Saturday, May 31, 2014

Lookie What I Found!

I stumbled across this whilst dicking around on the interwebs the other day and it kinda hooked me.  The band's called Space Elevator (so far as I can tell the song's called "Elevator") and they're kind of a 70s throwback funky, bluesy rock kinda thing.  But it's got a lot of what I like in a band: hooky melodies that get snagged in your head, cool guitar tones, a sweet squealing guitar solo, and an attractive woman belting soulful vocals while decked out in a catsuit.  Check it out!


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Caffeine Withdrawal Haiku

Trying to get off caffeinated beverages is a bitch.  Not nearly as bad as other addictive substances, but a bitch all the same.  This is what it feels like to me...

Steel-toed boots bashing
My cranium to tiny shards
I'd kill for a Coke...


Monday, May 26, 2014

X-Cellence Reclaimed


With so much bad, sucky, and just not good turning up in X-Men movies recently, you'd think that Fox was doing everything in their power to completely ruin the franchise and its legacy.  They managed to right the ship with First Class, although I still had some pretty serious problems with that flick.  But after seeing Days of Future Past, I feel comfortable saying that all has been forgiven.

Days of Future Past marks the return of Bryan Singer to the X-Flicks director's chair, and you have to wonder what the hell Fox was thinking when they chased him off.  Singer knows how to capture the Merry Marvel Mutant Society and make their exploits feel serious and dramatic without things bogging down in joyless  stoicism.  Days of Future Past has high stakes, what with mutant kind on the verge of extinction and all, but it never becomes shoe-gazingly dour.  It's a welcome approach that makes the movie both tense and fun.

The story is a little complicated, involving time-traveling consciousness, multiple people playing the same characters, and killer robots.  I'd break it all down, but I kinda don't wanna.  I'm lazy that way.  What's important is that the story hooks you and takes you on a very enjoyable ride.  I really dug the despondent Professor X stuff.  It was nice to see a character that dignified and hopeful at the bottom of the barrel.  Quicksilver was way more awesome than I was expecting, and I came away wanting to see more of him.  The design of the Sentinels, the giant mutant-killing robots, is pretty cool, especially the future Sentinels.  When they unleash their death rays, their heads open like the blossoms of some exotic flower.  Very cool stuff.

One of the best things about this movie is that the story is focused pretty tight on a central group of mutants.  Wolverine, Mystique, Beast, Professor X, and Magneto all get a chance to strut their stuff.  This is a welcome change from earlier X-Flicks, which seemed so packed full of mutants that things got unfocused and diluted.  Along with the mutants, we get a great performance from Peter Dinklage as Bollivar Trask, inventor of the Sentinels.  You hate the guy, but you kind of see his logic, too.

My favorite scene in the whole movie came when Feds trap Professor X, Wolvie, and friends in a kitchen.  Quicksilver does his thing, and the result is spectacular.  And quite hilarious.  The scene where Magneto lifts a baseball stadium is breathtaking.  Those scenes make up for the less inspired fight scenes between the future mutants and the Sentinels.  There's scene where future Prof. X talks to past Prof. X that gave me goosebumps.  Mystique actually gets some pretty emotional stuff, too.  The balance is definitely shifted in the direction of character stuff, but that just makes your ass get kicked harder when the action scenes come.

Some people will complain about the huge continuity problems, but that reminds me of something I heard former Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada say in an interview.  It was something along the lines of "I don't care so much about the continuity as long as the stories are good".  That seems appropriate to bring up here.  DOFP smooths out some of the bumps in the X-Flick continuity, but it simply ignores others.  But none of that really matters cuz X-Men: Days of Future Past is a pretty damn good story all on its own.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cage Match: Godzilla vs. Pacific Rim

One of the hardest things about writing movie reviews, and something I struggle with, is to come up with something that stands out and hasn't been done 8 million times.  With the release of Godzilla this week, I really wanted to do something different than a regular review.  And since Godzilla has a ton in common with Pacific Rim (big monsters, stoic heroes, same studio, etc.) I thought I'd do something that's only been done 7 million times and measure how the two contemporary kaiju classics stack up against one another.  LET IT BEGIN!!

