Saturday, September 29, 2012

2012 Summer and Fall TV Roundup

Now that the summer shows are finally finished their respective seasons, it's time to take a look back on how they fared. I'm also going to look ahead to TV shows I'll be watching in the fall, some of which have already started.


Deadman Wonderland
Although this anime was crazy and ridiculous, it was still fun and made me keep tuning in to see what would happen next. Although the show was a mere 12 episodes and only adapted parts of the manga, it doesn't look like it will get another season. Luckily the last episode tied up most of the loose ends, while still leaving it open for more just in case.

Aqua Something You Know Whatever

Aqua Teen Hunger Force has started to change its title every season now even though it's still the same show. That said, I was happy that the creators clearly tried this season, took more risks, and stepped up the animation (though the show was never about good animation). I felt that this season was much more funny and creative than last season which had its moments but overall was disappointing to me. My favorite three episodes of the ten episode season were Big Bro, The Granite Family, and Fightan Titan. Also, whatever happened to the promised new Aqua Teen, the baby pepper named Pepe? Maybe it was just another Adult Swim joke but there was a picture with him on the Cartoon Network website.

Black Dynamite
I have really enjoyed this show so far and can't wait for the next season. The transition from live action movie to animated TV series went smoothly as it allows for them to do whatever they want. This can manifest itself with crazy action scenes or actual people from the 1970s! The season finale was a sequel to the pilot.


I am a big fan of Wilfred and loved season two. This year built upon last season while still pushing the envelope and keeping things fresh such as Ryan getting a girlfriend. The season finale was good but there had better be a third season as there are still some mysteries left to be revealed. But most importantly I just want more Wilfred!

I started watching Louie last year but only caught about half the season. This year for season three I watched it from the beginning and it's right up there with Wilfred as one of my favorite current TV shows. The recent three parter about Louie having a chance to succeed David Letterman as host of the Late Night was great, as was the holiday themed season finale. Louie has already been renewed for next year, its fourth season. FX has been on fire for me lately with Wilfred, Louie, and Archer so I should probably make it a point to watch It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia this season as I usually just watch it when it's on but never seek it out.


Robot Chicken
Adult Swim's Robot Chicken began its sixth season recently with a bang thanks to its DC comics special. My favorite segment of that episode was when the Green Lantern couldn't stop laughing while at the funeral of Captain Carrot because of the silly nature of his "zoo crew"!

South Park
The second half of the South Park's 16th season started last week. The show isn't as great as it used to be but still worth watching. The mid-season opener was titled "Sarcastaball" and is about football injuries. I thought they would've gone with something a little more timely, such as the recent NFL referee strike (though there was one joke about it) or election season politics.

The Boondocks
The fourth season of The Boondocks hasn't aired yet even though it was announced a while ago. I haven't heard anything since so I'm guessing it got pushed back. Maybe it will start late in the fall but I have a feeling it we won't see it until sometime next year.

Beavis and Butthead
Last fall we got the return of Beavis and Butthead. Although the first episode garnered about 3.3 million viewers, that number tapered off to under 1 million by the end of the season. I don't think the show has been officially canceled but it doesn't look like its coming back anytime soon.

Last Man Standing
Speaking of shows I watched last fall, Last Man Standing will be back on ABC for another season. However, the show is being retooled with the classic sitcom aging syndrome as the two year old Boyd will now be a five year old. Besides that age change two other characters (eldest daughter Kristin and her ex-boyfriend Ryan, the parents of Boyd) are having their actors replaced. While I enjoyed the first season, I do think some changes were needed but we'll have to wait and see if these are the right moves.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist is a parody of Hong Kong Kung Fu movies. What makes Kung Pow unique is that director, writer, and lead actor Steve Oedekerk actually took an old Hong Kong martial arts movie (1976's The Savage Killers aka Tiger and Crane Fist) and edited himself along with some new effects into this other film. Although a few of the CGI special effects are dated ten years later, you can tell that a lot of effort went into putting Oedekerk into the old movie and that there is clearly a love of the source material here while also having some fun with it.
I found the humor to be hit or miss though usually when I did find something funny I laughed pretty hard. I liked the subtle humor ("that's a lot of nuts!", Taco bell and Pringles logos in the background, "THIS IS CNN!", etc.) a lot better than the more obvious jokes such as the Kung Fu cow or the tongue with a face that didn't make me laugh at all.
The "bullet time" parody is dated not because it is a reference to The Matrix, but that for years following that movie everybody and their mother parodied the bullet time scene and the joke became played out. I'm not blaming the makers of this movie for putting that in there as it worked perfectly with what Kung Pow was trying to do, but it took me back to when it was almost mandatory to parody that scene.

