Saturday, August 28, 2010

J.C. Hutchins' New Look

If you have never checked out J.C. Hutchins site, you now have an excuse; he has just given it a whole new look. If you are unaware, Hutchins is the creator of the 7th Son series of podionovels, and has helped to create #StillHere, a fantastic tie-in to Discovery Channel’s “The Colony”, and was author of the fantastic, but underrated, “Personal Effects: Dark Art”.

You have been depriving yourself if you have never listened to or read any of his work, so go do something about that now by going to right now.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Early Morning Amusement: The Walking Dead

Ok, yeah, it's another trailer, but not for a movie this time. This is the trailer for the upcoming AMC series based on Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead".

While I was still working on the blog version of "Mallville - A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse" this was pretty much the only zombie fiction I was still reading. You can tell from the trailer that they are changing things a little from the book, but it still looks really great. Just one more reason to look forward to Halloween.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Going the Distance

“Going the Distance” is the new romantic comedy about a Mac and a PC who-; no wait, no it's not (but wouldn't it be cool if it was? I'd go see that). It's actually about two thirty-somethings who have to cope with the strains and stresses of a cross-country relationship.

Garret (Justin Long: probably best known from the “I'm a Mac” ad campaign) meets Erin (Drew Barrymore: “Music and Lyrics”) one night while out at the bar. He's just been dumped by his latest girlfriend essentially for being a douchebag, she's blowing off steam because her internship at The New York Sentinel newspaper is not going well (and yes, there is a brief explanation as to why someone in her thirties is still an intern). After some initial rockiness, the pair hit it off.

A one night stand becomes a friendship. A friendship becomes something more, but before that can really become a relationship Erin's internship ends, and she must return to San Francisco to finish her schooling. In spite of their better judgment, the pair decide to give a long distance relationship a go.

The plot is the standard boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back only to lose her again, and then must do something big to win her back one final time variety of plot. You're not going to find anything especially new or fresh here, but that doesn't mean you won't be amused. Strangely though, not many of the laughs come from Long or Barrymore (although for some reason Drew Barrymore cursing and suggesting a large biker perform an anatomically impossible act on her is enough to make me laugh), but from the supporting cast.

The friends and family of Garret and Erin are easily the best parts of this movie. In New York, Garret has his roommate, Dan (Charlie Day: “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), who likes to listen to his roommate's romantic sessions through the wall, and his co-worker, Box (Jason Sudeikis: “30 Rock”) who is growing an 80's mustache to attract older women. Erin in San Francisco has her friend, Harper (Sarah Burns: “I Love You, Man”) her germaphobic sister, Corinne (Christina Applegate: “Married... With Children”), and her sister's husband, Phil (Jim Gaffigan: “17 Again”). Ultimately it is Day, Sudeikis, and Applegate who garner the majority of the films laughs, if not the biggest laugh (all I'm going to say about that is “dining room table”) of the whole film.

Justin Long seems like an odd choice for this role. While it is clear that the filmmakers tried to tailor the lead roles for the actors, the story feels like it should have leads who are about five to eight years younger than they are stated to be, there's only so much you can do for someone like Long. He's just not that good of an actor, and it shows in this. His character comes of as a bit of a douche at best, and a downright jerk at worst. I'll be honest here and say that I am not a big fan of Long, so my opinion is slanted by that, but I think that he is one of those actors (like Michael Cera) who can ruin a movie for you if you don't like him.

For most of the film, “Going the Distance” moves at a steady pace, making sure to throw decent amounts of mostly lowbrow humour at you when things start to get a little too heavy, but there are times when it tries to be serious. This movie fails the hardest during these times as Justin Long cannot pull it off convincingly, and towards the end the film starts to feel a little draggy; like it could have had a completely different type of ending about fifteen minutes before the actual conclusion.

I enjoyed this movie, but then I went into it with really low expectations, so unless you are looking for a decent date movie (but maybe not a first date; there is a lot of swearing, sexual references, and Long's bare arse) there is really no reason to recommend seeing this in theaters. The story is pure meh, Justin Long is not a leading man, and the laughs that are there, while plentiful, just do not outweigh the film's flaws. Rent it, or check it out on cable in a few months when it is just another bawdy romantic comedy shuffled in with all of the rest. If you are really that desperate for a new RomCom to see though, then you can see “Going the Distance” when it lands in theaters on September 3rd.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Early Morning Amusement: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Graphic Novel Trailer

I am still in the throes of Scott Pilgrim mania, and one of the best things about the movie is that a lot of it is taken directly from the series of books. This trailer demonstrates that by recreating the entire trailer with images from the graphic novels (although to be fair some of the scenes used in this trailer appear differently in the film)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Relationships can be difficult; you have to learn to give and take, to compromise on things, to not expect to always get your way. You have to learn to deal not only with your own romantic history, but that of your partner as well. Of course when your partner's romantic history has challenged you to a battle to the death, things may be getting out of hand.

“Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” is based on the “Scott Pilgrim” series of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley, and follows the misadventures of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera: “Arrested Development”, “Superbad”) as he tries to win the heart of the literal girl-of-his-dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead: “Live Free or Die Hard”).

Scott has obstacles to overcome before claiming the heart of Ramona though: he has to break up with his high school aged girlfriend, Knives (Ellen Wong), survive the sarcasm and dubious of his snarky best friend Wallace (Keiran Culkin), drop his natural tendency to be an oblivious jackass, and defeat all seven of Ramona's evil exes who start to make themselves known as soon as Scott hatches his plan to ask Ramona out.

