in the film from what we’ve seen looks unbelievable.
  • It’s Christopher Nolan-To this date, Nolan’s not had a bad film. I’d like to think he thinks through each of his projects, but I’m not saying he’s not capable of a downfall, or that Inception couldn’t be that downfall, it very well could be. But coming from a guy that perfected the Batman franchise, crafted the third highest grossing film of all time, and has blown audiences away time and time again, the film has a certain chance to be good considering it’s in the hands of one of the smartest and best filmmakers around.
  • Enough Action To Go Around-Based on the look of the trailer, Nolan’s taking advantage of the story and of what his actors are giving him, not to mention what’s possible in these fantastic locations. The film looks to be exciting, have some absolutely incredible action shots that are hopefully going to look fantastic, and keep us all on the edge of our seats. It’ll definitely have as much if not more action than many films from this summer in the same demographic, all that it’s going to require is some thinking, and to be honest that’s not a bad thing.
  • Great Press So Far-Rolling Stone gave the film 3.5/4, and many early reviewers on Twitter are calling the film Nolan’s best project yet, and although a little hard to follow, tremendously entertaining.
  • To Support More Films Like This-I’m tired of the summers being dominated by loud stupid action movies. I have no problem seeing a few (I loved the A Team), but there comes a point when there’s no creativity left in the Summer’s well. Nolan’s clearly injecting some new and exciting here, it’s a brand new idea and all it’s asking of us is to think a little, and there’s not been many films that have done that this summer. So come July 16th, go to your local theater, support this film, if nothing else just so that we can get other films LIKE this one.

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Ten Reasons “No Country for Old Men” Is The Best Western of the Last Decade

June 23, 2010 at 10:35 pm (Movies, Top Ten)

1.   The Villain-Every western needs a terrifying villain. Someone that just exudes evil. Javier Bardem’s portrayal of a bounty hunter in No Country is really just terrifying. Not because his character looks scary (although his look is unsettling), but just by how his character does really evil things. He pursues the “protagonist” relentlessly, often times with horrific injuries, just to complete his mission. He suffers brutal injuries but keeps going, plus he becomes iconic not just through his quotes but also by his unique weapon. He murders without second thought, he’ll often sit in his scenes and you’ll really just not know what’s about to happen, and that in itself makes him the perfect bad guy.

2.   The “Protagonist”-Josh Brolin (before taking parts in Jonah Hex) is an amazing actor. He pulls off a really really cool, sly talking “good guy” in the movie. In the beginning of the film he makes a bad decision, and that’s the main reason why he lands in the predicament he does running from the villain. The scenes he does have though are really propelled by his fierce nature.

3.   Tommy Lee Jones and VoiceOvers-Tommy Lee Jones in the film almost acts as an audience member that’s in the film, commentating on the events that happen, but never having any effect on anything that goes on. As the Sheriff of the town, often coming in too late on the scene of the crime, sharing his thoughts, sharing a voiceover in the first 10 minutes and concluding the film with his chilling narration.

4.   The Scenery-The beautiful thing about No Country is that there’s hardly any scenery. Miles and miles of barren desert populate most of the film’s shots, and they really help the movie’s “hopeless” theme. There are also some terrifying shots at pitch black night and during some sunsets that look amazing.

5.   The Theme of the Film-The idea behind “No Country for Old Men”, just as a title, stands to reason that we live in a new world. A world where there isn’t black and white anymore, but there is some pure evil out there (villain), and that even our protagonist ends up in his situation thanks to a really immoral decision. By the end of the film (SPOILER) our protagonist dies a horrifically violent death and the bad guy gets away with it, only further cementing the message with TLJ’s chilling narration.

6.   How Some Scenes Are Shot-The Coen Brothers are some of the best filmmakers around. There are some scenes in the film that really just blew my mind. There are chase shots between the villain and hero (especially the one at night) that are really tense and perfectly made, there’s one shot in a dark room with a loaded gun that’s also perfect, and there are so many other scenes with a great script, great humor, great tension present there (villain vs. the hero’s wife) (the coin scene)(the milk scene), and so many other great camera angles that make the film perfect.

7.   The Tension-Oh the blasted tension! This sort of coincides with the first point, but there are some scenes when the tension becomes unbearable, and it’s great. (The Coin scene and the dark room scene are my favorites).

8.   The Wordplay-There wouldn’t be as much tension in the film if it wasn’t for the good ol’ fashioned wordplay and the intensity of the script. Some of the dialogue is perfectly written, perfectly mundane but at the same time insightfully brilliant. “No sir, don’t put that in your pocket, that’s your lucky coin! If you put it in your pocket, then it’s just another coin…”

9.   Shootout-There’s the shootout about 1/2 way through that has to be one of my favorites of all time, and no Western is complete without a great shootout.

10.   The Ending-As I said earlier, the villain gets away with it, but it’s just how shocking that is, how they don’t beat you over the head making it obvious the hero died, but you still know, and how they simply and subtly show us the villain walking away before the police arrive. Concluding the movie and giving us a sad, but profound conclusion.

