The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thunder! Thunder! Thunder! ThunderCats! ..... yawn

Well, people on the internet have been jizzing themselves for months over this thing. Cartoon Network has been marketing this thing as much as I have ever seen any cartoon series marketed. There were even advertisements for it playing as trailers in movie theaters. I have a feeling that Cartoon Network really wants this to be their own "Avatar the Last Airbender." Did they succeed? I know it's just the first two episodes, but... no. No they did not.

That had to be the most cliche forty-four minutes of television I have seen in ages. I know some people will tell me "it's a cartoon for children, what did you expect?" Honestly, I did not expect anything from this particular show. But I did not expect anything from an aforementioned Nickelodeon cartoon a few years ago. Cliches aren't bad in and of themselves, it's how they are used. And "ThunderCats" is just... totally paint by numbers.

Let's do a brief cliche count, shall we?

* Friendly rivals (Lion-O and Tigra)
* Ancient evil returning (Mumm-Ra)
* Mammals good, reptiles evil (Cats vs Lizards)
* Clever street urchins with big dreams (Wily-Kat & Wily-Kit)
* Cute animal sidekick (Snarf)
* Death of the hero's father (*snicker* ....Clawdus)
* Death of old, wise mentor (Jagga)
* Vision of a dark future (Lion-O seeing Mumm-Ra in the Sword of Omens)
* Carefree young boy has to learn to be a hero (Lion-O)
* Medieval weapons versus technology
* Betrayal to the enemy (Clancy Brown)
* Trojan Horse ploy (SERIOUSLY!)
* Ugly bad guys, pretty good guys (lizards vs cats)
* Cute kid sidekicks
* Fantasy world where technology is considered a lost myth
* The Slow-motion "NOOOOOOO!" while father falls to his death in slow-motion.

Again, I acknowledge that cliches are cliches for a reason, but when you cram this many into such a short space of time, and you don't spin them around and do something new and fun with them, it's just tired. "Avatar the Last Airbender" had a lot of cliches too, but it did its own thing, had fun with it, and not afraid to step outside the box. "ThunderCats" stays inside its litter box, and seems perfectly happy to do so.

Now, I'm not saying that basic archetypes and fantasy storytelling are a bad thing. I'm a huge fan of the "Lord of the Rings" and that is about as archetypal as it gets. But, at the same time, this is 2011, and it's all been done before and better. Put your own spin on it. I will give them some points that at least one cat is bad, and at least one lizard is good. But I need a little bit more than that.

I also need to ask why Mumm-Ra is even in this show? As cliched as mammals vs reptiles is, I understand it. Where does a crazy mummy fit into all this from even a thematic position. And he just seems to come out of no where. His name is mentioned once at the beginning, and then he kills *snickers* Clawdus and reveals himself, and everyone is like "OH CRAP! MUMM-RA!!!!" Uh huh... I've seen "Transformers" remakes build up Megatron and "GI Joe" remakes build up Cobra Commander far better than this. Just poof, he's here and we're supposed to be terrified. I think the only reason Mumm-Ra is in this is because he was in the 80's cartoon and it's expected.

His dialogue was also quite cliche. "You cannot comprehend the forces you are dealing with!" I smacked my forehead the moment he said that, but I cannot say I was surprised by that point. Of course, Mumm-Ra needs viagra, because whatever he was going to do, he totally failed to get it up. So, when the time comes when the show really needs to sell their Big Bad, he's laughable right out of the gate.

The reveal that Cheetara is cleric of Jagga is weak. Why? Because we are never told who the clerics of Jagga really are? And why Cheetara being a cleric is surprising.

And then there is the first scene where Lion-O is attacked because the stupid, thuggish citizens didn't recognize him. When they find out he's a prince, they shit themselves and run. Then later, an angry mob decides to attack BOTH princes despite knowing who they are. So stupid.

Oh, and who else was shocked to see Clancy Brown turn out to be a bad guy? Yeah, the one character I liked and he turned out to be a villain. Though, knowing me, that might be why I liked him at all. However, I can contest this by saying he became much duller once his treachery was revealed. He betrayed the king because serving him "got him nothing" except, you know, a position of power, a great feast, and since the ThunderCats are imperialistic, probably land. If we didn't spend so much time focusing on stupid mobs trying to kill the princes, maybe we could have seen what motivated this guy.

So Lion-O and Tigra have a best friend/eternal rivalry thing going. Who else sees a love-triangle with Cheetara coming? In fact, it's such an obvious cliche that if it doesn't happen by the end of the first season, I will stick any foreign object you care to name inside myself.

And now, for some questions and random thoughts.

So, the Sword of Omens is the most powerful weapon on the planet. I know, in future episodes, Lion-O is going to use it against the far more technology advanced villains. And yet, I don't care how cool your sword is, if your fight doesn't end up like this...

... you fail.

Did anyone else expect Wily-Kat and Wily-Kit to break out and start singing this?

So, how soon until they cram in three or four other enemy animal races. I'm sure they'll have birds and gorillas because the old series did. Me, I want to see anthro chihuahuas.

Cheetara is making a lot of furries' balls drop now. But, I can hear the excuses now... "it's not furry if they have humanoid faces." I never got the cat-girl thing at all. But I also imagine she's going to be very popular in Japan.