As important as the actors are, it is the direction of Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”, “Hot Fuzz”) that plays a big role in bringing the comic book to life complete with costumes and sound effects that look like they jumped off the page of the books. Almost everything in the film from each character's hairstyle to the locations they are at feel like live action versions of their two dimensional black and white counterparts.

The film starts off very faithful to the book, following the first volume very closely, but as the movie progresses it does stray farther and farther from the books, eliminating characters like Mr. Chau and Lisa as well as entire subplots like Sex Bob-Omb's recording an album and Scott's wilderness sabbatical. Of course when you have to condense 6 volumes (one of which wasn't even finished at the time of filming) into a single feature length film you have to expect some cuts. The problem is that some of these cuts have big effects on the overall plot; removing development for some of the secondary characters and causing some fight sequences to be combined or eliminated altogether..

The characters suffer the worst in translation though, with only Wallace and Scott really coming across the same as they did in the books, while Knives, Kim (Alison Pill: “The Pillars of the Earth”), Stephen (Mark Webber), and Young Neil (Johnny Simmons) get little to no development, and as a result don't feel as genuine as they did in the books. The character that suffers the worst from the move from paper to film is Ramona.

In the books Ramona Flowers has a lot more to do; she has scenes of her own, her own fight sequences, and seems like a much stronger and more independent woman. In the movie Ramona comes across more as the damsel-in-distress from the video games that the movie is joking about than the strong fighter she is in the book. Yes, she does have a couple of fight scenes (that are both different than any of the ones in the books), but she is easily the biggest victim of feature length time constraints.

Aside from the pretty standard the-book-was-better kind of complaints though, I really did enjoy this film. Cera did a much better job than I thought he would, and just seeing him in the film's many well choreographed fight sequences is worth it. Sure the movie would have been better served by being split into two parts a la “Kill Bill” or “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, but being targeted as a rather niche audience of gamers and geeks that probably could not have happened.

Ultimately I do recommend this film as long as you are the sort of geek that smiles when you hear “Legend of Zelda” sound effects, recognizes the bass line from Final Fantasy II, and sees nothing illogical about a person turning into a pile of coins when you kill them. While the movie fails to perfectly duplicate the books on the big screen the general flavour of the original story does come through beautifully. Have yourself an epic geekgasm with “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World”, in theaters now.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Early Morning Amusement: Our Sick, Mad World

It's been some time since I've posted something that amuses me, but I've been in a Satoshi Kon sort of mood since watching "Paprika" last weekend. One of my first exposures to Satoshi Kon was the series "Paranoia Agent", so here I bring to you a "Paranoia Agent" anime music video set to "Mad World" (Tears for Fears version)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Expendables

Are you tired of romantic comedies, and computer animated kids' films? Have you have it with sparkly vampires and talking dogs and cats? Do you want a manly film full of manly men blowing up manly things? Then you may just want to check out “The Expendables”.

The Expendables are a team of highly trained mercenaries who seem to have one real mission in life; blow things up. Led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone: “Rambo”, “Rocky”), the team is offered a job by the cagey Mister Church (Bruce Willis: “Die Hard”, “Cop Out”) to go to the small island nation of Velina and assassinate their corrupt dictator, General Garza (David Zayas: “Dexter”, “Oz”) and whoever is helping to keep him in power. Of course nothing can be all that simple, right?

Following Ross into battle are Lee Christmas (Jason Statham: “The Transporter”, “Crank”), Ying Yang (Jet Li: “War”, “Hero”), Toll Road (UFC fighter, Randy Couture), and Hale Caeser (NFL player, Terry Crews). Rounding out the cast are Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, all in supporting roles. For a simple old-school guns, knives, and explosions action film this is a huge cast.

Of course with such a large cast and the limitations of how long an action movie can be you are faced with the issue of finding enough stuff for everyone to do. This is where the movie falls short. Statham and Stallone do the majority of the heavy lifting for the heroes, which would be fine if they were the only two stars in the film. Unfortunately Li ends up being sadly underused, and Crews and Couture only have a handful of lines before the climactic battle begins. As it turns out it is possible to have too much awesome in one film.

Finding enough screen time for everyone is not the movie's biggest failing though. For me the worst part of this film was the camera work. During the fights scenes especially, we are hit with lots of quick cuts and shaky camera, and there are moments where I had trouble who was fighting who (is that Statham or Couture fighting with Austin? I had to ask my wife to be sure). Do not sit in the front row of the theater for this movie if you are susceptible to motion sickness.

Some may criticize the film for having a weak plot, and yes, I suppose it does. To me the plot feels like something you might find in a video game; merely an excuse to create a lot of awesome action sequences, but then again when is the last time you watched a true action movie for the plot? “The Transporter”? “Shoot 'Em Up”? “Crank”? “Die Hard”? No, this movie is not going to win any awards for its story, but really, who cares? If you are watching this film you are watching to see well choreographed fights punctuated by snarky one liners and things blowing up,

Lots of explosions, cursing, and a body count to rival the “Star Wars” trilogy, “The Expendables” is a violent, loud celebration of testosterone and explosions. It's an action film for people who like action films. I had really high expectations for this film (bordering on Phantom Menace Syndrome if I am being honest), and this film did fall short, but it was still a fun film with plenty of gags to laugh at and injuries to wince at.

If you like violent, manly films, then this movie is worth seeing in the theater for the fun of laughing, groaning, and cheering along with the rest of the audience (yes, people were actually cheering during parts of the film) when “The Expendables” opens on August thirteenth.. If violence is not your bag, and you want sensitivity and a message in your movie, well there's always “Eat Pray Love”.