Monday, June 18, 2012

Perpendicular, Not Straight: A Review of Prometheus

Before digging into a review of Prometheus, I want to mention that yes, there will be spoilers. Make that assumption on every review of mine. But I'll be there to warn you beforehand, should you forget. That said, read on!

Prometheus reminded me a lot of LOST. A lot. While this might be Ridley Scott's movie, Damon Lindelof is all over it. Remember my review of LOST? Substitute Prometheus for LOST and you have an incredibly accurate review. The same problems exist in both, and the same themes are visited, too. How did we get here? Why are we here? Science or faith? I think humankind has been asking these questions since we could ask questions. For some, there is no answer. For others, the "how" and "why" don't matter. It comes down to the individual, and unfortunately for us, the audience, the individuals in Prometheus all suffer from what the medical field calls being fucking idiots.

But what works with the movie? It's not all negative, not by a long shot. Just like LOST, Ridley Scott does some badass things. The ambition is there. Prometheus wants to do big things. It wants to expand on the mythologies of one of the greatest science fiction films of all time (I'm talking about Alien here). I do feel like the ending-ending was kind of shoe-horned on there as an acknowledgement of where this all winds up. I could've done without that (especially since it opens up more questions. There was a mural of the Xenomorph in the giant mound/pyramid, so clearly Xenomorphs have existed before that one). But the Space Jockeys are intriguing. Why did they have a ship full of Xenomorph eggs in Alien? Why do they have a whole ship full of ambiguous black goo in Prometheus? Did they create life on earth, or humans? Have they been around the billions of years necessary to start life? What then happens to evolution? You can see how the ambition can work against the movie, too. Especially when that last question is dismissed by the lead anthropologist/archaeologist with, "It's what I choose to believe." Which then leads to the film's problems with faith and science, and how poorly they try to address religion.

But we're supposed to be talking about positives! Every single frame is gorgeous. The production design and cinematography is probably the best we'll see all summer (at least until The Dark Knight Rises). Arthur Max (production designer) and Dariusz Wolski (cinematographer) deserve all the heap and praise they're getting. I regret not realizing the movie was filmed in 3D, so I don't feel like I really got to experience it like I was supposed to. But I've heard they did great work with depth of field.

You saw how easily the good turned bad, right? Happens that quickly in the movie, too. The only real constant is the beauty of the frame. The characters suffer from serving the plot. Bad, illogical decisions pop out of eggs and attach themselves to this movie and impregnate it like a facehugger (sorry, that was pretty heavy-handed). The plot suffers from not knowing what the hell its doing. Is it a sci-fi horror? Is it trying to answer philosophical questions about the nature of humanity and our relationship to the divine, if such a thing exists? Or is it a slasher? I honestly don't know, because it tries to be all of the above without committing. The writing is the problem. Whether that's on Damon Lindelof for re-writing Jon Spaihts' Alien-prequel script or Ridley Scott for OKing Lindelof's script, I leave that up to you. But bad decisions were made.

First, let's talk about a crew of 17ish. I think that was the number. Do you know how many names I remembered when I left the theater? Two. Shaw and David. Everyone else had nicknames. Like biologist, geologist, captain, pilots, and on and on. Most of these characters were fodder. Which is a gorram disappointment. We get to know precisely 0 characters. I'm talking knowing them the way we do Ripley after Alien. We hang out with this crew, these "experts," but there is nothing to them. Except idiocy. The biologist, who was just part of the first group of people to discover alien life by way of a dead Space Jockey, decides he doesn't want to be there. Has no interest whatsoever in the preserved head of the first alien humans have ever seen. He and the geologist leave and get lost. Fine, right? Wrong, dummy! The geologist is the guy who controlled the mapping drones. Not only that, but the captain is sitting in the ship, looking at a map showing precisely where everyone is. None of the involved parties thought to contact the other? And getting back to the biologist, what person, let alone one that studies life, animals, etc., would treat a clearly aggressive (mutated) worm-penis with a vagina mouth like a cat? That thing was acting like a cobra. Homeboy wants to pet it? Give me a frakking break. Not only did I not care when both guys died, I wanted them to. They were bad characters. I didn't know them. I wasn't concerned that they were lost. They were fodder and nothing more. Repeat ad nauseum, because that's every character in this movie. Poorly developed, if at all, and fodder. Or they just disappear (like the group who took off in the truck thing when zombie geologist showed up). It's was such bad writing. Every character was written poorly. Even David was muddied and poorly developed in the movie. Did he hate his creators? Did he want to kill humanity as implied? If so, why help Shaw at the end? No motivation makes sense, or is ever stated. I know that Holloway wanted to talk to the Space Jockeys, and so drinks himself to death when it turns out SOME of them are dead (over-reaction, much?), disregarding the fact that they just officially discovered alien life and civilization, and have only been exploring this moon for a few hours. You'd think as an archaeologist or anthropologist or whatever he was, he'd be a little more excited. Instead, he's just an asshole to David, for no reason other than we need to get to their exchange of "Because we could." 

