Friday, May 28, 2010

EW, Stealing this blog's thunder???

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What You'll Want to be Watching:

                                     Boardwalk Empire
     At this point in time, if you're an avid movie channel watcher or subscriber, you have to wonder what shows can top the awesomeness of the current and past series that have blown our minds and creamed our jeans. The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under, Dexter, The Wire--all of these shows (and many more) have taken television to new and exciting directions that network television can't match (I'm looking at you, piece of shit Lost finale). Coming this fall, we all may have another win on our hands. Boardwalk Empire, the new show from HBO, has all of the pieces that a show needs to have to become must-see viewing for years to come: Emmy-award winning screenwriter and producer Terence Winter of The Sopranos, Check. Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese, Check. An amazing character actor and all-around badass Steve Buscemi, Check. And above all, a network that generally gives shows the time and money to thrive in an era where other networks trash all-time great shows (FOX and Arrested Development), and all we see are bitch-cunts gracing the screens every night (Kate Gosselin, Oprah). I would have to call this one the epitome of a Check Mate.
     But a great show can't be a great show without a great story; this show has one. It's loosely based on a book titled "Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City". The story revolves around the dawn of Prohibition in the 1920's and the leader of the up and rising Atlantic City, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (Buscemi). He's equal parts politician and gangster. He makes a name for himself by being the go-to guy for alcohol. The show will be filled with intrigue, violence, vulgarity and political back-room dealings. In other words, it has potential to be amazing entertainment.
When this fall rolls around, when the leaves are slowly changing and Sookie Stackhouse will still be annoying the shit out of me (when she's not topless), this show will hit the airwaves with plenty of press and excitement. I can't express how sick it will be to see Steve Buscemi headline an HBO show. Whether he plays a creepy little dude with violent tendencies (Fargo) or Tony Soprano's cousin Tony in the greatest show in the history of television, Steve just keeps it real, man. I hear he still rides the F-train and never thought about relocating to L.A. He still lives in the Brownstone home off Seventh Ave. that he has for many years. In October, I'll be keeping it real, too, watching with wide eyes and a (small) boner as I change the channel to HBO and get transported to a new time, a new place, and an exciting story that will satisfy my viewing pleasure.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Why I'll Be Glad When Lost Is Over

     (This post spoils the show up to Sunday's series finale)

     I had never seen an episode of the acclaimed ABC series Lost until about 8 months ago when Seasons 1-4 popped up onto the instant watch of my Netflix queue. Obviously, I had heard many many things about the show, none of which made any sense to me when casually reading an article or hearing it being talked about on various media outlets. There are polar bears on a tropical deserted island? There is a crazy dude that lives in a hatch and has to push a set of seemingly arbitrary numbers to keep the world from being destroyed? These things, when hearing a conversation here and reading a snippet there, sounded like utter major network television bullshit. I'm not going to say I was completely wrong; however, as a whole, Lost has restored a little bit of interest in my heart to give certain shows a chance--namely, series on network television that typically don't even compare to the amazing shows on HBO, Showtime and AMC. It's been an entertaining ride to say the least. What more can one ask for in a television show? Lost ends this Sunday night. For various reasons, I'll be glad when the credits roll for the final time.
     Long ago, back in the late summer of 2009, the glory days of my receiving money for free from the government and when Avatar hadn't even been released yet (!), I watched the first couple of seasons of Lost. Things were so simple back then: a plane crashes, there were a number of survivors we got to know like long-lost friends, and there were only two major threats that were unexplainable: the "monster" and the others. Boy, have things changed. The show clearly would have benefited from explaining at least some of its existing mysteries instead of creating new, more complex ones. Throughout the show's 6 seasons, we have the hatch, the numbers, the Dharma Initiative, numerous new groups trying to save or destroy the island (such as the freighter filled with mercenaries, led by the built-like-a-brick-shithouse Martin Keamy), time travel, flash forwards, flash backs and flash sideways, not to mention Jacob and the Man In Black (Now better known as MIB, The Smoke Monster, Smokey, Fake Locke, Flock, and The Locke Monster). I'm not trying to say new, potentially exciting and show-changing plots and characters are a bad thing. I am saying that most of things could have either been explained better or not been brought into the show at all. The only answers the writers ever give us are questioning confused looks and statements from the major characters. I'm not an incompetent half-tard viewer: I don't need everything laid out on a silver platter and explained to me. However, I would like a few questions answered better than Jacob saying, "That's just the way it is," and Hurley saying, "Whoa, dude," like a morbidly obese fat fuck version of Keanu Reeves.
     Speaking of Hurley, never have I watched a whole entire series run of a show while hating the main characters with such an unrelenting passion. Hurley is so fat and repulsive that if you asked him to haul ass he'd have to make 3 trips. Sun and Jin, well let's just say that I cried from tears of joy when they drowned together in the exploded sub. Jack and Kate I'm more indifferent about. I could take them or leave them. Jack, being the adorable doctor that he is, always needs to fix things: well how about he fixes the erection I just "lost" from witnessing his horrible chemistry with Kate and his nervous tics when he gets upset. The only part of season 6 worth watching other than Ilana's luscious titties is Terry O'Quinn's amazing portrait of Locke and Un-Locke, and Desmond being the normal cool cat as he always is.
     But I digress, after re-reading everything that I just wrote, it sure sounds like I'm bitching a lot more than I'm enjoying myself. And maybe that is the case. But: even after all of these crazy things have happened in the life of the show, it's still enjoyable for me to watch. I've invested too much time to just give up now. I can say with a certain degree of assuredness that Season 6 will go down as the worst in the history of Lost. And that's  okay. The writers have taken a risk, and some would say taking the risk at this stage in the game is more important than if the risk was ultimately successful. I may miss the absolute ruthlessness of Ben Linus, just as I'll miss Sawyer's womanizin' and general bad taste. However, come Sunday at 11:30 pm, I'll be glad when Lost is over.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Robin Hood Review, Or How I Wish I Was Watching Braveheart for the 17th Time