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The Beatles Rock Band Review

June 23, 2010 at 9:46 pm (Video Games)

(Note-I played this game solely with a guitar, so it’s as if it was Guitar Hero: The Beatles (it’s cheaper that way), so take that into account when you’re evaluating the review for your own purchase.) Without a doubt The Beatles Rock Band is my favorite music game I have ever owned or gotten to play. Where some music games shoot their interest over tons of bands and songs (which is perfectly fine), The Beatles Rock Band’s greatest strength is in not how much I love the Beatles, but how much this game loves the Beatles. The game takes you throughout a variety of the Beatles eras, from their beginnings on the Ed Sullivan Show all the way to performing on a rooftop, it’s a complete encompassing history. The game also gives you so many unlockables for those truly and really interested in The Beatles’ history (like me), and thanks to the game’s wonderful design in the menus, the cutscenes, and the musical choices, by the end of the game you’ll be a Beatles fan too. The game’s musical choices range from the incredible (Come Together) to the not so great, some songs are really good and often fun to play, other times the game could have went without that song included. The game is really easy to play, The Beatles weren’t known for face melting riffs, but some songs will have you working your fingers pretty quick. As I said earlier the game prides itself in being really in depth with The Beatles. The opening cutscene is really beautiful and amazing, and the mini-cutscenes between the venues are really great. The animations during the songs are all really well done, especially towards the middle of the game when you’re in the recording studio and the game takes advantage of the imaginative lyrics and meanings behind the songs. It’s almost so gorgeous sometimes you just wanna put the guitar down just to watch what’s going on. All the characters look great, the atmosphere of their performance is really astonishing. The main reason I like this game is just how much effort is put into giving you this feeling of a true Beatles experience. From the venues to the songs to the photos to the menus it’s all so much work, and that’s what makes it amazing. If you’re new to the genre, this is an easy enough game to start from, if you’re a veteran then this is a perfect band-only game to experience. All specific band Rock Band games should be like this, focused and dedicated to the experience. I had a blast playing it, and I can’t wait to play through a few more setlists of “Eight Days A Week” and “Here Comes the Sun”.

5 out of 5

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Chuck Season 3 Review

June 23, 2010 at 9:31 pm (Television)

(SPOILERS) I really don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner. Chuck has quickly become my favorite show on television, and it’s past third season only made things better with a stellar execution of a potentially disastrous plot line, some great continuation of the Chuch/Sarah romance, some seriously amazing character development and still maintaining all that stellar Chuck action and humor we all know and love. Up until the beginning of this season Chuck had the intersect in his mind, and worked like a portable human database, whenever he saw something the intersect had a file on, he’d flash and know everything about it. Towards the end of the second season Chuck’s sister Ellie was married, Chuck’s father had removed the intersect, and Chuck had downloaded the newest Intersect into his brain in order to save Sarah and Casey. The third season introduced the idea that not only can the intersect give you information, it can also give you skills. They sorta follow this idea and they use it a lot as a basic plot thread excellently for the first 9 or 10 episodes, giving us some basic missions and having a fun time with the idea, all the while balancing Chuck’s relationship with Hannah. They also had some real fun with Captain Awesome knowing about Chuck’s secrets. The first two-three episodes were a tad bit rocky but then everything found it’s balance. Then things got a little heavier giving Chuck a new arc of wanting to really become a spy, and that coincided with the eventual villain that was Shaw. After the climax 1/2 way through the season Chuck started on a few more minor missions for a couple of episodes after introducing the notion that Morgan figures out about Chuck’s spy life, and that Chuck and Sarah were finally together. Then things start to turn for the worse again for Chuck when his mind started to go into a mind meltdown from an intersect overload. Christopher Lloyd guest starred in an episode or two as a psychiatrist, and that all leads back up into the final climax with Chuck’s dad’s death, the final showdown with Shaw, solving Chuck’s mental problems, and giving us the idea that Chuck’s long lost Mother, and perhaps even more of his family, were involved in the spy business just like his father, giving us some great potential for the fourth season.

The thing I really liked about this season was that it does balance so much, it introduces so much, it ramps up the scale a lot in a few cases by giving Chuck these powers in a sense, but it still retains that sense that we’re still watching the good ol’ Chuck we all love, and the show doesn’t fall where others would with all this pressure, but it makes the show stronger. Season 2 is still my favorite, but this season doesn’t disappoint where other shows (cough *Heroes* cough) have faltered a little bit in the third go-round. We get more of that dynamic between Chuck and Morgan, more of the Buy More shenanigans and Big Mike, more of the Chuck/Casey banter on missions, more (and finally a temporary resolution) to the Chuck/Sarah romance, and so so much more. This was a huge season for character development. Chuck and Sarah are together, the Captain, Ellie, and Morgan all know Chuck’s secret, we get to connect more with Casey thanks to the really touching plotline of him having a daughter, and it’s all done to near perfection. There are a few snags and lags in the season (at the very beginning and right after Shaw’s first death) that are a little disappointing, but the rest of it works so well it’s hard to complain when so much of the other stuff is so darn good. We get to see Jeffster perform “Fortunate Son”, “Love Hurts”, and “Blaze of Glory”, an elimination of a seriously annoying character, a Buy More rebellion, we got to see Captain Awesome be awesome, and we got to see Casey floor a guy through a kitchen, it’s all coming together as one of the best shows on television. It’s like it’s a show made by people that really really love their jobs, and want to make a show that’s just all around enjoyable. Highly highly highly recommended.