Although Oedekirk hasn't acted or directed much since Kung Pow, he has kept busy on the writing side of filmmaking with recent credits such as Evan Almighty and Cowboys & Aliens. Oedekirk was nominated for an Oscar for best animated feature for Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius which he co-wrote and produced. Oedekirk has writing credits for a lot of well known movies from The Nutty Professor to Bruce Almighty and is also known for his Thumbs! comedy series which parodied famous films.
When it comes to parodies of Asian  martial arts movies I prefer the recent web series "Ninja the Mission Force" which I hope gets another season. "Ninja the Mission Force" took a different approach from Kung Pow as instead of putting a guy into a preexisting film, it re-used old footage and claimed that it took place in the same continuity with new scenes, much in the way these Hong Kong cut and paste movies did like Ninja Terminator with hilarious results!
I liked Kung Pow but at this point it seems doubtful we'll get the sequel promised at the end!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vampire's Kiss (1988)

Vampire's Kiss (1988)
In the mid to late 1980s a bunch of vampire movies came out such as Fright Night (1985), Near Dark (1987), and The Lost Boys (1987), all of which I enjoyed. 
Vampire's Kiss is a horror-comedy movie about literary agent Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage) who thinks he may have turned into a vampire after being bitten by a beautiful girl named Rachel (Jennifer Beals). There isn't much of a plot and the main thing driving the story is a missing file that Loew's boss says early on it's not important. Despite this information, Loew uses the missing contract as an excuse to constantly harass his secretary (played by Maria Conchita Alonso who was in The Running Man and Predator 2). The harsh treatment of the secretary by Loew was just petty and made it hard for me to care about him, vampire or not. Not to mention the fact that he apparently raped this secretary?! Now I guess it is possible he simply imagined it but we see scenes between her and her brother without Cage's character that seem to imply it actually happened. It is possible for a film with an unlikeable protagonist to be work, but Loew is just not interesting outside the fact that he may be a vampire and the story just isn't there.
Most of the humor in the movie comes from Nicolas Cage's hilarious over the top but frantic performance. Although Cage is pretty ridiculous as usual, it does make Vampire's Kiss fun to watch. Overall though the tone doesn't work as the movie is trying to be a vampire horror-comedy along the lines of Fright Night but without much of a plot to support it. In Fright Night you had laughs and scares but they were used to reinforce an interesting story that wasn't just about whether or not the new neighbor was a vampire but how to stop him from turning others into vampires once his true nature was revealed. In Vampire's Kiss we are just left to wonder if Loew is really a vampire or a crazy yuppie dreaming this all up.

The above picture shows you what you are in for when it comes to Cage's acting in the movie. That facial expression in particular caught on with the recent "You Don't Say?" internet meme.
I watched Vampire's Kiss with a group of people and many of them didn't believe the movie was intentionally a comedy. I had no problem as identifying this movie as an intended horror-comedy and it seems to have always been marketed this way judging from the original trailer and posters. However, I think this shows that the movie wasn't able to capture the fun but serious enough tone of a movie like Fright Night.
Jennifer Beals is sexy as a vampire but she doesn't do much besides bite Loew then have sex with him. Couldn't she have helped find that missing file when she isn't out at night seducing Nicolas Cage?! Oddly enough Beals was also in Frankenstein movie The Bride (1985) a few years prior to this film.
Although Vampire's Kiss had its moments, all related to Cage's performance like him buying plastic vampire teeth or eating cockraoches, the movie didn't work for me. I liked that it was ambiguous as to if being a vampire was all in Loew's imagination, but there wasn't much of a point other than that. I feel that there needed more to the story than just "is he crazy or not?" since we don't get any definitive answers on that anyway. Maybe if Loew actively tried to be a human again or stop Rachel there would've been more to suck me in (pun intended) while keeping the ambiguity. I also think Loew should have been more likeable (like, you know, not a rapist!) so that we would have cared more about the character other than just what outlandish thing Nic Cage would do next.
Vampire's Kiss is watchable thanks to Cage's hilarious screams and wacky facial expressions. Without his memorable performance this movie would have been totally different and probably have been completely forgotten today. Nicolas Cage seems to always put in either great or terrible performances, all of which are usually interesting to see. I've now seen eleven Nicolas Cage movies, including his brief role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982).
Another mid 80s vampire comedy is the movie Once Bitten (1985) starring Jim Carrey. I'll have to check it out sometime and see how it stacks up against Vampire's Kiss.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fugitive Alien (1987)