Me, I hope Lion-O and Tigra turn out to be totally gay for each other, never admit it, have a huge falling out and Tigra turns into a winged lipstick monster and then rapes Cheetara after sacrificing Snarf, Wily-Kat, and Wily-Kit to the forces of Hell.

Seriously, how does a crazed mummy fit into this?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Most Horrible TV Show Ever...

I realize that I am years behind on this, but to hell with it. I talk about cancelled television shows here all the time. So I don't feel I am out of line to bring up the single most disgusting show ever put on television. I am, of course, talking about "My Super Sweet 16."

"My Super Sweet 16" was a reality show on MTV about rich, spoiled bitches who have their opulent sweet sixteen parties filmed and shown on TV. And each and every single girl who has ever been on one of these things is completely evil. I'm talking Hitler levels of evil.

Charlie, you said it best. This may as well be an al Qaeda recruitment video. I look at this and even I say "this is why the terrorists hate us. This right here." We are a culture that produces and then reveres this kind of behavior. Hell, I'm a patriotic, Jewish American, and this almost makes me want to join al Qaeda.

Now, I am not a censorship guy, at all. I'm not saying no one should be allowed to watch this, nor am I saying that MTV should be fined or punished for producing this trash. I am exercising my rights to call it the most disgusting filth to ever air, and that I think everyone involved is a waste of oxygen who the human race could do without.

"South Park" did a brilliant satire of this series, which you can see in the episode "Hell On Earth"

"In trying to have a party like those snot nose brats on Super Sweet 16, I became like them"
"Oh come on Satan, you're not that bad."

Amen, amen.

And to anyone who was featured on that show, or thinks that behavior is commendable, or even excusable:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fingers Only Meat Banquet

Season seven of "Weeds" continues to build up and get better with each episode. I said last week's was the best of the season, well, now that's this week's. With any luck this climb will continue. But I am feeling more than comfortable with this season of "Weeds."

Nancy's lawyer, played by Martin Short, flies her out to a custody hearing in California over the fate of her son, Stevie who is currently being held by Nancy's spiteful sister, Jill. Nancy asks Silas to be her character witness, as opposed to Shane, who declares himself a better liar than Silas. It's funny because it's true.

Well, things do not go as planned once they arrive in California only to discover that Jill's lawyer postponed the hearing for two months. Nancy reacts to this spectacularly as she tries to storm Jill's gated house. She doesn't succeed, but in the process we learn that Jill's husband is only still with her over their daughters. Well, we kind of knew that for a while, and while he helps her a little, that help will only go so far.

Silas does end up talking to the judge and is actually quite honest, while at the same time he sticks up for her. And this is where the show, for the first time in ages, tries to make us once again sympathize with Nancy. Time will tell if they succeed, and while I have never stopped loving the character, even I will admit that she has been largely unsympathetic for over three seasons now.

The final moment of the episode is when Nancy and Silas take a drive, looking for someone to help them out, since their weed supply from Afghanistan was, ahem, cut off in the previous episode. Who should they track down but Heylia James, who emerges from her house carrying a rifle and she says only two words. "Hell" and "no." I will admit, I clapped.

The return of Heylia is quite welcome. We haven't seen her since the third season, and if there is anyone who won't take Nancy's crap, and cannot be manipulated by her, it's Heylia. Nancy has always had her entire family wrapped around her finger. Even Silas, who is still mad at her for lying to him all his life still does what she asks. When Nancy was involved with the Mexican Mafia, she had all of them wrapped around her finger as well, except for Pilar Zuazo... who was very clearly the villain. But she had Esteban wrapped around her finger, she had Cesar and Ignacio wrapped around her finger. At various points, she had Guillermo wrapped around her finger... not to the extent she had the others, but through the fourth season, she did. Not Heylia. I look forward to seeing where this goes.

Andy's subplot with the poly-amorous couple concludes. I understand his decision, even if I largely don't agree with it. We'll see where he goes from here. Meanwhile, Doug has found money missing from the company, and his friend tells him to ignore it and takes him out for handjobs. Well, I don't think it's a stretch to say his friend is a white collar crook. Of course, so is Doug.

Great episode.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Black Swan


Let me start this by saying that I never worshiped at the alter of Natalie Portman. I thought she was terrific in "Leon," and I enjoyed her in "V For Vendetta," "Garden State" and "Thor." I have friends who have unfairly given her a lot of crap for the "Star Wars" prequels, and honestly, that wasn't her fault. She's always been very charming and likable, and she presents herself well. Likewise, I've never found her all that physically attractive. Not to denigrate on her, but she's not my type. So, to me, Natalie Portman was always just kind of there.

With that out of the way, I finally watched "Black Swan." And, honestly, I really, really, really regret not seeing this film in theaters. This was the most visually stunning, beautiful film I have seen in a very long time. And, the best part, not one computer was required to make it look beautiful. It was all in the cinematography. The lighting, the camera work, and the acting. This is actual art, and it makes use of practical effects. I've never been a big fan of CGI, and yes, sometimes it is necessary but too often it is used as a crutch, and I was so happy to watch a very visual movie that didn't need it.