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Toy Story 3 Review

June 21, 2010 at 10:57 pm (Movies)

After Pixar has proved itself yet again with Toy Story 3, I’m convinced Pixar is unstoppable. It’s made a film with Larry the Cable Guy in a lead role generally favored, it’s destroyed the third film curse, heck, it’s one of the few film studios that has a perfectly clean record. Say what you will about Cars, but some of the industry’s best filmmakers like Scorsese, Bay, or Tarantino would kill for a track record like John Lasster’s, Brad Bird’s, or Lee Unkrich’s. The film seemingly takes advantage of the idea that it’s been 11 years since we’ve last seen these characters, where you feel as if you’re finally home by the time the opening credits are complete, once Buzz Lightyear takes to the skies yet again, once Jessie lets out a yodel, and once Woody reminds us all who his favorite deputy is. The film, as stated earlier, takes place roughly 11 years after Toy Story 2, and it’s a completely different world. The toys are no longer Andy’s first priority as he prepares for college, and for them it’s becoming less and less of how to keep Andy’s attention and more of “What’s next?”. Through a freak happenstance of circumstances, the toys end up being donated to Sunnyside Daycare, where they’re led to believe they’ve entered toy heaven by Ken and Lotso the Hugging Bear, but as time goes in things begin to change for the worse, the film becomes more of a prison-break style romp. The 3D in the film works great, it’s thankfully not the obvious sort of 3D but gives the film the new style of depth that works great for animated movies. The film’s also hysterically funny at times, and works as a great combination of humor and adventure while still reminding us why we love these characters in the first place. Just like it was a decade and a half ago when this all began, and as it’s always been in Pixar’s films ever since,  the voice cast in the film is among their best. Tim Allen and Tom Hanks, even though I still have trouble mixing up the two names, have some incredible voice presence in the movie just like they did back in the old days. Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, and John Ratzenburger, among the rest of the toy crew like Blake Clark taking the place of Slinky for the deceased Jim Varney (Rest In Peace), bring their A-Game just as if it was second nature to them. Jeff Garlin has one of the best lines in the film as a stuffed unicorn, and Timothy Dalton a.k.a. 007 and Bonnie Hunt both have really fun, smaller parts in the film, and even Michael Keeton as Ken seems to be having a comedic rebound by getting in some really hysterical stuff. Kelsey Grammar was one of my favorite characters as the villain, The Prospector, in Toy Story 2, and now Ned Beatty has continued the tradition in Toy Story’s impressive villains by really bringing Lotso to life with the charisma in his voice and, although it sounds crazy, his believability in voicing the part. He’s chilling, and perfectly exudes the creepiness of the Southern charm. Being as there’s so much work that goes into the voice of these characters, it only makes sense to continue in setting the bar in animation (although it’s tough to consider topping the animation bar set last year in my favorite animated film of all time, “Up”). The characters all look better than ever, Lotso’s fur looks beautiful from my own odd animation-critiquing eye, Ken’s movements are all cleverly and hilariously done, and the setting’s lighting and shading elements have to be the best out there. Aside from how great Dreamworks Animation’s How To Train Your Dragon looked, it’s not that much of a stretch to say that Toy Story 3 is the best looking animated film ever made. I could go on and on about all that Pixar does perfectly animating the film and making sure it looks great, but then my review word count would enter the tens of thousands. It’s almost as if Pixar is reinventing the art of animation. By the time the ending credits had rolled, it was almost as if Pixar had also reinvented the art of inventively telling a story. Toy Story 1 and 2 worked excellently as two of the pioneer films of 3D animation, and it was sort of iffy as to whether or not it was necessary or even relevant to do a film about talking toys when we live in the new technology age now. It’s a different world than the one I lived in when I was in second grade. It really wouldn’t be as fulfilling a film if Andy’s iPad and Sprint EVO 4G Phone played together whenever he was away. Back to the idea of Pixar’s masterworking of storytelling, one of the best aspects is the notion of the film’s character arcs. Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the crew each share their moments on the screen, each one has an interesting plotline and is respected equally script-wise. Even as the new characters are brought in, similar to Jessie’s back story in Toy Story 2, the character Lotso and his own back story provide some of the film’s most gut-punching scenes. Even though the movie’s about nothing more the adventures of toys, play things (sound familiar), it’s a film with some not-so-surprising-coming-from-Pixar-depth. Messages and ideas of abandonment by those we love, keeping hope even in the darkest of times, and even in some cases the acceptance of death, and the continuance of life, among all of these other heavy-hitting themes are huge elements of the film, and will certainly keep you thinking and remind you just how much love and care goes into this film. Just as the question was introduced on the necessity of TS3, the end result after seeing the film twice is that not only is the film necessary, it stands as quite possibly the best in the series. Just as Christopher Nolan and other directors have strived for in the past, it’s not about prolonging the series into a third film, it’s about telling a story that stands on its own, while still at times making things bigger and better, correcting problems and adjusting scale, and in the end making a film that stands on its own. I had a slight problem with the fact that the film feels a little rushed in the transition between the second and third act, but it keeps the film in a quick pace that will be easier for kids to enjoy. The film takes the characters to a lot of places, some places that are really bright and happy, places that are darker than we could have imagined and that bring us to tears, and others that touch your heart in places only Pixar can reach. We’re sad to see the story of Woody, Jessie, Buzz and the rest of the toys come to an end, but just as the film teaches us sometimes its best pass things on to others, and Lee Unkrich and his team have crafted a film that rounds out a trilogy that will keep millions of children entertained for years. Toy Story 3 tells its own separate story that’s perfectly entertaining and worthwhile,  while also giving any and everyone that grew up with the series like myself or maybe those that are introducing the series to the next generation that satisfying sense of a brilliantly perfect, well-fitting conclusion to the best animated film trilogy of all time.

