Thursday, December 31, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- New Year's Eve Edition

I'm assuming at least 90% of you are already half in the bag in preparation for tonight which means I could just post random letters vckdnkjsdkkls. See? You drunks probably thought that was my best work. However, I do have a sense of ethics so here is another edition of brief comments on various subjects I call Look At My Briefs.

I just saw a commercial for TNT's broadcast of National Treasure. This made me think of its sequel but, try as I may, I cannot for the life of me remember the plot of National Treasure 2. I consider this to be a good thing.

This trailer for next year's Ridley Scott directed Robin Hood doesn't look that great. People have been comparing it to Gladiator but to me it looks more like Braveheart. The movie itself could still be good but this news from AICN that Scott wants to release it in 3-D makes me like it even less. We won't know till May, of course. There was another item in that same article that made me smile though and that was this Michael Bay quote.
"I prefer the flat screen. I'm not jumping to do 3-D at all-it's a pain in the neck to shoot it and I actually like the flat image. I've heard that some people can't even see 3-D and, moreover, that a major side effect of watching it is feeling exhausted. Can you imagine how you'd feel watching one of my movies in 3-D?"
Yes, Mr. Bay, I can imagine one of your movies in 3-D and your decision not to use it buys you at least a little time in Heaven.

If they start showing it now, 2010's "In Memorium" section of the Oscars would finally finish running just as the rest of the show began.

The editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics says he thinks Iron Man 2 looks to be great and will be beloved by the fans. I'm glad they found a truly unbiased source like Marvel's EiC to give us an opinion like that.

It fascinates me that Sony wouldn't include Moon in their DVD screener package this year. It's nice to see that folks like Neil Gaiman are lending their support to one of 2009's better films. I imagine Sony felt they already had this year's Oscars wrapped up with quality offerings like 2012, The Stepfather and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and just didn't need to include Moon.

I don't really care if two soulless corporations try to see who can screw more money out of the other. I do know Rupert Murdoch doesn't understand things like new technology, a fact demonstrated in his belief that Google is stealing his content. I have Time Warner Cable and, if Fox does go dark, I will emit a huge yawn and log on to Fox's website, Hulu, or various torrent sites to view anything I may want to watch on Fox. Meanwhile, they'll lose both fees from the cable company and ad dollars generated by literally millions of viewers on TWC. To sum up, Rupert Murdoch thinks the way to riches is to take his stuff off both the world's biggest search engine and one of the country's top cable broadcasters. Good call.


Oh yeah, something hidden in Mount Rushmore. That was National Treasure 2. That was nice while it lasted anyway.

Everyone try to have a Happy New Year and may your 2010 be Squeakquel-free. did I say I wouldn't use that word anymore? I lied.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Here are my resolutions for 2010:

I will do my Christmas shopping early next year. In fact, I think I'll pick up some 2010 calendars this weekend, save them and hand them out as Christmas gifts to everyone I know next December.

I will no longer get into fist fights over which Jonas Brother is cuter.

I will stop spending so much time on Twitter. Doing that is making me neglect Facebook.

This time next year, I will make fewer resolutions.

I will never again complain if a movie has "The Squeakquel" in its title. I've been obsessing on that too much and will let it go from now on. By all means, go ahead and title your movie Sense and Sensibility: The Squeakquel. You won't hear a word from me.

I will stop judging actresses by their breast size and will, instead, rank them according how doable they are overall.

I will stop bragging that I know Ashton Kutcher based solely on the fact I once saw him in an airport and it may not have even been him anyway.

No matter how good I look in it, I will never again wear my T-shirt that has the logo "MILF and Proud Of It" written on it.

I will stop demanding that my Roomba be able to recite the Three Laws of Robotics.

I will cease bragging about the fact that I was once called upon to impregnate a member of the Lithuanian Royal Family.

I will be nice to everyone regardless of whether they have ever paid me for sex.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Air Out

For about a month now I've had to read various reviews as well as testimonials from movie fans about a great new movie called Up In The Air. While I was having loads of fun watching New Moon, Armored, and Did You Hear About The Morgans, these people were just chirping away happily about Jason Reitman's latest instant classic offering. Well guess what? I have now seen Up In The Air and am firmly placed on the cutting edge of three weeks ago.

This is based on a book written in 2001 but, in a lucky break for the filmmakers, the economy has collapsed thus making this the perfect time for a story about a man who fires people for a living. I'm sure the champagne and party hats were broken out at the Jason Reitman household when that happened. George Clooney does some of his best work as Ryan Bingham, a man who is hired by companies to do their firing for them. Bingham really likes his job which sounds odd but he doesn't see it as a vicious or heartless service. He tries to present this as an opportunity and, occasionally, succeeds in making the poor schmuck who just lost his or her job feel better.

Bingham spends most of the year on the road doing this and he loves it. He's an expert in this lifestyle and meets the perfect woman in the form of Vera Farmiga's Alex Goran, a fellow road warrior who delights in the idea of meeting Ryan for occasional, passionate hookups whenever they're within driving distance of each other. Unfortunately, Irony decides to visit Bingham, move in and eat all his food when his boss, Gregory Craig (the always good Jason Bateman) pulls him off the road and tells him that they'll now be firing people over internet video chats and that, though he'll still have a job, his beloved lifestyle will now end. He goes on one last road trip with the recent college graduate, the bubbly, awkward Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) and tries to do what the people he's been firing all these years have had to do: figure out what's next.

This life-in-transition story makes for an excellent film. Clooney and Vera Farmiga make acting look effortless as they move confidently and masterfully through their world. Anna Kendrick plays an excellent counterpoint to that couple as her Natalie Keener looks completely lost in the world of airports, hotel rooms and strange cities and moves like a girl who literally has a stick up her rectum*. Together they join Ryan in his search for "What's Next" as, like the people he fires and, for that matter, most people, he didn't really have a Plan B in the event his life was suddenly and dramatically altered.

Up In The Air is as good as everyone said it was. Jason Reitman pretty much owns the label "One of America's Best Filmmakers" with this and shows us that Juno and Thank You For Smoking weren't flukes. It's worthy of being included in the genre of other great life-in-transition movies like About A Boy or High Fidelity.

As someone who recently had to face his "What's Next?" phase of his life, I can relate to the quality and accuracy of this movie. Nah, I'm just kidding. Life's been going swimmingly for me. That sounded good, though.

*I swear, I mean this as a compliment on her performance and acting ability.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Michael Bay's Sherlock Holmes

Before I do anything else, let me clear something up. This is the story of the fictional detective of Victorian London who solved crimes through his ability to extrapolate complex solutions from relatively small and innocuous clues. This is not the story of a famous porn star in the 1970s. If it were, the title would be John Holmes, not Sherlock Holmes. This means the movie will be filled with scenes of of stodgy white guys solving crimes while eating fish and chips, not some woman having semen shot into her face. Glad I was able to clear that up for you. Moving on.

I titled this Michael Bay's Sherlock Holmes but it's not on the level of Transformers 2. In fact, it's pretty good until it starts copying Die Hard. I suppose this shouldn't be surprising from a screenplay that credits five writers, one of whom wrote Invictus and another of whom wrote XXX:State of the Union and Jumper. Add to this mix director Guy Ritchie, a man who always strives to make quircky, unusual and high quality action films. I say "strives" because he almost always utterly fails, at least in the "high quality" part. I will say that this is his best work so far, a fact I will credit to the fact he no longer has to listen to ex-wife Madonna taking on three guys and a farm animal in the next room while he's trying to edit his movies.

Robert Downey Jr.s portrayal of the famous detective is not 100% accurate but it's pretty good and at least stands apart, in a good way, from every other fellow who's ever played Holmes. I can say the same about Jude Law's Dr. Watson, a character almost always played as an awkward, overweight bumbler when in fact he was a former Marine, a crack shot and was capable of observation and deduction in criminal cases, though not on Holmes' level. The cast is rounded out by the always likable Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, possibly the only woman Holmes ever loved. While she wasn't the master criminal in the stories that she is in this movie, she did once outwit Holmes, a fact that only caused him to admire and fixate upon her for years after that. The weakest part of the cast is the villain Lord Blackwood, played by Guy Ritchie regular Mark Strong. The character is simply too dull and one dimensional to be interesting, odd since he's supposedly a powerful sorcerer who somehow manages to come back from the dead.

