Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 Review

November 25, 2010 at 10:58 pm (Movies)

I’ll go ahead and clear the air here; I’m not the biggest Harry Potter fan in the world. Not to say I don’t like the films or the books though. I saw the first two films whenever they came out in theaters, and I remember seeing and really enjoying the fourth film. Until now I’ve not seen either the 5th or the 6th films, and I’m not a big reader, so none of the books ever really caught my eye. I can also say that I’m not the biggest fan of the latest installment in the Harry Potter series. The newest film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the David Yates-directed penultimate volume in the Harry Potter film series. The final result isn’t a bad film; in fact it definitely has and will please millions of fans. I, on the other hand, have never been a fan of films in which nothing happens and it seems like things are just being dragged out as long as possible. Much like the past 6 films, the talented cast reprises their roles. Daniel Radcliffe, who has come to define the role of Harry Potter, does a perfectly fine job, and Rupert Grint will hopefully get more film roles outside of Harry Potter thanks to an exceptional performance here. Emma Watson is easy on the eyes, and has her moments from time to time. Ralph Fiennes, playing he who must not be named, is suitable although he’s not really in the film all that much. Also, although I’ve not been the biggest fan of her in the past, Helena Bonham Carter does a fantastic job as one of Voldemort’s evil henchwomen. She cackles and sneers as one of the film’s few shining moments. Although some of the performances are exceptionally great, other times the movie takes itself a little too serious. I get that that’s the general tone of the series and the books, but it’d be nice to see Yates take more light-hearted liberties like one particular disguise scene early on more throughout the film. At times the seriousness of the set pieces and characters came off a little bit as laughable. By far the biggest drawback of the film is the fact that there’s little to nothing happening through a majority of the movie. Now understand, this isn’t some angry fan boy whining because I didn’t understand the movie or what was going on, I followed the movie 90% having not seen the previous two films or read any of the books. It’s safe to say that 90% of the film is exposition, and 70% of that 90% exposition is needlessly slow or could have easily been cut from the final product of the film. I respect the ideas that are being presented and the way that they’re advancing the story, but did it have to be in such a dull way? It almost feels like the movie should be called “Harry and Friends Go Camping!” because that’s where we spend a majority of our time; in the woods. While the introduction of this grand story might be grand in concept, in execution throughout the film little to nothing happens. Even when something perked my interest and I was starting to get involved with where the story was going, it was delivered in such a drawn-out manner that I couldn’t help but realize the whole film feels like 7 sentences of story stretched over 3 hours. Not only is that a little bit of story stretched out a lot, it means a lot of that previously mentioned “dull momentum” isn’t much more than filler. Sure that’s great for the fans and all to have two different movies to “enjoy”, but it’s even better for Warner Bros. considering that instead of $1 Billion they’ll get $2 Billion. Overall, although I was interested in the chunks of fine storytelling found here and there, there’s an unbelievable amount of material here, filler and plot elements alike, that should have been cut to benefit the overall movie. Maybe the concept of one film instead of one camping trip movie and one action-fest summer film isn’t such a crazy idea. Although that seems like a lot of nitpicking, I’m not quite done yet. Although it’s nowhere near the structural mess Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender”, there are a few elements here in Deathly Hallows structure that rubbed me the wrong way. While I do understand that’s sort of the point of a Part 1, there’s really not a huge sense of escalation until the final 5 minutes when the cliffhanger comes in. The first 30 minutes move quickly and tackle a lot of material fast, and the next 2 hours sort of go with a whimper. It almost works in a backward sense compared to a regular film, in that it goes from a climax to a consistently slow slew of “discovery scenes”, where things get slower and slower until the movie peters out with a final, quick action piece. Although I do appreciate certain elements being presented here, and it definitely gives that Empire Strikes Back feel by the end of the film, one of my best friends put it best by saying the entire film is a first act, and it never really starts. It knew what it wanted to be (besides a cash-grab), but it just doesn’t know how to get there. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can say that there are parts of Deathly Hallows Part 1 that I did like. Much like I said earlier, it’s not a bad film in the slightest. What few action scenes there are (towards the beginning and right at the end, if you’ve seen any of the television spots you’ve seen every action moment in the film) are well made. There’s some great staging, a lot of fun elements going on at once, and for once I didn’t have as much trouble taking the wizardry action seriously. There’s one forest chase right at the end that, although short, is a lot of fun to watch. Also, some of the actors and a good amount of the set pieces have a great style. The special effects look fantastic, even though some of the basic effects on Voldemort’s nose and the later appearance of Dobbie didn’t look quite right. All of the costumes look spectacular, sets like the Ministry of Magic and Voldemort’s “Evil Lair” look phenomenal, and a few of the actors there much like Carter clearly were made for their role. To close things up here, I feel like I can put my feelings best when I say that Harry Potter 7-1 isn’t really a bad movie, it’s just really uninspired. I don’t think you can really argue that Warner Bros. and the rest of the crew aren’t trying to make more money by splitting this final chapter in half. In case the past weekend’s box office gross wasn’t evidence enough, the film’s beyond dull pacing and excess of both plot and needless exposition should convince you. There are things that I liked about the film, and I have all the respect in the world for people that stayed awake through the whole thing when they saw it at midnight last week. However, Harry Potter 7-1 plays it far too safe, trusting in their fans’ eagerness to see this final chapter a bit too much, and the end result is a film that drags its feet too much in anticipation of the sure-fire box office breaker that’s coming in June 2011.