5 out of 5


On a separate note, the short film that precedes Toy Story 3, “Day and Night”, is a real blast, it stands as one of my favorite short films by Pixar out there. There’s a great blast that they have with a mixture of 2D and 3D animation, and above anything else you’re going to be marveling at wondering how exactly they brought it to life. Although it’s a tad bit dull, It’s funny, it’s insightful, it’s heartwarming, all in the span of 5 minutes, and it’s all that you’ve come to expect from Pixar.

4 out of 5

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Why I Lost $5 To Gamestop

June 15, 2010 at 6:21 pm (Video Games)

(Somewhat continued from the Post-Nintendo-2010-Conference-Wrap Up Post.) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword-This is my disappointment. To be really accurate on this, I sorta need to break it down a little. On one hand there were my expectations, but on the other are the simple facts of what this game should have been. When I start seeing these images of the same Link from Twilight Princess, and I hear the words “realism with motion plus”, I, along with many others, come to expect a sequel or other sort of rendition in that style of Twilight Princess, but involving that realism with the motion plus, and that would have been amazing. With the plot details we thought we knew, it would have been amazing to due a Master-Sword-origin story, pair that with some really good feeling and amazingly implemented motion plus technology, and you’ve gotten a new masterpiece. That’s why Nintendo’s making a miss-step by assuming they have to dumb the game down and casual-ize it to implement motion plus. Nintendo apparently thinks we’re idiots, b/c to them when you take one of your most beloved series and you take a really wide-market tech, you have to make it super casual, and you don’t. Give us the motion-sensing focus that Sony’s and Microsoft’s giving on their top tier project, and you can keep hardcore audience. Instead, Miyamoto comes on stage, throws a bunch of absurd gestures no hardcore fans wants to do, and sorta slaps in a Zelda game on it. It doesn’t feel like a Zelda game, it feels like a motion plus demo with Link slapped on, like Colt said, it’s like it’s Link’s Crossbow Training Part 2. The tech didn’t work great on stage, and you could feel the groan in the audience. Why do we have to downgrade our graphics? I like the artsy style of Windwaker, I loved the darker style of Twlight Princess, but this just feels like a clean cut smooth around the edges half-effort. To top it all off, they told us they’ve been working on this game for 3 years, and that they come on stage with this! A demo where the tech’s glitchy, the graphics are dull, we get a release date in the reaches of 2011, and we don’t even get any hints of story. As I said, Zelda is one of the most hardcore series out there, and it feels like they’re doing it all wrong by giving us this, this motion-plus demo of a Zelda game. It makes no sense to commercialize and casual-ize one of the games that the entirety of your hardcore base was excited about. It’s frustrating is what it is. It’s frustrating that they lead us to believe for years after years it’s going to be the best Zelda yet, that it’ll be this hardcore title we’ve dreamed of, that it’ll at least be marketed for the hardcore audience, and in the end we get something that’s clearly aimed at the casual audience, it’s colossally disappointing. I’ll admit part of my disappointment is that the product was far from my expectations, but if you look at the big picture and at what we got on stage, you still have something with much left to be desired. You don’t sell a game just based on tech, or your audience will eventually get bored and tired. You build a great game around that and you use that technology, the first priority has to be the game, not the new fancy tech behind the game. If Nintendo can get the really interesting story behind this game like they had promised us a year ago, get the graphics sharper tuned, and make me actually excited about this technology and how they it’s not the main focus of the game but just a really awesome aspect of it, then you’ll have a deal Nintendo, but until then, whenever it is this game does come out, I’ll be sticking with my copy of Twilight Princess.

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Best of Times/Worst of Times for Nintendo

June 15, 2010 at 6:21 pm (Video Games)

Let me say this, I am “happy” with “Nintendo’s Conference”. 95% of the conference was great for me, and they really blew their audience (including me) away. The crew brought out some amazing looking titles that really satisfied the inner-hardcore-fanboy in me, in fact almost the entire conference was a payoff to fans like me, there was only a title or two that really felt like the sledgehammer to the gonads. All these titles that many hadn’t even considered were there and completely took me by surprise, and the real “unveiling” of the 3DS was amazing. It’s just the one or two titles that we really did expect and knew was going to be there were flat-out disappointments, no bones about it. So here’s sort of a frame by frame analysis. (Zelda Story in another post.)

  • Mario Sports-This title wasn’t incredibly impressive to me, it sorta seems like a sport version of Mario Party. It could be fun, but it then again it’s nothing that really gets me excited.
  • Kirby’s Epic Yarn-Possibly one of the best titles, this one looks really great and could be a really creative-Little Big Planet-esque adventure that’s due out by this holiday.