And right now, I need to give the first shout out to Director of Photography, Matthew Libatique, and also comment that he got robbed of his Oscar. Yes, yes, I know that went to Wally Pfister for "Inception," and I loved "Inception," but come on. Maybe I am just old fashioned, but the less computer work a movie receives, the more impressed I am.

"Black Swan" is wonderfully disturbing. Darren Aronofsky managed to create a film that can best be described as "All About Eve" as if it were directed by Roman Polanski with help from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Well, that last one is obviously a given. I love psychological thrillers, and watching Natalie Portman descend into madness was a treat. She earned her Oscar.

The film is about a ballet dancer who gets the lead in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, which even ballet ignoramuses like me know is a very demanding role. She has to essentially play two characters with two very different styles. The White and Black Swans. And in this very demanding company, with another dancer who wants her role, as well as guilt over the previous Swan Queen's traffic accident, our heroine descends into madness. And it is a thrill to watch.

I also want to compliment Mila Kunis' performance in the movie. She was fun on "That 70's Show," but watching that series, I never thought she would have been the one to really hit it big. But I underestimated her, and was greatly impressed by what I saw.

Okay, yes, there was a lesbian scene (but there really wasn't), and I know people will want me to talk about it. It was there, it was a powerful scene, but if you're expecting something titillating, sorry to break your heart, but you won'd find it here. The scene was one of the most disturbing scenes in the entire piece. Keep in mind, this is about a dancer descending into madness. It's not a porno. And it saddens me because this scene is the first thing anybody talks about whenever this movie is brought up.

Some may not like the over the top theatricality of it all, but this movie couldn't be anything but. Aronofsky is a gifted director, and I think he probably reigned things in more than some might give him credit for. It was dark and disturbing, but in the wrong hands, this material could have easily been comical. It wasn't comical.

I may have to re-evaluate my list of Top Twenty Favorite Films. This was a masterpiece.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tommy Wiseau Hates Women


Read this review now, before has it pulled off the internet to protect Tommy Wisseau's "good name."

Everyone has reviewed this thing already, but I had to see it for myself. I could comment on the terrible direction, horrid acting, and... you see? It's all been said. So, instead, I am going to talk about how this is the most misogynistic movie I have ever watched, and how if movie's like this are "personal" reflections of their auteur, Tommy Wiseau has serious issues.

In the character of Lisa, Tommy Wiseau has created the most one dimensional straw man of a shrew I have ever seen. She is the most spoiled, ungrateful, worthless character there is. A complete straw man of the "bitchy ex-girlfriend" that drunken assholes talk about in bars. Now, I am completely aware of the fact that women like this can and do exist, but it reflects badly when you take into account just how perfect a man the main character is.

Johnny, as played by Tommy Wiseau himself, is set up as this perfect, loving, almost angelic man from the Heavens. He spoils Lisa rotten, and treats her like a princess, and this comes off as completely condescending and I know that was not intentional on Wiseau's part. He is a loving friend to everyone around him. He even pays for this kid named Danny's rent, and for his college tuition. Wiseau does everything in the world to set up Johnny (pretty much himself) as the greatest human being on Earth.

Of course, everyone takes advantage of Jesus, I mean Johnny. His best friend, Mark, has an affair with Lisa; the bank he works at makes a profit off of his ideas without giving him the promotion he was promised; Wiseau sets himself up as Jesus and everyone else in the world is Judas.

The affair between Lisa and Mark. Mark betrays Johnny just as much as Lisa does, and he is no where near as vilified as Lisa is. I guess because people with penises are allowed to be promiscuous, it is just understood. But people with vaginas are just expected to nest down like good, loyal nuns married to their god. Mark does some terrible things in the movie, but it is all forgiven because Lisa is the Spawn of Cthulhu.

In fact, Johnny and Mark's mutual friend, Peter the psychiatrist calls Mark out as having an affair with Lisa, and Mark nearly throws him off the roof of the apartment building and is immediately forgiven for it. In fact, Peter blames Mark's near attempted murder of him on Lisa "the sociopath, who cannot love anybody but herself."

And, as we all know, the movie ends when Johnny puts a gun into his own mouth and dies for our sins. Because Evil Lisa pushed him to it, and Mark sees Lisa for the Whore of Babylon she is. Not to mention how the world itself conspired against poor Jesus. Johnny was truly too good for this world.

Honestly, the terrible acting, dialogue, and direction are the least of this movie's problems. "The Room" is an interesting look into the psychosis of a human being that has terrible issues with women. I suggest that Tommy Wiseau seek professional help, because this is not helpful catharsis.

Aw well, this is the reason you all came, so I will give it to you.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Captain America


Mediocre. That one word sums up how I felt about this movie. Mediocre. This movie failed to engage me, and I tried to get into it. I really did. I wanted to love it. I have been looking forward to it for a long time. This is a character I love. A character I admire and look up to. He deserved a better movie than this.

Let me start with the movie going experience for this one. I saw this in 3D at the Palisades Mall. Very nice theater. The 3D was totally unnecessary, and somewhat disorienting. Go see this in 2D. I also had some very annoying people in the audience who would NOT shut up. Never, not once. These people were also living breathing stereotypes. You'd think they'd be characters in a Michael Bay movie.

