Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

The Wild Animal West

January 15, 2012


I finally got a chance to sit down and watch Rango, and I can’t believe I waited as long as I did.  It’s such a good movie.

This film is a bit of a reunion for the PotC crew of Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, who obviously work very well together based on their track record.  Throw in Bill Nighy for good measure, and you’ve got the makings.

While it’s a family film, it doesn’t pander to it’s audience.  This is something that Nickelodeon does well most of the time, and this is one of them.  It takes the best ideas of the western and sets them in a wonderful anthropomorphic setting.  The best part of it is the realistic scale of an animal world and the very realistic portrayal of the animals (minus the fact that they walk around on two legs and talk); Rango is set in the real world, but in the animal subset of it.

The character of Rango is really fantastic as well.  He’s a family pet who finds himself in the wild and must find a way to survive.  His only friends as the story begins are a collection of toys left in his tank which he uses to create performance pieces.  This lizard is a born storyteller just looking for an audience, and when he finds himself in a small western town he takes the opportunity to practice his skills as a storyteller and character creator, which of course get him in trouble.

The story takes some of the best elements of the Spaghetti Western, turning Rango (which is not his real name) into a Man with No Name/Support Your Local Sheriff kind of character.  There are even some direct references to the Man with No Name (as well as Hunter Thompson, which is a funny moment early on.

Verbinski likes to create some surrealist imagery in his movies.  He did it in the third Pirates movie and he does it again here when Rango reaches the mythical “other side of the road” at a pivotal moment of self-discovery.

Rango is a fun movie, and it is definitely worth checking out and enjoying with family and friends.

William, the Movie Nerdfighter

who related to early Rango more than he felt comfortable with

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Life’s a Piece of Pie or A Muppetational New Chapter

January 7, 2012


I grew up with the Muppets.  Between the Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, the Muppet Babies, the Muppet movies, and Henson’s work in other films and television shows, I would definitely say the Muppets had a big part in raising me.  So, of course, hearing that a new movie was in the works was equal parts wonderful and terrifying.  Wonderful because I thought the Muppets always had the potential for an amazing comeback, and terrifying because with Hollywood’s track record there was a decent chance they would screw it up.

Also, I’ve never been clear on Disney’s intentions with the Muppets, other than being able to pick up a few more bucks from selling new editions of the old works.

Fortunately, Jim Henson’s creations were in very good hands with Jason Segel.  He, along with the talented men and women behind the Muppets, created a movie that fits right in with the Muppet Movie, the Muppets Take Manhattan, and the Great Muppet Caper.  I’m so glad he fought to get this project.  If you had any doubt, perhaps you missed his performance of “Dracula’s Lament” from Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

My biggest fear of this revival was that they were going to “modernize” the Muppets; take away their peaceful attitudes and make them more cynical.  As it turns out, that was a plot point to the movie and the Muppets were trying to fight it along with their new friends Gary (Jason Segel) and his brother Walter (a puppet who is the Muppets’ biggest fan).

This movie is full of Muppet standards; corny jokes, running gags, breaking of the 4th wall, and all those fantastic things we’ve come to expect from the Muppets over the years. And of course there is some brilliant music from Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords)

If you haven’t seen this movie, what is wrong with you?  Afraid you’re too old?  Don’t be.  That’s the beautiful thing about the Muppets, when done right, they never pander to a younger audience.  There is stuff for both old and young.  How many kids today are going to get references to Kermit’s “butler,” 80s Robot?

Seriously, you are missing out on some great moments by not seeing this movie.  Go.  Now!

William, the Movie Nerdfighter

who forgot exactly how much he loved the Muppets until this movie and Disney’s Muppet Vision 3-D reminded him.

How Many Romanas Are There?

January 2, 2012

Back for the new year where I will hopefully be writing much more often.

So, I’ve been working through some classic Doctor Who and I just finished The Androids of Tara (part 4 of the Key To Time series).  This is one of the better classic Who serials, probably because Douglas Adams was a part of the writing team at the time (he would take over as script editor on the last serial of this season) and he really knows how to get the best out of an absurd premise such as Doctor Who (I love the show, but let’s face facts).

Anyway, this series takes place on the planet Tara, a world with a feudal government, but very advanced technology (androids, electrified swords, crossbows that fire electric bolts).  The Doctor and Romana arrive and the Doctor decides to go fishing while Romana looks for the fourth segment of the Key To Time.  Romana easily acquires the fourth segment, but is discovered by a Count who finds her appearance very interesting.  Meanwhile, the Doctor is discovered by men working for the Prince.

It turns out that Romana looks exactly like the Princess of Tara and the Count thinks her to be an android replica.  He has plans to take the throne, and now Romana is a key part in those plans.  As Romana is kept prisoner, the Doctor is taken to the Prince where he is asked to help fix an android replica of the Prince for his coronation.  The Prince and his men suspect the Count’s treachery and want to be prepared.

What follows is a tale of political intrigue and a fantastic sword fight between the Doctor and the Count.  Tom Baker shows some impressive swordsmanship in this one.

