Saturday, July 10, 2010

Predators: A Few Gems Among A Whole Lotta Mediocrity

Going into Predators I had mixed expectations. On the one hand, I really wanted to see new life breathed into the franchise and see some creative new spins on the classic set up. On the other hand, I just really wanted to be entertained. These were similar expectations I had going into AVP and AVP: Requiem and Predators succeeded a lot more then those other films did. Predators gave us a lot of the best parts of the Predator movies, great action, cool effects; but it also failed in certain respects. The story failed to all. The set up is a bunch of  killers are mysteriously transported to the alien planet and they are trying to evade death from the aliens and escape. The problem is thats it. We don't really get any answers or gain insight to why any of this is happening, other then the Predators want to become better fighters by hunting the best human killers. We're briefly told about a conflict between different types of Predators--smaller ones and larger ones; larger ones hunt the smaller ones--but its the most we get as far as answers. Robert Rodriguez tried to put together a solid script but failed to provide any bit of characterization. The only progression made is shown through the main characters becoming more aware of whats going on. There is a climactic twist involving Topher Grace's character which, I guess, is meant to provide characterization, and an arc for his character but it succeeds in only dumbing down the movie and is utterly stupid and 100% pointless. In fact, Grace's character wasn't even needed in the film. The "twist" doesn't impact the endgame, as far as the Predators goes, it just seems to be in there to create the illusion of a significant plot device. In other words, its like putting in a twist just for the sake of having one. Some other issues with the film involved the design of the new dog-like Predator creatures. These new creatures had tusks/horns that seemed to protrude so far and curve so far back over their own faces that it is a wonder they'd ever be able to eat their kill. I liked that Rodriguez and director Antal tried to bring new creatures into the film but they should have thought through the design more. Speaking of thinking things through more, theres one other "big twist" that happens around the middle of the film that was just as ridiculous and ludicrous as the Topher Grace one. ***SPOILER ALERT*** Midway through the film, the band of killers happen upon the Predator's camp. They notice a Predator is strung up on some kind of alien stockade looking thing. As they all move in for a closer look and see the true face of whats been hunting them, Alice Braga's character has a look of recognition on her face. Later on, she goes on to tell us that in the 80s, a group of mercenaries were in the south american jungle on a mission and some thing showed up, hunted and killed all but one soldier; she apparently either debriefed Arnold Schwarzenegger's character from the first film or read the debrief. Regardless, it was a total cheat. I admire Rodriguez' chutzpah and desire to pay homage to the original film and to try and connect the two, but he failed in what I think he sought out to do there. The big reveal in this scene elicited a mighty laugh from me. People always talk about, with 3D, how its not a good idea to break the 4th wall, Rodriguez broke the 4th wall here in terms of keeping me invested in his vision. By even bringing the first Predator film into the mix the way he did he only succeeded in disengaging me from his own story. The good news though, most of the cast worked. Alice Braga needs to be in more movies. She has a quiet confidence and all around tough swagger all her own. Walter Goggins got my attention this year for his brilliant work alongside Timothy Olyphant in Justified but here was used a bit too much for comic relief, still, he was effective. Lawrence Fishbourne swooped in long enough to make me more involved with the film before his untimely exit. He also has a very cunning, slick reference to his work in Apocalypse Now. Fishbourne should play crazy more often, it was scary how good at it he was. Last, but not least, Adrian Brody could not have been more miscast for this film, yet, its as if he knows this and doesn't care, for he found a way to make it work and by the end I had mostly bought into his mercenary, but don't even get me started on his out of nowhere, bogus Scarface-ripoff line. One character who was barely developed that I really wish had more in the film was the Yakuza. By far, the best scene in the entire film was the epic fight between the Yakuza with his samurai sword and the Predator with his blade, just a really well staged and shot scene. All in all Predators was a moderate success in updating the franchise. Its a B film that knows its a B film and doesn't try to be anything more. Hopefully the sequel works out the kinks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

LOST Finale Thoughts: Would You Know My Name if I Saw You in Heaven?

    Going into Sunday's epic LOST finale event, I knew I'd be emotional, but I did not expect the final show to totally leave me broken down and emotionally vulnerable the way it did.
    My Aunt, who I was very close to, died this past August after an over 2 year fight with brain cancer. In the beginning of the summer I spent a few months helping to take care of her while she received treatment. She too was a LOSTIE, although she was a late comer to the show. I remember watching the Season 5 finale with her.
   When the Sideways storyline was revealed for what it really was in the final 10 minutes of the show on Sunday, I was overcome with emotion. By no means would I consider myself a Man of Faith, but the idea that, in death, I could be reunited with my Aunt and others I've lost in my life was enough to make me hope for something more when I die, then to just rot in the ground. This might explain why I felt not only vulnerable after the show, but little dazed and confused. I've spent so long telling myself that there's no heaven or hell and that when I die I will just be in the ground that I forgot what it felt like to believe in something more then this plane of existence. I don't know if I will ever be a total person of faith, but this awakening in me, a yearning for something more, gives me hope for the future; and I know that, when I die, I hope I will be able to walk up to my Aunt in heaven and that she will know my name.