On the way out of the movie, right in the theater lobby, the Captain America cardboard stand was being disassembled and stolen by people. I have gone to a lot of movies, but never witnessed such blatant theft before. No one said or did anything, and there was a theater employee there who didn't care. Of course, it was 2:30am. Who would care? I almost felt like taking a picture of the theft, but I did not feel like potentially getting stabbed.

With that out of the way, let me start with what I liked about the movie. Because there was quite a bit that I did like about this movie. First of all, I thought Chris Evans as Steve Rogers was great casting. He was that guy to a tee. Of all the problems with the movie, its star was not one of them. He deserves to stand side by side with Robert Downy Jr. and Chris Hemsworth. Marvel really lucked out with their leads.

I also really liked Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. And more than that, I thought this might have been the best on screen romance in a comic book movie ever. It felt really organic, and not stuck in or forced like most comic book movies. They made me believe it, and you felt the tragedy when, well, it's not a spoiler to say Cap gets frozen in a block of ice for seventy years. She was also as hot as Jennifer Connelly was in "The Rocketeer." Johnston sure knows how to cast the ladies.

I liked all the little shout outs to fans, and the period setting. There were a lot of easter eggs in this movie, and a lot of things that will make a fan smile. We also saw why a comic book accurate version of the costume would look ridiculous on a live actor, but I did love the nod to that famous first cover where Cap punched out Hitler. I also loved all the nods towards "Thor." You know this will all come together in "The Avengers."

Tommy Lee Jones was a lot of fun in it, and had all the best one liners. And none of them were groan worthy. The casting in this movie was very good.

Now to get the negatives out of the way.

I thought the Red Skull was pretty weak. And I shouldn't think this. Aside from Adolf Hitler, the Red Skull is the Alpha Nazi. This is a guy so evil, most of Marvel's rogues' gallery won't work with him. But I only felt he was intimidating in one scene. Where he is heavily back lit, his mask is off, you can't see his face, and his portrait is being painted. Aside from that, the rest of his scenes ranged from okay to comical. This guy should have been the scariest villain in any Marvel movie, and he did not come across as such.

I also felt that Red Skull turning against the Nazis was completely pointless. I think they were trying to make him seem even more dangerous by doing that, but nothing came of it, and it made me roll my eyes more than anything. If they're trying to make a comic book bad guy come off as worse than even Hitler, well, it fell flat on its face.

I also often felt like the movie really held itself back. This had nothing to do with setting itself up for "The Avengers," but just that it didn't go for the punch when it really needed to. And some things that I liked in the comics, or even in animaton didn't translate well. A lot of that having to do with HYDRA and their catchphrases. I know it was faithful, but their salute seemed a little ridiculous on screen. As well as the over use of their other catch phrase, "cut off one head, two more take it's place." The first and second times, it was fine. The third time... ugh, it was said one time too many.

But another big complaint was, when they killed Bucky and I didn't care. That was a scene that lacked punch entirely. It happened way too soon in the movie, during the second act no less. We didn't see enough of Steve and Bucky together as partners and friends to really care. I thought it should have happened during the third act. Have Bucky go down with one of those bombs that the Valkyrie was carrying. Make a real sacrifice to stop the Red Skull. But it just happened during the second act, before we had any time to come to like and care about this character.

The third act of the movie was a mess. Despite my complaints, the first two acts were pretty good, and felt like a good Captain America story, and some good pulp. Very nice. The third act was extremely anti-climatic, and it all just seemed to fall apart. I did like the fight between Cap and the Red Skull, and even his death. But everything else... not so much. Had they not killed Bucky off so pointlessly in the second act, this would be different.

Overall, I give this a C+. I did not hate it. But I wanted to like it a lot more. I kept pushing myself too. I just don't. Movies are a house of cards, and this one came tumbling down. The best part of the movie is the teaser for "The Avengers." Will I see this again? Probably. I hope a second viewing improves this one for me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Hole in her Naqib

While I have definitely enjoyed the previous three episodes of the season, I think season four as finally found its legs. I know many people hate when shows reinvent themselves, but change is constant in life. Why should it not be constant in fiction?

As I predicted, Nancy Botwin has landed herself a job in Doug's office. It gets her out of the halfway house, and allows her a great cover to conduct business. So far, it seems that her employers will be her biggest clients for her actual career. And all she had to do was open up that territory by hilariously scaring off another drug dealer with help from a cell phone and a xerox machine.

The subplot involving Andy was fun, and I know I am abnormal for not finding the situation he is in with that married couple the slightest bit abnormal. But, and speaking from experience, almost every polyamorous couple I have had the pleasure of enjoying the company of have much more stable and loving relationships than vanillas. So, kudos Andy. And kudos for finding that gentleman's red sock while under the covers with his wife.

Silas is obviously angry and lost. Is he still pursuing modeling? I don't know. But he is now back in the drug trade as Nancy's partner. These two have always had a complicated mother and son relationship, but they have also always had a pretty on the ball professional relationship. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Shane, I still have trouble predicting what direction he is going in this season. I know he feels so much gratitude towards Nancy for going to prison for him that he is going out of his way to please her. From building a more expensive version of her old Agrestic bedroom in the apartment, to fronting her the money to get her business up and running again. But I have a feeling that this gratitude is going to turn to resentment. In the first episode, he said that she "reformed" and she is still just as much a criminal.