3 out of 5

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Morning Glory Review

November 19, 2010 at 11:21 pm (Movies)

Walking out of the new Rachel McAdams comedy “Morning Glory” with a frown on your face, saying you hated the film, is the journalistic equivalent of punching a puppy in the face. I’m not talking about a gentle shove or a thump between the eyes, I’m talking about a full-power punch right between the eyes. Now while that’s a blunt analogy, I feel like it’s a great description for how loveable this film really is. Backed by some solid writing, a fun cast, and a stellar take-home message, Morning Glory may not be the best film I’ve seen this year, but it has to be some of the fiercest competitors for “Biggest Smile Throughout”. Rachel McAdams plays Becky, a woman whose career has always been her first love. After getting promoted to the big leagues as the lead producer on a network morning show, she quickly realizes she may have bitten off more than she could chew thanks to a diva of a co-host (Diane Keaton) and begging a veteran host (Harrison Ford) to cooperate with her. When it comes to ideal casts, you can’t really beat Morning Glory. Diane Keaton, although she can come off a little annoying to some, embraces that part of her character and gets a number of laughs in the film. Ty Burrell, who stars in one of the best comedies on television right now Modern Family, appears in a brief spot as the perverted former co-host of Morning Glory. It’s sort of a shame we don’t get to see more of him in the film. Jeff Goldblum plays a bit of a villain in the movie but it’s still classic Goldblum, and Harrison Ford is the film’s mastermind. It takes a few scenes to warm up to his gruff nature, but once you learn to laugh at his deadpan one-liners and love his “Yeah, I used to be Indiana Jones AND Han Solo” demeanor, you’ll perk up in your seat every time he walks into the frame. He’s like the uncle everyone wants. Patrick Wilson has a small role in the film as Becky’s love interest, and while he doesn’t have a lot to work with his character could have been a lot worse off with lesser-talented actors. Rachel McAdams, being the lead in a romantic comedy, is the glue that holds it all together. It’s admirable and oddly coincidental seeing how much work she puts into a character that’s putting so much work into her own job. She’s got the charm, she has that ability to make you care about her character, she definitely has the looks, and she definitely has the funny to make even the films lowest moments round off nicely. An exceedingly peppy soundtrack compliments the movie. Paolo Nutini, an artist I’ve been following for a couple of years now (hoo-rah for indie cred), has his single “New Shoes” put into one of the movie’s first scenes, and Natasha Bedingfield’s “Strip Me”, along with The Weepies’ new single created for the film work perfectly in the film. Thanks in part to the great soundtrack, the film has a consistently upbeat pace to it. It almost works like a hybrid of a movie with all the elements going on. One moment you may have an oh-so timeless romantic comedy montage set to a pop song, then a series of visual gags or a great joke/one-liner or two, or a strong dramatic moment (often times molded by hand by Harrison Ford), there’s always something to fall back on. There aren’t too many dull moments during Morning Glory, and the film benefits from it greatly. There’s a wide variety of events going on here and it makes for one of the most fun viewing experiences out there, not because of death-defying visuals like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World but because it’s a really well-written film. The writers weren’t afraid to take advantage of the “diverse world” of morning broadcast, taking the characters from location to location quickly, and loaning itself to the at-times lightning quick nature of the film’s events and dialogue. The pacing isn’t the only thing quick and diverse, as I said earlier the movie has a strong sense of humor. Rachel McAdams peppiness brings a lot to the table, Diane Keaton is a strong contender, and Harrison Ford, delivering a lot of his lines through gritted teeth, is something to be seen. There are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in Morning Glory, there’s one montage about 1/2 way through the film that had my theater doubled over in laughter. J.J. Abrams produced the film, and the guy’s been on a bit of a role including his involvement in the phenomenal Cloverfield and last year’s genius blockbuster Star Trek reboot. That being said Abrams footprint is evident. The opening shot is oddly interesting, and the lens flares that divided some fans are sporadically present. Coming from a guy that was a fan of them in Star Trek, it’s a nice little treat that will largely go unnoticed. There are also a number of great shots that take advantage of some beautiful locations and gorgeous set design. As I start to wrap this up, it’s nice to see that Morning Glory had such a sweet message to it all. I won’t spoil it for those of you at home, but it’s something that I could personally relate to, which was a nice touch. I’ve always been a fan of optimism in the work place and putting your best foot forward to accomplish your task with a smile on your face, and seeing that put on film was interesting for me and added that extra layer. Harrison Ford’s character is, throughout a majority of the film, a curmudgeon, so seeing him share his words of advice from his own tragedy (that we see in the trailer) and coming around to Becky as her “mentor” is the film’s best moment, and therein lies a lot of the movie’s heart. Heart is definitely something this movie has a lot of. It doesn’t do everything perfectly, but it’s suave combination of emotion, message, and sharp humor alone make it a film that shouldn’t be missed. Heck, the lone fact we get to see Harrison Ford wear an apron and share cooking recipes is reason enough to see the film.  The film also has a really “cute” ending to it all, wrapping up all the plot lines in what seems like an other-worldly layer of “cute”. It was also fun to hear a gasp and a re-assuring “awww” in a few scenes of the closing montage. All in all, it’s hard not to walk out of Morning Glory with a smile. If there is anything wrong with Morning Glory, it’s that it’s a little uneven, more specifically at times with its tone. There are some moments that are a little too awkwardly handled to be funny and then there’s the rare dramatic moment that takes a little too long to sink in. It kills me to not give Morning Glory a 5 out of 5, but even with a 4, it’s an absolute recommendation to see it, especially if you’re a fan of the genre. At times Morning Glory comes off a little bit of a dark comedy, other times it’s a broad comedy, and yet at other times it’s a romantic comedy. To a casual viewer though or to someone like me just in the market for a great feel-good comedy, there’s nothing quite like Morning Glory. It’s funny, it’s smart, there’s a lens flare or two, and by the end you’ll have an unshakable smile and a special place in your heart that’s been filled by Morning Glory.