 THE SKINNY: Godzilla is about humans trying desperately to survive in the face of marauding giant monsters.  It's more about the human characters and how they react to their situation.  Think of it as The Walking Dead of big monster movies.

Pacific Rim is about humans trying desperately to survive in the face of giant marauding monster.  But they do so by building towering mechs to punch the monsters in the face.  Repeatedly.  And the monsters are from another universe.  And Ron Perlman gets to chew some scenery.

THE RUN TIME: Godzilla clocks in at a relatively trim 123 minutes, while Pacific Rim is a bit longer at 131 minutes.  The difference is that Godzilla is a slowly developing, deliberately paced drama, while Pacific Rim is a ridiculously entertaining action movie.  ADVANTAGE: Pacific Rim

MONSTER ORIGINS: Like the classic Godzilla movies, the monster in this new movie are the result of mutation brought on by radiation.  In Pacific Rim, the monsters come through a portal at the bottom on the ocean, direct from some screwy alternate universe where everything is in day glow colors.  I like other universes better than radiation.  ADVANTAGE: Pacific Rim

THE CASTS: Both films feature stoic leading men who kick ass and don't say very much about it.  Charlie Hunnam (from Rim) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Godzilla) are pretty much the same character.  So, the supporting casts have to pick up the slack and make things interesting.  Godzilla has some great actors in the cast, like David Strathairn and Ken Watanabe.  Rim treats us to Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, and the always badass Idris Elba.  While I have to admit that the Pacific Rim cast is more fun to watch, the better acting comes from the Godzilla cast.  What really tips the scales is Bryan Cranston.  He is fabulous in Godzilla, and puts the King of the Monsters over the top.  ADVANTAGE: Godzilla

THE WRITING: Neither of these scripts is anything to write home about, but the writing in Godzilla seems more realistic.  At least as realistic as a movie about rampaging giant monsters can be.  ADVANTAGE: Godzilla

THE MONSTERS: Here you probably have to count the Jeagers from Pacific Rim.  After all, they are big, metal monsters.  And the giant stink-beetles-from-hell in Godzilla are kinda cool-looking, but they reminded me a little too much of the Cloverfield monster.  But, Godzilla had Godzilla.  Granted, Godzilla kinda looks like a giant reptilian version of Bob Hoskins here.  But he's still King of the Monsters.  ADVANTAGE: Godzilla

THE ACTION: You go to movies like this to see monsters tear sh*t up, and neither disappoints.  The climactic end battle in Godzilla is phenomenal, and will have any kaiju movie lover cheering.  Still, Pacific Rim has big monsters AND giant robots fighting, sometimes while using freight ships like baseball bats.  Plus, nobody in Godzilla ever gets to yell "ELBOW ROCKET!!"  ADVANTAGE: Pacific Rim

THE HOLY SH*T MOMENTS: (Spoiler Alert)  No movie from 2013 had a better "Holy Sh*t" moment than when Otachi spreads out his (or her, or its) wings and drags Gipsy Danger into the sky.  But, Godzilla has a couple of moments that are exactly that awesome.  ADVANTAGE: Draw

THE MUSIC: I was a bit disappointed that I didn't hear anything that hearkened back to the music from the 1954 original in Godzilla.  The score was fine, though, and did the job.  It just wasn't all that memorable.  Pacific Rim had that awesome, guitar-spiked score which made you want to go stomp on cities yourself.  It's the second thing in his career that Tom Morello should actually be proud of.  The first was getting knocked into oblivion by Tony Stark's Mark I suit in the first Iron Man flick.  ADVANTAGE: Pacific Rim