Nancy's new friend/supplier continues to be a hard man to read. It will be interesting to find out where they get their new supply of weed, after their high-end Afghani source has, ahem, imploded:

I loved the scene with Nancy's new lawyer. What a morbidly curious man. It almost borders on perversion. He chooses his clients based on how exciting their stories are, and she greatly embellishes the story of Esteban's supposed murder in prison to get him to take her on as a client. Martin Short played that well.

And if you thought Nancy's sister, Jill, was being unreasonable now, she is actively turning Stevie against his mother, and right in front of Nancy. It's great writing when you both think this is a terrible injustice and yet understand that maybe Stevie would be better off. Can't wait to see where this goes.

And Doug, well, Doug is using steroids now. What else can I say?

Overall, this was the best episode of the season. The gang's all here, the dynamics are all back. I look forward to next week's episode.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Because It Bears Repeating...

Zoe Green no longer seems to no longer be involved.

Writing duo David Elliot and Paul Lovett ("G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra") are the latest scribes to tackle a project that explores the world of gargoyles at Disney.

The two, whose credits include Paramount's "Four Brothers," pitched an original take to the Mouse House that the studio is keen on exploring as a live action film. Lauren Shuler Donner (the "X-Men" franchise) will produce.

The project is not tied to "Gargoyles," the popular animated TV series that Disney produced in the 1990s. Instead, it centers on a world in which the stone statues on buildings come to life. Elliot and Lovett would portray them as guardian angels for the cities in which they reside.

It's STILL not based on the animated series. Now, if you haven't written to them yet what are you waiting for. If you have written to them, then write again!

These are who to write to:

ATTN: Lauren Shuler Donner
The Donners' Company
9465 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 420
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

ATTN: LouAnne Brickhouse
The Walt Disney Studios Company
500 S. Buena Vista St.
Burbank, CA 91521-9722

In Which I Commit Comic Book Fan Heresy

I hate Superman.

Really, I hate him. I think he is the dullest, most vanilla, most white-bread character ever. So, for the rest of this blog entry, I shall refer to him as Captain Wonderbread.

I recently said to a friend of mine that it is very hard to pull off a character who is pure evil and still make them interesting. It is even harder to do that with a character who is pure good. Captain Wonderbread is a character who is pure good. He always does the right thing, and never has any doubts or uncertainties. I know he's an alien, but he should still be "human" and he is not. Captain Wonderbread is even more "perfect" than Jesus Christ.

Captain Wonderbread is too powerful. Too invulnerable. Only a special, rare green rock can hurt him. He is strong enough to move planets, he is fast enough to fly at the speed of light. There isn't anything he can't do. Nothing can stop him.

I like my heroes to have character flaws. I like my heroes to take their lives into their own hands when they go out to help others. Captain Wonderbread has and does neither of these things. The most suspense you get out of a Captain Wonderbread story, is "will he get to Lois in time to save her life" and in the Richard Donner movie, when he doesn't, it doesn't matter because he turns back the Earth's rotation to turn back time and saves her anyway.

If a hero is only as good as his villains, then Captain Wonderbread is still a weak character. I've mentioned my dislike for Lex Luthor in previous posts. He's another character I loathe. And while I did like the Bruce Timm/Alan Burnett Superman animated series, it didn't get good until they stole Darkseid (who is not even a Captain Wonderbread villain) and inserted him into the rogues' gallery for their show.

Now, I hear they are making Captain Wonderbread a bit of an asshole in the DC reboot they're doing. Apparently, he'll only care about his Kryptonian heritage and won't care at all about Earth. You know what? GOOD! That gives him some place to start and some place to take him. It gives him an opportunity for real character development. I don't intend to read it, but it sounds interesting. It gives the character layers, which can only be a good thing.

And now, bring on the disagreements! ;)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

HP7ATDHP2 Is a Long Acronym.

There are some movies that it is pointless to review. If I say this is the greatest movie ever made, I won't convince anyone who doesn't have any desire to see it to go see it. If I say it is the worst movie I have ever seen, I don't stop anyone from going. At this point, everyone knows if they'll go or if they won't.

I went to the 7PM showing, in 2D at the Mohegan Lake theater. And my theater was packed. I haven't been to a theater with a crowd like this since "The Dark Knight" and I know the three other showings they had were equally as packed. We got a lot of weird ads. They had an ad for the sound system in the theater and called it "The Best Picture You Ever Heard" and I turned to my brother and said "and the best sound I have ever seen." Most of the trailers we got looked like crap. "Sherlock Holmes 2" could be fun. And I cannot wait for "The Dark Knight Rises." I was really happy to see that teaser.

Now, before I discuss the movie, I should explain my background with this franchise. I resisted it for many, many years. No interest, and the sheer popularity of it turned me off. People I love and respect were recommending it to me for years. Finally, while on summer break from college, in 2006, I broke down and bought the first book. "The Sorcerer's Stone" was... adequate. I didn't like it, or hate it. But it had promise. I bought the second book and felt largely the same. From the third book on, I really came to like it, and bought them all up to the sixth book. I enjoyed them all, and went back and watched the movies.