The movie's plot centers around Holmes' attempts to foil the plans of the evil Lord Blackwood, a fellow whom Holmes and Watson captured after he had subjected five girls to human sacrifice in order to gain the power of black magic. It must have worked since Blackwood was hanged but that didn't stop him from walking out of his own tomb. In the meantime, Holmes' former lover Irene Adler, an American criminal (thus mercifully sparing Rachel McAdams the necessity of attempting a British accent), shows up wanting to hire Holmes to find a man who turns out to be one of Blackwood's employees. Holmes is especially interested in who hired her and discovers that he is a professor. If you are at all familiar with Sherlock Holmes lore, I don't have to tell you any more except that we'll see way more of this guy when Sherlock Holmes 2 comes out.

The movie then moves between having Holmes find obscure clues that everyone else pretty much trips over and participating in Bruckheimer-like action sequences that really don't belong in a film about Sherlock Holmes. The movie's okay when not doing one of those or having really dumb scenes like Lord Blackwood convincing some members of Parliament to help him betray their country, society and god by murdering the rest of Parliament so Blackwood can take over.

Anyway, is it worth watching? Yeah, I guess. I'm not sure if Guy Ritchie would appreciate that opinion, especially since I said it was his best work and my highest opinion of it is, "Yeah, I guess." The parts where Holmes is using his brain and interacting with Watson and Irene Adler are pretty good. The parts that rip off Die Hard, especially the final confrontation with Blackwood, aren't. Still, it's okay and people seemed to be entertained. You can't really ask much more of a big budget studio event film. Unless it's Avatar, the big budget studio event film you should see instead of Sherlock Holmes.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas all. I've used this before but what the hell, it's still good.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- Christmas Eve Edition

Judging by that title, you'd think there would be loads of Christmas related content. You would be wrong.

I like this video made by the editor of The Onion. The voiceover was done by the great British comedian Peter Serafinowicz. I wonder if I spelled Serafinowicz correctly. No way to know. Moving on.

To you, Friday is Christmas. To me, it's Doctor Who Day. David Tennant's final appearance as The Doctor premieres on BBC One this Friday though it won't show in the U.S. until Saturday, I assume because England likes the thought of me being tortured. Still, if I wanted to watch it on Friday, there are ways...um, not that I would ever use those ways because they're wrong. Anyway, the episode called "The End of Time" looks to be a very good episode of my favorite show, a show that might get even better once Coupling and Jekyll author Stephen Moffat takes over as showrunner. All this means nothing to they who are not fans of Doctor Who. If you don't like that show, you're wrong.

I know I've said this before but, come on, The Squeakquel?

I must not understand movie marketing because I find it fascinating that neither this short trailer nor this longer trailer for the movie Valentine's Day bother to tell us that the cast includes Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner. At least the second one showed them in it but it still didn't list their names. It did list Eric Dane's name so, while they ignored the fact that some people may want to watch a movie with two of the hottest young stars in show business, they will manage to get all those mega legions of Eric Dane fans* into the theater.

It's a shame about Brittany Murphy. It's also a shame that every little detail of her death rates front page coverage. The way it's being covered, you'd think TMZ and other gossip sites were expecting her to rise from the dead.

According to this douchebag, movies just aren't as profitable as they were in the olden days because of all the hot, filthy sex. You may know sex as that thing to which all other pleasures are compared. He completely ignores the rise of television, video games and DVDs in the time period he cites and lays it all at the feet of the sexual revolution. Oh well, I'm sure Hollywood appreciates it when right wingers give them advice on how to become more profitable.

It's nice to see James Cameron's technological advances will be put to good use in future films.

Merry Christmas all. It's only Christmas Eve so there's still time for you all to chip in and buy me an iPhone. I promise I won't pressure you with a reminder that I proved free entertainment all year long.

*I believe their organization is called the "Who The Fuck Is Eric Dane?" Club.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bizarro World Movie Reviews -- The Squeakquel

Once every generation, a movie is made that acts as a clarion call for change. It slaps the movie industry in the face and tells it that, after this, nothing will ever be the same. Films as diverse as The Jazz Singer, , Star Wars and Pulp Fiction have filled this role in times past and now, during this most holy and festive time of the year, a new movie has joined their ranks.

Alvin and the Chipmunks - The Squeakquel is the kind of movie that works on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin when talking about it. Is it a children's movie? A broad comedy? A musical? A portrait of courage, honor and friendship? A call for humans to live in greater harmony with the natural world? It's all of those and more.

This is not a sequel (or Squeakquel, a word we should all get used to saying in the same we got used to saying Recession and Chipotle) so much as it is a continuation of a timeless tale. The chipmunks are riding high with a successful music career. They have nothing to prove and no worlds to conquer yet they desire challenges so they go to high school. This episode of their lives is a searing, brutally honest portrait of prejudice against those who are different. Somehow, the movie manages to simultaneously make their experience sad and uplifting as it melds the pitfalls of the high school experience with the chipmunks trademark humor and a dash of music to make the whole thing one of the truly great moviegoing experiences.

Alvin and the Chipmunks - The Squeakquel will serve as a blueprint for the next generation of filmmakers. It shines as a light in these trying times and uses anthropomorphic animals to show all of humanity the way forward. Seeing this movie is not mere entertainment but rather a privilege granted to us by God. When you see it, you will not be the person when you exit that you were when you entered. This is not just a Squeakquel for the first Chipmunks movie. It is the beginning of the Squeakquel of the human race itself.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Skipping

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year so I didn't have time to write anything. I'll be back tomorrow.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ava-Tard

I had simply assumed months ago that Avatar would suck. It's lame plot combined with what were at the time equally lame special effects meant that this would be the end of director James Cameron's career and that studio heads would laugh him out of their offices when he got desperate and proposed a Terminator/Titanic crossover. Working under the "Oh man oh man is this ever gonna suck" assumption, I figured a few weeks ago that I would call my review of this movie "Ava-Tard." Clever, right? I bet you wish you'd thought of it. Unfortunately, I was too clever because, as I mentioned last week, Avatar actually defied the Cinematic Laws of Nature and turned out to be good and not just good by the "At least the special effects and fight scenes look cool" standard of good to which one normally holds big budget action pictures. No, it's actually good, but no way was I going to give up that title. Moving on.

Sure, Cameron mined material from Dances With Wolves and Poul Anderson's famous 1957 story Call Me Joe as well as a few other sources but god damn, if you're going to do a ripoff, this is the way to do it. Sam Worthington plays Jake Sully, a Marine in the year 2154 who lost the use of his legs in combat. Even though the technology of that time makes it possible to allow him to walk again, the grateful nation that sent him into war won't pay for it so he accepts a job that was originally supposed to go to his deceased twin brother. He will go to Pandora, a habitable moon that circles a distant gas giant where a corporation is trying to make Pandora a better place by stripping it of a valuable energy source called Unobtainium (thus adding The Core writer John Rogers to the list of people who "contributed" to this movie).

In addition to an atmosphere humans can't breathe and several large, powerful animals, God has seen fit to place our Unobtainium under the feet of the Na'vi, a primitive race of ten foot blue skinned people who seem to think that just because they live there means that they shouldn't have to leave and let us strip mine their sacred lands. Jake Sully's job is to have his consciousness transferred into a genetically engineered Na'vi body called an Avatar. He won't be a covert operative as the real Na'vi spot the Avatars right off the bat. Rather, he's supposed to live with them and gain their trust. He's aided in this task by a Na'vi girl played by Zoe Saldana called Neytiri who looks like she just stepped off the cover of this month's Maxim-Pandora edition.

Cameron sets up the story the same way he set up Titanic. Nearly two hours are spent watching Jake learn about these people and their amazing world so that we'll give a damn who wins the climactic battle between the humans and the Na'vi. Unlike other graphics-rich films like Transformers or G.I. Joe, we meet interesting characters like Sigourney Weaver's Grace Augustine, a scientist both fearless and caring and Stephen Lang's sadistic Colonel Quartich and forget after a while that these people and their rich landscape were made inside a computer. Cameron lives up to science fiction's greatest challenges. He creates a convincing alien landscape and evokes a true sense of wonder. True, the aliens themselves are basically tall humans with blue skin but there is an alien consciousness in the movie that thinks and behaves differently from humans, thus meeting another of science fiction's great challenges. I guess that's what I like about it. Avatar, like other 2009 films The Box, Knowing and Moon, is serious science fiction. Things that at first seem to be mysticism have realistic explanations. I kept waiting for moments of stupidity you come to expect from big budget films, moments that never came.