4 out of 5

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Cowboys vs. Aliens Trailer

November 17, 2010 at 1:05 pm (Movies, Video)

From Jon Favreau (Director of Iron Man, Elf) is an adaptation of the comic series “Cowboys vs. Aliens”, starring Daniel Craig (James Bond) as a mysterious stranger into a western town. He’s harboring a unique alien weapon on his arm that makes him an instant fugitive in the town, and is being chased down by one of the local marshalls (Harrison Ford). Soon they have to team up to take down the mysterious alien force.

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New York!

November 17, 2010 at 11:49 am (Weapons of Mass Enjoyment)

My college is taking a group of students to New York City as part of the theater program this January, and, being very grateful to both my amazing parents and my university, am getting to go on the trip. I’m taking a tour of the city, including seeing the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and a lot more as part of the tour. Hopefully I’ll also get to check out some other spectacular locations like the diner from Seinfeld, Grand Central Station, and a few others. One of the main focuses of the trip is the broadway show, 4 of which we’ll be seeing while up in NYC in January. We’ll be seeing the new show The Scottsboro Boys, Wicked, Time Stands Still, and hopefully the new Spiderman musical produced by Julie Taymor and musically supplied by U2’s Bono and The Edge. Looking at some of the pictures from the show, it definitely looks interesting. Above all else this is my most anticipated part of the show just out of curiosity. The show has run into some struggles recently, being delayed a number of times, but now a date has been set for January 11th, the day I’m arriving in NYC. The show we’re planning on seeing it on is the Saturday following that on the 15th. Hopefully we’ll get to see it, but who knows what could happen. If anyone has any places to recommend to see that are must-dos in New York or just suggestions, drop me a comment!

 

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For the Love of Batman…

November 11, 2010 at 9:46 pm (Movies)

While Tom Hardy has been cast as a yet-unannounced villain the Riddler has been officially de-confirmed as the villain, (not to mention that we finally have a title) some interesting news has been floating around some female casting in particular. The official word is that Christopher Nolan is looking for TWO female leads for The Dark Knight Rises (I still have trouble recognizing that as the new title). Anyone remotely familiar with 2008’s The Dark Knight will remember that the cast is pretty devoid of estrogen right now, what with the former female lead in about a billion pieces in downtown Gotham (no, I’m not going to spoiler alert that because if you haven’t seen that film yet you deserve it to be spoiled). I was one of the few people that actually didn’t have a problem with Katie Holmes, and Maggie Gylenhaal was fun in her role. The official word is that there are going to be two female leads, one is going to be a love interest, and the other is going to be a villain.The official shortlist being considered for either part goes as follows.

Naomi Watts-Best known recently for being the lead character in Peter Jackson’s re-imagining of King Kong, Watts (42) has also had parts in The Ring, The International, and 21 Grams. Batman’s love interest (Bale being 36 himself) would naturally have to be older, but Watts might be a little too old for it. On top of that you also have to take into account how these actresses might fit into Nolan’s style, and I’m not 100% sure she’d be the best fit.

Blake Lively-Blake Lively (23), who recently starred as a cracked-up hooker in Ben Affleck’s The Town, actually did a pretty good job, and it’s honestly surprising to see that she’s actually really hot when she’s not snorting coke in an Affleck film. She’ll actually be the love interest in next year’s tentpole film “Green Lantern”, and has had a few other roles in Accepted and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Personally I think she’s a little too young for the part, but it might be interesting to see where she can go from Green Lantern next year.

Natalie Portman-Portman (29), who’s been on a bit of a rebound since the Star Wars prequel trilogy, definitely has the look for it. She’s one of the best actresses out there right now, and would definitely be a solid choice, even though she looks a little bit like Maggie Gylenhaal. On top of that, she’s one of the most naturally beautiful actresses out there. She’s had starring roles in films like V For Vendetta, Brothers, she’ll be the love interest in next year’s Thor, and she’s even been the recipient of a few awards, including some for this year’s much-hyped Black Swan.

Anne Hathaway-It seems like Anne is popping up on a lot of lists on this site, so I’ll keep this brief. Hathway (28) is gorgeous, she’s proved she can kick butt before, she’s versatile (she’s one of the best parts of Burton’s Alice in Wonderland), and she’s one of the safest choices out there. I personally couldn’t see her in the part, and it may be a kiss of death to put her in there since she was cast in Spiderman 4 right before it died.

Keira Knightley-Famous for her part in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Knightley (25) gave teenage boys a whole new idea of gorgeous women through the past decade. She’s one of the most critically-acclaimed actresses out there right now, and on top of being one of the best-looking, she’d definitely be an interesting choice for Nolan. She might just be able to give him the edge the film needs.

Rachel Wiesz-By far my favorite of all the choices, Wiesz (40) was one of the best parts of one of my favorite films from last year, The Brothers Bloom. She’s been in the business for about 15 years now, and if you need any indication as to how crazy talented she is you should rent Brothers Bloom as soon as you can. I would love to see her adapted into Nolan’s world as either a love interest or a phenomenal villain, and she could be some what of a Heath Ledger that this film needs.

Now before I wrap this up, what does this news exactly mean? We have a love interest, and a villain. Now I’ve heard that the love interest could have some relation to Jim Gordon, but that may have just been backwash rumors the internet’s known for. She may be some sort of love Wayne meets on the run, or a love that makes Gotham worth saving. The other part of the news has to be the most interesting though. When it comes to female villains, the world of Batman only has a few. You have Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Talia Al Ghul. Whereas I have a little bit of trouble seeing them adapt Catwoman and even more so with Poison Ivy, Talia is one that could be easily adapted considering the inclusion of Ra’as in Batman Begins. Although according to some Nolan’s not had the best luck with female characters in the past, the right choices in this area could make or break the film.