I hated the first two movies, but then I am not a fan of the works of Chris Columbus and was glad he left the franchise. From the third movie on, it got better. I know a lot of people have issues with the third movie, but I don't. Alfonso CuarĂ³n is a brilliant director and I thought he saved the film franchise and really established how this series should look. And then, I was happy that David Yates took over from the fifth movie onward, because it was nice to have a consistent directorial vision.

"Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part Two" is a unique experience, I have never before watched a movie that was an extended climax. I am sure somewhere out there is an individual who has never seen a single Harry Potter movie, or read a single book. I would be interested to ask what they thought, and ask what's the matter with them. Well, this could help...

As for this movie? I loved it. I had a great time watching it. It was almost everything I wanted it to be. I had just one quibble, but it was a minor one. I would have liked to have seen Dumbledore's back story explained better. It was hinted at, but there really wasn't room for it, and I understand why it was cut.

The Battle of Hogwarts was spectacular. They pulled no punches physically or emotionally. There were moments that were brutal. It's a very violent film. And it needed to be. This is war. This is what war looks like, whether it's fought with guns or magic wands. War has to have cost, and that cost has to be painful. Or else that's not real.

Ralph Fiennes was at the top of his game as Lord Voldemort. If you want to hire an actor who will terrify your audience, Fiennes is your man. In the hands of most other actors, this is a character who could have easily descended into camp. Pure evil is very hard to pull off and make threatening instead of comical. It is also hard to make an interesting character that is, easily, pure evil. But Voldemort is interesting, and Ralph Fiennes really becomes it. I don't scare easily, certainly never at a "kid's movie," and there were moments when he scared even me. I liked him in all of his previous appearances as Voldemort, but he really, really steals the show here.

His final duel with Harry is an area where I think the movie definitely improved upon the book. When I read the book, my feeling was "that's it?" But here, they really made up for it and made it as epic and breathtaking as it needed to be. Likewise Neville's big scene with Nagini. That snake wasn't so easy to kill this time, which really added to the suspense of the whole thing. But I suppose this is an area where film has an advantage over the written word.

My favorite character in the series has always been Severus Snape, and his story in this was truly moving. I heard stories about people crying during this part of the movie, and I can see why. It was truly heartbreaking. He is such a great character. Loved him in the books, love Alan Rickman as an actor, and this was a match made in Heaven. I could write an entire blog entry on this subject, but it was perfect. And his death was so brutal, you shudder when it happens.

If you like Neville Longbottom, you will love this. He gets several huge moments in this movie. From killing a bridge full of Death Eaters, to slaying Nagini. And I also really loved Molly Weasley's "Ellen Ripley" moment. You'll know it when you see it, or if you already read the books, you already know it.

The scene where Voldemort "kills" Harry was described to me this morning by a friend of mine as if they reached into her brain and put her mental image on screen. It's a powerful and iconic image, because I agreed with her. Exactly as I imagined it.

Just about every character got a moment to shine, so if you have a favorite, I think they were well represented. There are two moments with Remus Lupin and Tonks that I really liked, you'll know them when you see them.

I thought everything about the epilogue was well done except for the makeup. Those characters did not look nineteen years older. But it was a nice, hopeful message to leave on, especially after all the death and carnage of the previous scene.

There is so much in this movie to talk about, I cannot find the room to fit it all in without this review becoming an even more chaotic mountain of jumbled thoughts than it already is. Both parts of "Deathly Hallows" together make up my favorite film installment of this franchise. I think giving this chapter that much more time was exactly what was needed to conclude this series properly.

I give this a solid A. So, go see HP7ATDHP2. And if you like 3D, go see HP7ATDHP2I3D. Or, if you really, really want to go nuts, go see HP7ATDHP2I3DIMAX.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Indiana Jones Revisited

So, I've recently gone back and re-watched as well as re-evaluated the "Indiana Jones" series. Some opinions have changed, and I was even surprised by some of my viewpoints. I suspect some of this will be a little controversial, but here we are.

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" is still my favorite, and still by far, the best movie in the series. And not just by a little, by a lot. What made this movie work as well as it did? The chemistry between Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones and Karen Allen's Marion Ravenwood. These two made this movie, it wasn't just Ford alone, and the sequels suffer from her absence. Belloq was a great foil for Indy, and the bespectacled Gestapo agent, Arnold Toht, was perhaps the most terrifying character of the entire series. The plot was fun, and over the top without being two over the top and the film deserves its iconic status.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is widely considered to be the weakest of the trilogy. I have since come to disagree with that assessment, but I will get to that later. Yes, Willie Scott and Short Round were both terribly annoying and useless characters who do bring the movie down. But, I still like this movie. I thought the setting was terrific, and the movie had a level of darkness to it that is not often seen in movies like this. Mola Ram is a terrifying and memorable movie villain who tattoos himself into your memory with but one scene. It shouldn't have been a prequel, they could have easily done a sequel without Nazis, and Marion should have been in this instead of Willie.