Avatar is a remarkable achievement and is good enough to make me forgive James Cameron for denying me the fun of ripping apart what should have been a symbol of excessive, ego-driven film making.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Mighty Will Fall

Sure, the makers of Avatar are full of themselves now but just wait till next week when they have to compete for movie audiences with Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. Go Munk yourself, James Cameron.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Greatest of Words

Here it is, Avatar Day. It looks like this will be a very good movie (review should be up on Monday). Luckily, I've managed to get hold of a copy of the script and, if James Cameron managed to put even a portion of this on the screen, this movie will walk away with even more Oscars than Titanic received. To prove my point, I've excerpted some choice quotes and reprinted them here. If you get overwhelmed, don't fight it. Just let these words wash over you and work their magic.

"Wow, this futuristic crap is awesome."

"Wouldn't mind finding out if every bit of you is blue, if you know what I mean. Heh heh."

"I think it's just great that hair and clothing styles haven't changed since 2009."

"This planet blows. Why couldn't our rare, valuable elements have been on a planet where ice cream grows on trees and the animals give you handjobs?"

"In retrospect, we should have figured out the guy in the wheelchair would betray us. Pretty much the same thing happened in the 20th century film Dances With Wolves."

"Jeez, it's 2163 and we still haven't invented lightsabres."

"This planet is so vivid, I feel like we're in 3-D or something."

"There's nothing to do on this planet. We don't even have a damn Sbarro's and the only movies in our DVD collection are Twilight and Bride Wars."

"I have to admire the way our species made it to other worlds after the cataclysmic natural disasters on 2012."

"Sure, that rock we mine here is a good source of income but I really started raking in the cash when I started the very first Na'vi upskirt website."

"We have built a statue to history's greatest hero, James Cameron, a man admired for his visionary filmmaking skills as well as his 14 inch penis."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- 12/17/09

For those of you playing along at home: mark the spot on your cards reserved for my regular feature in which I give brief comments on various subjects called Look At My Briefs. Anyone get Bingo?

One paragraph in this AICN post stood out:
“Better Off Ted,” broadcast’s least-watched primetime Tuesday non-repeat, didn’t fall anywhere near as much as “Scrubs” but still looks like a lost cause.
HEY MORONS! Yeah, I'm talking to you. Better Off Ted is awesome. Start watching it. I can't believe I live in a world where crap like Two and a Half Men and The New Adventures of Old Christine manage to stay on the air while good shows like Better Off Ted fall by the wayside. Just so you know, if a guy comes into your house next Tuesday and forces you to change the channel to Better Off Ted, the gun won't be loaded. Maybe.

Roy Disney died this week. I know very little about Roy Disney except that, back in the 60s, he fired my favorite writer, Harlan Ellison. This would ordinarily make him the object of my wrath but, seeing as he's dead, I'm willing to let bygones be bygones. This time.

I see Avatar's Tomatometer rating has dropped from 92% to 84% which makes me say IN YOUR FACE, JAMES CAMERON. Cameron is another guy who once offended the God Who Walks Like A Man, Harlan Ellison, back when he ripped off Ellison's work and made into The Terminator. Interestingly, Avatar itself is a ripoff not only of Dances With Wolves but also of the 1957 Poul Anderson story Call Me Joe. This makes me look forward to James Cameron's next movie in which a robopsychologist tries to deal with the Three Laws of Robotics.

As of this writing, Did You Hear About The Morgans? is currently clocking in at zero percent. This is good news as it has nowhere to go but up. BOOM, BABY!

The FBI has arrested the guy who leaked the workprint of Wolverine last Spring. Good. Because of him, they apparently couldn't release the movie as it was and had to quickly whip up a much crappier version that was released in theaters. That guy should be ashamed of himself.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that Hollywood reaches Mean Girls levels of gossip around awards season. You would think that experienced and sophisticated members of the show business industry would know to treat certain stories skeptically yet they often don't. My theory is that human beings in general are stupid.

All right, I know I trashed James Cameron at the start of today's post but I would really like to see this happen. Also, I would have a great deal of respect for Cameron as a filmmaker if one of Avatar's characters at some point honestly utters the line, "Man, this planet looks expensive."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Getting Ready For Friday

As you all know, there's a huge movie being released this Friday and I, for one, am very excited. It's something that will surely change the way we look at cinema and seems destined to be one the biggest moneymakers in movie history. Yes, I'm sure we're all going to visit our local multiplexes this weekend to see Did You Hear About The Morgans?

Morgans mania is like nothing I've ever seen and I admit to having been swept up in it. As a service to my readers, I have prepared a handy checklist to make sure you fully enjoy both the movie itself and the fandom experience that goes along with it.
  • Be sure to get your tickets ahead of time. This will be convenient and give you the ability to walk by people waiting in what will surely be long lines just before showtime and say, "SCREW YOU! Enjoy sitting in the front row, losers." I like doing that, anyway.
  • Figure out now which Did You Hear About The Morgans? character you're going to dress up as when you see the movie. I'll be going as Sam Elliot's rural sheriff character Clay Wheeler. I'm preparing all sort of quips about how dumb city folk are who can't even milk a cow. Stupid city folk.
  • Know that you'll have to deal with the haters. Every big movie generates a backlash and inspires at least a small segment of the population that has nothing better to do than try to tear down something that people love. The proper thing to do is simply ignore them when they make fun of you dressing up as Sarah Jessica Parker or however you express your love for the film. If you can't ignore them, follow my lead. Fill up a squirtgun with your own piss and empty it on anyone who even looks at you funny.
  • Organize some Morgans themed events both before and after the movie. I'm having a trivia contest before and after my friends and I will all go to a local restaurant and spend two hours screaming, "OH MY GOD THAT MOVIE WAS SO AWESOME!" before going back to see the midnight show.
  • Create your own website devoted to Morgans. Set up message boards, create interactive games and publish your own Did You Hear About The Morgans? fanfiction. Doing this will let everyone know exactly how cool you are.
I doubt I'll sleep between now and Friday so I'll be working on my new site MorgansAreAwesome.com and filling my squirtguns with piss between now and then. See you at the movies this Friday.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How Did We Let This Happen?

I just don't understand it. Things just aren't supposed to go this way. Life is unpredictable, true, but certain events are supposed to go a certain way. As sure as the sun rises in the East, some movies are just plain supposed to suck. I knew months ahead of time that both Transformers movies were going to be exercises in pain. I knew the same about Twilight and I knew that New Moon would be even worse. I knew the same thing about Avatar. For months now, I've been certain that Avatar would be both a boring ripoff of Dances With Wolves and an example of wretched and unchecked Hollywood excess.

Now it looks as if Avatar is actually going to be good. If you clicked on that link, you saw Avatar's Rotten Tomatoes page where, as of this writing, the movie currently has a 92% positive rating, a number that's actually higher than it was this morning.

Damn it, this wasn't supposed to happen! I was supposed to be able to write a review next week called "Ava-tard" and talk about how James Cameron couldn't have made My Dinner With Andre without spending $200 million. Now I'll have to marvel at the film's visual delights and maybe even talk about how I was touched by both the story's romantic elements and how I cheered when the aliens battled the invading human army.

Oh well, this was bound to happen. The upshot of all this is that we get to see the rarest of breeds, a good high concept studio made action film. Plus, it's not like we're going to run out of bad movies anytime soon. Next year, I'll get to take apart the new Macgruber movie, something that is guaranteed to be the worst piece of crap in the history of...what? DAMN IT!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Help Comes To Frogtown

Believe it or not, kids, there was a time when those animated films whose characters come with your Happy Meals were drawn by the real hands of real people and not by pixels put together inside some guy's Macintosh. They often contained wonderful songs sung to this day. You know them as the songs your grandparents sing that you drown out by cranking Justin Bieber on your iPod. Yes, classic films like Snow White and The Little Mermaid were actually the result of talented artists drawing thousands of pictures and not the result of a primitive CGI process. And now we have a new offering in what just a few years ago was considered a dying art form. Does The Princess and the Frog measure up to the films I mentioned? No, but it's still pretty good.