THE DIRECTION: Guillermo Del Toro does everything he does with a fanboy love that bleeds through the screen.  That love for kaiju and mechs is all over Pacific Rim.  You can just imagine him geeking out while coming up with fight scenes or killer shots.  There is love present in Godzilla, too.  But it's more reverential.  Gareth Edwards has chosen to make every frame in Godzilla a tip of the hat to the original movies.  The backgrounds of shots are stuffed full of references to those old movies and past Godzilla foes.  And you know what?  Neither way is superior.  ADVANTAGE: Draw

So, it's time to count up the points.  And the winner is... Pacific Rim!!  But barely.  The fact of the matter is that while Godzilla is a very different movie with a very different focus, if you liked Pacific Rim, you'll probably dig Godzilla.  I love both films and can't wait to watch 'em back to back in a marathon.  So, get out to your local multiplex and see Godzilla.  And if you haven't had a chance to scope out Pacific Rim on video, well, what are you waiting for?  Killer, kick-ass kaiju action awaits!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Inspiration to Keep Going... For Now...

I'm sure it's not much of a secret, but lately, I've really been having a hard time.  I'm sad, I'm lonely, and I haven't been able to see it getting any better any time soon.  I can't seem to find any hope.  I've been wondering if there was ever any hope to begin with.  It seems like the only thing I have to look forward to is the next big movie, and when that's all you have to look forward to, you really don't have anything to look forward to.  
So while I was wallowing in a miasma of dejection and self-worthlessness, I was watching Friday Night Lights.  I was pondering giving up on trying to attain my dreams and just crawling into a hole and dying.  And then, Tyra Collette, a high school senior who wants nothing more than to get out of her hometown, gave the following voice-over, an excerpt from her college entrance exam: 
Two years ago, I was afraid wanting anything. I figured wanting would lead to trying, and trying would lead to failure. But now I find I can’t stop wanting…  I want to fly somewhere in first class. I want to travel to Europe on a business trip. I want to get invited to the White House. I want to learn about the world. I want to surprise myself. I want to be important. I want to be the best person I can be. I want to define myself, instead having of others define me. I want to win; and have people be happy for me. I want to lose and get over it. I want to not be afraid of the unknown. I want to grow up to be generous and big-hearted. The way that people have been with me. I want an interesting and surprising life.
It’s not that I think I am going to get all these things. I just want the possibility of getting them. College represents possibility. The possibility that things are going to change. I can’t wait…
This hit me like a fully-loaded clown car.  (They hit hard cuz they're packed full of like twenty clowns, right?)
Obviously, I'm not going off to college.  Still, a lot of this is exactly the kind of stuff I want outta life,  I want to define myself, and not be defined by other people.  I want to not be afraid.  I want to be generous and big-hearted.  I don't know what represents this stuff for me.  I just know that I want it.  And I know I can't give up trying to get it because if I do, I for damn sure won't get anything I want.  So, for today, I've decided to keep plugging.  Who knows how I'll feel tomorrow, but for today, I want to keep trying.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

If They Only Had Good Fences...

There are many, many, MANY versions of what Hell is like.  Many maintain that Hell is a fiery pit full of brimstone and flame where Satan tortures you for eternity.  Some maintain that it's a big, empty expanse of nothingness.  I was taught that Hell is the eternal mental agony brought on by knowing you didn't do the best you could in this life.  Some folks even think Hell is a town in Michigan.  (Tee hee!)  After watching the Seth Rogen/Zack Efron laugher Neighbors, I'm inclined to believe that Hell is having to live next to a pack of frat boys.

Neighbors isn't a story so much as a situation from which ridiculousness springs.  Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Bynre) have a pretty mellow situation going on.  They have an adorbale little baby daughter. They live in a nice neighborhood and they've got all their money invested in their home.  Okay, so having a kid makes it a little hard for them to fool around.  Other than that, things are pretty good.  Then someone buys the house next door.  Much to Mac and Kelly's chagrin, their new neighbors are a bunch of frat kids.  Noisy, constantly partying frat kids.  And on that note, the hilarity starts.