I can't help but wonder why Mola Ram didn't rip Willie's heart out when he had the chance. I suspect she either has no heart, or he knew the resulting scream would have killed him.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is easily the weakest entry in the series, and I didn't always feel that way. I watch it now and I feel like comic relief quotient was turned up. This movie was far more of a comedy than its two predecessor and I felt that it was very often a mood killer. Once again, Marion's absence was noticed. Ilsa was hardly a compelling character, but I wouldn't have tossed her out of the movie. She could still have played a similar part, as the Gestapo agent who screwed over Henry Jones Sr, and maybe as a rival to Marion as well.

Speaking of Henry Jones Sr, this is the part where I know I am going to lose people. But I thought he was mishandled. First of all, I think Sean Connery was really miscast in the role. I like Connery a lot, but I just cannot see him as Indiana Jones' father. Personally, I think the role of Indiana Jones' father would have been far better suited to Charlton Heston. He just carries that air about him, just imagine it for a moment. The second complaint was how Henry was written, I feel that he was reduced to comic relief. I'm not saying he couldn't have had any comic relief moments, we all know Indy does, but it just didn't feel right.

Not that I don't like "Last Crusade," because I do. But I just think it could have been better. Easily. But there are many moments where it feels more like a parody of an Indiana Jones movie rather than felt like an Indiana Jones movie. Too many characters who served no purpose other than comic relief, cutesy moments, and "witty" one-liners. This is constructive criticism, not bashing. Again, I like the movie.

And finally, there never was a fourth Indiana Jones movie, so please don't ask me my thoughts on a hypothetical fourth movie.

Good series, and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is the perfect adventure movie.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Season seven of "Weeds" marches on, and while a few of my predictions have come true, I am still not sure of the overall direction this season is heading. This is not a criticism, just that I'm not yet grasping Jenji Kohan's game plan.

After failing her drug test in the previous episode, rather than being sent back to prison, Nancy is enrolled in a drug class. However, instead of learning anything positive, she learns about New York's drug trade, and how there is supposedly a hole in the weed market. Sadly, this is one of the few times in the show's run where I have to call bullcrap. Ever been to Manhattan? There's a weed dealer every three blocks.

It's nice to see Nancy interacting with her family again. She does one positive thing in this episode and insists that Shane go to college. Andy still longs for her, while at the same time passively condemning her getting back into criminality so soon out of the joint. And her first talk with Silas was something we've been waiting for since the penultimate episode of season six. Silas has every right in the world to be angry at her. She lied to him all of his life about who his father actually was.

And then there is Jill, who is filing for custody of Stevie. Stevie already thinks Jill is his mother, and Nancy his aunt. This makes a pretty good parallel to what happened with Nancy and Silas as well. On the one hand, we agree with Silas that Nancy shouldn't have kept this from him. On the other hand, we think that maybe Stevie is better off without Nancy in his life? But is lying to Silas bad, and lying to Stevie good? It's these kind of questions and discussions that make this series a terrific show to discuss.

I'm still not sure what the point of Silas' near death experience with his first modeling gig was. I understand it was to hook Andy up with the producer of it, but why was the producer doing this in the first place?

Shane gets into college just so they can fill out an international quota. Had he used his American ID, they wouldn't have accepted him. This is funny because I remember a discussion with a college recruiter that went like this. It's a nice commentary about how non-Americans are given priority at our own institutions.

Doug has gotten himself a new job, and is re-entering the world of white collar crime. I am willing to bet good money that Nancy ends up finding employment in his office next week. She needs a job to get out of the halfway house, Doug likes her drugs, it's perfect.

I'm still unsure of Nancy's new relationship with the Russian. Still waiting to see where this goes, but I am expecting the Russian Mafia any minute now.

As for Nancy herself, she has really turned into a despicable person. If anything, prison seems to have made her worse. But, as I have often said, if I wanted a TV show about someone moral and wholesome, I'll go back to network. For now, I am enjoying Showtime and their pot dealing mom, heroic serial killer, and most evil pope in history.

"Try again, fail harder." Words of wisdom.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Protagonists & Antagonists

When I took my first screen writing class, the very first thing we discussed was a very popular misconception. A protagonist isn't necessarily the hero, and the antagonist isn't necessarily the villain. While in most stories, the protagonist is cast as the hero, and the antagonist cast as the villain, that doesn't make it universal.

I will admit, this post was inspired by a point Lindsay Ellis made in her recently review of "The Little Mermaid." In her review, she pointed out that King Triton is essentially the protagonist. He begins the movie as a pompous king, an overbearing father, and a bigot. By the time the movie is over, he's learned something. He learns to let his daughter go, and he's learned to stop being so bigoted. Throughout the course of the movie, he expresses regret at some of his actions. He gains enlightenment. While Ariel changes physically, she doesn't learn a thing throughout the course of this movie. She is essentially the same at the end as she is at the beginning. And Prince Eric was just there and bland.

I have made similar notes about that movie in discussion over the years. Lindsay is correct in her observations. Who is the protagonist of "The Little Mermaid?" King Triton. Who is the antagonist? Not Ursula. Ursula is the villain, yes. But Ariel inspires that change, she is the antagonist.