What was the black goo and how does it relate to the opening scene? Is it a weapon? Is it life juice? I don't know, and the movie doesn't either. Maybe the director's cut will. But what we saw in theaters didn't know what it was. If that opening scene hadn't been there, implying it creates life, there'd be no question of its nature as a weapon. That would also lead credence to the captain proclaiming to Shaw (as if it's truth, which we can't confirm) that the moon was a military installation. His idea makes great sense but then why the hell would the Space Jockeys put star maps to the moon where they stored it? Why would they want to kill us? The going theory there is that we killed Space Alien Jesus Christ (beware that guy's super creepy picture, also, his assumption that his theory is 100% correct), who might've been an ambassador from the Space Jockeys. That was the original idea, but it's never outright said in the film. So we're left believing the Space Jockeys created us (again, 3.5 billion years ago to let evolution do its thing, or 35,000+ years ago for only man?), then invited us to this moon with black goo, and then wanted us dead. Lindelof's script doesn't even pretend to care about answering why. Why the star maps, why the anger. Yes, a sequel can certainly answer some of this, but that just makes Prometheus all the weaker for needing a part two to flesh things out. Keep in mind, I don't need a monologue explaining all of this. I don't mind rhetorical questions in movies (The Dark Knight makes us ponder what makes a hero a hero, is hiding the truth sometimes the right thing to do?), but that wasn't what Prometheus did. It raised question after question based on poor consistency in the writing. And then ignored answering any of them. That's bothersome.

Also bothersome is spiral-ham-fisted twists, like Weyland actually being on the ship and Charlize Theron is his daughter. This is another way to drive home the whole "children want to kill their parents" thing that David brings up. Or it's another way to bring up the fact that everyone is an asshole to the android, David. I don't know, I don't really see the point of Weyland hiding or being there at all. He wants to be immortal? In that body? If I looked like him, I'd be looking for the fastest way out the door. And I'd probably treat my walking, talking, comprehending creation with some level of respect. But that's just me and I have no plot to serve by being douchey. 

Overall? The writing really brings this down. Inherent in the writing is the lack of logic that leads to the title of this blog (save your life by running 15 feet to the right or left). Damon Lindelof and Ridley Scott shouldn't have to be going into interviews and explaining the movie, or that the sequel will explain it all. That ruins Prometheus's singularity. Characters, instead of being the realistic crew of the Nostromo or the rowdy marines of the Sulaco, are plot pieces. They spout wanna-be philosophy or nothing at all, and die. Or get pregnant (You know I can't get pregnant!) and have an awesome, impromptu c-section. But then forget about the tentacle beast (not to mention that the people who were trying to quarantine Shaw totally don't care she just ran off, and then allow her into the room with the super old, frail, and susceptible to illness Weyland? No logic), and go about running and playing like a serious surgery wasn't just preformed. It's just, this movie took itself seriously. It wasn't a Michael Bay movie, it wasn't a Twilight sequel. Prometheus clearly cares about itself. Just not enough.

To sum it all up though, I leave you with Red Letter Media's take on it. Keep in mind, I don't care about all of the questions being asked. I don't think we need all of them answered but...we don't get ANY of them answered. As a pseudo-writer, my writing has left people with questions. Questions are what I wanted out of that particular piece, but not a lot of what I got. It was because I was being too subtle. I knew what was going on, so what I took as subtlety was really vague. That's the benefit of the doubt I'll give Damon Lindelof and Ridley Scott here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Not-So Random Thoughts: A Sequel's Sequel

I was surfing the information super-highway the other day when I found myself reading a post on Reddit, as I am wont to do. Folks were discussing the rare instance of the third film of a trilogy being the best. I, being a man of refined taste (or being a picky bitch), disagreed with A LOT of the choices. What were these great big disagreements about? Return of the Jedi. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Return of the King. One silly chap even said Jurassic Park III. Now of course, we all know these were based on opinions and film taste, much like taste in music and books, is incredibly personal and subjective. They all just happen to be wrong. Here's why:

Yes, there will be spoilers for all of the movies discussed. If you are reading my blog without having seen any of those movies, I don't really know why you're reading my blog.

We'll start with a topic I'm far too familiar with, and one that you all have read way too much about from me. So I'm going to breeze through why Return of the Jedi is far from the best of the Original Trilogy. It starts with the second Death Star, a rehash of big baddie from Star Wars. That's unoriginality at it's finest, combined with a trap so many sequels are victim to: do the first movie, but bigger. This was taken literally, as the second Death Star is supposed to be bigger than the first. Moving past that, we have the fighting teddy bears and their rocks and arrows beating an armored military. Follow that up with the reduction of characters like Han Solo to one-note copies (Ghostbusters II is the best (worst?) example of this, with Peter Venkman, who becomes a walking one-liner). Truth is, Return of the Jedi does have some of the most powerful scenes of the series (you'll see this again): Luke unleashing all of his anger on Vader, Vader finally turning on the Emperor, Luke burning Vader. The best moments follow the main arc of the trilogy, Luke's journey.