Fugitive Alien
My last couple of posts have been related to MST3K and RiffTrax. Before I move on to other stuff here is another MST3K episode!
Fugitive Alien is a movie made from episodes of a late 70s Japanese TV show called Star Wolf. The show seemed to be the Japanese version of Star Trek combined with Star Wars. For example, the Arabic area the crew visits reminded me of how original Star Trek series often went to planets that modeled themselves on different time periods, usually a result of the shows small budget and the need to re-use sets and props. Considering the low budget perhaps one could even say that Fugitive Alien is the Japanese Space Mutiny!
The episodes of Star Wolf are poorly stitched together with bad dubbing. If I was probably just watching the show itself (and with subtitles instead of the bad dub) it would probably just be cheesy fun but as is its hard to figure out what is even going on. Despite its major flaws, at least Fugitive Alien is never boring, which I consider to be the worst flaw of bad movies.
Fugitive Alien is from the third season MST3K so it has Joel as the host. MST3K would feature the sequel Star Force: Fugitive Alien II on the show later that same year. The host segments are fun with the first appearance of the Jack Perkins character (based on the real Jack Perkins, host of the TV show Biography) who would later host MST3K in syndication as The Mystery Science Theater Hour. Although the movie is a big mess, Joel and the bots have a blast with the material and make it very enjoyable.
There were a bunch of great riffs in this episode but some of the best were the recurring jokes about everybody being named Ken and the catchy "He tried to kill me with a forklift!" song.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

The Beast of Yucca Flats
I, like most people, first discovered Coleman Francis thanks for the TV Show Mystery Science Theater 3000. MST3K riffed all three films that Coleman Francis wrote and directed. The Beast of Yucca Flats is the second Coleman Francis movie I have seen after Red Zone Cuba. I still need to see The Skydivers so I can say I survived all the Coleman Francis films!
The Beast of Yucca Flats stars Swedish professional wrestler Tor Johnson who is probably best known for his role as a police officer in Ed Wood's infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space. But even Plan 9 is better than this movie!
Coleman Francis takes most of the blame for this awful movie (along with Tony Cardoza who acted in and co-produced all of the Coleman Francis films) as he directed, produced, wrote the screenplay, acted, and edited the film. The Beast of Yucca Flats was Francis' debut film but that is no excuse for the fact that it is incompetently made with an incomprehensible plot. For example, there is a murder at beginning of the film that had nothing to do with the rest of the movie and is never followed up on. The story, or lack thereof, is about man (Tor Johnson) who survives a nuclear explosion that turns him into a monster. Although the movie is pretty short, there are still a bunch of filler scenes like random shots of nature and a scene at a gas station in which the attendant is played by none other than Coleman Francis! I can't say I'm surprised that The Beast of Yucca Flats is currently 20th on the IMDB users all-time bottom 100 movies list.

The movie clocks in at only 54 minutes (even though it feels three hours long!) so two shorts were including in the MST3K episode. The first is called Money Talks! in which a 1950s boy gets advice on how to save cash from the ghost of Benjamin Franklin, while the second is titled Progress Island, U.S.A. and is essentially a 1970s infomercial for Puerto Rico. Both stunk but are good riffing material and certainly more watchable than The Beast of Yucca Flats!
This MST3K episode is from the sixth season of the show's Comedy Central era with Michael J. Nelson as the host. The episode aired about a month after the Red Zone Cuba episode which is referenced a few times with lines like "I'm Cherokee Jack!" Although The Beast of Yucca Flats is a terrible film, the riffing and host segments are great so I gotta give Mike, the 'bots, and the Mads credit for actually making this movie fun to watch!
Here's one of my favorite riffs from this memorable episode: "Abbot and Costello meet the Beast of Yucca Flats!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