Would you know my name
if I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
if I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on
'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven...

Would you hold my hand
if I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand
if I saw you in heaven?
I'll find my way through night and day
'Cause I know I just can't stay here in heaven...

Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees
Time can break your heart, have you begging please...begging please

Beyond the door there's peace I'm sure
And I know there'll be no more tears in heaven...

Would you know my name
if I saw you in heaven?
Would YOU be the same
if I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on
'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven...
- Tears In Heaven by Eric Clapton

Friday, May 21, 2010

LOST: In The Words of Jim Morrison, "This is the End..."

Do you remember where you were on September 22, 2004 and what you were doing at the time? I do. Myself, and about 18 million other people in the US were watching the pilot episode of a new TV show called LOST. At that time, there was no telling what would happen to the show, how much of a phenomenon it would become, but one thing was clear to all who were watching: it was a damn good hour of television. Soon after its start, LOST was being talked about and embraced everywhere, and as a new high school freshman, I couldn't have asked for a better ally. Starting high school is a scary thing, you are back to the bottom of the food chain among students and you don't always know people. I felt like a "Stranger In A Strange Land", so I instantly identified with LOST. Watching the castaways start off as strangers and eventually forge relationships with each other, it really helped me embrace high school more as I went along.

- LOST Season 1 Tribute Video

During the hiatus between Season 1 and Season 2, I was trying to get my father to sit down with me and watch the first season. I knew my Dad would love the show, for he's always been into Sci-fi. However, he declined, saying he was "watching too much TV as it is". For weeks I continued to nag him to watch, until he finally gave in. With each episode we watched, he became more and more hooked. There were some nights where we watched 4 or more episodes. As we finished season 1, and my father watched the famous shot of Locke and Jack peering down the hatch, I remember him turning to me and thanking me for making him watch. LOST became a weekly thing for him and I. At the time, my folks were divorced and I was living with my mom but that didn't stop us from watching the show together or even being on the phone throughout most of it. At a time when I wasn't seeing my father as much as I liked, LOST kept us together and even helped us become closer then we already were. So, LOST not only helped me through high school, it helped me through my parent's divorce.

Lost hasn't been without its controversy. With every episode came new questions with few answers. A lot of fans of the show grew weary of the continuous stream of new questions. For me, while I do want answers, the show has always been about the characters. Over 6 years I feel I've become very emotionally involved in how it plays out for Jack, Locke, Sawyer, Kate, Hurley and the rest; so answers, while nice, weren't priority no. 1. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the LOST masterminds, were aware of growing fan frustration and also were becoming weary themselves. They had an endgame in mind but with no clear end date to the show they were worried about how to keep it going. Side effects of their troubles included a Bai Ling appearance and two of the most hated characters in, possibly, TV history: Nikki and Paulo. However, once the end date was set and number of shows per season reduced, Damon and Carlton began unfolding the endgame of their epic story and its been a helluva ride.

In my life, I have never seen anything like LOST. No TV show has ever come close to the size and scope of the story LOST has told. As a filmmaker, LOST has restored my faith in the medium of television and what you can do with it. I don't think there will ever be another show like it. As we approach the finale this sunday, I am excited for the conclusion, but also very sad, for a chapter in my life and many others is closing. At this point I would like to thank J.J. Abrams, Jefferey Lieber, Damon Lindelof for creating this show and Carlton Cuse for coming on and helping to keep it going. I also would like to thank Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Elizabeth Sarnoff, and all the other great writers; Jack Bender and all the other wonderful Directors. Last, but certainly not least, I'd like to thank the amazing ensemble cast for their incredible performances throughout the years: Enter text here.Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Naveen Andrews, Nestor Carbonell, Henry Ian Cusick, Jeremy Davies, Emilie de Ravin, Michael Emerson, Jeff Fahey, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia, Maggie Grace, Josh Holloway, Malcolm David Kelley, Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Ken Leung, Evangeline Lilly, Rebecca Mader, Elizabeth Mitchell, Dominic Monaghan, Terry O'Quinn, Harold Perrineau, Zuleikha Robinson, Michelle Rodriguez, Ian Somerhalder, John Terry, Alan Dale, Sonya Walger, Mira Furlan, Kevin Durand, L. Scott Caldwell, Sam Anderson, Cynthia Watros, Mark Pellegrino, and Titus Welliver.  
LOST will live on forever as the greatest, most game-changing television show in history. I'm happy I was able to go along for the ride and am ready for the end. Namaste.
Enter text here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

