28 December 2009

Terminator Salvation (review)

Director: McG
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington
Grade: B

I sit down to watch this movie, and the first thing I notice is that the movie title is announced twice. First in the subtle-cool way I like movie titles to be announced. Then in the zoom-out-from-the-background-to-reveal-the-title way. And then I saw that the opening credits were also done twice. I didn't notice until I saw the name of the director for the second time. Someone, somewhere did not do their job good enough.

Fear not, for this movie is redeemed by Sam Worthington. Dear Sam, your plot beats out Christian Bale's. Love, KL. It's easy to see why. We have awesome-handsome melancholy dude with a heart who somehow managed to murder his brother and two police officers. The details of said murder were never clarified, but it's just background story. Sam's character Marcus Wright just needed something to get his ass on death row. He signs away his body to science, and BOOM! We wakes up post-battlefield in 2018. Poor guy thought he was dead. He also thought he was human. His development was smooth. When he discovered his innards, his reaction was great. And then he got over it. I liked that a lot. Discover, mull, get over it. I LOVED how Marcus refused to accept himself as a machine. Way to defy The Machine, man. And his actor played it very nicely. Sam Worthington, I <3 u.

I believe Christian played the role stoic. You can tell his character was shocked from the way his face froze and how Christian failed to blink. But I think his wife, played by Moon Bloodgood, could have used more screen time. She was pretty good. I did not like her pregnant. Why have a child in the middle of the war? It makes no sense. To live on? Once the machines find out, that child will be a target. Not to kill, but to capture and use as bait. I feel sorry for the little guy. He'll be one helluva protected soul once he comes out.

Just a few slip ups that I did not like. Like when the fuel tank explodes. I really don't know what kind of explosion it would generate, but something tells me the explosion it caused packed too much of a punch. Then again, this is Hollywood, so I shouldn't expect nothing less than grandeur explosions from gas fumes. But it still urks me.

The special effects were seamless. Nicely done. The machine parts looked so real when Marcus's skin was blown off in places.

And this movie wasn't about the action! Too many action movies concentrate on the action! This one had good characters and a unique plot. And maybe that is tearing me away from seeing that this movie really is about action. If that's the case, I don't care. Because I like the plot, I like the characters, and if you're making this solely for the action, then I don't see it. End of story.

24 December 2009

Avatar (review)

Director: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana
Grade: A

This movie is highly recommended.

I think I've seen this plot or something similar before. But I'm pretty sure this is the way that plot is supposed to play out. Man gets an opportunity for a new life. Same man is used to gain inside information on native species. The native species is the biggest obstacle standing between the human company and their goals. Man has no reason to say no --- until he falls in love with the native species.

I knew the ending early on. I mean, he has nothing to live for on Earth, right? Of course the story will play out as it does. Then again, I'm starting to predict movies as they go on now. Disappointing as it is, I find it fun. Whatever doesn't fulfill my expectations gets a few brownie points. So I am jumping for joy that the ending is not the happily-ever-after-for-everyone ending. People die. And because people died I wasn't sure if more people will die. Then I was on the edge of my seat wondering if they will live or die . . . and then I sighed with the outcome.

One of the notable features of this movie is the women characters. I probably wouldn't have noticed unless I read an article in USA Today that my friend pointed out a few mornings ago. Now that I think about it, any woman featured in the movie was not going to let someone rescue her. Trudy, the pilot, is a go getter who won't take orders she doesn't like. We first meet Dr. Grace demanding a cigarette, and she exits murmuring something about taking samples. She's also very confrontational. And then there's Neytiri. She helps lead the battle against the humans, shows Jake the ropes about her people, and murders the Annoyingly Determined Bastard. I like her too.

This movie is riddled with special effects, but it's not bad. You get so lost in them that you forget what you're looking at is entirely made up. And they're so detailed you can't even pretend they're not real! James Cameron spent four (almost five) years working on the plants and world of Pandora. That is dedication to be respected, people.

James Cameron pushed technology for this movie. Although most of the movie is computer animated, he had help from the real people. He built the set and placed censors and cameras at nearly every point. The actors were dressed in suits with the same censors attached in more places than recommended (as in, instead of three censors on an arm, they had ten). So when they filmed the scenes, adding the CGI would be easier and more detailed than ever before. And it's done so seamlessly you don't even remember it's not real! I think I said that before. A linguist was hired to work on the native language, and the actors had to break normal human habits while working (like nodding your head to say yes and other small things like that). It's great!