The Princess and the Frog is Disney's latest attempt to slap its name on a classic story and proceed for the rest of eternity to sue anyone who ever tries to use that same story for anything else ever again. At least this time they put an interesting twist on the whole thing by setting the story in New Orleans and having the main characters be ethnically diverse instead of the all-Mormon casts they've always used before. The story opens in a rather large mansion as two little girls, the rich, spoiled white girl Charlotte and her not-rich and sure-as-hell-not-spoiled black friend Tiana are being told the story of the Frog Prince. Tiana loudly proclaims that she would never kiss a frog thus guaranteeing that fate will play a little joke on her later in life. Tiana's mother who works as a seamstress for New Orleans' wealthy citizens. This means Tiana gets to spend her days envying people who live in lovely mansions before going home with her mother to her family's lower middle class home. She does have a loving and optimistic father who never lets go of his dream to open a high class restaurant. Unfortunately for him, this is a Disney film and they always take sadistic pleasure in brutally slaughtering parents so their kids can learn important life lessons.

Fortunately for us, we don't have to witness the father's execution as it takes place during a cutaway from Tiana's childhood to her young adult years. Tiana has made her father's dream of owning a restaurant her own and spends all her time working to make that dream a reality. Her friend Charlotte hires her to cater a party she is throwing for Prince Naveen of Maldonia, a country I assume is somewhere between Freedonia and the Grand Duchy of Fenwick. Naveen's secret purpose for visiting New Orleans is to meet and marry the wealthy Charlotte after his parents cut him off for being a lazy party boy. While touring the streets of NOLA, he encounters a witch doctor named Dr. Facilier who turns Naveen into a frog. Naveen meets Tiana and, thinking she's a princess, figures that a kiss from her will turn him human again. It turns out Tiana should have stuck by her vow to never kiss a frog since the fact that she's not actually a princess means that Naveen's kiss passed the curse onto her and she turns into a frog as well.

Time Magazine recently named The Princess and the Frog the year's #1 movie. As someone who has seen the movie and enjoyed it, my response to that is: really? It's not even the best animated movie of the year, an honor that belongs to Up (Time's #2 choice). Still, as I said, it's pretty good. I don't see any of the songs becoming standards but, all in all, it's a satisfying film. It even has some clever moments such as the way they deal with a very sad moment and the story's ultimate solution. I hope the movie's success means we'll be seeing more hand drawn films as it's still a wonderful art form and a welcome relief from the homogenized look of modern CGI animated movies.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Prediction

Currently, Avatar is being trashed in conservative circles because it portrays good, decent white humans as villains trying to steal the land of a non-white primitive people.

Unfortunately for them, most other critics seem to like it. This means Big Hollywood will adopt the strategy they used for movies like The Blind Side where they trash it for being politically incorrect then, when it becomes a huge hit, they backtrack and claim it's actually a win for conservative values.

Therefore, after they see that they failed not only to kill Avatar but to even blunt its box office, expect to see several Big Hollywood articles saying that it's a conservative screed that vindicates the Iraq War and that Sam Worthington's wheelchair bound character who enters an alien body clearly represents George W. Bush.

Another possibility is that it will make $300 million and they'll claim that they prevented it from making $400 million but I'm sticking with my first guess.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Get Email

Name and address are withheld but this is an excerpt from an actual email I received regarding a poor review I gave to a recent episode of Flash Forward:
Flash Forward is a great show. How would you like it if someone wrote on their blog that they wanted to rape your sister?
Well, he's got me there. I wouldn't like it if people wrote that they wanted to rape my sister so I guess I shouldn't have criticized Flash Forward, something I'll stop doing the moment it stops sucking.

Friday, December 11, 2009

All I Want For Christmas

First off, I want a crapload more than just my two front teeth. I have those already and, if they did fall out, insurance would cover them so I'm good in the "two front teeth" area. Since I supply you all with free entertainment year round, I'm sure you all want to break open those piggy banks and shower me with expensive gifts but can't thanks to the economy. You need not worry, though. Today I will supply you all with a wish list with items that you can easily afford.
  1. An iPhone. Okay, that's kind of expensive so make that anything I can speak into that accesses the web, plays music, records video that also lets me make phone calls with a little logo on it that looks like fruit. Oh, and is inexpensive.
  2. Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men. (Please note that I have a plan to get both of those but it involves me having an iPhone.)
  3. A complete collection of the Harry Potter books. Note: to be "complete" it must contain the fanfic I wrote where Harry teams up with Buffy, CSI, Wonder Woman and that "Can you hear me now?" guy from the Verizon commercials to battle the team of Lord Voldemort and Emperor Palpatine.
  4. A Five Guys cheeseburger with A-1 and mustard. Seriously, those things are like crack to me.
  5. A law banning parody films like Meet The Spartans and Epic Movie. We're up to about four of those a year now and they all suck, mainly because they all have the same jokes, none of which are funny.
  6. More shows about acerbic anti-social geniuses who solve mysteries. How could that premise ever get old?
  7. Something that rhymes Hi Phone.
  8. I want parachute pants to come back in style. I have a whole closet full of them and can't wear them anywhere. Why hasn't some retro 80s fascination started that made those hot again?
  9. I want to be friends with John Stamos. He doesn't have a huge career right now and would probably like to have me as his friend. Make it happen.
  10. My two front tee...Bah, never mind.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- 12/10/09

My early Christmas gift to all of you is another edition of my brief comments on various subjects I like to call Look At My Briefs. (Expect a similar gift this time next week.)

For the most part, I can't argue with The A.V. Club's choices for 50 Best Films of the Decade though Up should have been on the list. My personal favorite would probably be a three way tie between Memento, No Country For Old Men and Lord of the Rings. But...um...The Prestige? If you've never seen it, that's the movie where Hugh Jackman takes the most amazing thing humans have ever created and uses it to do a dumb trick for the purpose of petty revenge. There are a few others I would bump off the list but that's what really stuck out for me.

It must be a slow week for Chicago's drug, robbery and political corruption industries if local law enforcement has this much time to prosecute and possibly send someone to jail for filming three minutes of New Moon in a movie theater. Frankly I think the stupidity of the Twilight movies is somewhat muted when seen in grainy bootleg footage and not super slick film with high production values.

Really? Macgruber isn't even a sketch so much as it is a series of quick throwaway gags. This could set a dangerous precedent that would eventually lead to "Two A-Holes" and "Gilly" movies.

This is yet another of those "Everything sure was awesome back in the olden days" articles in which someone who hates sex talks about how movies were so much sexier when no one actually had sex and it's another example of people who just can't get the hell out of the past.

Put a hundred monkeys in a room with synthesizers and they could have easily come up with this generic song from Avatar. Here I was thinking Adam Lambert's song from 2012 would be the most annoying movie song of the year too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Good, The Bad and the Silly

Today I focus on two struggling science fiction shows that either face cancellation or have already received their death sentences.

Flash Forward, the show in which everyone in the world were given visions of their future, deserves to go but is currently slated to get at least one more chance. I try to like this show, I really do, but every time it makes me think it's going to be something special they do something supremely silly. I mean silly on an epic scale. The previous episode in which an American doctor searches for a Japanese girl he met in his flash forward was pretty good and had a genuine surprise at the end. This made me look forward to the next episode or, as I now refer to it, the episode that kicked me in the crotch.