So which of the Original Trilogy is the best? Look no further than this post of mine from a year and a half ago.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, moreso than any other film I'm going to talk about, has endeared itself to so many of my friends. I think it has a lot to do with it being, for my age group, our first Indy movie. It's fun. It's funny. It's adventurous. I get it. I just disagree with it being the best. We'll start at the beginning, most literally. The movie starts with an explanation of how Indy became the Indy we grew to love after two movies. When I say explanation, what I really mean is that as it turns out, Indy got his scar, his outfit, his whip, and his fear of snakes all in one afternoon. Not through years of adventures, misadventures and fedora shopping. Nope, it all happened at once. And he stole his outfit from a graverobber (ironic? No, idiotic). You don't explain every awesome detail of a character. That's a bad idea. I don't want to know exactly how Jack Sparrow got the Black Pearl, or the compass, or his hat and jacket. Nor do I want to know where Han Solo bought that kickin' vest, or anything at all about Wolverine's childhood (those stories are bad). It's a bad way to open. But it makes sense to start with Indy as a kid thematically, since Indy is a man-child throughout the movie. And much like Return of the Jedi (and Ghostbusters II) suffers from "do the first movie, but bigger," The Last Crusade goes back to Nazis and Judeo-Christianity. Except they subvert the idea of Indy as this rugged hero by making him a child in front of his pops. I don't know, I just don't enjoy the complete turn-around of his character for this last movie. I feel much the same way about this as I do about Han Solo's character in Return of the Jedi. What The Last Crusade did right, though, was make Indy proactive. Raiders of the Lost Ark ended with Indy doing nothing. The Last Crusade's third act was all Indy saving his dad. Indy doing, instead of watching. 

So which of the Indiana Jones saga is the best? Before there was nuking the fridge, there was "closing your eyes while the mystical power of God burned holes into Nazis and melted faces." Raiders of the Lost Ark takes it. Great set pieces, stunts, villain, damsel, and on and on. It's as close to a perfect action-adventure movie as I've seen. All of the fun of The Last Crusade, minus the cheese. 

Return of the King. Oscar-winning end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A mostly badass film. What this film does, which I find a hard time forgiving, is undermine a lot of what the prior two films set up: the time is now for men to take a stand and step into their role as protectors of Middle Earth. Gandalf and Elrond chat about it, and I'm thinking Gandalf and Aragorn, too. The Two Towers shows the capabilities of men, their heart and valor, and skill when led correctly. We see Aragorn step-up and show King Theoden how you handle the Uruk hai of Saruman. We see faith in allies rewarded, when Gandalf shows up at dawn of the fifth day with the Riders of Rohan. So come Return of the King, Gondor is in dire need of the Rohan to come mess up the army that is wrecking them. The beacon is lit, dramatic music plays, Rohan will ride. Awesome. Man coming to aid fellow man. Except that a day before riding to battle, Aragorn, the true king of Gondor, rides off to go get a ghost army that we just found out existed. Rohan rides without them, and does some damage, but the numbers are to much. Just then, Aragorn shows up with the ghost army and wins the battle. Let's go over that last bit again: Aragorn's ghost army wins the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Ghosts of men, not actual, living men, nor the alliance of Gondor and Rohan, but ghost men. I get the idea: Aragorn is the true king, he can unite and lead any man or group of men. But what this actually does is make the men who live in Gondor and Rohan, the men who will be fighting for Aragorn once he releases the ghosts from their oath, it makes them look weak. It makes them look incapable. It's bad storytelling. Especially the way it was told in the movies. I won't pretend to know how it was in the books, as I'm yet to complete the series, but all of a sudden, we hear about this ghost army. No real set up, no foreshadowing, just Elrond telling Aragorn to go get them. This is one aspect that should've been changed. Make it men's victory, not ghosts'. That said, much like Return of the Jedi, this has some of the best scenes of the series: Gandalf talking to Pip about dying, Aragorn kneeling before the hobbits, Sam being Sam. But the ghost army hurts the movie too much for me. Especially since, as Gimli suggests, maybe they should've hung onto them. Why not take them to Mordor to finish the job? Leaders need forethought, Aragorn.

So which of the Lord of the Rings movies is the best? The open, The Fellowship of the Ring. Our introduction to these characters, and the only time we lose characters we've come to enjoy being around. Between the time we spend in the Shire, Gandalf the Grey being the greatest wizard ever, Boromir destroying Uruk hai by the dozen, and the over-the-top cheese of the Council of Elrond, the first entry in the trilogy nails it. It's not as scattered as the next two films, due in large part to the characters later being scattered, but it's here that the tension that lasts the remainder of the trilogy builds. It's here that we see the stakes. Thus, I say Fellowship takes it.

We won't even get into why Jurassic Park III is the wrong answer to this question. There is no way of looking at that movie that won't make me sad and angry.

Satisfying third acts are hard to pull off in a movie, let alone a series of movies. It's commendable to get good, conclusive third films. I enjoy all of the above movies immensely. They all work excellently as the third and final stop for these characters (what's the Prequel Trilogy? Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Never heard of it. The Hobbit? Mostly different characters...Mostly). They just aren't the best of the bunch (here's hoping Chris Nolan can come up with a great third act to his series). 

Yep, so that's that. Think I'm wrong? I know some of you absolutely disagree about The Last Crusade, so let's make a discussion out of this! Leave a comment and I'll make the attempt to see things from your (deranged) point of view! 