     Spoiler Alert: this film ends with the statement "And so the Legend begins..." It's fairly easy to ascertain from that sentence that the 140- minute film before it contains nothing about the true legend of Robin Hood. There is no stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. His band of outlaws are not given much screen time, and one could hardly call them "Merry" (except when they are tying one on from Friar Tuck's Bee Mead). I just watched the film last night, and I doubt that I could pick the Sheriff of Nottingham out of a police lineup, due to how little we see him. No, this film is like a Mad Lib of plot points, stylistic medieval flashes of battle, and pick-and-choose ideas from the recent plethora of origin stories in films recently. For example: how many motherfucking times do we have to see thousands of arrows casting shadows over the ground and whizzing through the air as they are launched towards their prospective targets? Apparently, at least according to director Ridley Scott, these scenes are not tired and cliche anymore. I beg to differ: like the arrows that barely miss the throats of Robin's enemies, Robin Hood the film significantly misses the mark.
     Numerous versions of Robin Hood's lore have graced our television and theater screens since the invention of television and theater screens: the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn, the 1973 animated Robin Hood created by Disney, 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and 1993's Robin Hood: Men in Tights (both of which hold a place in my heart for introducing me to the story of Robin From the Hood).  Now we have this, 2010's Robin Hood, starring the always-game-for-medieval-warfare Russell Crowe and directed by the always-game-for-killing-horses-and-beating-their-dead-bodies-relentlessly Ridley Scott. Articles and advance reviews state that you wouldn't even know that this film was based on Robin Hood if it wasn't for the names and very loosely based on the legend plot. I cannot disagree: it's a PG-13 version of Gladiator with archery and more talking and less action; it's a PG-13 version of Braveheart with less heart and less blood. Above all, it's just not that fun, something that should have been the first box that was checked off when discussions of a 2010 version of Robin Hood began.
In the past decade, something has changed in film studio's and film maker's minds: they have gotten a large boner when thinking about taking a cherished, established character and telling the story of their origin, or how they became the legend that we know and love today. It's the modern day full-runtime film version of a flashback scene. Batman Begins and Casino Royale did this experiment with much success, rejuvenating old franchises with new talent on the sets and in the director chairs. Hannibal Rising and X-Men Origins: Wolverine appeared with less success, and a question was asked (at least in my mind): Is. This. Necessary? In the case of this version of Robin Hood, that answer is a definitive "No". I don't care what Robin Hood did to become Robin Hood if the actions of what he did to become the legend are not as entertaining as the legend itself. This is the paradox when examining origin stories: if we enjoy the man (or woman) as we know and love today, shouldn't we care about what that man (or woman) did to become the character that we know and love? Particularly since the actions of this character in the past directly shape the actions that the character performs in the present day. It's really just one big crapshoot when it comes to this type of film making. I cared when it came to Christian Bale's portrayal of Batman, just as I cared when it came to Daniel Craig's portrayal of 007. I didn't care when it came to Russell Crowe's portrayal of Robin Hood. There's nothing new here. Nothing exciting. Robin Hood 2010 is a gritty, tough slog through the bullet points of Robin's time before becoming the legend. The real film for this story begins just as the credits end.     (C-)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Netflix Stream This, Bitch!