RiffTrax Live - Manos: The Hands of Fate

RiffTrax Live - Manos: The Hands of Fate
I'm a big fan of the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000. Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, three of the main riffers from that show, now do RiffTrax. RiffTrax is basically the same sort of riffing style from MST3K, but the material is a mix of new films along with the older low budget movies. While RiffTrax are usually bought and downloaded online, the guys also do RiffTrax Live in which they perform live and have the event simulcast across the nation. I've enjoyed MST3K since I was a kid and love the recent RiffTrax stuff, so when I heard Mike, "Servo," and the second Crow T. Robot were going to riff Manos: The Hands of Fate live and in theaters I couldn't resist!

It is common for movie theaters to play trivia before a film starts. This was parodying by RiffTrax Live with humorous trivia and jokes. Once we got started there was a brief introduction of our heroes who performed live from a theater in Nashville, Tennessee. The guys then told us that we would be getting a couple of shorts before the movie! There was a short seven minute film from the late 70s titled Welcome Back, Norman and another short from the 70s about kids making toys of out cylinders, both of which were great riffing material. Besides the two shorts we were also greeted with a prune juice commercial!
The main attraction was Manos: The Hands of Fate, a film that languished in obscurity until it was re-discovered by the MST3K crew. I've seen the Manos episode of MST3K more times than I thought humanly possible and practically know the jokes by heart. Mike, Kevin, and Bill brought their A-game to RiffTrax Live and scripted all new riffs to put on a show completely different than the classic MST3K version. The MST3K episode featured two different riffers: Trace Beaulieu as Crow and Joel. The MST3K version of Manos originally aired in 1993, so the RiffTrax Live version allowed for some updated references for 2012 to stuff like Twilight, Toddlers & Tiaras, and Michael Vick.
Obviously there were no silhouettes this time but instead we actually got to see the guys riffing which was pretty cool. The movie would cut back and forth from a full screen of the movie to a split screen showing the guys alongside Manos.
Mike, Kevin, and Bill still have it and are perhaps even better than ever! This was a fantastic experience and I would highly recommend it especially to any MST3K/RiffTrax fan or bad movie lover. The next movie the guys are doing for RiffTrax Live is Birdemic this October.

Just in case you were wondering my thoughts on Manos: The Hands of Fate, it is a truly terrible film created by people (mainly writer/director/producer/actor Harold P. Warren) who had no idea how to actually make a movie. But is it the worst movie ever made? I'd actually say no. It has a bizarre charm that enables it stand out and even though it can be boring at times, I have seen films that are even more boring (Red Zone Cuba, Creeping Terror, Snowbeast). Torgo is a memorable character, and there are plenty of movies that don't have one of those. Maybe I have just seen it too many times, but Manos does has a strange charm since that as bad as it is, I can't hate it. Right now my pick for "worst movie ever" would be Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, which I discovered thanks to the RiffTrax. The worst Hollywood movie I've ever seen would probably be Cool as Ice, which I reviewed on this blog, or perhaps Mac and Me.
RiffTrax Live Manos: 11/10
Manos: 2/10

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012)

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
This documentary is about Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Ai Weiwei is a dissident who basically "trolls" the Chinese by speaking out against them through his artwork and use of social media. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is an impressive debut film from director Alison Klayman.
The film is a good start at understanding Ai Weiwei as you get the sense of who he is but still want to discover more about the man and his art. There are other documentaries featured in film both by and about this man (one is about efforts to track down earthquake victims, another is about when Ai Weiwei was assaulted by police and despite having recorded it the Chinese government denied the incident ever occured) so this isn't the first time Ai Weiwei has been the subject of a film. Ai Weiwei is an entertaining guy as even though the film is about free speech, censorship, and oppression it can be funny at times since he's a "hooligan." Ai Weiwei is a fantastic subject for a documentary, but perhaps too good in that anybody could point the camera at him and get something worth watching. We see Ai Weiwei doing everything from confronting Chinese police officers to eating with his son and even the peculiar such as a cat owned by Ai Weiwei that learned how to open doors.