One of the fun things of a movie like this is to see supposedly grown-ass, responsible adults acting just as immaturely as the kids.  Mac and Kelly completely sink to the frat boys' level, scheming to get their organization dissolved.  Teddy (Efron) and his buddies return fire by being louder and more aggressive.  Most of the comedy in Neighbors comes from watching the adults try to outdo the kids and vice versa.

Some of the laughs come from pretty dirty material, so this isn't a movie for everyone.  For example, I don't recall Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) having many lines, but I do recall that most of his jokes involved his unusually large phallus.  That helps set up a wicked funny gag that unfolds in the end of the movie.  But it might be the kind of thing that turns folks off, so be warned.

Rogen and Byrne are pretty reliable in their performances.  I buy them as a married couple that wants to do the responsible thing but just lose control and get dragged into the scrap.  Most of the frat kids are believable as frat kids.  I was most impressed with Efron's performance.  He was perfectly cast as Teddy, an arrogant, immature college kid who never wants the party to end.  It's hard to watch him in this movie and reconcile the fact that it's the same kid who was young Simon Tam and the star of all those Disney high school sing-alongs.  I hope we'll see him do more stuff like this cuz he was hilarious.

Neighbors doesn't have an original bone in its body.  There's plenty of Animal House in the DNA, but originality isn't the point.  It's also not perfect.  Too many funny bits get dragged out too long, and when the movie tries to detour into semi-serious subplots involving Teddy's fear of the future, it really goes off the rails.  But this is a movie tasked with making you laugh.  And as long as it's doing it's job, it's a pretty damn good time.

(Note: I think I know how I'd handle it if I were in Mac and Kelly's position.  I'd start a death metal band in my garage and hope the evil-fueled rock blasting from our amps drowns out their stoner hip-hop party noise.  And the whole neighborhood would be worse off for it!)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A-LARPing We Will Go!


The first time I experienced LARPing (Live Action Role Playing, for those who don't know), I was out on a walk in Salt Lake City.  I saw a mad throng of people trying beat the bejeezus outta each other.  I never got close enough to see that they were using padded sticks.  Since then, LARPing has showed up on episodes of Supernatural and it played a huge role in the story of the Paul Rudd/Sean William Scott flick Role Models.  But, while LARPing has a higher profile than ever nowadays, it still seems like the kind of cult sensation that appeals to a select audience.  Knights of Badassdom is kinda the cinematic equivalent of LARPing.

Knights of Badassdom isn't just like LARPing because it's about LARPers.  It's the kind of movie that if you're into it and dig this kind of silly b-movie, you'll love it.  If you're don't, you'll spend an hour-and-a-half wonder why the hell this is so funny.

Here's the story: When Joe (Ryan Kwanten) gets dumped by his girlfriend, his buddies Hung (Peter Dinklage) and Eric (Steve Zahn) decide to cheer him up by dragging him on a LARPing excursion.  On the outing, the boys meet up with gamemaster Ronnie Kwok (Jimmi "Liam McPoyle" Simpson), the super hot and completely badass Gwen (Summer Glau) and her cousin Gunther.  The gang accidentally summon a succubus who looks exactly like Joe's ex, and soon, the blood is spilling.  The gang have to find away to put the demon down and save the day.

Knights of Badassdom is the kind of bloody, gorey comic romp that some folks can't quite figure out.  Should they laugh?  Should they throw up?  Should they do both?  It's a bit like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil in the way it combines gore and laughs.  But, I'll be honest.  I laughed.  I laughed a lot.  Sure the acting's bad and it's not well-written and the visuals are low-rent and cheesy.  But it's also extremely fun.  Movies like this are pure wish fulfillment, like you can imagine the filmmakers sitting around going "You know what would be cool?" and totally geeking out.  You don't get the feeling that studio execs were jacking around with the story to make it appeal to a wider audience.  I love that.