Other titles shown included-

  • Donkey Kong Country Returns
  • GoldenEye
  • Kid Icarus Uprising
  • A Lot of 3DS Titles Were Brought Up, and some great showing off of the new platform
  • Metroid Other M
  • NBA Jam

Lots of other cool stuff, it was a really really neat conference aside from the disappointment or two. Nintendo is mostly back on its A Game, and could bring that hardcore fanbase back to Nintendo if they continue to prove to them they haven’t completely forgotten about them, and if what they showed to us at the conference today was any indication, they definitely haven’t.

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The Karate Kid Review

June 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm (Movies)

There’s something about great action films that can bring people to their feet. Usually, like in the case of John McClane in the Die Hard series or Harrison Ford in his many adventures as Indiana Jones, we’re rooting for adults as they take on the greater evil, however every now and then a film can successfully take a child actor and make him just as amazingly awesome. Most of the time though, it’s more of a colossal miss than a hit. Thankfully, the 2010 update of the classic The Karate Kid is an amazing hit in my book, and proves to be one of my favorite films in the theater. Back in the original film we had Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita in the lead roles of mentor and student, now, almost 30 years later, we have Will Smith’s extremely talented son and the undisputed king of American martial arts films, Jackie Chan in the same positions. Jaden Smith, who has had parts in the seriously great tear jerker “The Pursuit of Happyness” and a few smaller parts in films like “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, completely surprised me in this movie. The kid has that fierce determination on screen, that really agile sense of humor, and that same incredible charisma and screen presence that his father has, and it’s amazing to see that acting talent pass on to him and be clear at such a young age, being as the kid’s only 12 and helps make this film so great. Jackie Chan, as many others has said, is perfect in the film as Mr. Han, the new Mr. Miagi of sorts that trains the young lad after he’s called out by a group of bullies in his family’s new home in China, and after a series of events are forced to train for the big kung-fu tournament coming up. Everyone in the film aside from Smith and Chan all do great with the parts that they have, the lead bully/villain is appropriately evil, the side characters are funny when they need to be, the only real problem that exists is the Mom, who, aside from being the mom, has no real purpose in the story other than to be annoying. The film is also really really gorgeous. The shooting crew somehow got the privilege to actually shoot in China, and they take full advantage of it. The schools in the film are beautiful, the characters take numerous trips to amazing festivals, there’s a montage in the film where two characters go “sight-seeing” for a day in China that’s really beautiful, and all the training montages set in Han’s dojo, in “Dragon Water Mountain” and even on the Great Wall itself all look incredible. Going into the movie all I really asked of it was to be a solid martial arts film. I’m a huge fan of action films, and especially martial arts if the designers can get a really good feel for shooting action, and that takes extra skill when it comes to getting that all hand to hand. Thankfully, The Karate Kid goes for gold and doesn’t settle for being a crappily shot action film, the stunts and hand-to-hand martial arts they do get on camera in the film are stunning. There’s a particular scene in the film where we are introduced to Jackie Chan’s character’s martial arts skills that’s really just breathtaking in how the camera does occasionally switch perspective, but does it in a way that keeps you in the action and keeps you in the moment. In the scene I mentioned the bullies are chasing Smith through a couple of alleys and over a number of obstacles, and for probably the first time this summer I felt fear and tension for the character, rooting for him to keep running, and all the shots that the camera does get of the bullies barrelling over walls, climbing on fences and running along rooftops and walls is all done in an amazing “parkour” sense that looks really really good. Heck, these shots just don’t look good, they have some serious talent behind them, the kind of talent that makes these stunts so memorable and creative, and when it came down to it, fun to watch. Jackie Chan’s proceeding defense against the children also is performed beautifully as he dismantles their defenses without even hitting them. All of the fight scenes and training montages are shot just in the way that looks great and that other films neglect with their “quick-blurry-shot” style, and lead up to the final climax that is just as exciting, well-performed, and well-paced as it should be. In case you didn’t get the message, this film has some of the best action scenes of the summer, ones with unbelievable stunts, ones that will keep you interested, a great feel, and some great talent shooting them. If there’s one thing that can be said to really compliment the film it’s that it’s a great tri-fecta of a genre, and it works it all out well. The film has a great sense of humor, never forgetting to be lighthearted in moments of serious training, breaking the tension sometimes with some of Jackie Chan’s great comedic timing. As I said, the film has great action, but the film never forgets to have a dramatic heart. It gives us a reason to care about the lead protagonist, it eventually gives us a really really effective and emotional payoff to Mr. Han’s quiet and bitter nature, and it remembers to give us some sort of layer of meat to the characters so that they’re not just cut outs. There was some point about 3/4-way through the film when Smith is just kicking tail as a kung-fu hero, and it all of a sudden hit me that an hour ago he was just this wimpy whiny kid, and it proves that this film really does have a great sense of progression. It has one of my favorite elements of a film, in that it can tell a really long and winding story and it not feel overburdened, but feel like I’ve witnessed an epic tale from start to finish. The new adaptation of The Karate Kid isn’t a film I can just recommend, it’s a film I can stand up and applaud for by the time the credits roll. If there’s any complaint I could have is that it’s a tad bit too Disney-ish in the way it candy coats a bit too many things, and that’s a very light nitpick. If that’s all I can complain about when it comes to a film, then I’ve witnessed something great. The Karate Kid goes above and beyond its kid audience with so much substance in most importantly its sense of action (makes sense given the title), and has to be one of my favorites of the Summer so far.