Now let's look at the first "Back to the Future" movie. I am going to make the same exact point here that my screenwriting teachers did, because they used this movie as their example. Who is the protagonist? Who grows? Who goes through the change and learns to be a better person? George McFly. He starts out as a spineless dweeb and learns to stand up for himself, and becomes a man. Who is the antagonist? Not Biff. As with Ursula, Biff is merely the villain. The antagonist of the movie is Marty McFly. Marty is the one who pushes, "antagonizes" George into going through this change. Marty is the hero of the movie, but he is not the protagonist.

And finally, let's look at "Star Wars." Throughout the first two movies, Luke Skywalker is clearly the protagonist, and Darth Vader is definitely the antagonist. This is not the case with "Return of the Jedi" which opens with Luke as a fully realized adult and Jedi. Who is the protagonist of "Return of the Jedi?" Who changes? You already know the answer. Emperor Palpatine is the villain of the movie, but who inspires the change? Luke. Luke is the antagonist and through his actions, he redeems his father and his father goes through the change. I'll admit, one of my central problems with "Jedi" is the fact that Luke isn't the protagonist. I don't mind the redemption of Darth Vader so much as I felt Luke's character development was sacrificed to get it. Look at Luke when "Empire Strikes Back" ends and look at him when "Return of the Jedi" opens. I think we missed a few critical steps in his character development.

Of course, George Lucas will tell you now that these movies are about Anakin Skywalker, not Luke Skywalker. But I never bought into the bullshit that is the "Star Wars" prequels, and I just outlined one of my many reasons why I never thought "Return of the Jedi" worked. But the rest is another blog post.

Once again, keep in mind what protagonists and antagonists actually are. They are not interchangeable with hero and villain.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Custom Demona Action Figure

Well, here she is, in all her glory.

So, about a month ago, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about how it's a shame that no company makes "Gargoyles" action figures, even pricy ones for the collectors' hobby shops. So, on a whim, I did a search on custom action figures, and I found Anthony's website. I took a look at his gallery, and was very impressed. I was also pleased to see that he took commissions. So, I figured I would ask him if he could do a Demona, and what she would cost me.

Well, he wasn't sure if he could, but we had a little back and forth, and he figured he could, he gave me a quote. I'm very happy with it. So is he, and I am sure it was a pain in the ass to make. But he did an awesome job, and I got what I paid for. Quality. High quality.

So, let me pimp him. He did a great job, and if you want a custom "Gargoyles" figure, or a custom figure from just about anything, he's your guy. He's truly gifted at this, and he was a pleasure to deal with. Very patient, especially considering how OCD I was on this one. ;)

Anthony's Customs

Here's the entire gallery. Sixteen beautiful photos.

So, if there's an action figure out there you want to see, but no major toy company is likely to ever give you, commission Anthony here. Two thumbs way up, he comes highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Stupidest Thing In the World

Words fail me.

They gave him the power to hurt Captain Planet with the sheer force of his hatred. Were these people TRYING to make Hitler look cool?

Monday, July 4, 2011

From Trauma Cometh Something.

Oh, Nancy. How I have missed you.

The second episode of the seventh season is even more packed than the first. A lot happens, and we really get a feel for Nancy's new status quo. I'm enjoying it so far.

The halfway house is proving to be more fun than I anticipated. The counselor, Ed, being a former criminal himself didn't surprise me. But it certainly adds a new layer to him. I am rather amused by how he seems to be so serious and so fun when it comes to his job simultaneously. Her roommate, Luce, is, well let's face it, we've seen Luce in every woman's prison movie ever made. But she and Nancy might have an interesting dynamic, we'll see how that goes.

Last week, I suspected that this season we would see the Russian Mafia, and while we still have yet to, the fact that Nancy's former prison cellmate, Zoya, wanted Nancy to sell the weapons in that trunk to some Russian mobster, I think, proves me right. The Russian mob is big in Manhattan, and it makes sense. We've seen the Mexican mafia, Armenian cartels, and black gangsters. And as much as I enjoy the classic Sicilian mobsters, they've been done to death.

Nancy also seems to have made a new friend in the form of Zoya's brother. Those weapons were his, and Zoya stole them. Nancy offers to trade them back for fifty pounds of marijuana, because she wants to get back into the game. He, of course, bullies her down to one pound. No one ever said Nancy was a good negotiator. And then, he gets her stoned. Nancy wouldn't be Nancy if she didn't do something colossally stupid, and when she arrives back at the halfway house, she is pulled into Ed's office for a drug test. That was our cliffhanger.

But let's see how the rest of the Botwins are doing. Shane and Andy are both eager to see Nancy, and finally do at the very end of the episode, after getting acquainted with her halfway house. Silas is trying to continue his modeling career in Manhattan. Will he have success? Who knows? And Doug Wilson, well, looks like he's going to get back into sleazy white collar crime.

I think it's safe to say Nancy is going to pass her drug test, or else she'd be sent straight back to prison, and we're not going to see "women's O.Z." on this show. So, the question is how, and when will her family get back in on her operation?

Nancy Botwin, proving you can both be very smart and very dumb at the same time. I mean, seriously, I think all of those grenades and weapons are worth much more than a single pound of marijuana. Someone out there will buy them.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Michael Bay: Power Director

I don't know who made this, but this is brilliant.

If anything, I think they toned him down.