I feel like I've seen this kind of plot before. But this is that plot done right. Go see it. You'll like it.

18 December 2009

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (the unofficial review)

It's VERY safe to say that I am officially in love with Neil Patrick Harris. He acts SO well I don't think I can express my joy about it. And he's cute. I told my friends about my crush, and then I said it was a good thing there was no social stigma for crushing on a homosexual man. Then secret codename Ricks pointed out I would do it anyway even if there was a social stigma. So yes, I'm totally crushing on Neil Patrick Harris. Besides, he can sing!

And because of finals, you all will get a real review later. Instead, make do with these lists I compiled.

Favorite Songs:
Brand New Day
On the Rise
Bad Horse's songs

Favorite Quotes:

Captain Hammer (holds up fists): " . . . Because these are not the hammer." Pause. "The hammer is my penis."

Billy: "Love your hair."
Penny: "Huh?"
Billy: "I-I-I-I-I love the air."

Billy: "I want to do something great with my life --- like Bad Horse."
Penny: "The Thoroughbred of Sin??"
Billy: "I mean . . . Ghandi."

Captain Hammer: "Especially that guy, he smells like poo."

Groupie 2: (holds up picture of Captain Mal) He signed this.

Dr. Horrible: "Anarchy, that I run!"

Groupie 2: "This is his dry cleaning bill"
Groupies: "For sweater vests!"

16 December 2009

DO NOT DISTURB: Finals in Progress

It's finals week. You know what that means?

It means my desk is overridden with dirty dishes and my floor is strewn with essay prompts and outlines.

It means I'm wearing sweats I don't even know are clean.

It means my mind is slowly deteriorating thinking about the daunting task but slowly recovers the more I study and write outlines.

It means the next time my parents see me, I'll be as gittery as a squirrel and as intellectual as Neil Postman.

It means a slow, quiet descent into insanity until Saturday when all hell breaks loose.

It means I got another issue of Popular Science and I can't even read it.

It means Christmas is a little bit closer.

It means I should get back to studying.

14 December 2009

SPOILER ALERT!! Do not read if you are not caught up with Dollhouse!!!

I like Joss Whedon on most days. His shows are witty, nonsensical at times, and usually very well done. Truth be told, I never got through Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- but only because my former roommate took the DVDs home last year. Yes, there's an Internet, but I'm just too lazy. Besides, Buffy's "sister" weirded me out. Firefly is amazing. The only issue there is its short life. I never saw Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog . . . yet. You can peacefully rest knowing that it's on my do-to list when I get fed up with studying.

And then there's Angel. Probably the only show where I got so fed up with the thick plot I skipped Faith's return and Cordelia's magical pregnancy. I did notice Cordelia slowly being written out, and the camera angles that favored her figure so she didn't look pregnant. But when it got to the point where a conflict in one episode still wasn't resolved ten episodes later, I knew there was some sort of problem. The episodes lost their need for the viewer to feel closure and satisfied at the end of the day. And it bugged me so much that I skipped two story arcs. I still understood what was going on, but I don't like the long arcs. One thing at a time, Joss. One thing at a time.

I was very disappointed with Dollhouse this weekend. At first, I was excited. Echo was on her own in the world, she meets a Spanish woman who seems to be in the same pickle, and they are befriended before getting separated. SUDDENLY! Adelle DeWitt is demoted, Echo is a nurse and training to release the rest of the Dolls, and Topher masters remote wipes andthensome. THEN Adelle gets her old job back by being the Queen Bitch of the House, and Boyd and Ballard are in cahoots. In one episode! But I suppose the only problem was Adelle's demotion. There was mega-potential for more character development, particularly humbling development, and it wasn't there because she rose too soon. Echo returns and is put in isolation.

And because there were two episodes again this week:
BAM! Echo's headaches increase. She's in isolation to make Ballard squirm. How his squirming is harming Echo is not answered. WHAM! Alpha is on the loose again and is killing Echo's clients who truly love the person Echo becomes. KAPOW! Echo's out of isolation and helps the explanation to Topher that she is now self-aware and the Chair will have nothing to say against it. PEW! (missile launch sound) Alpha's in the building and fighting Ballard. And through this craziness, Topher figures out Rossum Corporation's Master Plan. Scary. BUT THE MADNESS NEVER ENDS!!!

The flaw here: Joss Whedon went too far too fast. What uncomfortably fit in two episodes could have easily squeezed into at least four maybe more. My guess is he doesn't know when FOX will cancel this show, so he wants to get it cancelled at a good place in the story. But that's just a guess. I did not like Dollhouse this week. It was way too fast and there was way too little development. Better luck next time, Mr. Whedon. Much better luck next time.

12 December 2009

Flaw Finder

Believe it or not, I there is one thing I do not like about Joss Whedon. No, it's not his sarcasm. I LOVE the sarcasm. If you do not like Joss Whedon, it is probably because you do not find humor in sarcasm. I hear he's really sarcastic on the set of his shows, but its the humor that brings everyone together. Good chemistry.

Sarcastic humor aside, the single thing I dislike about Joss is the thick plots. If the plot is so thick you have to explain the entire season episode by episode to a newcomer, then something is wrong. TV shows should work to keep everyone up to date on the latest happenings and what has happened. If they fail to do that effectively, then you're just catering to your current viewers.

Example: Angel. This is, I admit, the only Joss Whedon I watched all the way through besides Firefly. But I did skip a ton of episodes. Why? The plot was too thick and each episode didn't really solve anything -- they usually made their situation worse. Finally, it got to the point where I skipped a bunch of episodes (I missed Faith's return, apparently). Then I think I skipped some more until Jasmine came along. I figured that was a good restarting point. But even then, the plot was uber-thick. I very much liked Season 5 when Angel's gang runs the new Wolfgram and Hart. It was episodic, it was nice. You could tell the budget was limited because they barely went anywhere other than the office building, but I still liked it.

And now I'm getting sad because Dollhouse seems to be following that same trend. I still <3>

This has been an early morning rant by yours truly.

06 December 2009

District 9

Director: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope
Grade: A

The film opens and ends with mock interviews setting the scene. We hear the story about the arrival of the aliens in South Africa through excerpts of these interviews. At the same time, our main protagonist is set up. He's a man with a position by the name of Wikus van de Merwe newly promoted to move the aliens out of District 9 and into another location further from the city Johannesburg. Problems arise later in the movie when Wikus is going around evicting aliens from their shack homes.

The plot for the movie could have easily portrayed Wikus as a military captain who has to switch alliances to get help. I like the way the movie plays with that concept better. Wikus was an office man. During his time going around District 9, he inhales a chemical that slowly turns him into an alien. His only hope is the alien that made the chemical -- a smart alien by the name of Christopher Johnson. Wikus and Christopher agree to help each other achieve their goals.

I loved the developing friendship between Wikus and Christopher. The only thing bringing them together was their need for the other's help, but they seem to grow fond of each other as the movie progresses. It really warms my heart. I also like Christopher's son, a curious little alien who wants to go back to the aliens' home planet. That kid is badass. His father taught him how to work alien technology, and it brought good things that made my stomach flip at all the right places. Besides, it's not often you see an entire room of gangs downed in one shot.

The fact that Wikus is played by a no name actor is also amazing. He is a solid actor. His character was great, his screams of pain were legitimate, and I loved the small things he did. When he first boarded the sweet mecha thing, little probes drilled into his forehead. His swearing and head jerkiness during that was legitimate. There was also the plant at the beginning of the movie. His wife tells the camera that he used to make her little random crafts. This is important at the end of the movie in sweet ways.

The entire movie was filmed with a hand-held camera. Which really added to the documentary style of the whole thing. It added to the dusty plains, tan color scheme look. Every once in a while, the characters would refer to the camera. Wikus would push the lens away so he could puke. And a few blood splatters hit the lens, which I liked.

The special effects were AMAZING. That is a trait that I didn't notice until I walked out of the theater. Everything was merged so delicately everything looked legitimate. I had to remind myself a few times that the movie is really science fiction and there isn't a giant piece of land in South Africa that holds 2.5 million aliens. Nothing was clean-cut and pristine, and everything that happened was actually real. Nothing I could pick up on seemed something out of Hollywood.

Go see this movie. It kicks butt.