The latest episode, titled "A561984", showed us FBI agents Mark Benford and Demetri Noh heading to Hong Kong to track down a woman who told Demetri he was destined to die next March. They did this even though their superior, Stanford Wedeck, told them not to and they ignore him when he tells them to come home. Thus, Wedeck gets to join the large pantheon of high ranking law enforcement officers who have to deal with loners who sometimes have to break the rules to get the job done. Anyway, Benford and Noh track down the Persian woman at a Hong Kong restaurant and manage to get some information out of her, specifically that Noh will die because Benford shoots him. After that she says, "I can't tell you any more." Why was she able to tell them that but not any more? Shut up, that's why. Benford then does what any of us would do. He pulls his gun while she's surrounded by armed guards and tries to take her...well, who knows where the fuck he was going to take her in a city run by the Chinese. Oh, I bet you didn't know American FBI agents were allowed to carry guns in Communist China. I didn't either but if Flash Forward says they can I guess it must be true. As Benford put very little thought into this major felony, he didn't figure that one of the advantages of being an authoritarian police state is that the police show up very quickly when a maniac is holding someone at gun point in the middle of the street. But hey, it's not the Chinese who show up but rather a CIA tactical squad. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the Chinese allow the CIA free reign in the streets of Hong Kong, another thing I now know thanks to Flash Forward. After this, Wedeck gets to do another thing that many high ranking law enforcement officers in movies and television have done. He orders Benford to turn in his badge and his gun.

To sum up: an experienced FBI agent thought it was a good idea to defy his boss, kidnap someone in public in the middle of China only to have the whole plan thwarted by American agents IN CHINA. When Flash Forward first came on, I mentioned how worried I was that this brainchild of Brannon Braga would be stupid and I was right. I hear that Flash Forward is being retooled and won't be back until March. I can't see it getting any better unless they bring Graham Chapman back from the dead so he can put on his colonel's uniform and loudly announce whenever things get too silly.

Moving on to show number two: Dollhouse. I was not a fan of Dollhouse's first season. It was amazing to me that I didn't like a show made by Joss Whedon but I just couldn't be entertained by the idea of these people being used as slaves and prostitutes. I only watched season two because of the season one finale with Alan Tudyk as a rogue Doll called Alpha and an unaired episode on the season one DVD showed some promise. Season two did have some improvements but not enough to draw in new viewers and Fox has already announced its cancellation. I wouldn't have cared too much except that this week's episode was good. I mean really, really good. One of the things that always made Joss Whedon's shows entertaining was the quality of the villains. People (or possibly creatures) like Spike, Darla, the Mayor and the First were worthy protagonists to Buffy and were fully fleshed out characters who kept us coming back. Dollhouse had a little of this with Alpha which is why I watched season two. It wasn't until this week, though, that Dollhouse really came into its own thanks to a new villain.

Summer Glau was introduced this week as Bennett Halverson. After the corporation that runs the Dollhouse captured Eliza Dushku's Echo, they brought her to see Bennett Halverson, a brilliant programmer who apparently has a history with Echo's original personality, enough of a history that she starts torturing Echo. She is interrupted by Echo's main programmer, Topher Brink, and that's where it gets interesting. Topher and Bennett are instantly attracted to each other and we see Bennett and Topher nervously and genuinely flirt with each other while simultaneously working against each other. Bennett is revealed as funny and nerdy as she is malevolent and sadistic and is the kind of character who would make me watch this show every week. That is, if Fox hadn't already canceled it. They did say they were going to make sure the storyline was wrapped up so at least we'll have that. I'm not sure whose fault it is that it took the better part of a year for this show to find its legs though I'm betting the guilty party's name rhymes with Cox Cetwork.

So, the show I like goes down the tubes while the dumb show gets to go on and on. The good news is that Joss Whedon will now have time to make more Doctor Horrible films while Brannon Braga will now be too busy to attempt the same thing. That's something, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Boy On The Side

The audience for The Blind Side will find it to be filled with twists and surprises unless they've ever turned on ESPN in the past few years. Anyone who's done that they'd have seen a fellow named Michael Oher playing left tackle for Ole' Miss before being a first round draft pick for the Baltimore Ravens. That sort of takes the suspense out of anything you may see playing out on the screen. The kid isn't going to die of leukemia or suffer a career ending game injury or have his leg gnawed off by a badger the day before his first big game or however the hell sports movies usually end. Hell, as of this writing he's scheduled to play the Packers on Monday Night Football. This is a problem since the movie isn't all that great and would have been more entertaining, for me at least, had I not known it would all turn out all right. Quality-wise, this movie is about as good as another recent movie about a real life football player overcoming adversity called The Express. The difference for me is that I didn't know much about that story so the suspense was enough to hold my attention. Not so with The Blind Side.

Sandra Bullock apparently never received the memo that women her age aren't supposed to have successful Hollywood careers and stars in her third movie, and second big hit, this year as Leigh Anne Tuohy, a Memphis interior decorator who is used to having the world around her bend to the force of her will. Through a series of circumstances, she meets a homeless boy named Michael Oher. Leigh Anne doesn't seem like the overly sentimental type but she takes him into her life and the lives of her family because Michael is one of the most decent people she's ever met and he has no one else. Leigh Anne is a huge football fan and the movie opens with a monologue from her describing the famous moment when Lawrence Taylor sacked Jim Theisman. Theisman's career ended and the importance of the left tackle was elevated since they had to protect the quarterback from guys like Lawrence Taylor. Leigh Anne quickly realizes that Michael possesses the physical gifts that would make him an excellent left tackle and from then on the movie becomes the story of Michael and his new family overcoming any obstacles that stand between Michael and his destiny to play in the NFL.

The Blind Side isn't a particularly bad movie. It's also not a particularly good movie. It's just...bleh. Sandra Bullock's good as is Tim McGraw as her husband but Quintin Aaron who plays Michael always seems to be asleep. Michael is supposed to be a very withdrawn person who, due to his lack of education (though it turns out he's quite intelligent), simply stares at the ground when people speak to him because he doesn't understand a great deal of what they're saying. The problem with that is that neither the actor nor the filmmakers could make that something that was particularly interesting to watch.

The Blind Side is a feel-good movie and I did feel good coming out of the movie, partly because for once a nice guy didn't finish last and partly because the movie was over. It's also teaches poor black people that the best way to change their circumstances is to be adopted by rich white people. That, I think, is a lesson that could benefit us all.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy Birthday To THIS GUY!!!

Today's my birthday so this is all you get. I, on the other hand, get to relax while getting ready for the surprise birthday party you all are planning for me. Don't worry, I'll look surprised.

Friday, December 4, 2009

An Open Letter To Kate Beckinsale

Dear Kate,

Can I call you Kate? I'm sure I can. You seem like a nice person. Your character in Whiteout was nice so that means you must be nice in real life, right? Heck, even when you played a vampire it was a nice vampire who would probably let me call her Kate except Kate wasn't her name so she would look at me like I was crazy if I did that. Still, you see what I mean.

So Kate, you're probably wondering why I wanted to talk with you. I have a proposition that I think could be mutually beneficial. I'd like you to accompany me to a showing of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. I know you think I'm either joking or insane but hear me out.

I write movie reviews so I end up seeing most major releases even if I think they're going to blow. However, there's no damn way I'm ever going to be caught dead in a theater if a movie has words like "The Squeakquel" in the title or whose poster has a tagline like "Get Munked". I would, however, go if you were my escort. That way, whenever something stupid happened, I could look over to you and say, "Wow, Kate Beckinsale, that sure was stupid," or, "Wow, I'm actually out with Kate Beckinsale at this stupid movie."

Here's you laughing at an insanely clever observation I just made about the movie.
How can you possibly turn this down?

At this point you're thinking, "What's in this for me, the awesome Kate Beckinsale?" You have kids whose young, innocent minds would actually think Squeakquelising or Getting Munked is a good idea and will almost certainly want to see this movie. They'll nag and cry and scream that whether you take them to this movie or not is the ultimate test of your maternal love. Good luck getting even your husband to go with you too. What sane individual would want see some dumb movie about squeaky voiced rodents even if it was with you? THIS GUY, that's who.

This is a win/win for both of us. In fact, I think you're the one who's coming out ahead in this deal which gives me the confidence to add a few conditions.
  1. You must make out with me for at least 60% of the movie. I won't demand to touch boob or anything though I'm not taking it off the table.
  2. As we're leaving the theater, you must loudly say, "I got plans for you, stallion." That's ambiguous enough to give you plausible deniability in case any tabloids report on it. Again, you don't actually have to do anything though if something happened naturally, well, we're both adults, if you get my meaning.
  3. You must dress like this:
Hopefully you held onto this though I'm sure
there are costume shops who would rent you one.


These terms can be negotiated (you could wear less, for instance) but I get the feeling this is a done deal and look forward to having a good time Squeakeling with you.