Next post WILL have something about Prometheus, and the new Batman trailer, Spider-Man trailer, new Batman footage, and an update on how much ass The Avengers is still kicking a month into its release! Until then, reading amigos.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Random Thoughts: The Good, The Bad & the Muddy

What up, folks? It's me, it's me. I've been having difficulty writing a blog, or more accurately, finishing a blog. I've started two since my last post, written several Random Thoughts for each, and then abandoned them like my first wife and two kids. It doesn't help that I'm easily distracted by the internet, or Netflix, or shaving, or the cat, or anything else I do to procrastinate that is completely detrimental to my writing. Here's hoping I finish writing this one and get it out to all you fine, blog-reading peoples.

—Joss Whedon is awesome. Read this, and then proceed with my blog. At the time Joss wrote that, The Avengers had broken every weekend box office record ever. Now it's at least the fourth highest grossing film of all time. Wow. Joss Whedon, the man who brought us Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which I've just started watching), Firefly/Serenity, The Astonishing X-Men, Dr. Horrible, etc., etc., he's king. He did exactly what he's always done: Delivered witty, fresh dialogue, (a) strong female character(s), a good story, and fun action. We get to share Mr. Whedon with the rest of the world now. That's awesome. The more opportunities he gets to kill it, the better. Movies and TV are better off with a Joss Whedon film being one of the top movies EVER. Congrats Joss, from all of us who have followed you from Buffy to the Browncoats, mutant cures to freeze rays. We'll be watching how you soar (like a leaf on the wind!).


—Going right off of that, The Avengers was more fun than most movies. By no means perfect (weak baddies), it got so much right (culture clash of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, all of Hulk and Bruce Banner), that I'm more than fine giving its faults a pass. Some of the problems were out of the movie's control, too: I felt a genuine lack of tension when Iron Man took that nuke through the portal. Why? Because we all know that Iron Man 3 is shooting in Wilmington right now-ish. We know Thor 2 and Captain America 2 are right around the corner. We know our heroes won't be dying, so that can't be used for tension like in a normal film. And c'mon, there would've been serious loss of life during that battle. But not seeing normal civilians get offed makes it seem that much more cartoony and unrealistic. I'm not advocating gore or anything like that, just something that shows intergalactic invading armies are more than just fodder to Thor's lightning and Hulk's smashing. Again, fun to watch, but the battle had no depth. Plenty of nerd-outs, like Cap reflecting Iron Man's energy blasts off his shield, or Bruce Banner turning into Hulk on command, but little in the way of depth. But again, I'm all right with that. Bruce Banner was excellent. The moment where he and Tony Stark just go all super-science-y was beautiful. Black Widow's vulnerability mixed in with badassitude made her more than the pretty face with awesome moves that she was in Iron Man 2. They kept Hawkeye's villainous origins, which this geek enjoyed. Iron Man was exactly what we'd expect, Thor was more serious than we saw in his own movie, but I think it worked. And Cap was done as well as Hulk. Especially his line about gods and how they dress. That was Steve Rogers through and through. Without a doubt, we needed more Loki. Maybe. I thoroughly enjoyed the bits of the character we got, but he wasn't wholly defined, unless you also saw Thor. I got a kick out of him. And talk about subtle. Did you notice Great Odin's ravens fly past Thor and Loki? Or the deconstruction of the MetLife building around Stark Tower? Tony Stark's mention of Life-Model Decoys? That the final battle was very much a real life version of Galaga? That Iron Man landed in front of a shawarma place, leading to that extra-extra credits scene?! Go see it. If you already did, see it again.

Ok, I'm done with spoilers, slight though they were. I'm also done yelling at you.

—My hair is way too long. We're talking past my shoulders. I'm competing with my girlfriend at this point. Time for a gorram haircut, if you ask me. Nothing drastic, because I've come to enjoy my long hair, but something more manageable. I also need a non-humid climate. Long Island sucks in that regard and it doesn't take much for me to frizz out. Who'd have thunk any of this would ever be a concern for me, a man who used to get crew cuts that grew into emo-flips? Ridiculous!

—On May 4th, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys died. People sometimes exaggerate when they say someone was a pioneer, or that music, as a whole, is less because an artist died. We like to glorify the dead, remember them as better than they were, especially celebrities. But in this instance, all the great words spoken about MCA appear spot on. The Beastie Boys changed the face of rap. Adam Yauch was a proponent of LGBT rights (I can't believe we're still in a time when that's even a thing) and a free Tibet. The man did good things. For that reason alone, we're a little worse off. Excellently enough, though, Adrock is working on getting a park in Brooklyn, State Side Park, where MCA used to hang out, renamed for the man. Here's hoping.

—You guys heard of Run for Your Lives? Of course you have, I've mentioned it here at least once. If you can't seem to recall it, it's a 5K race. With zombies. And mud. So much mud. Obstacles, too. And a giant slip'n'slide. An electric fence, too. Throw in a dash of flag football, and yeah, you've got this pegged. My girlfriend, her (our) friend Dez, and I did this thing and walked away beaten and bruised and soaked to the bone. I cannot wait to do another one. In fact, we're looking into the Austin, TX one, all the way in December. If you like challenges, kind of running, and mud, get to one of these. It'll kick your ass and you'll thank it for that.

