Archive for August, 2009

District 9 is a 10!

August 23, 2009

For the most part, science fiction is formulaic and predictable.  We go off to some far-off future place (even if it was “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far way) with crazy technological spectacle and curious alien life and just .  While District 9 has both technological spectacle and curious alien life, it’s anything but formulaic.

It seems very rare that sci-fi movies are also thought-provoking (unless you’re a sci-fi nerd like myself and you spend plenty of time afterwards studying the theories set forth).  This particular science fiction movie feels like it could easily become science fact.

Using a great deal of social commentary, Neill Blomkamp says a lot about how we treat people (human or not) who may seem different.  Setting the film in Johannesburg, South Africa, an area that is familiar with many issues similar to the segregation dealt with in D-9, Blomkamp uses some pretty amazing computer animation and documentary-style storytelling to tell the story of a rather unique alien “invasion.”

The short version, 20 years ago an alien space-ship appeared in the skies over Johannesburg and lost it’s command module.  This stranded the aliens on Earth.  The government eventually boarded the ship to discover a whole host of “prawns” (the derogatory term for this race) and moved them down to the surface.  The “prawns” quickly began to adapt to their surroundings and mimicked most shanty-town, poverty-stricken cultures.  Certain criminal elements moved in to gain access to the advanced technology the “prawns” possessed.

The shanty-town, called District 9, is governed by a company called Multinational United (MNU).  The movie is the story of MNU’s efforts to evict the aliens from District 9 into the newly sanctioned “District 10” lead by MNU employee Wikus van der Merwe.  A documentary crew follows Wikus and the rest of his team through their day evicting “prawns”.  Along the way, we see interviews with MNU employees and specialists in various aspects of alien life.

The first half of this movie truly does have a documentary feel to it.  It seems like this could actually be happening right now.

District 9 is in the same category of Blade Runner and Children of Men for emotionally-charged, thought-provoking science fiction that truly feels like it’s right around the corner from actually happening.  One of the initial goals of science fiction was to show us the error of our ways by presenting a unique world-view.

District 9 delivers on that goal and is simply amazing to see.

See this movie!  It’s a must.

 

William, the Movie Nerdfighter

who may be going to see this movie again before it leaves the theaters.

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G.I. Joe: A Real Hollywood Screw-Up

August 8, 2009


The following review contains spoilers, if you plan to see this movie and don’t want it ruined for you, please be advised and come back to this particular review after you’ve seen it.

While I really love the fact that Hollywood has decided to take on all of my childhood favorites, I really wish they’d have a little respect for the established history.

G.I. Joe has a ton of history behind it.  Admittedly, the various cartoons and comics have rewritten it over the years, but the writers of the new Rise of Cobra decided that the only truly important history was Destro’s (honestly, I’m just glad they cast someone who could actually play Scottish, and Chris Eccleston is great in the part) and the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow rivalry (well, one version of it).  One of my main issues was all the character alterations.  If you’re going to change a character that much, why not just make a new one instead?

Prime example, the Baroness is no longer Austrian, but American, and we find out early on that she and Duke were romantically involved.  Was this really necessary?  Both the change in nationality and the affections for Duke.  Really, it felt more like a James Bond story line…

…well, EVERY James Bond story line.

There’s plenty of eye-popping action, and the basic plot did feel like a typical G.I. Joe cartoon episode.

Ray Park was perfect as Snake Eyes, but what’s with the mouth on the rubber mask?  Was that made by the same ass who put nipples on the batsuit?  And apparently, this version of Snake Eyes just took a vow of silence instead of having his vocal chords damaged saving his teammates (the Marvel Comics origin).  Also, the writer’s went for the childhood rivalry angle between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.

A good chunk of the plot deals with Cobra’s use of nanobots (called nanomites in the movie).  As much as I like the idea of nanobots in science fiction, it seems to have become a crutch for writers these days.  How can we make Zartan a TRUE master of disguise?  Nanobots!  How can we make Cobra soldiers expendable and 100% loyal?  Nanobots!  And the big one, how can we give Destro a metal face?  Nanobots!!

Hey, you guys do realize the only reason the lips on Destro’s mask moved in the cartoon was because the animators realized how pointless drawing a motionless mask would be.  It was completely unnecessary to actually give him a metal face!  Just put him in the mask, the audience will understand.