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Due Date Review

November 11, 2010 at 11:41 am (Movies)

A lot of hyperboles are used for laughter in a theater on the box art or in a review for a comedy film. My fellow film journalists may write “I laughed until I cried!” or “I laughed until my sides hurt!” However, during my screening of Due Date, one of my friends I was watching the film with literally fell out of his seat and folded up like a lawn chair after hearing one of the many perfectly executed jokes in Todd Phillips’ new comedy. To tell you the truth, I came very close many times to falling out my seat as well during one of the year’s best and certainly most enjoyable comedies, Due Date. The film follows Peter Highmore (Downey Jr.), who seems to be on a dead-set, hitch-less path to make it from Atlanta, GA to Los Angeles, CA, that is until he runs into Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis). After the two have a run-in at the airport and an escalating confrontation on the plane out of Georgia they are placed on the “no-fly list” and are forced into a cross country road trip to hopefully make it in time for the birth of Peter’s child. Peter is more of a straight-faced, smug jerk of a guy just trying to make it back and time and Ethan’s a bit more quirky as he’s the one carrying his father’s ashes in a coffee can and sporting a fresh perm. Along the way the two run into a handicapped/disgruntled Western Union employee, drug possession charges, and lots of sleeping at the wheel. Last year’s other Todd Phillips comedy The Hangover jump-started Zach Galifianakis’ career, so it’s interesting to see him take that another step further this time around. That being said, Galifianakis isn’t breaking any new ground with this character, but much like his infamous Between Two Ferns web series, Zach’s got a perfectly firm handle on the awkward and absurd things his character says and does throughout the movie. He plays like a great foil to Robert Downey Jr.’s straight man character in the movie. It’s interesting to see Downey do comedy when we’re so used to seeing him in movies like Iron Man, but he proves to be a worthy match to a current comedy superstar like Zach with some of the movie’s finest moments of hilarity. Much like Galifianakis he’s great at getting a good feel for his character and gradually exploring it, easily being the most relatable of the two and easier for audiences to relate to. Although the film is very much about Downey and Galifianakis’ two characters, along the way there’s more than one great moment with some side characters. Danny McBride who was great in the underrated 2008 comedy Pineapple Express has a small bit this time around as the disgruntled Western Union employee. Although he’s only on the screen for maybe 5 minutes the guy absolutely kills it. Jamie Foxx also appears in the latter half of the film as Peter’s childhood best friend and evidently had a lot of fun with it. Whereas Apatow has built his comedy reputation on relatable scenarios with these realistic yet bizarre characters, Todd Phillips has become known recently for these gradually escalating comedy scenarios like in The Hangover and especially now in Due Date. Since I started watching Apatow’s movies like Knocked Up I’ve had a great time seeing him craft such genuine dialogue and situations, but nothing beats how crazy fun Due Date is. You’re taken from the normal to the insane by the time it’s all said and done, and almost every comedic set piece is executed in spectacular fashion. There are some gut-busting moments in Due Date, including a marijuana-induced “trip” Peter and Ethan take that’s hilariously “out there” and a car chase near the end that brings the journey to a close in a lot of broken metal and crashed vehicles. Not all of the moments knock it out of the park like a few select scenes do, but even at its worst you’d be hard-pressed to find better comedic sensibility than what’s on display here. Some are obviously not going to be able to enjoy Due Date for what it is, some aren’t ever going to be a fan of Todd Phillips’ at-times-crude sense of comedy in general, and if you can’t, then you’re still not going to enjoy Due Date. I honestly don’t understand why so many people hate on this movie so much (it’s currently at 40% on Rotten Tomatoes); it could be that everyone’s expecting it to be the new Hangover. I think some may be forgetting though that that film wasn’t really a stunning piece of filmmaking, it was just a heck of a lot of fun that was really well written and executed, and a lot of people (including myself) were surprised by that. Due Date is definitely in that same vein of humor, it may not be to the same scale as The Hangover, but I had just as much, if not more fun in this one. You really just can’t beat a classic “road trip” movie. Just like the classic John Hughes movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (more on that later), each part of the U.S. has it’s own feel and there’s plenty of time devoted to making sure it has it’s own set of great jokes to last onto the next location. Surprisingly enough, there was also a bit of heart to be found in Due Date. There are a few touching moments involving Galifianakis’ character, maybe it’s because I’m a big softy, that worked surprisingly well and brought me close to tears. Although that’s a fine moment of the film, there’s not a whole lot of heart to be found in Due Date aside from those few moments compared to the amount of heart in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. That movie has one of the most emotionally crippling endings ever, but it’s not really fair to compare the two on those terms. A lot of people are comparing the two films and citing Due Date as a cheap knock-off, but even though the two films share a common premise people are neglecting the filmmaker’s style. John Hughes wasn’t a raunchy director; he wrote heartfelt, clever comedies like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles that have a touching ending. If anything Phillips isn’t known for heart-felt movies, he’s known for at times raunchy and increasingly crazy comedies, so we should be glad there’s any heart at all, much less that it works on screen. On top of that, is the concept of two men that hate each other travelling across the United States to make it home to one of their families really something we see that often? Personally, whenever I heard that Due Date was a lot like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, I was relieved mainly because the latter is one of my favorite films of all time. It’s interesting to look at Due Date as a modern take on it. Without sounding snooty, it’s fascinating to see how close Robert Downey Jr. is to Steve Martin’s character, and how Zach Galifianakis reminds me a lot of the late John Candy. While there’s not an infamous musical scene like Mike Tyson’s “In The Air Tonight” from The Hangover, Due Date has a uniquely fun soundtrack. Ice Cube, Band of Horses, Barry Manilow, and of course Wolfmother accompany the film’s biggest moments and montages beautifully. When it comes down to it, the question really is, “Do you enjoy just being in the theater and having a great time with your friends?” If you at least think you’ll answer yes, you can’t beat Due Date in terms of sheer fun at the cinema. I know my friends and I had a blast seeing it, and were in tears multiple times throughout. It’s the perfect pick me up for a bad day, and I can’t wait to watch it again. All in all, you can’t ask for a more enjoyable film than Due Date. It’s perfect for a movie night with the adults of the family on Thanksgiving later this month, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more laughs this month in the cinema (although Harry Potter 7 looks like it might be the feel-good comedy of the Fall). Due Date isn’t a perfect movie, and not all of its jokes hit the bull’s eye, but it’s a hysterical film that actually surprised me quite a bit. In what’s usually a November movie drought as far as comedy goes, Due Date is a heck of a lot of fun backed by a heck of a lot of great comedic talent in one of the most surprisingly fun films of the year. Due Date is one heck of an adventure, it’s like taking a road trip with your best friend. Even on the detours and pit stops, you’re still having a heck of a fun time.