Note: if you choose not to do this, I'll tell people it's because you're a lesbian. I apologize in advance.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- 12/3/09

This will be the last edition of Look At My Briefs before my birthday this Monday. To celebrate this fact, I present to you another edition of my brief comments on various subjects called Look At My Briefs.

Good Lord, Twilight 3 is coming out IN JUNE? At least with the last one we had a year to decompress. I see the Earth swallowing up the world's movie theaters ran than allow Eclipse to be set loose on the world so soon. Even worse news is that the director is the same guy who made the boring 30 Days of Night. Oh well, they haven't even started working on Breaking Dawn, one of the craziest things ever put on paper, so we'll have a nice, long Twilight break after June.

I think Zombieland was a case of lightning in a bottle but I'm happy to see a sequel is being made and will be equally happy if my "lighting in a bottle" comment is proven wrong.

Of all the things in the world to get pissed off about, whether a movie star's daughter wears high heels is on the same level as having a complete meltdown because a piece of the Colonel's Original Recipe found its way into your bucket of Extra Crispy. Seriously, world, get over yourselves. You're not better people because Suri Cruise wears heels and your kid doesn't.

I had planned to comment on this but everything I wrote eventually turned into "HOT GIRLS SCREWING WOO HOO" so I shall leave it alone.

I'm happy to see I'm not the only who noticed that Scyfyie's new show Haven is based on Stephen King's The Colorado Kid in the same way that Little Women could be described as being based on The Colorado Kid.

I have no idea what they had to choose from but I find it hard to believe that the Sundance people couldn't find some lighter films. Indie comedies can be wonderful things but I suspect that both the people in charge of selecting these movies as well as the filmmakers themselves find depressing drama to be more "important" than comedies which are more difficult to make. If they weren't, why are there so few good ones? Hold your loved ones close if they're heading to Sundance this year as there's a better than average chance they'll slash their wrists before the festival is over.

I'm really looking forward to next summer's release of Iron Man 2: The Squeaquel.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Not At All About The Benjamins

So far this week I've reviewed a somewhat boring martial arts movie and a fairly lame comedy. These are both examples of standard, predictable films that Hollywood insists on making again and again, over and over, ad infinitum, unto the end of the world. A billion years from now when the Sun goes nova people will be in a theater watching a movie about a two fisted loner cop who has to go outside the system to deal with a gang of sadistic drug dealers who killed his partner. The cop will be a robot, his partner will be from Mars and the drug dealers will be lobsters who have evolved to human levels of intelligence but the plot will be the same otherwise. They probably won't be watching a movie like Franklyn.

Franklyn came out earlier in the year. I liked the look of the trailer and was annoyed that this British fantasy wasn't slated for a U.S. premiere. The movie is about four very damaged people living in London trying to put their lives back together. There's Emilia (Eva Green), a depressed artist trying to incorporate her own suicide into a performance piece. You also have Peter Esser (Bernard Hill), an older man looking for his son who escaped from a mental institution. Milo (Sam Riley) is a recently divorced man trying to track down his childhood sweetheart. Finally, you have Ryan Phillipe playing Jonathan Preest, the character who makes the movie really freaky and was probably the reason that American theaters didn't want to show this movie. Preest is a superhero who lives in an alternate world called Meanwhile City, a dark, depressing place ruled by an oppressive theocracy. Preest is the city's ultimate enemy. In Meanwhile City, you can follow any faith you want up to and including a religion built around washing machine instructions. Preest is the one thing you're not allowed to be: an atheist. It's odd to me that Preest's story about a superhero in an alternate, fictional world was actually the easiest of the four storylines to follow.

I almost stopped watching Franklyn during it's first half. It's basically four different movies that are, to varying degrees, depressing. It was mainly Preest's story and the wonderfully imaginative dystopian world he lived in that kept me watching. It became engrossing only when you begin to figure out what's really going on, find out how these four are connected and discover why the hell the movie is called Franklyn. After that, I couldn't turn away.

This is a truly original film. There are no scenes where someone says, "I have a bad feeling about this," or car chases in the Los Angeles River. It's dumb that this never showed in U.S. theaters, especially if the reason was a perception that it was pro-atheist since anyone who's actually seen the movie can tell you it wasn't. At least we have DVDs that give us access to these lost and neglected films so now at least I can recommend that you add Franklyn to your Netflix queue. If not, have fun in the theaters watching movies about sparkly vampires fighting ninjas while Los Angeles falls into the sea.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This Dog Bites

I think Robin Williams decided long ago that he was tired of doing comedies so he decided that they would never rise above the level of lame. How else do you explain one of the world's quickest wits making comedies like RV, Man of the Year and the mindbogglingly stupid License to Wed? This policy could also extend to sentimental melodramas which explains the suck factor of Jack, Patch Adams, The Bicentennial Man and August Rush. No, Williams prefers making intelligent, effective dramas which is why his best work has been in movies like Good Will Hunting, Insomnia and One Hour Photo. Need more proof that I'm right? Watch Old Dogs and say you disagree with me.

Old Dogs is about two successful New York sports marketing executives named Dan (Williams) and Charlie (John Travolta). Judging by their behavior, I would say that these two characters had never before encountered other human beings until the moment this movie began. Every time they're in the same room with other people it's like they go out of their way to make things awkward and uncomfortable. During a critical meeting with clients from Japan who could potentially bring them $50 million in new business, Charlie figures the best way to break the ice is to tell an extremely embarrassing story about Dan in which, after Dan's divorce, they went to Vegas. After drinking a huge amount of alcohol, Dan ended up getting a huge tattoo on his chest which somehow attracted Vicki (Kelly Preston), a woman who gets equally drunk and ends up marrying Dan and getting the whole thing annulled the next day. Because it was convenient for the plot, Vicki waited seven years to tell Dan that their beautiful drunk sex resulted in the birth of twins.

This puts the characters on a collision course not so much with wackiness but with abject stupidity. As I said, Dan and Charlie don't seem to know how to deal with other human beings and were apparently unaware of the existence of children before these two kids came into their lives. Should six year olds see Friday the 13th? Sure, why not? Should you kiss your daughter goodnight or shake her hand? At least Williams figured out afterward how stupid that was.

The movie's greatest sin is that so many of the jokes fail but the reason they fail is because the characters are so unbelievably stupid. Thus, the movie is unbelievably stupid. I will point out that the kids in the audience seemed to love it as kids not even born yet will laugh ten years from now when the same damn movie is made. Until then, we get to guess what sort of comedy stinker Robin Williams will choose as his next project. Will he play a Buddhist monk who must coach a children's hockey team? An alien trying to understand this thing humans call love? A hardboiled New York cop who joins a rural chapter of the Canadian mounties? I can't wait to find out.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Kick Flick

Ninja Assassin should have been better than it was. I'm not sure why Jackie Chan or Jet Li or, going back a bit further, Sonny Chiba or Bruce Lee could make significantly better martial arts movies for a fraction of the budget this one had. I was excited to see Ninja Assassin too when I saw one of the writers was Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski. For some reason, I just assumed this would set the movie a cut above other mindless action flicks. I forgot that Hollywood has a century long tradition of shoving the work of good writers into its mouth, digesting it and filming what comes out of the other end, a tradition proudly upheld by Ninja Assassin.

If you couldn't tell by the title, Ninja Assassin is not a Jane Austen adaptation, a Pixar film or a romantic comedy about jaded New Yorkers in their 30s trying to find love. I'm not sure why they had to hire a writer like Straczynski when what ended up on screen looks like it was written by a computer. The plot is Martial Arts Movie Plot #3. A man trained from childhood as a ninja betrays his evil ninja master and goes on a one man crusade against his former ninja comrades.

Raizo (Korean pop star Rain whom I only know from a running gag on The Colbert Report) fell in love with a girl who was also being raised at some sort of ninja orphanage run by the cruel and malevolent master Ozunu (Sho Kosugi, star of some ninja movies much better than this). Raizo and Ozunu have a falling out after Ozunu kills the girl for trying to run away. Okay, if this scenario is any way accurate and there happen to be actual ninjas reading this, I don't want to tell you your business or anything but it seems like raising boys and girls together and expecting them to not develop an attraction to each other is really kind of dumb. For all I know, coed ninja dorms are the norm and no problems at all result from that situation but it still seems unrealistic. Moving on.