     Back in the year of 1997, when my mind was the tender sponge of any pubescent 13-year-old boy, blue dresses were getting stained with semen in the oval office, and scientists in Scotland were cloning sheep and naming them "Dolly", I watched a film that shaped my brain in relation to horror and sci-fi movies. That film was titled Event Horizon. Its plot dealt with an abandoned spacecraft that had--come to find out during the horrific scenes of the film--literally gone to Hell and back. It was and still is scary, tense and disgustingly violent. It was and still is the benchmark for which I interpret films that fall into this entertaining genre. Pandorum, which I saw in theaters late last summer, is a worthy successor in this niche of filmmaking. Although it's not a film that one would see due to it's originality, Pandorum is a melting pot of great aspects of movies such as the aforementioned Event Horizon, The Descent, and Aliens.
     Pandorum is a sickness, at least in the world in which this film takes place. The effects of it develop after long periods of hyper-sleep (which obviously all of the crew members just awoke from). The symptoms: paranoia, hallucinations and homicidal tendencies (sounds like some good weed if it wasn't for the paranoia). Two crew members awake from the deep sleep with no memory of who they are, what they are doing, and what the fate is of the 60,000 people on board of their spacecraft. What follows next is claustrophobia, fights with hellacious humanoid creatures, and the story of the ship slowly spinning into their grasp. Carrying most of the workload of finding out the tale of the ship through truth and lies is the actor Ben Foster, who is becoming one of my new favorites after witnessing his amazing diversity in the show Six Feet Under and the films 3:10 to Yuma and 30 Days of Night. Although I'm not sure how much I dig the ending, and although the general critical consensus for the film may be a bit off-putting for the general public, if you're a fan of sci-fi (and sci-fi horror in particular), then Pandorum is a scary, satisfying slope to navigate through from the comfort of your pitch-black living room.

30% on Rotten Tomatoes

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Stark Show: An Iron Man 2 Review

      I entered the theater to see the first Iron Man film with no expectations whatsoever; I was tired of the same old shit, particularly the putridly vomit-inducing 139 minutes that calls itself Spiderman 3. (The moment that you see Tobey Maguire becoming "emo" and dancing like a douche is the moment that your franchise just jumped the shark.) After watching Robert Downey Jr. play the part so perfectly and witnessing Jeff Bridges having fun with a villainous comic book character role, I was very pleasantly surprised. My thoughts echoed the same sentiments after watching Iron Man 2. Like the first film in many ways, the film succeeds on two levels: Firstly, Robert Downey Jr. is the embodiment of Tony Stark (more so than any other actor). His cockiness, humor and redemption shine through and echo a lot of the stories from his personal life over the past year.  Secondly, the film's villain(s) are played by very interesting, very great actors that portray badasses in new and exciting ways.
     Iron Man 2 really works when Robert Downey Jr. is portraying Tony Stark. It works significantly less when Tony Stark slips into his suit to become Iron Man. You would think that in a movie like this, the action set pieces involving Iron Man would be exciting and wonderful; however, Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark with such a pleasurable wink to the "Phoenix Metaphor" of his own life that his scenes without the suit play much better. Like Tony Stark, at one time in his life he loved alcohol with an insatiable thirst, he was addicted to banging hot ho's, and he loved being the center of attention. Unlike Tony Stark, he drank and drugged himself into a stupor and fell asleep in a neighbors bed, thinking it was his own. That fact has absolutely nothing to do with the Iron Man films, but it just goes to show how he is the fucking man. Anyway: Tony Stark is at the top of media attention and the world--just as Downey Jr. is riding high on the 133 Million Dollar opening weekend of Iron Man 2. (On a side note, that briefcase that turns into the Iron Man suit did induce a changing of my underwear.) 
     Mickey Rourke, with his wonderful turn in The Wrestler, is another "risen from the ashes" actor who was a perfect choice to play one of the two villains in Iron Man 2. We all know that the villain in a comic book film is nearly (if not more) as important as the hero. Rourke plays the bad guy with a gruff nonchalance and natural Russian accent that makes him a pleasure to watch. He has a penchant for birds and ruining Stark Industries. His first major scene with Tony Stark, the scene that has played out in the trailers involving his electric whips during an Indy Car race, is exciting even though the outcome is inevitable. He truly is a badass, and you just don't fuck with a badass's bird. Sam Rockwell's turn, on the other hand, is a villain with his rhetoric instead of his strength. He plays Justin Hammer, a man in direct competition of Tony Stark. He's like Tony only meaner and more insecure, a dangerous combination. 

     To give more away would rob the viewer of the pleasure of watching these actors play off of each other throughout the film. Numerous people are complaining that this film has too many characters, too many plot lines, and not enough romance. Not enough romance? Between who? Tony Stark and Pepper Potts (played by Gwyneth Paltrow)? If I see Gwyneth Paltrow in another film in 20 years that will be too soon.  She's mean enough to kick a pitbull off of a meat wagon.  Fuck her. ScarJo, as those who know her more personally call her (and by personally I mean masturbating to a grainy picture of her sideboob from Mr. Skin) would be the only female where more romance would make sense. Who doesn't want to look at her? Overall, the film is an entertaining summer blockbuster (not without its faults) that flies by quickly and doesn't overstay it's welcome in its 2 hour runtime. What more can we ask for from the tired comic book genre?     (B+)