5 out of 5

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The Top Ten Video Game Characters… Ever

November 10, 2010 at 6:05 pm (Video Games)

Game Informer’s new issue, being their newest holiday issue since the special 200th issue last November, is counting down some of the top video game characters of all time. Whenever I saw the cover reveal I started to think about my own favorites, which has now transferred over here for your viewing pleasure (?). Keep in mind I don’t play many video games now a days because of my super-busy schedule, although I am able to play a view select titles from time to time.

10) Bowser (Super Papr Mario)-I’ve gotta cut this guy some slack, he’s got determination. I mean after being beaten by Mario so many times you think he wouldn’t have given up by now, but no. It seems like each year he has a new whack-job scheme on how to beat Mario once and for all, and every time it fails. The main reason he makes it on the list is his comedic turn in 2008’s Super Paper Mario, a game that gave us the opportunity to play as the overgrown turtle. Maybe one of these days he’ll finally have the last word, and I wish him the best of luck.

9) John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)-Although I didn’t have much time with the main character of this year’s smash hit Red Dead Redemption, I knew he was a one of a kind character. He’s tough, gruff, and one of the manliest characters I’ve ever had the pleasure as playing as. Every time you fired a bullet or killed an innocent civilian (by mistake or not) as Marsden you knew you looked as cool as humanly possible.

8) Raz (Psychonauts)-Honestly, I could give this spot to anyone in Psychonauts. Tim Schafer’s wildly imaginative sleeper hit is still one of the most creative games I’ve ever had the opportunity to play. It’s sharp writing and memorable platforming is still as fresh in my mind as if I had played it yesterday. Raz, however, was the clever “mind” (see what I did there) at the center of it all, and is to date the best character Schafer’s ever created.

7) Soap (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2)-Although technically he’s the main character in Modern Warfare #1, we never get to see Soap’s face or even hear him speak until #2, where he plays your “boss” on a lot of the game’s missions to save the world once again. Even with a mohawk and enough tattoos to fill a Dog the Bounty Hunter fan club, the guy’s still plenty cool to make it on the list.

6) Link-I know James is going to get at me for this one, but I’ve not always been a fan of our classic hero. I just now got into his character in 2006’s Twilight Princess, and that game by itself blew me away. Even though there’s no spoken dialogue in the game, it’s still crystal clear this is a hero’s story, and Link is the classic, timeless hero for the ages. When our generation of video gaming is remembered, they’ll know Link, and his transition from farm boy to infamous hero as the benchmark for all video game epics.

5) Mario-How can you not have a list of best video characters without Mario in it? If you ask anyone that has no clue about video games about video games, one of, if not the first character that will come to their mind is Mario. The chubby little plumber is beyond iconic, and without him many gamers (including myself) and developers would have never picked up a controller in the first place.

4) Dr. Nefarious and/or Captain Qwark (Ratchet and Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal)-Dr. Nefarious is without a doubt my favorite video game villain of all time thanks to his “charming personality”, special tweak that involves him reciting soap operas, and overall…. nefariousness. Captain Quark is what all video game comic relief characters should aspire to be, plain and simple. You could learn a lot from Captain Quark’s adventures facing off against evil zombie robot pirates…

3) Wandrer (Shadow of the Colossus)-Wandrer doesn’t speak much of Shadow of the Colossus, heck, his name isn’t even revealed in Shadow of the Colossus, but it’s the simplicity of his character in how he’s quiet through the whole game, the sheer power he evidently has to take down these colossal… colossi, and the face his entire quest is just to save the one he loves, why, that makes him the Link of our generation. Seriously, if you haven’t played Shadow of the Colossus yet, change that.

2) Kratos (God of War)-There’s a lot more than screaming and truly heinous to the God of War, Kratos. Sure, the (former) man is one motivated by the rage and fury to destroy every last thing that remotely has to do with the gods, but behind that he’s a guy that loved his family. Once that was stolen from him however, you unleashed the unmercifully violent and ungodly terror of a god. It’s that pure motivation as to why he’s doing all of these things that you’re never able to forget, and it makes for a heartbreaking back story to one of gaming’s most captivating characters. It drives his every action and blood-curdling scream, and it makes him my second favorite gaming character of all time.

1) Captain John Price (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1 and 2) This is no man. This guy is a legend. This guy has been sort of an “inside joke” for developers of the Call of Duty franchise for years me thinks, as he was even in Call of Duty 2 with his glorious handlebar mustache. He kicked all sorts of butt in the 2007 hit Modern Warfare 1, and only a character of his caliber could issue such excitement whenever he makes his beyond grand appearance in #2. He’s arguably the main character of both games, and will continue to be in the third installment. In case you missed that, he’s the main character of arguably the most revolutionary FPS of our time. We follow him from the oceans to the deserts without batting an eye, and you even get to see his awesome origins in a few of MW1’s best levels in his own flashbacks. In a few of the in-game cut scenes all you can do is stand back and marvel at this genius creation of a character. The man not only defines manliness in games, but also how you’re supposed to create a character that you can look up to and by all means emotionally connect to. You whisper to yourself “hoo-rah” whenever it turns out he’s already killed all his captors that you were supposed to save him from in MW2, and at the end of MW1 as he lies there potentially dead, it evoked some of the most profound emotions I’ve ever felt in a video game. He’s like a father in the video game world, and from that first moment he picks you up by the hand and saves you from death in the first mission of MW1 and yells “Come on soldier, we….. are….. leav-ing!!” there’s no doubt you’re gonna follow that guy.