After the cute girl ninja died, Raizo for some reason went to Berlin. Why? I don't know. One thing I managed to learn was no one in Japan or Germany speaks Japanese or German since the default language for both countries seems to be English so that's good to know. Raizo and the ninja cult come under the notice of a law enforcement organization called Europol. One of the agents gets marked for death when she finds out that Europol seems to be under the corrupt influence of the ninjas. Why she didn't just go and tell Interpol at this point is a mystery. Still, she does manage to get Raizo to protect her which means she get to scream a lot while she watches ninjas beat each other up.

The plot isn't really important, of course. The important part of the movie is the action which wasn't that great. It earns its R rating by showing loads of guys literally getting chopped in half by Raizo's knife-on-a-chain thing that's been prominently shown in the movie's trailer so it wasn't because they were going for some PG-13 compromise. The problem is that the makers of this movie, up to and including famous action film producer Joel Silver* simply lack the imagination of the folks who make the movies of Jackie Chan or Steven Seagal or even the minds behind The Matrix that managed to make Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne look like black belts.

Who would have thought the people who came up with an original title like Ninja Assassin would suffer from a failure of imagination?

*Who hilariously claimed that "the martial arts movie has never really had its day" until this movie was made.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Stupid With A Capital V

Dear makers of the show V: FUCK YOU!

You're all total dicks. You're also huge douchebags. The only reason you're not bigger douchebags is because you're total dicks and it's been scientifically proven that a large, quantifiable amount of dickishness has the unintended benefit of limiting the level of douchebaggery so they lucked out there. When your dumb little show premiered, I was apathetic about it. It wasn't the worst thing on television. I could take or leave it. It didn't matter to me if it got canceled or managed to hang on for a second season. In fact, I didn't even see last week's episode and didn't care. I did, however, see this week's episode. Now I care. Now I'm passionate. Now I wholeheartedly root for its cancellation. Why? It's really more my fault than it is yours. See, the makers of V are shitheads and I hate shitheads. It's my problem.

I've never been one to be outraged by fiction. It happens from time to time. Movies like Bride Wars or the finale of Battlestar Galactica have been known to invoke a reaction that can be described as apocalyptic. Even then, I can pretty much let go any sort of political or social messages contained in fiction that either actually exist or, as is more often the case, people imagine are there. I've written many times about how annoyed I get when people who can't tell fantasy from reality hold up a work of fiction as proof and vindication of their worldviews. This has been the case with V. The fact that the show's producer is an openly gay liberal Obama supporter hasn't stopped people from seeing it as a strident criticism of the Obama administration. Ordinarily, I'd have commented on such stupidity but as I said, I simply didn't care enough to do so. Until now.

Tuesday's episode was a smorgasbord of dumb. I wonder why the aliens refer to themselves by their human names when they're alone since, for the most part, they seem to have at least a mild contempt (in some cases not so mild) for our species. I find it preposterous that humans are so incurious about where the V's came from and what their world and culture are like. We as a race seem perfectly content to allow powerful aliens to set up embassies, healing centers, soft serve yogurt stands etc. while knowing so little about them. Another storyline involves the human resistance led by Elizabeth Mitchell thinking it would be a good idea to let a dangerously unstable man take the lead in a plot to kidnap a V. There's also a story about a V impregnating a human woman without the aid of genetic engineering, something that Carl Sagan once said he found to be the least believable thing about Star Trek. This shows the scientific ignorance of the show's staff from the producers on down who probably think Africa is crawling with human/chimp hybrids. Anyway, all this was just run of the mill TV stupidity on par with generations of science fiction shows that have called a solar system a galaxy. What pissed me off? I guess I've buried the lede long enough.

The V's were attempting to infect humanity with something called R6. I'll be damned if I can remember what the hell R6 is supposed to do but I doubt it's good. Anyway, supposedly the V's were mixing this R6 in with some sort of super vitamin supplement when they were actually mixing it in with flu vaccine. Yeah, that's right, the makers of V decided to reinforce the fears of Jenny McCarthy acolytes who believe that vaccines are evil based mainly on evidence they found up their asses. It's very rare that you hear me groan at a television show's plot. The last time I did that was during the one and only episode of the now canceled Eli Stone I ever saw in which a lawyer receives visions telling him that vaccines cause autism.

I have no idea if the producers meant to send the message that people shouldn't take flu vaccine. In fact, knowing them, I'd say they put as much thought into it as they did the idea of human/alien hybrids. Still, we currently are in the middle of a global flu pandemic that is literally killing people and V comes along to tell the more ignorant members of our population who were on the fence as to whether they should take the vaccine that yes, the crazy paranoid cousin who said that the government is hiding the fact that vaccines make your belly button close up and cause your urine to catch fire just might have had a point.

So, I will now join the majority of the nation and stop watching V altogether. Until it's canceled, I will practice the dance I'm going to do on its grave.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Things I'm Thankful For

Up. Why can't Pixar make every movie?

Videos like this. I love Peter Serafinowicz:


Supernatural. It's a very underrated show. It has interesting horror storylines while also being funnier than most sitcoms.

Doctor Who. When you hear the DH theme song, you're pretty much guaranteed to be entertained.

My own bad ass.

Big Hollywood. Nothing has supplied me with more unintentional hilarity or column topics in the past year.

Twitter. I have a lot of fun on Twitter. If you're not following me, I'm sure you think you have a good reason no matter how wrong it may be.

Quentin Tarantino. Whenever you hear about a new Tarantino movie, you're convinced it can't possibly work then leave the theater knowing you've seen one of the year's best movies.

Roger Ebert. He's a great writer and so very often over the years he's seen things in movies that no one else manages to see. I wish he would adopt me, unless I had to do housework of course.

Avatar. I'm cautiously optimistic that it will at least work as a visual spectacle so it gets put on this list as a leap of faith.

The awesomeness that is I.

Archer Farms Monster Mash Trail Mix. I eat this mixture of nuts, raisins, yogurt and M&M's in theaters instead of popcorn now. It's not a low calorie food by any means but it is lower in saturated fat than movie popcorn so I can at least fool myself into thinking I'm being good to my body. Also, it tastes better so it's a win/win for me.

And finally I am thankful to you, my wonderful readers. I only wish there were more of you. Spread the word.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- 11/25/09

As I anticipate possibly not posting on Thursday due to the fact it's a special day (I'm going to try on new pants that day and that always overwhelms me) I present a special Wednesday edition of Look At My Briefs.

Shouldn't this be Orson Welles and I?

I like Kat Dennings and am glad to see she joined the Thor cast. Sadly, it looks like a small part so, for now, she'll still be stopped in the street and be asked if she was the girl in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist who got fingered by Michael Cera. It's nice to be a working actress but it's still a hell of a thing to be known for.

The Fox Network gave us all a handy list of the shows that will premier next year, be cancelled after four episodes and be replaced by reruns of House and Lie to Me. Thanks, Fox.

Ninja Assassin comes out today. I wonder what it's about.

Good call, Producers Guild.

I'd like to meet the guys with top level college educations who think it's a good idea to take their sites off the world's most popular search engine. They seem like people who'd be really easy to beat at cards.

You really have to be a moron to think the extremely liberal Harlan Ellison is someone who should be held up as an example for conservatives. Fortunately for conservatives, at least one such moron exists.

The new clips from Avatar look a lot better than the ones that came out months ago but the title could still be Dances With Wolves In Space. This means that the spectacular visuals could get very old very quickly if coupled with a dumb story. But what am I worried about? Surely a top level movie studio would never commit to spending hundreds of millions of its company's dollars without making damn sure that it had a top shelf script, right?

If I find I don't have time to post for the rest of the week, have a good holiday, all. If I do find time, please have such a crappy holiday that you come here looking for solace.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 78

Shockingly, it turns out that yanking a guy's mind out of his head and cramming it into an alien body is a particularly bad idea.

New Yorkers that move to rural environments completely lose the use of their brains.

All of a nation's problems can be solved by rugby. By the way, the last time Morgan Freeman played a President, a comet hit the Earth. Let's hope this movie doesn't end the same way.

Brutally murdering little girls is bad. Thank goodness we have movies to tell us this.

There is no God.

Yeah, go ahead and rip off your own armored car. What could go wrong?