Knights of Badassdom isn't gonna change your life.  It's not a piece of art.  There's a good chance you won't even like it.  But if you like silly, funny movies about nerd life (and these characters feel like proper nerds.  Bravo!) this movie could put a smile on yourself.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sad But True

After the past few days, I'm more convinced than ever that people don't grow up.  They just try to act like they have.  Here's a little song about that.



Friday, May 2, 2014

Welcome, Summer Movies!!


Well, it's the first weekend in May, and you what that means.  Time for SUMMER MOVIES.  The next couple months will be filled with big, loud, dumb movies.  Hopefully, enough of them will be fun romps that I don't lose my sh*t.

The first weekend of May has belonged to Marvel movies over the past few years, and this years is no different.  The Amazing Spider-Man 2 kicks off the summer movie season.  In lieu of a typical review, and in honor of my homeboy Teddy Westside, I'mma break this down into a list of pros and cons, with the cons first.

CONS

  • I still don't like Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker.  He's too pretty, a little too smart ass all the time.  I'm fine with the snarky one-liners when he's in the costume, because I've always thought that the costume frees Parker up to be who he wants to be.  He feels more confident, and that allows him to smart off.  Plus, Garfield is pretty damn twitchy in his performance.  That said, I felt he was a little more tolerable this time around.  But, he's still not a good Peter Parker to me.
  • The consistency of the tone of this movie was all over the place.  Sometimes, it wants to be gritty and serious.  Sometimes, it wants to be emotional.  Sometimes, it goes way over the edge into Silly-ville.  (Check out some of the scenes with Jamie Foxx.)  It got a bit distracting.  The first film held the tone much more consistently.
  • The film was too long, and it definitely felt it.  The story has multiple side plots, and there was at least one side plot they could cut out completely and you wouldn't miss a single thing. 
  • What a disappointing Stan Lee cameo...
  • The Max Dillon character was a little unbelievable.  I found him a little too nebbishy and mumbling.  And some of his stuff was ridiculous.
  • The musical score.  I hated the score to the first movie.  This one may have been worse.
  • The attempt to cram so many villains into this flick made it feel a little too much like a set-up flick for a Sinister Six movie.
PROS

  • Emma Stone.  She's delightful as Gwen Stacy.  Smart, sassy, funny, adorable.  And heartbreaking.  That's all I can really say about that.
  • Dane DeHaan was pretty creepy as Harry Osborn.  And effective.  He made my skin crawl a couple of times.  Yes, that's a good thing.
  •  The action scenes are spectacular.  Although I'm fed up with slow-motion camera work (and slo-mo CGI), the filmmakers have come up with a bunch of cool-looking battle scenes that feel like they're right out of the comics.  Come to think of it, the stuff of Spidey web-slinging through New York is pretty great, too.  It almost makes you feel like you're soaring through the city right along with Ol' Webhead.
  • The end of the film.  I can't say much about it without spoiling it, but I found it to be pretty satisfying.
  • Although some of the jokes in the movie fell a little flat, I was glad to have some humor in the movie.  Of course, I'm not a big fan of "dark, gritty, serious" comic book movies.  I like fun comic book movies, and Amazing Spider-Man 2 is pretty fun.
  • Aside from the slo-mo crap, this movie looks really, really good.  Even the way the suit crinkles and billows in the wind as Spidey swings through New York is pretty impressive.
  • Sally Field feels much more like a part of this story than she did the first time around.  Aunt May is a huge part of the Spidey mythos, and I was very happy to see her get more involved.
On the whole, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a bit of a mess, but there's enough good stuff in this movie to make it worth seeing.  It may be a bit long and it doesn't always keep you engaged, but when it starts to get going, it's a fun time.  And it's a good way to kick off what promises to be a fun movie summer!