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RED Review

November 6, 2010 at 2:08 pm (Movies)

On paper RED seems too good to be true. The idea of classic actors of comedy, drama, and action like Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman teaming up for a film is like a movie version of an eclipse. The film follows Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a retired CIA agent that lives a pretty boring life. In the first 10 minutes of the film we get to see the biggest extent of his “exciting life”, the highest point of his day being a toss up between putting a single snowman decoration in his yard for Christmas or flirting with the woman (the delightful Mary Louise Parker) in charge of his retirement benefits. After a near death experience in one of the film’s most ridiculously enjoyable action set pieces, Moses is forced to go on the run for his own life and saving the lives of his former teammates (Mirren, Freeman, and Malkovich) and his new love interest for knowing too many of the CIA’s secrets. Much like how The Expendables assembled some of the best action stars of all time, RED is like a miniature version of that film, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My dorky heart was touched getting to see Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren face off between Mickey Rourke monologues, but RED was a lot more subtle about having god and John McClane in the same room. There’s a lot to talk about concerning the cast, especially considering the once-in-a-lifetime nature of it all. Bruce Willis is classical Bruce Willis in the movie, phoning it in at times, but throughout the whole film he’s constantly reminding us how he’s one of the many kings of the action genre, with everything short of a “yippee ki-yay” in the film.  John Malkovich almost effortlessly pulls off some of the movie’s funniest moments as the drugged-out, paranoid, retired agent. Helen Mirren shows up in the latter half of the film, and it’s just as satisfying as you’d think watching a 60 year old women operate a Gatling gun. Morgan Freeman, being Morgan Freeman, adds some well-needed class to a lot of the movie, and even though he’s not in the film as much as the trailers suggest (he’s in the film maybe 20-30 minutes), he’s definitely my favorite character of the movie. Think “The Bucket List” meets “Wanted”, sort of. Karl Urban, who I was a huge fan of from 2009’s Star Trek reboot as Bones, plays the “bad guy” of sorts in RED as the guy in charge of tracking down Bruce Willis and his team, and I hope to see him get plenty more of his strong action presence and charisma if his performance in RED is any indication. On another note, the ever-loveable Ernest Borgnine pops up a time or two with a couple of the film’s funniest lines. Let’s just say Ernest Borgnine is the living definition of the spirit of RED. Finally, Mary Louise Parker (as Bruce Willis’ love interest), even though she isn’t the best actress in the mix, has some great moments thanks to her “bubbly” and “cute” performance, that if  the court will allow it, I think is pretty delightful. Speaking of being delightful, the film definitely has a cartoonish style to both the way it tells it story and presents the action that connects it. There are some action scenes like the infamous bullet vs. rocket scene plastered over a lot of the trailers and television spots that exist as some of the best examples of the film’s over-the-top atmosphere in most of the action. Notice that I only said “most”.  Some of the film’s high-octane moments of action may drop your jaw (like John Malkovich’s grenade batting or Bruce Willis’ police squad car near-miss), but others come off a little more mundane. None of the action scenes are poorly shot or performed (thanks be to the director and the multiple coordinators in the film), but it’s odd going from cartoony to something more by the book in comparison, like a Christopher Nolan film in terms of action. This is something that unfortunately finds its way into some of the other aspects of the movie like it’s pacing. A recurring theme of the film is the idea of travel, and because of that Bruce Willis and the gang are constantly moving from location to location. There’s a choppy and sometimes confusing nature to it, and because it’s going from place to place it can be a little disorienting. Often times it’s like riding a roller coaster. The plot of the movie concerns some deep-buried CIAsecrets and some undercover dirty work, and not all of it really sunk in for me. Maybe because I was sleepy, but for a film like RED centered on quick and fun action, it’s a bid odd to have such a deep story. Maybe it could have taken a note from The Expendables that have virtually no story. Don’t misunderstand me here, RED is not a bad film at all, it just came off as a confused film, confused about what it really wanted to be. RED succeeds in being one of the most satisfying films of the year, and from start to finish is a total thrill ride with a spectacular legend of a cast. There’s a part of me that wonders what RED could have been with more time spent on the movie, maybe on the writing, the pacing, or maybe just what the film wanted to be in transition from the darker comic book. Much like the earlier metaphor, RED is like a great roller coaster. You enjoy it all the way through, you recommend it to all your friends, you’ll stand in line for it a dozen times before throwing up, but maybe after a ride or two you wonder what it might have been like with a few tweaks.

4 out of 5

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The Art of Hugging

November 5, 2010 at 8:25 pm (Weapons of Mass Enjoyment)

Ah, it feels so good to be back in my hysterically not funny comedy roots. It’s almost like an old pair of pants you find in your dresser that you haven’t worn from 8th Grade. They remarkably fit, but then you just realize you were really fat in 8th Grade. Anyway, it’s been a couple of months if not years since I last did an “Art Of…” post, so without further ado here is a fact sheet if you will, for hugging…*Disclaimer-In case you’re new to the site and aren’t that familiar with my awkward sense of humor, this is a joke post, laugh, have fun, but remember, next time you’re hugging someone you won’t be able to get this post out of your head.