When a you start seeing a double of yourself, you should really just ignore what it says.

If you do nothing else, try to avoid being chosen by God to do, well, anything.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Moon-Lite

Gosh, has it been a year?

It will come as no shock to regular readers of this site that you are about to read a negative review of New Moon. I was rereading the review I wrote last year for Twilight and I see I did a very poor job of conveying my dislike for the film. That's a mistake I'm going to correct this year.

It's hard to spoil New Moon since all the major plot points are in the various ads and trailers. This gives me the luxury of describing all of the movie's epic and vapid stupidity.

The story picks up where it left off last year. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is a girl who, through an entrancing mixture of slouching, mumbling and staring at the ground, managed to become the center of her high school's world. Every boy there fawns over her including a handsome vampire named Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Edward won Bella's heart by staring at her creepily, speaking with no passion or emotion and telling her flat out that her scent made him want to rip off her head and suck in every drop of her blood. You can see why she thinks he's so dreamy. Among the large number of other boys who are madly in love with her is Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a member of local Native American tribe called the Quileutes, a word which I think translates as "Buff, shirtless athletes with pecs like watermelons".

After boring everyone for about 20 minutes, Bella manages to give herself a small cut at a birthday party being thrown for her by the whole Cullen vampire clan. This causes Jasper, the Cullen who always looks constipated, to spring into a blood drinking frenzy and go after Bella. This results in one of the movie's few action sequences, something that director Chris Weitz immediately shut down once he realized what was happening. Edward saves Bella but decides that it's now too dangerous for her to be around them so he leaves her behind in the the cold, depressing town of Forks, Washington and, as a punishment to himself, moves to warm, wonderful Italy.

Bella spends several months moping and listening to emo music before allowing the handsome Jacob to start romancing her. One of the movie's themes is that young girls should fall for frightening stalker types so, after Bella becomes dependent on him, he starts lapsing into angry mood swings and says he doesn't want to see her anymore. This only makes him more attractive to Bella so she keeps after him until she discovers he and some other members of his tribe are werewolves. After that preposterous scenario plays out, things start to get weird in the form of a vampire group called the Volturi who are quite possibly the most bored looking people in the history of cinema.

New Moon is a boring movie about dull people who manage to make encounters with supernatural creatures look mundane. To top that off, its fundamentalist worldview that girls should be the submissive pets of dangerous men is downright harmful. Even when Edward and Bella are parted, Edward never surrenders his role as her Priest Overseer and constantly appears to her in visions when she's about to do something she shouldn't like drive too fast or eat junk food. Like a good abuse victim, Bella keeps going back for more and more danger just so she can see Edward. There's another character named Emily who is engaged to one of the other werewolves and cheerfully stays with him even after he horribly scars one side of her face. I'm not sure if author Stephanie Meyer really believes that there is no level of abuse and pain that women shouldn't be willing to tolerate in order to be subservient to the men in their lives but that's how it comes off.* Luckily, the books and the movies aren't good enough to really pound that message home. Instead Twilight fans can immerse themselves in a mindless, dreamy romance and not be horrified by its anti-feminist message.

*If you want to see how much more crap the men in Bella's life are going to serve her, Google a synopsis of the next two books. Breaking Dawn especially is one of the most awesome mixes of revolting storytelling and unintentional hilarity I've ever seen.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How To Annoy Twilight Fans

New Moon has finally arrived in theaters. Since Twilight fans have seen fit to annoy me over the past year by taking a series of poorly written novels and a crappy movie and raising them to the level of cultural phenomenon, I will now return the favor and give you all some phrases guaranteed to annoy Twilight fans.
The vampires sparkle? Oh, that's rich. Like I would fall for that.
I won't say which one, but one of the vampires gets killed by Snape.
Why would Edward want Bella when he could get someone way hotter?
I'm really looking forward to Edward's lightsabre battle with Wolverine.
I've heard in New Moon we finally find out exactly what the Smoke Monster is.
Do you think Edward and Bella will survive after the neutrinos in the Earth's core cause the continents to displace?
Why do they have to walk to Mordor when Edward could just turn into a bat and fly the One Ring into Mt. Doom?
Does Edward finally come out of the closet in this story or is that in Breaking Dawn?
Is the douchebag level of the characters higher or lower in this sequel?
Do girls actually fall in love with you when you tell them that they smell so good you want to brutally murder them?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- 11/19/09

Time for another collection of brief comments on various subjects I like to call Look At My Briefs.

I'm a big fan of author Warren Ellis so I'm pleased to that his Global Frequency is getting another shot at becoming a television series. I've seen parts of a pilot that was made in 2005 but failed to get picked up by a network. I consoled myself that now, at least, they wouldn't get the chance to screw it up. Now, it looks like it will get made and they'll finally get their shot at screwing it up. Yay?

Johnny Depp is the Sexiest Man Alive, eh? Once again, I have been ignored even though I have been assured on numerous occasions by my mommy that I am the handsomest boy in the world.. It's almost as if People's annual award was some sort of meaningless popularity contest.

A samurai movie with Keanu Reeves? Well, Tom Cruise managed to pull it off. Then again, he's Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves is in a category of actor commonly called "Not Tom Cruise."

I keep meaning to review V but haven't gotten around to it. Snap review: nothing special. If it got continues for years, I won't care (unless it improves). If it gets canceled tomorrow, ditto. I've also meant to comment on attempts by right wing thinkers to take a show about lizard people and turn it into some sort of searing allegorical indictment of the Obama administration. This article that showed up on, of all places, Big Hollywood should put an end to that. Should, but certainly won't. If it does get canceled, look forward to the theories that it had nothing to do with low ratings.

Isn't it time to put Jay Leno out of his misery? I could have told them that five primetime hours of a fairly dull talk show was a bad idea but no one listened to me. From what they say, Leno was given this because it's considerably cheaper to do his show than to produce 5 new, different shows. In fact, a lot of Hollywood people hate this whole situation because hundreds of people lost their jobs so Leno's show could go on. I don't know how low Leno's ratings have to go before they pull the plug but, if he were anyone else, he'd have been canceled around week 3.

Tomorrow is New Moon day so everyone remember not to look directly at sparkling vampires as you may go blind.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Moon

I saw 2012 and Moon on the same weekend. I wonder if, just maybe, the reason I was so hard on the former is because the latter set the bar so high. Moon is not a perfect movie but it shares something in common with more recent fare like Knowing and The Box in that, unlike 2012, it is serious, thought provoking science fiction. I've been a science fiction fan my whole life and I hardly ever see anything that can truly be described as such. Sure, in the technical sense, 2012 is science fiction. The science, after all, is completely fictional.

I don't want to give away too much of Moon's plot. I went into it not knowing too much so I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

I suppose I can say that Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a technician pulling a lonely three year tour of duty on a Lunar Mining Station. His three year contract is nearing its end and he's looking forward to going back to Earth to once again be with his wife and the daughter he's never met, at least not in person. His only company is GERTY, a robot voiced by Kevin Spacey. Clearly no one 50 years in the future has ever seen the movie 2001 because GERTY looks and talks a lot like the homicidal computer HAL from that movie. In fact, the station in which Sam Bell resides looks a lot like the 2001's spaceship Discovery One. That's probably intentional as is GERTY'S resemblance to HAL. I will say this: GERTY is not HAL, but GERTY is also not exactly what it appears to be.

Anyway, Sam only has two weeks to go when he starts hallucinating. This leads to an accident. When Sam wakes up, he's back in the station being tended to by GERTY who won't allow him out of the station. When Sam does manage to get out, he finds a man who looks exactly like him.

I love that there turns out to be an intelligent and logical reason for everything that's happened up to this point. I'm not going to say what it is, of course. I wish more people had seen Moon as it's entertaining as well as intelligent. This isn't a huge cerebral acid trip like Knowing. Moon is just a decent science fiction story told simply and well about a man who think he's losing his mind and finds out that what's actually happening is much worse. First time writer/director Duncan Jones can rest assured that I'll be first in line for his next movie.

I suppose no one is reading this because you're all out watching 2012. If so, you probably won't be mentally healthy to watch anything again until January which is right around the time Moon comes out on DVD. And yes Twilight fans, I intentionally fucked with you by titling this New Moon. Deal with it.