5 out of 5

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All Hopes and Dreams Will Die at Nintendo’s E3 2010

June 12, 2010 at 7:16 pm (Video Games)

That should catch your attention. One of the biggest pinnacles of the gaming universe comes in the summer of each year, when we get to lay our eyes and have our brains squeal in delight by getting to see what Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and a whole batch of developers and publishers have in store for us in the next year or so, or in Nintendo’s case, what’s coming a decade from now, HIYO. Point is, the conference is next week, and hopefully this year is going to be a year of revelation! 2 years ago was really terrible, Nintendo really let a lot of us down in their worst conference in history. Last year was remotely better in that both Microsoft and Sony debuted some amazing technology, and Nintendo finally brought their A Game to the show with some hardcore titles. However, there was one missing if you know what I mean. So I can’t think of any better way to do this than to simply narrow it down and give my predictions, thoughts, and queries as to what’s to come at E3 2010.

Nintendo

Let’s face it, Nintendo, while cash-wise is leading the market, has sorta been letting us down this console generation in terms of hardcore titles. I’ll give it to them, we do get some great titles every now and then. Red Steel 2 was fantastic, every Mario game released has been close to perfection, and of course Twilight Princess that launched the console remains one of my favorites. But as I sort of spread Nintendo’s cards on the table, I think I have a vaguely good idea of how the show’s going to go down-

  • Fils-Aime is going to come onto the stage, brag about sales numbers, talk about how they couldn’t expect the level of success the Wii has had. He’ll introduce new colors for the console, maybe a new fancy add-on.
  • A BIG part of the show is going to be Nintendo’s new handheld, the 3DS. There’s going to be a super fancy demo of it, they’ll announce a release date for Christmas this year, a slew of games for it, and a flagship title, possibly a new Mario for the handheld. There’ll be an onstage demo, an explanation of the hardware, lots of time will be spent on it.
  • Emphasis back on Wii. I have a feeling they’re going to announce a new reboot of an old Nintendo franchise, I have a really good feeling about it. He’ll brag about Mario Galaxy 2. He’s gonna promise us a few titles (big montage), Kirby Wii possibly being one, maybe Kid Icarus or Star Fox, Pikmin 3 is really out of the question. He’ll give us a stage demo and brag about Metroid Other M. Also probably another Wii- () game.
  • They’ll start to close the show, then in classic Nintendo fashion, they’ll wheel out the big boy, the new Zelda. We’ll see a box art, we’ll see a release date, we’ll know what the heck it’s about, and i have good faith we’ll get a stage demo. Fils-Aime will assure us a holiday release since it’s “been in development so long” but I wouldn’t hold him to it that it goes through. If we don’t see New Zelda, I’ve lost faith in Nintendo.

What We Won’t See From Nintendo-

  • No New Console from Nintendo to Succeed Wii. There’s a tiny tiny chance it’ll happen at TGS this year, but I strongly doubt it. There’s too much money on the market for it right now.
  • Probably no new enhancements on the motion control. They have the market right where they want it, and Sony and Microsoft are just now playing catch-up in the field.

(Honestly, Nintendo’s side of the fence seems to be pretty straight-forward. All they need to do is come out, impress us with 3DS, show us a couple of titles along New Zelda, and fans will be pleased. It’s all we ask Nintendo.)

THE FACTS-What We’ll See For Sure-

  • 3DS
  • Sales Figures
  • At Least One New Reinvention of an old Nintendo Franchise for the Wii
  • At Least One New Reinvention/Continuation of an old Nintendo Franchise for the DS/3DS as a Launch Title
  • Zelda Wii

What We Won’t See-

  • Pikmin 3
  • Mario Galaxy 3
  • Any New Wii Mario Game
  • Any New Console Other than 3DS
  • Snowboarding Lady (I Pray)

Top 6 I Want to See-

  1. Zelda Wii-It’s sort of a given, but it’s going to be incredible if we get to see it.
  2. A 3DS Mario Game-Now would be the perfect time to use the plumber to prove the power of the new platform.
  3. Starfox Wii-This one’s been said a lot but it would truly be a perfect time to reveal this.
  4. Kid Icarus Wii-Another hardcore title that could help the Wii drastically.
  5. Metroid Other M-I would really like to see this game in motion on stage, demoing some of the tech.
  6. A New Smash Bros. -This one’s a long shot, but who knows what could happen.

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The A-Team Review

June 12, 2010 at 7:10 pm (Movies)