  • Keep It Simple Stupid-Listen, you don’t wanna be that guy that hugs for too long. If you’re in the classic full-frontal hug (more about that later), then don’t let the hug go past it’s expiration date. You’re not welcoming home the troops here, you’re just letting a friend know you missed them since yesterday at Lunch. You can’t be too short with a hug (because if you are than it’s technically not a hug, it’s just a ghost hug a.k.a. Pat N’ Go), and be sure you’re not too long with a hug, unless that’s what you’re into.
  • Different Rules for Different Huggers-Just as a general by rule, sometimes different people have different rules for hugging. Some are huge fans of hugging, others love to hold a hug for a long time, others are more of a fan of Pat N’ Gos. Unless ground rules are established, you follow my ground rules, it’s all common sense really. Basically, you just gotta know your hugger.
  • TYPES OF HUGS-The Full Frontal-Not much to explain here, it’s basically just your classical hug. You meet in the front, wrap the arms around, one hand is for grasping (onto the person’s back perv) and the other is for patting or rubbing on the back. If you’re not to the patting or rubbing stage with a person, don’t try it unless you’re absolutely sure. And dudes, yes, it is manly to do a full frontal hug. My full frontal hugs with men are some of the most manly experiences in my life.
  • The Side Hug-This hug seems more common from my own experiences, and seems to be like a mini hug, but with most of the same impact. As you might imagine it’s just the two hug-ees (please no diaper jokes) joining together at the side, only with one arm around each other, still with patting or what have you. It’s a quicker, half version of the true hug, but it’s not insulting by any means. Full Frontal Hugs are usually for the closest of friends or people that haven’t seen eachother in a while, side hugs are for those friends you see quite a bit or for more uncomfortable dudes. Or people that just smell bad.
  • The Bro Hug-Right next to the full frontal hug, this is one of my favorites, even if it is a little lesser known. You start out with a handshake, go in for a secret handshake type of thing where the two thumbs are directly next to eachother, and then you grapple in for a full hug, using your free arm to pat, or in many cases, slap your bro’s back. Reserved for only the most secure bromances, and to be honest it makes you feel better about yourself that you’re confident in your relationship with your bestest of bros.
  • The Air Hug-The hug on the go, this hug is a mix between a surprise hug and a full frontal. Let’s say you’re walking to class, driving in traffic, or checking your mailbox. If you see a good friend that you would usually hug, but you’re still in a rush, the air hug might be best for you. It’s basically just the motion of a hug from where you stand, apart from eachother. Mainly it’s for hipsters or people that like to think that planning out and executing complex hugs would be quicker than just hugging the darn person.
  • The Surprise/Improv Hug-This one can go one of two ways. It can either be A) A hug with a friend that you may be attracted to or surprised at how close of a friendship you have that you’re at hug status or B) A hug with someone that you don’t want to hug, often because they hug too hard, hug too often, or just smell ranky. If it evolves normally from the bro hug, you’re safe as long as you resist and keep it at the handshake. If the surprise hug usually originates as full frontals, you’re pretty much screwed. Just hope that you have a bar of Dove or Olay ready. Avoid the person long enough and they’ll get the message, or they’ll just build all that hug energy up for another day. Be on the lookout… Also known as the “Oh, you forgot to wear deoderant” hug…
  • The Bear Hug-This and the surprise hug usually go hand in hand as well, but sometimes the bear hug can be a fun ice breaker, or it can be the perfect start to a restraining order. Basically the bear hugger grabs the person (with no involvement on their part), and squeezes them like a tube of yogurt or squeezes them and hoists them into the air. It’s either really funny or really uncalled for. Plan ahead with the Bear Hug.
  • The Sneak Hug-I think JD from Scrubs puts it best-
  • KNOW YOUR HUGGER-Never, and I repeat never, forget the person you’re hugging and how they like to hug. Of course it’s a given that when you’re new to a person’s pre-set hugging conditions it’s impossible to know, but certain people have certain limits when it comes to hugging. Some are not fans of hugging, no mistake is worse than hugging someone full-frontal that doesn’t wanna be hugged. Some prefer the side-hug, some prefer the bro-hug, some people like me though, just enjoy any kind of hug. Most of the time it doesn’t matter, but if you screw the pooch on this one, and there shall be no more hugs from that person.
  • Use the Appropriate Hug/Plan Your Hugs-You don’t just go hugging every person you meet. You can be that type of person that’s awesome to be around and peppy and cheery, but don’t push the boundary into creepy ville.

In conclusion, enjoy all hugs, they’re meant to be enjoyed. Really it just comes down to the type of hug and planning your hugs appropriately. Hugs aren’t just to be thrown around, they can symbolize a reunion with a great friend or one of the purest moments of bro-atudeThey’re like tiny breaks from the threats of life literally holding another human being in any of the many style to choose from. Remember the rules, but don’t get too caught up in them, or you’ll miss out on one of the purest joys in life. Toss your germaphobia aside (although be cautious in sneak hugging the germaphobes) and give a big hug to the person next to you, and make the world a little bit better.

PS, Just so you all know, I want my funeral to be hug-oriented just like this-

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Jake’s Youtube Favorites-November 5th, 2010

November 5, 2010 at 8:08 pm (Television, Video)

This may be a series I try to start doing, we’ll just see how it goes. I haven’t posted that many videos on the site recently, so here are three videos that I’ve watched nearly 100 times each, hope you enjoy.

First up is the new trailer for the Zack Snyder film, Sucker Punch, giving us a better idea of the story and some of the jaw-dropping visuals.

Second to commemorate James starting to get into Parks and Recreation is a couple of  great clip from the show, showcasing some of Tom’s… worse decisions and the greatness of Ron Swanson.