Of course, this serial takes place during the Doctor’s time with K-9, so he is a big help to the Doctor and some occasional comic relief as well.  I like how, depending on the circumstances, the Doctor may or may not take K-9 with him, but he always winds up calling him with his whistle eventually.

Also, the way Romana changes outfits in every serial is kind of hilarious, yet interesting in that she always tries to fit in to her surroundings (she has an outfit specifically for Tara because it’s “what they’re wearing right now”).

This is classic Who at it’s best.  If you get a chance to see it, I definitely recommend it.  As of this writing (Jan. 2nd, 2012) it is streaming on Netflix.

Rock and Roll Will Never Die

February 12, 2011

It just fades into the background every few years…

I have to start this review by saying that Richard Curtis is one of my favorite writers at the moment.  Working Title puts out some of the best movies around and he has written the majority of them.  Also, I just found out that he wrote my favorite episode of Doctor Who Series 5 (Vincent and the Doctor, watch it IMMEDIATELY).

For the second time in as many weeks, I have just finished watching Pirate Radio (or The Boat That Rocked if you’re watching it under its original title).  If you have not seen this movie… what are you waiting for?  A fantastic cast of British actors and Philip Seymour Hoffman playing pirate radio DJs of the sixties.  Seriously, there is so much to love about this movie

As the opening of the movie tells us, most radio stations in Britain were only allowed to play one hour of rock a day, if that.  So, what are rock and roll loving men of radio to do?  Buy a boat, load it with a functioning radio studio and as many records as you can get your hands on, anchor it far out into the North Sea, and start broadcasting for twenty four hours a day far out of the reach of the very stodgy government.

Let the free-wheeling sixties hijinks ensue!

And ensue they do.

These hijinks are set to an amazing soundtrack that just cannot be stopped.  The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Procol Haram, The Turtles, Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens, Jeff Beck, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, and oh so many more.

If you haven’t seen this movie, definitely check it out.  Not only is it a great story, it is a great story in one of the greatest times to be alive and to be a fan of rock and roll.  This is when music was free of corporate influence (at least to the levels it would reach in the seventies and eighties) and had a soul.

There is a moment where everything looks quite bleak for the Radio Rock crew and the Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) gets on the air and gives this amazing speech.  It gives me chills every time I’ve watched it.  It has the same effect as the classic “mad as hell” speech in Network.

I mentioned Philip Seymour Hoffman before, and that’s just the American side of amazing acting in this film.  We also get Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, Kenneth Branagh, Rhys Darby, Chris O’Dowd, and even brief cameos by the amazing Emma Thompson and the lovely January Jones.  It’s a wonder that boat could stay afloat with all that talent on board.

Also, to compound my Doctor Who nerdiness, another connection pops up in this film. Talulah Riley, who plays Marianne in the film, was Ms. Evangelista in one of my favorite two-part episode arcs of Doctor Who, Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead.  Pardon me, while I pause over her beauty.

*SIGHS*

 

William, the Movie Nerdfighter

who has never wanted to be a radio DJ more in his entire life than he does right now.

Doctor Who and the Outlandish Adventure

January 28, 2011

Initially, I told myself I was only going to write movie reviews on this blog, but then I thought, why be so limiting?

So, here’s a bit of television to delight and entertain.

You will believe a bus can fly!

Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead

Cast:  David Tennant, Michelle Ryan, Lee Evans, Noma Dumezweni, Adam James, Reginald Tsiboe, Ellen Thomas, Victoria Alcock, Daniel Kaluuya, David Ames

Director:  James Strong

The second Doctor Who special of David Tennant’s final run was different from a lot of what we had been introduced to in the new Doctor Who series.  Instead of opening with the Doctor landing the TARDIS and walking about or a brief bit of terror involving our “creature of the week,” we instead are treated to a museum heist in progress.  A daring cat burglar scales from the top of a gallery to steal a golden chalice of some kind.

After gaining the prize, our thief reveals herself as a woman.  She exits to meet her accomplice, only to find him being arrested.  Immediately, she jumps on a bus to escape the police surrounding the area.  Just as the bus departs, the Doctor also boards.

The rest of the episode revolves around wormholes, a race of fly-people called Tritovores, and a desert planet.  I don’t want to go into full details or examine the whole plot because, frankly, I think you need to watch it for yourself.  I will say that I loved Michelle Ryan as Lady Christina and think one of the best characters created in this new incarnation of the Doctor Who series is Dr. Malcolm Taylor played by the incomparable Lee Evans.  That man is pure brilliance.

It aggravates me when people start to nitpick things about Doctor Who.  This special feels like it is more for the old fans.  There was that level of cheese that was so present in the original series.  The Tritovores were a big part of that, not only in that they were fly-people, but also in that they wore silver spacesuits.  This was a fun special.  Why do all these new Who fans expect great drama every single time?  That’s the beauty of Doctor Who.  It can go from heavy drama one week, to rip-roaring comedy the next; from historical piece to futuristic sci-fi action.  The original series didn’t even always focus on aliens (at least in the beginning).  In fact, sometimes the Doctor was the only alien involved in the story during that very first incarnation played by William Hartnell.

I know people give RTD a lot of grief about some of his more ridiculous story ideas, but let’s think about this show’s history.  There have been plenty of completely outlandish, unbelievable moments, and that’s what we love about the Doctor.