—So, Community. What an end to season 3. They could, realistically, end the series with that finale. But they won't. NBC has renewed Community for a 13 episode season 4, with the potential to add 9 for the spring. Will they? Probably not. Moving a show to Friday night is typically a slow and agonizing death (just ask Firefly). Especially when you fire the showrunner, who has been an essentially part of the show's success. Oh, you didn't hear? Dan Harmon, show creator, was removed as showrunner. This sort of thing happens, and the fans usually get the brunt of it (just ask Frank Darabont, former showrunner of The Walking Dead (I promise one day David and I will update Among the Walking Dead)). You've got to be wondering why this is happening, since Community, while certainly wacky and off-kilter, has a strong, vocal, loyal audience. It's because it's Nielson ratings suck. Who the hell is Nielson and why do we care? The answer to both is outdated. Nielson ratings monitor who watches a show live. How many of you watch shows live anymore? How about on Hulu, DVR, or the network's website? The latter isn't taken into account with ratings. Couldn't tell you why. But it's a big part of the problem. The other part? NBC is incompetent. Cruel. Cruel, cruel, cruel. #sixseasonsandamovie

—After I wrote the above, I stumbled upon this: A Community cast member leaked a memo from Sony Pictures Television, instructing cast members on how to handle questions about Dan Harmon's departure. Check out The Hollywood Reporter's article about it, which is really just the memo and some context. What it appears to boil down to is "let it blow over, the audience will forget who Dan Harmon is." What I want to see now is how the cast reacts to said directive in upcoming interviews.

—May 20th marked one year since Macho Man Randy Savage died. I tried to write a blog about it at the time, but really, really struggled. I couldn't tell you why. As a little kid, I loved Macho Man. Hell, I was dropping elbows left and right in high school thanks to him. I don't know that I could call him a childhood hero because I wasn't all about wrestling at a young age, but if you asked me at 5 who I'd pick: Hogan or Savage, it would've been Macho Man every day of week, dig it! Hate on pro-wrestling all you like, Macho Man was one of THE best wrestlers and entertainers to get in the ring. Dude was memorable like no one else, outrageous when most weren't and could go with anyone, from Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat to Hulk Hogan. So here's to you, Randy Savage.

That's all for now, kids! This blog, like my hair, was getting a bit long. I'll follow-up (I swear!) with a long, deep look at the newest The Dark Knight Rises trailer. Hopefully with a mini-review of Prometheus which is coming out in a week and a half! Holy crap, that's soon. And looks awesome. I've been staying away from anything but two of the trailers, and damn. Damn, Ridley Scott.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Random Thoughts: Randomly Entering Your Internetosphere

Ahoy maids and mateys! I'm getting tired of apologizing for being so damn sporadic with my blog posts, so instead of being sporadic with my blog posts, I'll just stop apologizing for it. Seems much easier than actually being a responsible blogger (if such a thing dares to exist). So what's been rambling through my brain these last few months? I'd wager if you read on, you'll find out!

—Let's kick this off with some good old-fashioned polka! But Joey, you say, I don't care about polka! Well you should, at least for the next 3-4 minutes while you watch this hilariously well-done music video by the Chardon Polka Band, featuring my very good friend Jake. The dude's a creative mastermind and I wish I could channel a quarter of his creativity and energy. And tell me his drummer doesn't look like Ian McKellen/Magneto.

—Are you reading the Song of Ice and Fire series? You should be. Well, if you like fantasy. And war, and sorta/kinda history. I've been plowing through these 800+ page books like they were Goosebumps. George R. R. Martin has backstory and history for this series that rivals Tolkien's own. I've finished A Feast For Crows and I'm getting a kick out of seeing how different characters and their stories intertwine. Book five is on its way. What strikes me most is the "realistic" approach Martin takes towards characters and their demises. This isn't a Hollywood epic, where the good guys pull it out because they're the good guys. Sometimes shitty people win, and sometimes they don't get their just desserts. Should you ever read the series, be prepared to pick your jaw off the floor by the time you get to A Storm of Swords. To be spoiler free, I'll tell you what I've been telling my girlfriend, who's on A Game of Thrones: No one is safe. No one.

—I made the mistake of going to see The Hunger Games on opening weekend. It was Sunday evening, so I figured we'd have a quieter showing. Wrong. Wrongwrongwrongwrongwrong. Turns out, the cinema experience blows. And if the internet is any rightful source, and not just a bunch of people complaining, it appears this is a phenomena around the country. We had the stereotypical texters, we had the person who refused to turn off their phone, and of course, right behind us, we had three 20-somethings with their flatulence and running commentary. Seriously. Let that sink in. You're paying good money to sit in a theater and watch the movie, and this is what you get? What happened to theater etiquette? Are the days where people STFU when the lights dimmed gone? Are you really so important that you can't have your phone on vibrate? Is that game of Draw Something really that pressing? Go the fuck home if you're going to be treating the cinema like you're living room. Save your money and spare me your shitty existence. Please.

—Going off that, I wasn't wholly impressed by The Hunger Games. The movie was two and a half hours long, but it still felt rushed. I know there's a lot to cover, but I feel like the relationship development was all cut short. I can't say that objectively, however, since I read the book first. I'd love to hear what someone who has only seen the movie thought of Kat's relationships with Gale, Peeta, Haymitch, and Rue. What I missed sorely was the back and forth between Kat and Haymitch. I also missed an effects budget, but it seems the movie did, too. The presentation of the Tributes did not look pretty, so I understand their rushing through it. And did you catch the age-old corner-cutting they used with the muttations/wolf-things? They made it dark out. You can hide flaws in CGI better in darkness.