Some of Ai Weiwei's performance art has including dropping Han dynasty urns and painting ancient pottery with the Coca-Cola logo. As a history buff this made me cringe at first, but then I realized what he was doing. These actions show how the loss of history and the past happens all the time. Is painting a Coca-Cola symbol on an antique vase much different from tearing down an old historic building to put up a McDonalds? The extreme always makes an impression and his message is meant to shock in order to get people to pay attention. These displays show that the times are changing and that China needs to change with it and move forward.

China doesn't know what to do with him as they try to silence Ai Weiwei even though they know that he doesn't fear them and that it would be unwise to make someone with his following disappear. permanently. The world has felt the effect of social media and digital technology. Despite China's censorship of the internet, Ai Weiwei has put good use to blogs, Twitter, the internet to spread his art, messages, and keep in touch with his followers and fans. Ai Weiwei has become an inspiration to others as many of his followers organized events, such as "celebrating" the destruction of Ai Weiwei's art studio by the Chinese government, in the spirit of Ai Weiei, but without his involvement.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The documentary was funded in part by Kickstarter which shows how the internet, technology, and social media are even affecting how films get made.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry was the fourth 2012 movie I've seen in theaters and fifth overall. If only Jersey Shore Shark Attack got a theatrical release!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

M.D. Geist II: Death Force (1997)

M.D. Geist II: Death Force
As its name suggests, M.D. Geist II: Death Force is sequel to the 1986 anime M.D. Geist. I have no idea why it took eleven years to make a follow-up. You can read my thoughts on the first M.D. Geist here.
M.D. Geist II is not as fun or even as good as the first installment. However, I'd say it's still worth watching if you loved the original, especially since like the first its only 45 minutes long. For me though I found parts boring or just rehashing from the original. I did think it was cool that this time there is another Most Dangerous soldier besides Geist, although that character turned was uninteresting and somehow more unlikeable than Geist. Vaiya, pretty much the only female character in both stories, returns but doesn't really do much. There is also a new character who looks like kinda Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
While I'm glad I watched M.D. Geist II for completion's sake, I will probably never re-watch it as it's mostly more of the same but not as fun as the first. It didn't grab me at all and was kinda boring at times, which is something I cannot say about the original MD Geist!
Both M.D. Geist OVAs (original video animation) can be found at YouTube and Hulu.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
I'm going to keep this short as much has already been said about The Dark Knight Rises and this is a spoiler-free review. The Dark Knight Rises is the last in Nolan's trilogy. I love Christopher Nolan and his Batman movies but its nice for this franchise to have a set of films that has a true beginning, middle, and end as opposed to just being continued forever by different people. 

The three main new actors in this film are Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tom Hardy. When Hathaway was first announced as Selina Kyle, I was a little skeptical, but trusted Nolan. My faith was rewarded as I thought she did a great job in the role. Selina Kyle is also never actually referred to as Catwoman.
I remember Joseph Gordon-Levitt from Angels in the Outfield (1994) and the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun so its pretty cool that he is making the jump from child actor to adult actor. JGL plays a cop named John Blake who aids Commissioner Gordon and Batman in their attempts to protect Gotham City from Bane. I didn't know what to expect from this role as it is basically a new character but felt it was handled very well from both an acting and writing point of view.
Like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy was in another Christopher Nolan movie, Inception. Hardy has a lot more screen time in this film as his plays the main villain, Bane. I thought Hardy put in a nice performance as a memorable and intimidating nemesis. I also liked the design of Bane's mask and costume, which are different from the way he is usually depicted in the comics.

The only real negatives about this movie are the pacing and not knowing enough about the motivations of Bane. We got too much of some scenes and not enough of others. There were some parts left out such as more on Bane's backstory which was filmed but not in the theatrical cut. I have heard that this is because IMAX can only hold 2 hrs and 45 minutes of film which is exactly the run time of The Dark Knight Rises. Perhaps the rumored extended Blu-ray cut will rectify these issues. However, Nolan usually doesn't even include deleted scenes with his movies let alone have multiple cuts available, so we'll have to wait and see what happens.

The Dark Knight Rises is not a perfect film, but a great ending to this series. Anybody who really enjoyed the first two will probably be very happy with this movie. I still feel that The Dark Knight is the best complete film in Nolan's series followed by The Dark Knight Rises, then Batman Begins. But I love them all!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Prometheus (2012)

I wrote most of this post after watching Prometheus about a week after it came out. Even though this review is late to the party, it is still a spoiler-free as usual though it may be helpful if you've seen Alien before reading this.
I love Alien and Blade Runner so I was excited for Prometheus as Ridley Scott's return to science fiction. The Alien franchise has languished for a while but could Ridley Scott return to the series he started and revitalize it?