I, for one, hope that one day Malcolm and the Doctor get to have an adventure together.  THAT would be something, indeed!

But, if you’re a fan of Doctor Who or just cheesy (in a good way) sci-fi adventure, you absolutely HAVE to see Planet of the Dead.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

William, the Movie Nerdfighter

who is still waiting for the day he hears that TARDIS appear and the Doctor yell “Allons-y!”

When You Feel Your Life is Up in the Air

March 20, 2010

I just came back from seeing Up in the Air for the second time in the theater.  It had such an impact on me the first time, I wanted to see if it held up through a second viewing.

A curious thing happened as I was leaving.  A girl from one of my classes (the Movie Nerdfighter is back in school if that hasn’t been previously mentioned) was in the theater and we walked out together.  We talked and she said something that I’ve been thinking about since we parted ways.  She said, “I don’t really think a man who has been alone for so long would suddenly start to feel lonely.”

This comment struck me because I’ve recently been questioning the way I live my own life.  I’m a lot like Ryan (Clooney) when it comes to interpersonal relationships.  I live a rather lonely existence.  Now, I’m not saying I don’t have friends or family who I could call and talk to at any given moment, but with all the things I want to do I often end up sitting alone in my apartment working on my many different projects.  Now, that’s something I’m trying to change because I don’t particularly want to end up a Ryan Bingham.

However, there is a part of his life philosophy that appeals to me.  I live with far too much stuff.  I’m inundated with it.  If I attempted to fill my backpack, I’d be crushed under the weight of it.  I remember growing up with all my toys and comics around me and imagining what I would do if a fire started and the house was burning.  I had a complicated maneuver where I would begin to chuck boxes of comics and toys out the window and jump down afterwards.

I was a strange child.

The older I get, however, the more I realize how unnecessary it all is.  Even before I saw Up in the Air the first time I was beginning a campaign to reduce the amount of clutter in my life to things more essential.  I’ve started a slow process of selling my comics (which is not going so well in the current economic climate) and have started to revise my thinking of “what is important to me.”  My life is surrounded by knick-knacks and junk and honestly, I’m tired of living like this.

I loved Up in the Air as much this second time if not more.  It’s one of those movies that just sits on your brain and causes the synapses to fire all through the night.  It gives you a lot to think about, and that’s why I love it so.

William, the Movie Nerdfighter

who’s searching for his “Plus 1”

William’s Top Ten of 2009

January 16, 2010

So, your humble Movie Nerdfighter has joined a collab project on YouTube called “In the Great Perhaps

This week, we’re all sharing a list of top ten for the past year.  The choice of list items was completely left up to us.  Of course, I had to share my Top Ten Movies of 2009:

In no particular order:

– The Hurt Locker
– Inglourious Basterds
– A Serious Man
– Up In the Air
– Sherlock Holmes
– Star Trek
– Where the Wild Things Are
– District 9
– (500) Days of Summer
– The Hangover

A few honorable mentions that didn’t make the list:

– Avatar: A visual effects game-changer
– Observe & Report: Great dark comedy from Jody Hill
– Whip It: Love, love, love this movie

There you have it.  Those are my picks.  Thoughts?  Do you agree?  Disagree?

New goal for this year, to post much more regularly to this and my other blogs.

William, the Movie Nerdfighter

who really seems to enjoy making lists about movies

Where the Wild Things Have Issues

October 28, 2009


First, for all those interested, I’ve said the things that needed to be said and I think things are better.

At least, it seems that way to me.

Tonight, I finally went to see Where the Wild Things Are. SUCH A GOOD MOVIE!!!! I mean, I had faith, of course I did, but I was still a little blown away by it.

The look of the Wild Things was PERFECT! I remember reading the book way back when and later comparing the Wild Things to Jim Henson’s monsters (considering them essentially the same type of fantastical beast), so seeing a combination of practical “man in suit” character design mixed seamlessly with digital effects for facial expressions makes these beasts seem completely real to me.

Then there’s the story. While I always loved the story from the book, I did wonder what they were going to add to make the movie stretch out to a feature length. Because, let’s be honest, it’s a really short book. But, leave it to Spike Jonze to find all the right stuff to add.

Just like all of us, the Wild Things deal with depression, loneliness, anger, fear, and love. However, unlike most of us, they have a unique way of dealing with these issues. Mostly, they fight, bite, slash, claw, dismember, and even devour each other to solve their problems. This makes sense, they ARE monsters after all.

It’s funny, I forgot how much I had in common with Max growing up. While I didn’t run around in a wolf costume “causing mischief”, I did (and still do) a lot of things that only seemed to make sense to me. Even other kids my age didn’t really “get” me. I can’t say that I blame them, there are a few things that I did (and, again, still do) that make sense at the time, but moments after even I would think “what the hell was THAT about?”

I’ve always been one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” kinda guys.

I also still have quite a bit in common with Max, and the Wild Things.

Of course, I think we all do.

I mean, that’s the point, right?

William, the Movie Nerdfighter

who wants to have a Wild Rumpus as soon as possible.

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.

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.