—Have you been watching Community, like I've been asking on here and on facebook? I sure as shit hope so. That is the best comedy on TV. Why? Because the characters are excellent, that's why. Britta Perry, Troy Barnes, Abed Nadir, Annie Edison, Jeff Winger, Shirley Bennett, Pierce Hawthorne, these folks have become good friends over the last two and a half years. I like seeing what they're doing, self-destructive or self-constructive (is that a word?). I like that despite over-the-top concepts, there's (usually) a real story about the characters underneath. That's not easy to get right, but Community has been nailing that since season one's Modern Warfare, all the way through season three's Pillows and Blankets. So please, watch it. Support it. Tell friends to get behind it. Maybe even form

—My buddy Matt sent me a horrible, terrible thing the other day. I'll link to it, but refuse to post the video on here. Watch at your discretion. I'll be waiting down below.

Done? That's what Star Wars is now. I just...I'm tired of it. I'm tired of complaining about it. I bet you're tired of reading about it, too, since it shows up at least once a blog. Well, friends, I'm done. I'm done bitching about the whoring out of Star Wars by the powers-that-be. I'm finished complaining about the money-grubbing tendencies of George Lucas at the sacrifice of story and character and relationships and everything else that goes into making a tale work. As my friend Hugh put it, or rather, as his brother put it, "Our current relationship with Star Wars and George Lucas is like going to the funeral of someone who used to be a good friend but for the last 20 years has been a total dick. You ended the relationship long ago, and now you're going to the funeral out of respect for what the man used to be." I'll enjoy the Original Trilogy, dislike the majority of the prequels, and live and let live. But I'm through writing about it.

—In case you didn't know, we currently live in an age where our phone and internet service providers have no qualms about giving (not even selling!) our information to the government. Who we talk to, who we call, what we text, what sites we visit, etc. All of that is fair game for the government. What sucks, of course, is that with the big companies being complacent about it, there's little you or I can do about privacy. Truth be told, most small cell phone carriers and internet providers just can't compete. That's where Nicholas Merrill comes in. He's working to create an ISP that protects all of your information. Go click on his name and read the article. It's a good, quickish read, and incredibly informative. I'm still waiting for all the opponents of big government and big brother to come out against this sort of intrusive work by our "leaders," but the majority of them are too busy continually passing the Patriot Act to have time to actually think and openly discuss just what that act allows.

—At last, we've come to the end. We'll leave things on an aburd note, courtesy of the Macho Man Randy Savage:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Random Thoughts: Blogception

Three blogs in two weeks? By Thor's hammer, what's gotten into me? I've no idea either, but I think you should read what I have offered, lest our friendship be in doubt! Just kidding, I really write this for me, and I'm flattered if anyone reads it. So flattered, in fact, I'm blushing right now. You should see me, all red-cheeked and meek-eyed (whatever that means). Enough rambling, Joey, on with the blog!

—It feels like there's a mention of George Lucas or Star Wars at least once per blog. Unfortunately, it's usually negative. In this case, it's because of George and his delusions:
The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down.
This lovely snippet, not taken out of context to make George Lucas seem like he's willfully denying how things actually played out when Star Wars was released in 1977, is from an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. George, we get it, you own Star Wars. But it wasn't a solo endeavor. It wasn't just your story that made it to the big screen. Film, as they say, is collaborative. Until you're writer, producer, and director. You've either lost your mind and believe your own lies, or you've grown so powerful you feel like you can actually rewrite cinematic history. In 1977, ONE shot rang out between Han and Greedo. There was no "shooting first." It was A shot. No confusion existed. Han shot Greedo. Why isn't that good enough? Why aren't these movies, pieces of film history, good enough for you?

—Creatively, the end of the world intrigues me. Especially if it's impending and everyone on the planet knows their doom is looming. I wrote a story about it years ago (was college really years ago at this point?), which I think is my very best piece of writing. People are tricky things, and when you remove societal restraints, any real reason to maintain order, what sort of chaos would things devolve into? Seeking a Friend for the End of the World explores that with Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley at the forefront. This trailer is good, people. Genuinely funny moments, tinged with an underlying melancholy. If this is the tone throughout the film, it'll be great. So enjoy:

—Since basically everyone I've ever been best friends with (omg besties!) was born within the last week and a half, I'd like to take this time to say happy 25th birthdays to Zac, Lauren, Chad, Jessie, Richard, and Melissa. Even though I may not be in great contact with some (read: most) of you right now, I love you all in a great many ways! As your elder by a month, I can tell you that 25 isn't much different from 24, but definitely better than 22 and 23. Happy birthday, comrades!

—And a happy birthday to both President Abraham Lincoln (Vampire Hunter) and Charles Darwin, that dastardly fellow who introduced us to the theory of evolution. Remember, fair readers, though it may be called a theory, there's a distinct difference between a scientific theory, like evolution, which has been questioned and tested, tried and tested, and tested some more, and a regular theory, like George Lucas was murdered by Terminators back in the early '90s and replaced by a T-1000-like replacement, which is just a whole lot of conjecture.