Prometheus is a prequel in the sense that it takes place before the events of Alien and in the same universe. However, the movie is not a "direct prequel" since we (thankfully) don't see a younger Ripley for how the "Space Jockey" ship got on LV-426. This is a prequel in the way that Enterprise was a prequel to the other Star Trek TV shows. When it comes to film, most prequels usually don't turn out well and are disappointing. Star Wars, anyone? Many prequels are completely unnecessary prequels like The Thing (2011). Although I was not blown away with Prometheus, I think it is one of the better prequels out there alongside movies such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (technically a prequel) and X-Men: First Class, which like Prometheus is sort of a reboot and prequel at the same time.

Let's start with what I liked about Prometheus. The special effects and visuals are incredible and aided by an excellent soundtrack. The costumes and set designs are great and help give the film a distinct look and feel in setting up the world in which the story takes place. The cinematography is outstanding and the film was simply beautiful to watch in IMAX 3-D. Overall the acting is good as Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, and Idris Elba all did a fine job in an ensemble cast. Michael Fassbender put in a stand-out performance as David, who we find out in the beginning is an android. The David character and the fantastic "birthing scene" were the most memorable parts of the movie.

Prometheus plays on themes and imagery from Alien but is also influenced by classic science fiction films such as Forbidden Planet and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is clear that literature from the Golden Age of Science Fiction (late 1930s through mid 1950s) by authors such as A.E. van Vogt and Ray Bradbury also played a role in shaping the story.

Now to get to what I didn't like. The character development could have been better. We do have a lot of characters though, in fact I would say that there are too many characters! The amount of people on board the Prometheus ship is at least double that of the crew the Nostromo had in Alien. In Star Trek we have spaceships with hundreds of crew members, but the focus on a small group of people is generally handled better than it was here.
There is an old character who is played by a much younger actor in make-up that frankly isn't very good. Why was this necessary? Unless there is some important deleted scene showing a younger version of the character why didn't they simply cast an older actor?

A lot is left open ended in Prometheus. While there is nothing wrong with that, some stuff was intentionally left a mystery while other stuff seems to have been the result of writing problems. I liked the third act unlike a lot of people, but it I agree that it does suffer some pacing issues. An extended version might make some things more clear and answer some of the film's perceived plot holes.
There are a few of continuity issues with Alien. One is that the Prometheus spaceship appears to be more technically advanced than the Nostromo. This didn't bother me as it is simply the result of Alien being made in 1979 and Prometheus being released in 2012. But there is a more important continuity error that did bother me, though I won't get into details for those who haven't seen Prometheus yet. Any prequel written after the original is going to have this problem to some extent so I can't fault the movie for it, but it annoyed me as a fan of the original. I wish Prometheus was its an original sci-fi movie not tied to a preexisting series so that continuity problems could've easily been avoided.

Although I quite liked Prometheus, it's not a masterpiece like Alien or Blade Runner but instead more along the lines of a film such as Sunshine, which I also enjoyed. But this is a problem with Ridley Scott's return not just to the science fiction genre, but the Alien franchise. It feels like Scott came back not because he had an amazing story to tell within this universe, but because Hollywood was going to hire some random people reboot the series and only Scott's return to the director's chair could stop it. While this is probably better than the Hollywood remake alternative, I had hoped Scott had something better up his sleeve. I have no problem with Scott taking the series in a new direction, as James Cameron did with Aliens, but feel that Prometheus would have worked better as a film in its own continuity. I mean what's the point of using the tagline "The search for our beginning could lead to our end" if we know humanity will still be around so that the events of Alien can take place? Had this been a stand alone movie it would've raised the stakes and allowed for more risks to be taken.

I still don't understand the extremely negative reaction this film has gotten by many people on the internet, as critics generally gave it good but not great reviews. I'm guessing they just had unrealistic expectations built up in their heads and overlooked what the movie does well. I don't think it's fair to tear a film apart that does some things very well, simply because it struggles in other areas.