Finally is a threesome of videos, all from the finale of Scrubs. I don’t think I ever posted the finale on here, and before you ask it’s technically not a spoiler for the show since nothing really happens, it’s just foreshadowing. It’s a very fitting retrospect of a finale, and it brings tears to my eyes every time, and not just because they did a 9th season.

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Shaq in Drag

November 5, 2010 at 7:56 pm (Video, Weapons of Mass Enjoyment, Well That Was Cool)

I posted this on my Facebook the other day, and I still can’t stop laughing at it. As we all know last week was Halloween, and Shaquille O Neal took it upon himself to go all out to dress in drag for his costume this year, lip-singing to the popular Beyonce song, “Sweet Dream”. This makes Space Jam so much cooler…

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Blu-Ray vs. DVD, The Battle Comes to a Head

November 5, 2010 at 6:47 pm (DVD, Movies)

I remember when I got my first DVD player (I put an emphasis on “first” because my family has went through more of those than we should have). It was almost like discovering a new world of entertainment in that cardboard box. It was a complete surprise on Christmas morning, something I totally didn’t expect, much less to come with a copy of Bruce Almighty and Freaky Friday to start my now expansive DVD collection. I remember seeing all the ads for the DVD technology on my VHS tapes thinking it wouldn’t catch on, but sure enough I still have a crap ton of my classic and most favorite films on VHS in my closet. Now almost 7 years later, a new technology is on the horizon. After slaughtering HD DVD, Blu-Ray has begun to creep onto the market and much like DVDs did more than half a decade ago, slowly eclipse the DVD market. It may be my 10 year old self speaking here, but I truly don’t see the point in it all. I can honestly say I don’t know a single person that owns a stand alone (not PS3) blu-ray player. I get the advantages of the tech itself (believe me I do, I shop at Target a lot so I see the blu-ray propaganda), in SOME cases the picture looks sharper, the sound sounds better, and it’s supposedly a “better viewing experience”. While that’s all nice and good to have those bells and whistles, it’s not something I’m going to be running out to my car, flooring the pedal and rushing to my nearest Best Buy to adapt. Whereas the transition between VHS and DVD was noticeable (those bulky tapes have around a 4-play-through life span and were considerably hefty, there’s not as much a difference between DVD and Blu-Ray to warrant the $200 + adaptation charge. I’m basically expected to pay $150-$200 for a player (at cheapest, and trust me, buying the cheaper Sony Products never turns out well) and then around $25-$30 per film that I enjoy. That being said, the prices have come down significantly on blu-ray discs over the past few months, a fact that makes the pill significantly easier to swallow. It’s really just a transition from a disc to a shinier and better looking disc.

Plus, there are few feelings on earth as painful as knowing you’re part of a dying trend. It’s almost the feeling of seeing a ticking time bomb reach zero when you see the blu-ray selection grow larger and larger in Target or Best Buy. Plus, I’m a college student, I rarely buy new films, and making a $200 + investment right now to continue my movie loving habit in such a hectic lifestyle doesn’t make a lot of sense. My TV in my room in my dorm MAY be HD-compatible (it’s a brand new VIZIO), and I’m fairly sure our main den TV at my house can support the tech. I would like to live in a world where both standard definition and high definition could both be supported equally, but it looks like Blu-Ray may be just another inevitable speed bump in the road of home entertainment.

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Sorry Betty…

November 4, 2010 at 9:07 pm (Movies)

With Rhys Ifans, Andrew Garfield, and Emma Stone already cast in the new Spiderman reboot, it’s interesting to see that two of the other biggest characters in the Spiderman world, Uncle Ben and Aunt May, have been cast in quick succession. Also, there’s been some other casting rumors surrounding one of the other biggest characters in the Spiderman world. It was announced by The Hollywood Reporter today that Martin Sheen will be playing the role of Uncle Ben and Sally Field will be playing Aunt May. Despite how you feel or what you know about the two actors, it’s great news for the film because as I said a couple of weeks ago with the other bit of casting news, they’re not going with the most popular actors, they’re obviously choosing the ones they think are the best. Martin Sheen has been in the acting game for over 40 years now, carrying huge parts in movies like Catch Me If You Can, Wall Street, JFK, and numerous other movies. However, if you wanna see what this guy at his full potential, rent The Departed on DVD. The guy’s definitely experienced in the acting world and it’ll be interesting to see his “classical” take on the guy. To give you some perspective, Martin Sheen is 17 years younger than Cliff Robertson, the original Uncle Ben who is now 87. You may recognize Sally Field from Boniva commercials, but she’s actually been acting longer than Sheen, even though she’s only 63. It’s interesting to think about how Webb is going with a much younger looking actress to play the part of Aunt May, which may mean they’re interpreting the character differently. I’m excited to see how they can paint that relationship in a different way when Aunt May’s a little bit younger. Sally Field played the mom in Mrs. Doubtfire, has a recurring role on the ABC series Brothers and Sisters, and was part of the original Smokey and the Bandit. Even though I still wish Betty White would play Aunt May, these two actors seem like great fits, and only get me more excited for the movie.

Finally, some rumors have been going around about who’s going to play the role of Peter Parker’s fast-talking, cigar-chomping boss, J. J. Jameson. J. K. Simmons effortlessly played the character in all three of Raimi’s Spiderman movies, and gave the character a hilarious shadow to stand in for whoever’s going to take the part now. Webb has confirmed Simmons unfortunately will not be involved in the new film, but names like Sam Elliot (The Big Lebowski/That Mustache Guy From Ghost Rider) and John Slattery (Mad Men) are on the short list. This is honestly going to be one of the hardest roles to cast in the movie, and they’re not only going to have to meet the expectation of that character, but also get somebody good enough so that we’re not constantly comparing them to Simmons’ take. That either means we’ll have to take a different style to the comedic side (maybe a Ron Swanson style like in Parks and Recreation) or maybe something more dry.

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