TV Upfront Week: NBC

Its that time of year again! Its time for TV Upfronts, where the networks present their fall schedules to advertisers in an effort to secure revenue for ad space. First up this week was NBC. Over the years, NBC has been a fraction of the network it once was. Once a dual powerhouse in both drama and comedy, the network has become, in recent years, a dumping ground for bad dramas(My Own Worst Enemy, Kidnapped) and reality shows(100 Questions). All the while, the network seemed to focus more on developing their comedies. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I watched the trailers to the new fall dramas and saw what appears to be quality TV! I know its not likely all will succeed, but they all looked very interesting, and even better, made me want to watch them.

The Event  is the most mysterious and mythology laden show in NBC's arsenal. It follows intersecting stories between The President learning of a government cover up and a young man's search for his seemingly kidnapped girlfriend. The question though...what is The Event?

The Chase is your standard cop serial but with an added jolt of Jerry Bruckheimer high-octane action. It follows cops as they track down criminals who are on the run. Out of all the dramas, this is the one I'm least interested in, but it still looks exciting. Making their return to TV is Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break) and Cole Hauser (K-Ville).

Undercovers is the new show from the mind of J.J. Abrams. It will live and die by the chemistry of its main stars: Boris Kodjoe (Surrogates) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Larry Crowne, Doctor Who). Good thing Abrams has Felicity, Alias, LOST, Fringe, and Star Trek under his belt, he's certainly proven himself with casting.

Outlaw, starring Jimmy Smitts, looks really good. It was my favorite of the trailers and I really dig the premise. What I dont like, though, is that NBC stuck it at 10pm on FRIDAY! Thats like admitting to the public you want it to fail. Time will tell I guess...

Harry's Law is from David E. Kelly (The Practice, Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Boston Legal), one of the most successful TV producers of our time. I like the choice of Kathy Bates to bring out the quick wit in her character, Harriet. This one pops up around mid-season.

The Cape is the story of Vince Faraday, a lone good cop in a town full of corruption. He is framed as the ruthless criminal, Chess, and is forced to go underground. With the help of a circus leader, played by the under-used Keith David and a blogger played by Summer Glau, Vince becomes The Cape, a masked hero determined to fight off the corrupt and to clear his name.

Out of NBC's new Comedies there were two that I thought looked very good.

Outsourced sounded terrible on paper, but the trailer won me over. The show actually looks pretty funny.

The second comedy is an hour long show called Love Bites.

Love Bites didn't look as promising until I saw the appearence of Greg Grunberg and Craig Robinson: 2 very funny dudes. Also, I gained total confidence in the series when I saw it was from the creative team behind Love Actually, which is the best romantic comedy I have ever seen.

So there you have it, Day 1 of Upfront Week! I'll be back with more thoughts and coverage tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Glee: Bringing Happiness Back To TV

 I've posted the songs and the videos; I've said how much I love it, but its now finally time to devote a post to Glee, and how every glee-filled hour is bringing happiness back to television. Before Glee arrived in the form of a Post-American Idol sneak peek last year, TV was a scary place. Every network had show after show of detectives tracking down murderers, psycopaths, and going toe-to-toe with sociopaths. There was no real show that dealt with dramatic, intense issues, but in a light, happy way. This all changed when Ryan Murphy's show debuted. Glee tackles heavy issues like sexual orientation, failing marriages, and loss but does so in a way that, while you feel the emotion of the drama, its not all-consuming. Every episode is filled with gut-busting one-liners and situations, as well as some fantastic musical numbers. I still get chills when I listen to the Glee version of Don't Stop Believing, Somebody To Love, and most recently--Like A Prayer. Last night's episode, "The Power Of Madonna" may have been the show's best episode yet. Everything about the episode felt right and you could tell they wanted to step it up in this one. The writing was at its Glee-ful best as was the acting and performances. They all brought their A-game. In the ever-changing TV landscape, its impossible to say for sure if Glee will go on a run as long as shows like 24, ER, or even Law & Order , but as long as the glee continues with each new episode, the show could end up surpassing them all. After all, its impossible to watch an episode of Glee and not be filled with overwhelming joy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Wish My DATE NIGHT could have been KICK-ASS(CC: Roger Ebert)