—Dan Aykroyd has seemingly lost his mind when it comes to Ghostbusters 3. For example, he wants to coax Rick Moranis, who played Louis Tully, out of acting retirement for the film, saying, "None of us would want to do the movie without him as a participant." But in the next sentence, we're told Mr. Aykroyd said that Peter Venkman, embodied by Bill Murray perfectly in Ghostbusters and horribly exaggerated in Ghostbusters 2, could just be played by another actor. I get what Aykroyd was saying: He really wants Louis Tully back. Not that they'd stop making the movie if Moranis said no. But to follow that up with saying whoever's playing Venkman can be subject to change? Mayhaps Dan should reevaluate this whole enterprise.

—Unfortunately for me, I've been missing a lot of The Daily Show. In fact, I can't remember the last time I watched a full episode. That sucks for me. Luckily, though, I have friends who sometimes post videos of Jon Stewart and the writers of the show doing work. Here's such a case, for your boring Thursday at work:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Random Thoughts: The Bloggening

What up, foolios? This week has seen a lot in the way of superhero film news. Less news and more trailers/commercials. We got a geektastic look at The Avengers during the Super Bowl, and following Sony Pictures showing some footage from The Amazing Spider-Man in select theaters, we got a new trailer. It's kick @$$ (see? I was serious about cutting down on cursing!) so trust that we'll be talking about it. Who's "we"? The royal we, of course! I'm the king of this blog, or rather, we're the king of this blog, and we'll use whatever pronouns we choose (I feel like I've said this before...)!

—You know what happens on April 1st, besides a lot of terribly awesome pranks? This:

Without a doubt, I am most interested in Daenerys Stormborn's journey. Her story intrigued and had the fullest arc of all the many told during Season 1. I'm about to get started on the first book, and I imagine I'll finish it in about a year, considering the density.

—I know I'm well behind the times when it comes it music. I avoid the radio, especially up here, as it's all dance/club remixes. New music takes a while to filter down to me (much like trickle-down economics, except with filter-down music, I eventually get something!). As such, I just saw LMFAO's video for Party Rock Anthem. For those few of us who haven't seen it, it's a zombie parody, or at least starts off as such. Frakking appropriate, if you ask me. When I first heard the song months ago, it annoyed me. Its overplayed nature is a bother, but that can be said of anything on the radio. Now, I find myself humming it. It's damned infectious! And that chubby, dancing hipster makes me laugh. A lot. Tell me a line like "I'm running through these hoes like Drain-o," doesn't make you crack a smile. So go watch the video and have some fun.

The Phantom Menace, in 3D, will hit theaters on Friday. I've been struggling with whether or not I'll go see it, or the other prequels, and ultimately, the Original Trilogy. I've never seen the OT on the big screen. When the Special Editions were released in 1997, they were sold out. Now, I have the chance to see them all. I won't. Like the Blu-rays, I'm passing. Reason after reason tumble through the vast space between my ears, but you've heard them all (and not just from me). Ultimately, I'm tired of George Lucas pretending Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were ever unedited, untouched by new special effects, creative choices, and new dialogue. I'm tired of giving my money to an empire that has an agenda I don't support. So I won't.

—This summer will be huge for superhero films. Will it cause the market for comic book movies to collapse under the sheer weight of Spider-Man, the Avengers, and Batman? Maybe. But probably not. There's still too much money to be made from them. I mean look at all these characters in one setting:

The term "nerdgasm" gets thrown around a lot. So does "geekgasm." Finally getting a shot of Thor, Cap, Iron Man, and Hulk together, alongside Black Widow and Hawkeye? That's a nerdgasm. One of those things that up until now, we've only seen drawn or animated. Make no mistake, this is a big moment for comic book readers.

—I'm working out again. I've been eating well and healthily since last October, I just kind of...stopped working out. Motivation remains my biggest issue, but I'd like to drop a bit so I'm looking all sexy and fine for the topless beaches in Spain. Oh yeah, have I mentioned I'll be taking a summer vacation in the Mediterranean?

—In the world of good news, Prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional. Mostly because it is but also because you can't hide behind bigotry and prejudice and the bible and make laws to make people who's lifestyles you disagree with second-rate citizens. Let's make something clear, too. Just because 7 million Californians voted for Prop 8 does not make it right. That doesn't mean it is any less unconstitutional. It just means there are 7 million Californians who need to look at themselves and ask why they feel they're better than homosexual couples. Did this ruling "ignore the will of the people?" Sure did, and it was right to do so. Sometimes, people are wrong. Like One Million Moms.

—It's getting to be that time when summer movies start kicking up their advertising (are you listening, The Dark Knight Rises?!). You already know that, though, because I put that whole bit about The Avengers before this (it is literally right there. You can probably still see it). Now it's Spidey's turn to show us something new:

I'm hesitant about the CGI. You need it to convincingly pull off a Spider-Man movie, but those moments at the end seemed a bit...unrefined. Keep in mind the movie won't be out until July so there's about 5 months for polishing to continue. That gripe out of the way, I liked what we got. The Lizard was on display here, but wasn't overexposed, which is a great way to go. On the other hand, we pretty much know what the movie is about and I wish the trailer gave us less of the story. The Hobbit and Prometheus trailers are my prime examples of how big blockbusters are advertised. I'm still excited about this movie, just less enthused about the revealing nature of the trailer.