Critically, TV-to-Film usually doesn’t come out all that well. I remember watching the VHS of the Rocky and Bullwinkle film over and over and over just b/c I loved that movie so much, irreverent gags and all. I also remember watching the Brendan Frasier/Alfred Molina take on Dudley Do-Right hundreds of times thanks to that film’s batch of incredibly moronic humor. Much in that same vein of those movies, I have a feeling my 10 year old self would have had a blast seeing Joe Carnahan’s take on The A-Team, much like my 18 year old self now. The film of course follows the journey of 4 men (Murdock, Face, Hannibal, and B.A.), framed for roles in a government conspiracy who must clear their names and bring those responsible to justice in the coolest, most unorthodox way possible. 2 hours of explosions, tank parachuting, window-shattering, and fool-pitying later, we have a film that reminds us all why the Summer movie season is so great. One of the most important parts of a film like this that can really make or break the movie is it’s cast. One of my favorite films from this year was the Chris Evans stylistic action film “The Losers”, and director Sylvan White did an incredible job of giving each and every one of those 6 members their own personality, their own moment, and making each one distinct. Carnahan greatly succeeds in doing the same thing by not making the mistake of casting safe and bland action heroes into his lead roles, but casting actors that had charisma. Quentin Rampage Jackson, stepping into the film’s biggest shoes (literally) of Mr. T, floored our audience with his comedic timing and great physical presence playing B.A. Baracus. Bradley Cooper who got a lot of recognition for last year’s huge hit “The Hangover” as the straight man oozes charm just as he should as the all-around suave ladies man team member, Face. Liam Neeson knocks it out of the park as Hannibal, having just enough gruff in his voice to be the leader and at the same time give chills down your neck in the few scenes of his true awesomeness. Finally, one of my favorite actors after his amazing role in District 9, Sharlto Copley, puts in something extra special in this movie as the often hysterical Murdock. This film proves this guy has versatility and talent, and hopefully this can finally be this guy’s launchpad. Jessica Biel plays the sexual eye candy and does it fairly well (although her character isn’t really necessary), and Patrick Wilson (Night Owl from Watchmen) thankfully did his homework with old 80s films as he fills the shoes of the cheesy, grease-ball bad guy to our team. The cast doesn’t have you asking for much more. The A-Team itself is thankfully diverse and astoundingly well-built/well-written in all of their action scenes and banter between each other, but I for one sort of had this feeling as I was leaving the theater that there could have been more done to solidify that these guys were brothers, that they really loved each other (this coming from a guy that’s a huge fan of that sort of dynamic) and weren’t simply four guys that happened to work with one another. Watching the trailer for this one, I got an immediate sense of what sort of action and stunts we were going to get: flipping insane. Possibly my favorite part of this film is just how well-paced, well-built, and well-executed some of the action set pieces are built for this movie. The one that catches a lot of folks’ attention is of course the tank drop in the film, and rest assured it’s just as amazing as you believed it would be, yells of “Get Some!” and “That All You GOT!!!” and all. The final climax of the film is also really just breathtakingly amazing for what Carnahan accomplishes without having to use CGI (even those parts are still amazing), but my favorite piece of the entire film is the chase that ensues after the parachute-helicopter-pickup-grenade-window-blowing-out-by-BA-scene. There’s just so much going on in the scene, so much going on that they’re doing for real, so much that transitions in the scene (how we go from a window washing platform to a parking garage), that it’s standing as one of my favorite action scenes of the year. That’s the thing, you can’t describe any of his action scenes without describing the whole thing or just remembering how cool they were to begin with. However, all is not well in this action department. Carnahan has some serious trouble positioning the camera during the film, some shots and camera movements become so blurry you can’t tell what’s going on, and sometimes (all this excluding the bigger set pieces) all you would really want is a steady shot of the action, one camera in one position to get all the action into one frame. The end result of some “on-foot” battles is dizzying and leaves you not knowing where certain characters/enemies are in the midst of all the chaos. As I begin to wrap this all up, you can wrap The A-Team up in two words-completely satisfying. Noone’s going into this film expecting worthwhile drama or intrigue plot, they just want to see stuff blow up, and The A-Team does all of that, but doesn’t just settle for it. They still take the time to make the character relationships more than they could have been, the action scenes far grander, far more exciting, and more impressive than they could have been, and the plot, although a little too-self-indulgent at times, more developed and constructed than it could have been. There’s this added layer of cheese that the film has, but as an audience you totally embrace it. You know the film’s stupid, they know the film’s stupid, but there’s just that macho-ness toughness that after seeing a guy shoot down a plane from a tank in mid-air while yelling “Get Some!”, seeing a car drive through a mental institution home, and seeing a grown black man dress in African garb in a “serious” airport scene, somewhere along the way, you just give in and say “Okay, you win! I love you as a film!” Hopefully that doesn’t take too long in the film for you to get, for me, it was the opening credits. They go the extra mile. The jokes in this film had our theater constantly amused, the banter and relationships are all done excellently. I could go on and on about what all this movie does really well, and only spend a small amount of time nitpicking about what it doesn’t do great. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of this film. If you’re in danger, you need help, and you can find it, the A-Team is a perfect example of what a great Summer film can be.

4 1/2 out of 5

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Get Him to the Greek Review

June 9, 2010 at 10:13 am (Movies)