So, this weekend I saw two movies: Kick-Ass and Date Night. Date Night was very funny at times, mostly due to Steve Carrell and Tina Fey. The rest of the time, however, was riddled with jokes clinging to the audience for life. I really wish the script had delivered more. Besides the two main stars, only James Franco and Mila Kunis actually scored laughs in their supporting roles. I was disappointed to see William Fichtner wasted here. His fine dramatic acting skills aside, I really do think he could be funny, but just not with the material he was given. Someone else who was terribly wasted was Kristin Wiig. Theres a scene early in the movie where Fey's character is hosting a book club attended by her husband and all of her girlfriends. One of the ladies gets very over-emotional and angry about Carrell's reaction to the book. She's trying to be funny, but fails tenfold. The whole time, Wiig's character is seated directly accross from her, removed from the action. The whole bit was something that Wiig could've done, a million times better. Date Night also reaffirmed something I've been thinking for a while: Ray Liotta, for some crazy reason, isn't in good movies anymore. Its hard to believe that Liotta's brilliant turn in Goodfellas has been completely forgotten, so him not seeing quality roles baffles me. Here, Ray is forced to play another mockery version of himself. I found Ray's only laugh was unintentional. It came when Taraji P Henson's detective character walks into a restauraunt to see the Gangster bad guy of the film, and you see its Ray Liotta(since it seems only Ray Liotta can play a cheesy, viscious gangster -type). There's also a car chase scene towards the middle of the film that just may be the worst shot car chase I've ever seen. For a date night, I guess director Adam Shankman's film succeeds thanks to the talent of it's lead stars, but it could have certainly been better. (6/10)

Thankfully, the second film I saw this weekend, KICK-ASS, lived up to its name, and then some. Set in a world identical to our own, albeit with a few more pop-culture references, KICK-ASS is a funny, violent, and exuberantly fun film. The film got mostly good reviews, but the negative ones all cited the character of Hit Girl to be the the film's downfall. Roger Ebert even went as far as to call the film "morally reprehensible" and shared his worry of 6-11 year old girls seeing the film and Hit Girl's actions. First of all, Roger, I don't understand how or why and girls that age would ever be seeing this film. I know we live in a society where proper supervision is pretty much out of style as far as parenting goes, but seriously, the movie is called KICK-ASS...should be an instant red flag. Second, Roger, the film, as you so quickly dismissed, is based on a comic book. You're worried about little kids seeing this movie when the comic is on bookshelves in stores all across America. Any kid could go, pick it up, and read most of it before their parents even noticed. Finally, Roger, the final part of your review expresses your disgust over a climactic scene in the film, where Hit Girl is being pummeled within an inch of her life. Call me crazy, but I was happy they put this in the film. For a movie that sets out to show real people, without any super powers, trying to be superheroes, it would have been unrealistic and foolish if Hit Girl wasn't shown to be vulnerable, at all. The fact that she was able to get hurt, and did, reinforces that these "heroes" aren't "super", which was the point of the film. KICK-ASS was made uncompromisingly. Because of this, it remained true to the source material as any book/comic-to screen adaptation should. I really wish Roger Ebert, and other critics, could have enjoyed the film for what it was: a great fucking time.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Did You Know That A Dolphin is Just A Gay Shark?!"

Ahhh, Glee. How I have missed you so...

My entire week is now better, and more cheerful just because this show is back.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday Movie Moment: Up In The Air

All movies have great moments. Some can be smaller, more insignificant; others can be huge and important. In Up In The Air, there's a great moment that comes in a scene about halfway through the film. Anna Kendrick's character, Natalie, has just gotten a break-up text message from her boyfriend and is upset. Vera Farmiga's character, Alex, responds by calling him a prick and Natalie says, "but what does that make me? Someone who falls for a prick" Alex's answer is one of the great moments of the film. She says, "We all fall for the prick. Pricks are spontaneous, they're unpredictable and they're fun. And then we're surprised when they turn out to be pricks." (SPOILER ALERT) After having seen the film, the scene is full of so much irony. Alex speaks of the prick, but ends up being "the prick" to George Clooney's Ryan Bingham when he turns up at her house, only to find out that she's married, with kids, and thinks of her rendezvous with him as an escape from her normal life. The moment also helps drive home the huge differences between Ryan and Alex. Ryan looks at going out on the road as him being himself and when Alex goes on the road she's looking to be someone else.

Look for more Movie Moments on future Mondays. In the meantime, tell me in the comments, what are your favorite movie moments?

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming For A Word From The World of Sports: WTF?!?!?!!?

Last night, in a sudden and very random move, The Pittsburgh Steelers traded away, number 1 reciever and superbowl hero, Santonio Holmes (79 catches, 1248yrds, 15.9avg in 2009) to the New York Jets. The price for such a player? One singlular 5th round pick. The 155th overall pick in the draft. I understand the Roonie's feelings about Holmes. His problems off the field have been getting steadily worse for a few years. What I don't understand though is why they didn't care about getting more for him. If they'd cared they could have gotten a 4th or even 3rd round draft pick. The Steelers organization will regret this decision if, come February, Holmes is once again a Superbowl hero...but for The Jets. Speaking of The Jets, they are going to be monstrous. Playoff bound for sure.