Despite its flaws, Prometheus is still very good and appears to reward multiple views. The film asks interesting questions but is complex with a lot going on at once, unlike Alien which was much more focused. I'll need to see Prometheus again, especially with an extended director's cut coming out on Blu-ray soon that may be an improvement. There is also the strong possibility of a sequel since Prometheus started out as a two part Alien prequel. Prometheus did well in theaters so perhaps that is still the plan after all.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers
The Avengers was the first movie I saw released in 2012. However, the first 2012 movie I wrote about on this blog was actually Jersey Shore Shark Attack! I saw the The Avengers a couple of weeks after its huge opening weekend. The Avengers has now made over $1.5 billion worldwide and even when you factor in rising ticket prices and the cost of 3-D that is quite an accomplishment. I guess this post is a little late as most people have already seen it!

The Avengers, not to be confused with the crappy 1998 film adaptation of the same name based on a great 1960s British show, is the sixth movie made by Marvel Studios, part of the Walt Disney Company. While I never read the comics these characters come from, I have enjoyed all these movies since I saw Iron Man in the summer of 2008. While I need to re-watch all the Marvel Studios movies when The Avengers hits Blu-Ray later this month, it is currently my favorite of the series.

Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this review, I just want to say that Alan Silvestri has always been one of my favorite composers (Back to the Future, Predator, Forest Gump, Captain America, and many more) and came up with a brilliant score for the film. I also enjoyed the song Soundgarden contributed to the soundtrack, "Live to Rise."

I have to give Joss Whedon a lot of credit with the directing and writing. There was a high degree of difficulty with this project in balancing all these characters. Like with Whedon's show Firefly (I never saw Buffy the Vampire Slayer but have heard good things), he did a fantastic job. It is a lot of fun to see all these characters together and interacting with each other. The dialogue and banter is witty and each character has their own unique arc. All the previous movies and characters are tied in without feeling forced. This creates an epic free flowing universe that hasn't really been done before in film and is right out of the comics.

Coming into The Avengers I was afraid it would essentially be Thor 2 since Loki is the villain or Iron Man 3 because Robert Downey Jr. is so popular right now. However, I was pleasantly surprised that no one character dominated the story. Apparently there was a lot of deleted footage, said to be mostly scenes with Captain America, which will be interesting to see even though I don't think another cut of the film is necessary. I loved the job they did with the Hulk as The Avengers team needed the help of Dr. Bruce Banner and not the Hulk. Mark Ruffalo replaces Ed Norton who did a good job in 2008's The Incredible Hulk though I actually preferred Ruffalo's take on the character.

As I mentioned earlier, Joss Whedon directed the movie and wrote the screenplay. Whedon was a fan of the source material, has actually written comics, and it clearly shows that he cared to make the best possible film out of it. While I don't think that The Avengers is the best movie based on a comic book, I think that is is the movie that feels most like a comic book. I could practically see the panels and dialogue bubbles appear on screen. Loki is a true comic book villain, and the movie truly embraces the fact that is is trying to be like a comic book. Much has already been said about the the final long action scene, which is simply amazing. The camera work there truly feels like you are flipping through pages in a comic and staring in amazement at the artwork of a giant two page spread.

Marvel's The Avengers is a blast to watch and perfectly balances its action, drama, and humor. The Avengers is the perfect summer popcorn movie so its no surprise that it dominated the box office this year. The two after credits scenes were awesome as well and I'm looking forward to what Marvel Studios has in store next!

This is my 100th post! Here's to another 100!

Fall 2012 Schedule Update

My classes are finally over so I plan to get caught up (again!) over my break the next couple of weeks.
My next several posts will be on five movies I saw in theaters in 2012 so far, of which four were also released this year. After that I have a couple of odds and ends to tie up before getting back on track.

After that my schedule is going to change. I am no longer going to do weekly wrap-up posts as its just easier for me to get a post up on a movie right after I see. But hey, this just means I'll be posting more! My classes start in September so I probably won't be able to watch as much as I like but there will be at least a few movie posts up each month.

My Tales from the Archives posts will return on a weekly basis after I am back on schedule. Instead of being posted on Thursdays I am going to move them to Tuesdays. Assuming all goes according to plan that means Tuesday October 2nd will be the long anticipated return of Tales from the Archives! I still have a lot of material on silent and early talkie movies to go through, so it should be an interesting ride through a fascinating time of film history.

Now its time to get posting!