Oh yeah, and what’s the deal with writers wanting to turn EVERY villain into Darth Vader?  Cobra Commander was not horribly disfigured requiring a life-support system in either the cartoon OR the comic.  In fact, in the comic he was a used car salesman who became fed up with the U.S. government and turned to terrorism.  This, for me, is a much better story.  He wore the metal mask to conceal his identity (also, I was always a fan of the cloth mask, much more terrifying), nothing else.

The writers also decided to make the Commander more like Dr. Mindbender (who does appear, but briefly) by making him more of the mad scientist running his experiments with nanomites.  Question: If you’re smart enough to make these nanomites that can create a metal face, or make another face completely malleable, why can’t they fix your own horrible disfigurement?  I mean, isn’t that the point of nanobots?

The movie is fun, with a ton of good action, decent character development (regardless of the skewed history), with some EXTREMELY cheesy dialogue, and some questionable C.G. at points.

This movie is about what I expected, maybe a little better.  I lost a lot of faith in it when those “accelerator suits” were first revealed.  In the initial trailer, I thought those were going to be B.A.Ts (Cobra’s Battle Android Troopers).  I was sadly mistaken.  At least they weren’t a major part of the story.

It’s watchable, but I don’t know if it’s worth spending $8 or $9 bucks on.  I don’t often say this, but wait for the DVD.

 

William, the Movie Nerdfighter

who knows he takes established continuity a little too seriously because writers need  the freedom to create, but wonders if it’s really that difficult to follow.

Alan Lastufka and Tom Milsom are “Taking Leave”

August 6, 2009
DFTBA Records co-founder Alan Lastufka has a strong draw to music. Whether it be from his early work recorded on mini-cassettes, or his music video work with bands like imadethismistake and solo artists like Charlie McDonnell. So, it’s no surprise that his album “Taking Leave”, a collaboration with “internet sensation” and musician Tom Milsom (known as hexachordal on YouTube), is pure musical genius.

Beginning with “Just a Boy”, Alan and Tom create a unique sound and a song about the loss of innocence. Using what sounds like a child’s piano (the one that sounds a bit like a xylophone) with masterful electric piano (or synthesizer?) to back it up, this song brings us right into the world of a man who is lost in his life, possibly due to the influence of his father years earlier.

“The Wind” takes us into the mind of a girl in love. So in love, in fact, that she is almost weightless, pushed and pulled by the wind after seeing the object of her affection. This is a song of a love so strong that nothing else seems to matter. The music and lyrics are so marvelously interwoven and powerful, we almost want to fly with her.

Now, for the other side of this powerful love, we have “Can’t.” Seeing things from the guy’s perspective, how he feels controlled by her, but in a love to strong to give up. The electropop sound of this song creates a mechanical beat that matches the lyrics perfectly.

In “The Mirror Song”, featuring Kristina Horner along with Milsom, we hear both sides of the relationship as they look back on better times. A simple but beautiful piano accompaniment adds volumes to this song.

While the final song on the EP, “Forgiven” seems (to some) like a slight departure from the rest of the album, it is actually a natural progression in the “story” being told. Plus, it is bridged by a spoken-word track from author John Green called “The Sparks Fly Upward” (a passage from the Book of Job). Also, though “Forgiven” seems stylistically different from the beginning tracks, the progression is more of a build-up to the grandeur of the final piece. It sounds as if “Forgiven” includes music from every instrument featured in previous tracks, creating a musical epilogue that wraps up the story nicely; both instrumentally and lyrically.

“Taking Leave” is both extremely catchy and remarkably deep at the same time. It’s an album that I haven’t been able to stop listening to since it arrived, and I find more in it with each new listen.

If you’re a fan of thought-provoking, extremely well-done music; “Taking Leave” is a must!

Need a little taste? Check out the video for “Can’t

Click here to buy “Taking Leave” by Alan Lastufka and Tom Milsom for a mere $6!

I know what you’re thinking: “William, did you say that album is only six bucks? Impossible!”

But, I can assure you, dear reader, it’s absolutely true!!

 

William, the Movie Nerdfighter

who has taken a departure from his usual movie reviews to tell you about some amazing music.