A lot of directors out there have a good eye for crafting comedy. Jody Hill, director of The Foot Fist Way and Observe and Report, has a unique way of teaching us a lesson about the ugly truths of society buried beneath dark comedy. Adam McKay, one of the most in-demand comedy directors, has a way of making broader, more widely-acceptable comedies that draw in huge audiences, mainly for his affiliation with comedy icon Will Ferrell. However, my favorite filmmaker indulging in the craft of comedy is none other than Judd Apatow and his crew, who time after time set the bar for crafting outlandishly hysterical and crude comedy that time and time again leaves us with thought-provokingly real characters, real dialogue, and that endearing sweetness by the time the credits roll. So it’s interesting to see when we take the slower pace of most Apatow films and we crank it up to 11 with a fast-paced, broader style of comedy in the spinoff to the 2008 hit Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the new film Get Him to the Greek. Just to save you the time of reading the rest of the review, it works far better than I could have ever imagined. When we last left Aldous Snow in FSM, he seemed to be on a steady road of recovery, however after losing custody of his child and his former lover Jackie Q, times had gotten harder for Aldous, and he had quickly spiraled back down into a drug and alcohol induced haze. Years later Jonah Hill, who plays record label intern Aaron Greenstone, is sent on a fairly simple plot structure to get highly rebellious Snow to the Greek theater in Los Angeles. The film, written by Apatow and Stoller who also directed the film, proves to be absolutely hysterical. There were times in the film I was doubled over my seat in tears from some of the sheer audaciousness of the play between Hill and Brand.  Like with a lot of comedy films, the writers just sorta throw together premises and then just throw jokes at you as the audience hoping a few stick. With Get Him to the Greek, there’s so much effort that goes into building these hysterical premises for the two guys to go through, and as if they were building blocks they just keep adding new elements and bringing new characters into the individual jokes, starting out simple but gradually building and building until 3-5 minutes later you’re in fits of laughter amazed at the writing ability behind what could have been complete throwaway gags for the entire film. Not only was I laughing at the jokes, I began laughing at the situations these characters were in even when there was no real joke there at that time. There are super funny gags that are still hysterical even though the scene may only last a few seconds and there’s no purpose to it. There’s one scene that’s cut really really quick and only lasts for 30 seconds of Hill trying to get Heroin from hotel clerk played by TJ Miller that had me in tears. Joke after joke, it just all meshes together wonderfully. If I did have a complaint, it’s that the pacing can be the smallest bit odd whenever we’re going from really quick shot scenes of Aldous’ parties to scenes where Aaron is having a moment of character development with his girlfriend or Aldous, but that interaction is still required and enjoyable, although it’s a little jarring. Also, the movie at times can feel more outlandish than I thought they were gonna go for, there are times when the Aldous or Aaron are dueling in strip clubs, jumping in fountains, or racing down streets in action-movie-style car chases, but as I’ll say later it’s something that just makes the film even more of an accomplishment. The whole film just goes from gag to gag to gag, some miss, but almost all hit brilliantly, and they’ll keep you entertained. There was the occasional scene or two or unnecessary comedic exposition, but in this case hysterical greatly outweighs the uncomfortable. There’s comedic talent just seeping out of this film, so much I don’t even want to spoil the jokes, I just advise you see this film immediately. I’ve said before, your jokes are only as great as those who are executing them. In this case, as with virtually all of Apatow cinema, there are some incredible performances. Jonah Hill plays the straight man of sorts that Brand has to play off of, and serves as the sort of main emotional emphasis. He plays his character to near perfection, being entirely believable and having so many hysterical parts in the film thanks to the way he plays off the “uncomfortable” and at times radical record label manager. Russell Brand plays his part as Aldous Snow, polishing his part from FSM to perfection as he spews some of the funniest lines in the film with what looks like relative ease for him. The two have great chemistry on screen together and achieve the level of an “Abbot and Costello” of our generation. Kristen Bell makes a cameo of her own as Sarah Marshall that’s fairly funny, TJ Miller has a really brief stint that is one of the funniest gags in the movie, and P Diddy, who plays his character with a fierce determination and stern tone, has one of the best parts in the movie as Jonah Hill’s boss overseeing the trip, and could very well have the best comedic performance of the whole year. Let’s just say you’ll be quoting some of his lines for months. The film is really music-centric, and there’s some great effort that goes into that. Aldous Snow and his ex-girlfriend being musicians, there’s a lot of time in the film dedicated to their performances, and aside from just being catchy tunes, they serve as vehicles for some of the film’s best jokes with the song’s… um… interesting lyrics. “You got the clap, I got the clap, you took the front, I took the back, you got the beat, we got it on the back of the toilet seat…” There’s a performance by Snow at the very end of the film that’s incredible and at the same time hilarious and heartwarming. “Heartwarming” isn’t really something you’d expect to hear from this type of film, but it’s something Apatow thankfully nails right on the head, and it’s the greatest strength of the movie. Amongst all of the wild outlandish gags in the film they still took the time to make the characters real and sweet, giving them things that they’re working towards or to care about, goals and aspirations, that many other directors would neglect. By the end of the film after these characters had went through their own conflicts outside the comedic plot of the film, we reach this emotional payoff and this moment where we really appreciate the characters and we come to love them, we cheer for them until the very end. After all the goofiness in the movie, we’re left with a message and a payoff that works better than other films that entirely focus on rarely achieve. Needless to say after I’ve said all of this, Get Him to the Greek is a film entirely worth seeing. It’s the best comedy I’ve seen this year by far, it’s the best film I’ve seen this summer. The film has some amazing music, it’s really fun to watch, it’s really quickly paced and easy to watch, the film “looks” really good in the cinematography department. The film boasts jokes and gags that we’re going to be talking about for the rest of the summer, and at the same time defies expectations and still gives us that Apatow charm.

5 out of 5

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I (Sort Of) Present To You Thor and Captain America!

June 7, 2010 at 10:08 pm (Movies)

Based on what little I know, these two images were released by Marvel themselves to the general public so that we could get a better idea of what the costumes and the actors themselves (Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans) are going to look like in their superhero getups in the new Avengers leadups in the next two years. Bask in this nerd style pornography (which last I checked nerd pornography was just pornography)!

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