—Last year around this time, I mentioned in an Extended Thoughts how I no longer understand the hatred so many Carolina fans bestow upon Duke and vice versa. People get nasty over this rivalry and it boggles me. There's a difference between a good natured "Go to hell Dook" and whatever Duke fans say about Carolina, and getting personal and rude to opposing fans. Some people are dickbags though, and if I can contradict myself, they earn any nastiness sent their way. Let's clarify things, shall we? You didn't play in the game. You weren't a part of the coaching staff. You didn't have a hand in the victory or loss. You are a fan, whether alum or not. Relax, and enjoy the game for what it is: college athletes busting their asses for their fellow students and fans while the folks who run the NCAA make loads of money off them. When you find yourself sputtering out facebook statuses that seek to demean and belittle those on the other side of the rivalry, maybe take a step back and reevaluate what the hell you're doing. Be good to each other. Also, suck it, Carolina.

—Excellent follow-up news from the excellent announcement in October that Arrested Development was coming back: The entire cast will be back. It was in doubt only so far as scheduling, I believe. Every actor involved has only ever spoken of their love and desire to keep going with the series. Jason Bateman has stated the plan, or hope, is to film this summer for a release early 2013.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Random Thoughts: Building Better Blogs

Happy (month+ late) new year! Is "new year" supposed to be capitalized? I think it is, but I now disagree with that policy. And since this is my blog, my rules rule, unless you all hate them in which case I'm sorry and let's talk about it, OK? Moving on, it's randoming time (any Power Rangers fans? Not the new stuff, but the dino-zords and ninja-zords. Let's hang out and watch the movie. I still have it on VHS)!

—For the first time ever, I've watched some Clint Eastwood westerns. Namely, I've watched the Man with No Name Trilogy. I had no idea A Fistful of Dollars was a remake/adaptation/retelling of Akira Kurosawa's excellent Yojimbo. That said, I enjoyed For a Few Dollars More more, as it was fresher to my eyes. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was a little less excellent than the second entry to me. And maybe I'm an idiot, but it was confusing to see Lee van Cleef playing a totally different character. Either way, thoroughly enjoyed them. Excellent movies, and I can't help but feel that were X-Men movies made in the '70s, Mr. Eastwood would've been spot-on as Wolverine.

Community also made itself more beloved to me after I realized the two-part end of season 2 was named for those two above movies (A Fistful of Paintballs and For a Few Paintballs More). Of course, that also makes it that much sadder than the jerkwads at NBC have still not given us a date for the "return" of the best comedy (not) on TV. Maybe instead of relying on an archaic ratings system, they should take into account things like DVR and Hulu or viewings. But then they'd get a more accurate rating, and wouldn't be able to use ratings as an excuse to keep intelligent programming off my television! /rant

—The big news recently? The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation pulled funding from Planned Parenthood. Why, you ask? Possibly because of political pressure. See, Planned Parenthood has been under attack by conservative politicians for at least a year now. Anyone who supports Planned Parenthood supports abortion, is the general idea behind a lot of the attacks. Which is absurd. But either way, Komen pulled funding back in December. Then people went nuts this week. And rightly so. After much rabble-rousing, Komen changed their policy on funding organizations under investigation. But their image has been hurt in a very big way. Hopefully they recover.

—So I probably should've seen Warrior in theater so it could've gotten my money. Hell of a movie that wasn't a cliché fighting/sports movie by any means. The writing was superb, and the characters were all captivating, disturbed, and sympathetic. I disliked and rooted for Brendon, Tommy, and Paddy. It was shockingly sad and hard to watch at some points. And that last fight was done with serious care. This has been added to my Amazon Wish List, believe it!

—Unfortunately, the lady and I have had to cancel our trip to Austin, TX during SXSW this March. The reasoning is simple: my older sister is getting married in August. We'll need to save up money (and vacation time) to go. Why? Because it's in Spain. But not just Spain, amigos, no no. It'll be in Mallorca. Never heard of it? Well, it's an island. In the Mediterranean. Stop and let that sink in. As neither of us have been to Europe before, we're going to take a full two weeks and see Italy, some more of Spain and maybe France, too. Frakking stoked, to say the least.

—I got myself a LinkedIn (which means you'll see a reduction in the amount of cursing I'll do here) because it struck me that I have no connections in the field(s) I want to be in. Like me and/or my writing? Be a connection! Or share a connection with me. So long as it isn't like the tendril-connection-thing from Avatar. I think that was supposed to be sex without being sex. Or did they have actual sex? I can't remember. All I know is a porn parody exists, and I want nothing to do with it.

—Bamboozle is getting headlined by Foo Fighters and blink-182 (and Bon Jovi, but I'm not into them the way I was back in 7th grade. Which is funny because I'm still into blink the way I was in 7th grade) this year. And it's in New Jersey, which means I'll be going on the Saturday. Tickets are $89, but for an all day music festival that will also be featuring Jimmy Eat World and The All-American Rejects, I'm game. It'll be fun and I think you should come and join me.

—And now, for the end! I leave you with food for thought from the always hilarious, often thought provoking, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: