Gravity

I know I haven’t written much since the spring. Life happens.

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Anyway, despite neither of us having much prior interest in the film, Buie and I went and saw Gravity this past weekend. First, the things I did like about the movie.

1. It’s in space!

2. It’s a visual masterpiece. The wide shots of earth quietly spinning in the vast nothingness of the black, the special effects, the zero G floating, Sandra Bullock climbing out of a space suit ala Barbarella.

3. For a film that really only has two people in it, Gravity is very well acted. Both George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are great in their roles. Bullock especially turns in an emotional performance… which brings me to what I didn’t like about Gravity.

I just didn’t give a shit about these people.

The action in this film starts off almost instantly. You really only have about 5 minutes from opening credits to BOOM! “Oh Fuck, we’re stuck in space!” to get to know these two characters. The calamity that destroys their ship and leaves them floating helplessly in space is what NASA refers to as The Kessler Syndrome and is sparked off by the Russians when they blow up one of their own spy satellites which then spins out of control  and takes out other satellites, spaceships, and space stations and turns them all into a giant debris field hurtling like speeding bullets around the planet.  Before all this happens, all we learn about our heroes is that Mission Commander Matt Kowalski (Clooney) has a bad feeling about the mission that reminds him of a story, and Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is a scientist of some kind who is having trouble keeping her lunch down in zero G.

George Clooney does a great job playing George Clooney in space and does a little more to illuminate his character. Through a series of quirky stories and good natured ribbing of his fellow astronauts we see that he is the veteran astronaut of the team. Dr. Stone, on the other hand, has almost no back story whatsoever until much later in the film. The result of this is that while all of these horrific events were transpiring I simply found myself being pretty bored. I had absolutely no emotional attachment to these characters. I didn’t really care if they made it or not. I had no reason to root for them other than that they were part of Team Human. I watched a good part of the film in awe of the scenery and not really caring about the plight of the characters.

Later on when Dr. Stone’s story opens up and Bullock puts on the serious acting hat I started to care a little bit, but by then the movie was almost over. With a run time of under an hour and a half I feel like they could have pushed it closer to two hours and squeezed in a little more substance in order to make this film truly epic. Instead, all we get is a pretty trip into space, some nice Michael Bayish explosions, and a story that felt hollow despite the excellent caliber of the actors telling it. And all of that is not even taking into consideration the complete disregard of physics throughout the film, but I’m willing to forgive that.

Overall, Gravity is an incredibly decent film, it’s just not great.

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Did DC Learn Nothing From Marvel?

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Yeah, I know. It’s been a while. These things happen.

Anyway, I went and saw Man of Steel tonight. The following will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film yet read no further.

I really liked the movie and thought they did a lot of things right. I liked that they didn’t spend a lot of time rehashing the origin story, but rather focused on Supes discovering who he was as an adult and filled in his upbringing through flashbacks. The flashbacks serve as a great grounding element that connect the audience to the Man of Steel on an emotional level. Through his life with the Kent’s, we as viewers grow to see him as a man first and as Superman second. He’s one of us.

Buie (you remember Buie—roommate extraordinaire and cinematic compatriot) felt that the destruction caused by demigods hashing it out in the heart of Metropolis was a bit much, and I can see his point on that. He also, and I agree, felt that the narrative was a little too heavy handed with the tension and didn’t take any opportunities to inject a little humor into the proceedings until nearly the end of the film. It’s nice, while having your face bludgeoned with action, explosions, and intense drama, to have a few moments of levity thrown in to soften the impact.

Where Man of Steel succeeds—laying a great foundation for a new franchise—is also where it completely fails.

(Hint: This is where the Spoilers start)

As I mentioned, the film does a great job giving us a new Superman, played awesomely by Henry Cavill. And yes, they change some aspects of the story; most minor, and one waaaaaaaaaay not minor. I wont ruin that here, but yeah… umm… wow. What were you thinking!? But I digress… My point is that they do change up the story a little, which I’m fine with. It’s important to break the mold and tread new ground or you risk being a stale imitation of a movie that was already made (and made again, and again). So I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is that the producers of this movie totally frakked the daggit  by not having a stinger after the credits. Did they seriously not learn anything from Marvel?

Marvel is cleaning house with their Film Universe, and it all kicked off with a little 30 second scene featuring Nick Fury, Tony Stark, and a simple statement: “I’d like to talk to you about the Avengers initiative.” And BOOM! Entire movie universe set up to culminate in one of the highest grossing films of all time. And what does DC do with Man of Steel? Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Absolutely no set up for a Justice League movie at all.

And the worst part? They had the makings of a perfect stinger in the film. In a dream sequence, General Zod tells Kal-El how he spent the last 33 years traveling to all the Kryptonian outposts spread across the stars only to find them destroyed. He shows Kal-El long dead Krptonian soldiers still clutching their weapons amid the rubble of said outposts. Zod then tells Kal-El how he scavenged these outposts for technology, weapons, and even a giant terraforming device that serves as a focal point for the action at the end of the film. When Supes is duking it out with the Terraforming device it defends itself with big, metallic, tentacles made of a bunch of nanite looking things before succumbing to the mighty BIFF, BAM, POW awesomeness of Superman.

Roll credits.

Open scene. Somewhere in the Indian Ocean. A salvage ship is picking up the remnants of the device and bringing it on-board. The camera pans through a cargo hold full of Kryptonian technology. Scientists are studying different pieces of the device. Suddenly lights and monitors start to flicker. Everything blacks out. On every monitor an image slowly takes shape.

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Fade to black.

How perfect would that be for a set-up for a threat to the DC universe that only the Justice League could possibly defend against?

What a wasted opportunity.

DC… have your people call my people.

S.A.D, and Books, and Gatsby, and Stuff.

me-falling-off-earth_thumb[2]Okay, so I sort of fell off the planet there for a minute. It’s been a VERY long winter and I’ve found myself, like many other people, contending with a bit of seasonal affective disorder and the crippling bouts of ennui and apathy that attend it. Add to that the various tribulations of singlehood (the frustrations of loneliness, and the disquieting vexation of crushing) and I’ve admittedly had little in way of ambition to do much of anything besides going to work and hitting the gym.

But I’m back now.

Having spent the better part of the previous 3 years slowly working to attain the associates degree currently adorning my bathroom wall, I had very little time in recent history to pursue my original passion of reading books for pleasure rather than for academics. I relied heavily on the more bite-sized entertainment value of cinema (my second love) to fill my escapist needs. Given my recent and increasingly protracted singleness, and my freedom from academic shackles, I’ve found myself with an abundance of free time. So I’ve been filling much of that free time with books.

I didn’t make resolutions at New Years. Resolutions are too easily discarded. I did, however, make a to-do list of sorts—15 things I want to accomplish before the year ends. Item number 6 on that list is to read at least 2 books a month, one of which can be fluff, the other either classic, non-fiction, or in some way educational. During the course of my studies I think I managed to consume maybe 3 or 4 books for pleasure in nearly as many years. So far this year I have consumed 7 books. Not bad for only 3 months. Although, technically I guess I can really only claim 5 of those since I am still in the midst of reading 2 of them. Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything has been my mainstay bar title for when I’m sitting around pretending to be a surly and vacuous bouncer, and I just started reading The Great Gatsby at home.

The Great Gatsby has been one of those books on my to-read pile for about a few decades now. I never managed to read it in High School, and ever since taking a Hemingway course in my last few months of college I’ve been wanting to read it. The fact that the movie, Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, is coming out in a month or so spurred me again into wanting to remedy this oversight.  So far I’m enjoying the book immensely. The problem I’ve always had with “the classics” is the stuffy language and old-mode usage of grammar and punctuation. I’ve always found those too laborsome and distracting to allow me to become fully immersed in the story… which is weird given that I enjoy reading/watching Shakespeare. But The Great Gatsby, despite some period specific language, is pretty timeless in style and composition. And what can be more timeless than a love story, really? Can’t wait to finish it and see the film.

As Much as I want to dislike Leonardo DiCaprio, he just keeps on amazing me with every role I see him in. Seriously, how awesome was he in Inception, Django Unchained, and now this:

With a talented cast like this and with Baz Luhrmann at the helm, this is bound to be an epic movie and I can’t wait to see it!!

The Cave

I noticed this little gem on the Playstation store while finally downloading the Aftermath map pack for Battlefield 3. I thought it looked interesting but wasn’t totally sold on buying it despite its affordable price tag ($14.99). Then I watched a review of it on Sourcefed and was slightly more sold. Then I watched the first few minutes of the game on Kaeyi Dream’s youtube channel (the sexy accent totally helped sell it). I decided to head back to the Playstation store and downloaded it.

The cave is a fun, brain-bending puzzler that harkens back to the great point and click adventure games of yore. The game features seven characters and allows you to select 3 to use as your team on your journey through the labyrinthine cave. Each character you select dictates the adventure you will encounter. Heading into the cave you will play through macabre vignettes based on the past of each of your characters. Essentially, you can switch between your 3 characters and use their unique abilities to navigate through the puzzles. You often have to perform actions simultaneously from different locations in the immediate area in order to progress to the next vignette. The writing is awesome and the Cave’s commentary is hilarious.

If you ever played Maniac mansion on the original Nintendo Entertainment System you will fall right into the scheme of things in this game.

A few hints if you decide to pick up this game.

  1. You don’t need to carry anything from one vignette into another. Everything you’ll need will be provided in the next section.
  2. In the time-traveler’s vignette remember to hold the action button down while switching characters or the action wont stick upon the switch. Took me an hour of running around scratching my head until I figured that out. I was doing exactly what needed to be done I just wasn’t doing it right. Figured I would save you the hassle.

So far I’ve played through with one team (Twins, Time-traveler, and Knight) and I’m currently playing through with my second team (Monk, Adventurer, and Hillbilly).

I seriously can’t recommend this game enough.

A Memory of Light

MoLWhen I was a wee lad of 12 years old I was already a voracious reader. I would read just about anything I could get my hands on. My favorites were books like A Wrinkle in Time, The Hardy Boys Mysteries, and The Chronicles of Narnia—though at the time, the Christian undertones of those stories completely sailed over my head; to me they were just magical adventures.

I moved around a lot as a kid and found that any friends I made over a school year would be replaced the next school year, so after a while I just stopped bothering. I found my friends in books. One day I was with my mother who was visiting with a neighbor and I was lamenting the fact that I was between books and had nothing to read. She handed me Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World. That night I couldn’t wait to tear into it. I plunged into the first chapter, then the second, and the third, and holy shit this is boring… and I set it aside. Weeks later my neighbor asked me how the book was going and I told her I couldn’t get into it. She was understandably shocked. She insisted I give it another shot and told me to make it to chapter 5. That advice proved to be a game changer for me.After chapter five I was unable to put the book down until I turned the last page.

And from that moment on I was hopelessly in love with the genre of high fantasy.

I have spent every year of my adult life eagerly awaiting the next volume in the series, and often spent those long waits rereading the books that came before. All told I have probably read the first 6 books at least 7 times and the later volumes a time or three each (exception being the Sanderson books). In just two small days the final volume is released. Twenty-two years in the making, A Memory of Light finally brings to a close the epic (in every sense of the word) story of Rand, Perrin, Mat, Egwene, Nynaeve, Elaine, and the rest of the bajillions of characters that inhabit Jordan’s amazing world.

While I am practically wetting myself with excitement to finally read the culmination of thousands upon thousands of pages of this story, a small part of me is equally sad that the ride is over. A lot of who I am, my geekiness and passion for fantasy and sci-fi, stems from that fateful moment where the Eye of the World ended up in my hands. When Jordan passed a few years back I was terrified that I would never get to know how this story ended, but Jordan’s widow and his publisher chose wisely in selecting Brandon Sanderson to complete the journey for him. Brandon Sanderson has done an amazing job of keeping the tone and feel of Jordan alive and well and has finally gotten us to the finish line. I wish I had time to start from the beginning again and relive this adventure in its entirety, but I just cant wait to finish the story first. Who knows, maybe I’ll give the whole series another read after I finish Tolkien and reread A Song of Ice and Fire (since I’ve only read the first 3).

Meep! Cant Wait!!!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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I know, I know… no self respecting geek should admit to having never read either The Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I’ve never read either of them. I personally feel that this oversight in my geek cred is why I have been able to so thoroughly enjoy both the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films and the new Hobbit feature film. I’m an impartial, unbiased audience. I’ve been to films based on books I’ve previously loved and have been let down almost every single time. I’ve never read Tolkien, but having now seen The Hobbit in IMAX 3D at the midnight premier, and having seen it in HFR 3D I can now safely say that I will soon be rectifying this gross oversight. Buie, my roommate and cinematic compatriot, has the Lord of the Rings trilogy in a very nice, illustrated compendium, and winter is coming. January is currently reserved for the next Wheel of Time novel, but after that I think I might finally get around to tackling Tolkien. Thorin Oakenshield is just that much of a badass that he single-handedly encouraged me to finally bite the bullet and slog through these books.

I’ve read a few reviews of The Hobbit and have listened to folks discussing the film after both of my weekend outings, and I’ve heard quite a few people dissing on the movie. Some people felt that the beginning of the film was slow, whereas I felt that it was well paced and informative for those that are unfamiliar with the vast (gargantuanly vast) amount of back story that Tolkien has created for the world of Middle Earth. A few people felt that The Hobbit was too childish and not as adult as The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit is an adventure story akin to the Narnia books, in my mind, so it stands to reason that it would be a little less gruesome and adult than the Lord of the Rings. I also heard some technical criticisms from a few people, chief among them my illustrious compatriot, Buie, that the HFR (High Frame Rate) action scenes seemed blurry and distracting and made him a little dizzy (more so than he usually is ;-)). I noticed this effect more with the sweeping pan shots, and to a lesser degree the action, in the IMAX version of the film. Either way, the HFR version looks absolutely stunning during the long shots and still shots. I guess it really comes down to the viewer. I think Buie was actively scrutinizing the HFR effect, whereas I was just enjoying the ride again.

For me, personally, the best part of seeing The Hobbit in IMAX was the extended preview for Star Trek: Into Darkness. The 9 minute preview has me salivating and eager for more. The way the preview ended literally had me on the edge of my seat. So good!!!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was another crowning achievement for Peter Jackson as far as I’m concerned. A few people have asked me about the musical numbers in the film, and yes there are a few songs, but both of them are extremely well done and at the beginning of the film before everything really kicks off. Once the journey gets underway the pacing of the movie drastically excels—almost to the point of being unrelenting—and carries through all the way to the end credits. As always, my favorite scenes were the ones with Gollum. The duality of the character has always been extremely well handled in the film treatments, which I think is both a testament to Jackson and to Andy Serkis’ amazing portrayal. For a completely CG character, Golem has more expression and emotional depth than just about any other character in the entire series of films. The ‘Riddles in the Dark’ sequence was fantastic. The company of Dwarfs that are central to the film are a ruckus bunch of fun characters that span the gamut from silly comic relief to badass. The cast of this film is amazing and includes some great actors, chief among them some favorites of mine from British television, Martin Freeman (Bilbo, Doctor Watson) and James Nesbitt (Bofur, Jekyll/Hyde), and many familiar faces from the LotR films.

I would definitely, highly recommend The Hobbit, and I cant wait for the extended edition Blu-ray (because you know it’s going to happen).

Star Trek: Into Darkness

They just released the announcement teaser for Star Trek: Into Darkness. I have purposely been avoiding reading up on this because I was afraid to ruin anything on myself. But seriously!!! HOLY SHIT! NERDGASM! Sherlock totally wrecks shit up! And did I just spy Alice Eve? You, dear readers, know I have some love for the Alice Eve. I was excited to see The Hobbit in IMAX this week anyway, but knowing that there is an extended preview for this leading into it just makes me about damn near piss myself with nerdy excitement.

Seriously, get a kleenex ready before you watch this shit.

 

PS. Suck it Star Wars: Episode VII

Skyfall (and kung-fu)

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I know it’s a bit late in the game to review Skyfall, but I’ve been benched for a while and only just recently got up enough ambition and free time to actually go see a movie. Buie and I went to see Skyfall this week (his third time, my first) and it was awesome. I would say it is quite possibly the best of Bond thus far. When we first moved into the apartment together Buie was in the midst of a personal mission to watch all 22 of the previous Bond films and only had a few left to tackle, so we watched a few together. I’ve only ever seen a handful of the pre-Brosnan era films of the franchise—The Man with the Golden Gun being my favorite (Mostly because Britt Ekland looked boss in a bikini) up until I saw License to Kill. I always thought Brosnan was a great Bond. When I heard he was out and Daniel Craig was in I was kind of bummed, until I saw Craig as Bond and he completely changed the whole definition of James Bond.

Skyfall, like most Bond films I’ve seen, starts off mid chase and keeps running from there. Daniel Craig is on-point the whole film and is the epitome of Bond badassness; Dame Judy Dench is awesome as M, the matriarch of MI6; and franchise newcomers Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris are equally excellent as the new Q and Miss Moneypenny respectively. Javier Bardem is the Bond baddie in this bout and plays it as creepily as he did Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, if a bit more flamboyantly. There was, for me, a noted absence of a Bond girl in Skyfall. Sure, Bond and Eve (Moneypenny) share a few flirtations, but they don’t ever really act on them and his ‘romantic’ (bowchicawawaah) involvement with Bérénice Marlohe’s character, Severin, was extremely short lived. Still, the film was a knockout and one I highly recommend if you haven’t already seen it.

As for the Kung-fu, well, Buie and I did have another cinematic outing a few weeks ago that I never got around to blogging about. We went and saw The Man with the Iron Fists. I suppose “disappointment” might be a strong word for Man with the Iron Fist, it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I love cheesy kung-fu movies, and Tarantino is my favorite director (even though he was only a producer on this project). I just felt that the acting was sub-par, the writing was weak, and the action was, well, not actiony enough. The fights seemed too staged and flowery and the cuts and angles were designed to hide bad/lame choreography. Perhaps RZA should stick to music and leave the movie making to Tarantino.

If you want to see a great kung-fu movie that takes cheesy as its Mise en scène you should check out Black Dynamite. It is hilarious and awesome.

Unaccompanied

I really shouldn’t be allowed out of the house alone.

I’ve recently moved into an apartment with my friend Buie.  Most of my belongings sat in the garage at the house for the several years the ex and I lived together. We used to jokingly call them my “just in case boxes.” A few weeks before getting the old relationship pink slip we (she) decided that the garage needed to be overhauled so the house could go up on the market so I finally decided to donate all of my “just in case boxes”… and she let me. So yeah… thanks for that!

Anyway, moral of the story is that my first few weeks in the new apartment have been spent doing some serious nesting. I decided that I really didn’t want any of “our” stuff, and only took my TV, my DVDs, my books, and my computer. I had to spend almost $2,000 on new furniture, including a bed, a dresser, and a new desk to replace the behemoth desk I had that took up half my new/small room. I’ve purchased some shelves, some closet organizers, some under-bed storage bins, new bedding (Jersey knit sheets are a-fucking-mazeballs!! but the comforter I bought at Walmart smells weird even after being washed and dried twice with like 5 dryer sheets) and myriad other items to make the place feel like home. Then I had to buy shit for the cat. Of course, I had to buy the $175 self cleaning shitty litter box.

I can’t seem to walk out of the house without spending $100 on something.

So the other day I go to Wal-Mart to pick up 2 or 3 ingredients I was missing for a crock-pot meal I wanted to make. I somehow turned that into another $150 outing. The groceries cost me $13. The recycling bin, kitchen counter-top storage bins, Brave and The Amazing Spider-Man on DVD, and Dishonored for the PS3 took up the rest of it. And the best part is that when I got home to make the crock-pot meal I realized I don’t own a damn can opener and didn’t feel like going back out to buy one, so I didn’t even end up using the groceries I went out for in the first place. /facepalm

I just started playing Dishonored last night and I’m already loving the shit out of it. I love the story, the game-play, the multiple ways you can achieve a goal, the world, and the graphics. I’ll definitely be talking more about Dishonored as I dig deeper into it, but for now I’ve only barely scratched the surface and am only half way though the first assassination mission.

I had high hopes of finally finishing Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood (I’m so close!!) so that I could pick up Assassin’s Creed 3, but I have the feeling Dishonored might have other designs on my time. AC3 will still be there as a used copy in a few weeks. 😉

DVD collection

I finally sat down with my laptop and plugged all my DVDs into a spreadsheet. At present I own 322 DVDs. Only 18 of those remain unopened, less than I had originally thought. So I think I’ll still try to open and watch all of those in the months to come, but I may tackle an even more ambitious goal to watch all of my DVDs over the course of the next year. Obviously I might skip some things like entire television series and the odd movie I own and know was absolutely horrible and not worth the time and effort it would take to watch again.

*cough* Dark Water *cough*

I’m single, and winter is coming. Why not?