Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Dylan Dog

Posted by ron On April - 30 - 2011

Perhaps not as powerful as x-ray vision, Brandon Routh is still as perceptive as ever.

When there’s something rotting in seedy New Orleans, Private eye Dylan Dog was forced out of retirement to once again take on the mantle of a constable whose forte’ was investigating supernatural crimes. Very loosely based off the Italian source material, Dead of Night came off as a lighter episode of Supernatural. Brandon Routh played a very smooth, charismatic looking protagonist with a dark past that left him with a constricted affect and brooding good looks. His neurotic man servant played by Being Human’s Sam Huntington provided the campy laughs with girlish cries for help. Anita Briem played the damsel in distress whose father was murdered for a mysterious artifact. All of these ingredients served as Canadian director Kevin Munroe’s undead version of the Maltese Falcon. Unfortunately, Briem never bothered to generate any sense of fear or awe from his creatures. As a result, the stakes were never raised as the audience was led deeper into the story.

The hardest pill to swallow in this film was the inconsistent combat scenes. The narrative was so careful as to point out that vampire blood gave humans the strength of ten men. Essentially, vampires could easily kill a human being yet, a mortal like Dylan Dog not only trades punches with werewolves, vampires, seven foot zombies and a demonic god but he also survived being thrown through more barriers than Mick Foley in a Hell in a Cell match. Hence, the stakes were never raised nor the climax dire and as such, the film’s action was unremarkable.

Without the horror aspect, this film quickly lost any flavor beyond a generic detective story. If I had to rate this film, I’d give it a lite beer on the account that it was stingy with its potential for a truly unique campy horror/adventure film.

Cheers,
Ron

The Last Exorcism

Posted by sean On April - 27 - 2011

Few have a reaction like this anymore when they’re told the devil is after them.

Another crazy possessed girl is back with The Last Exorcism, an amateur mess that severely fails at trying to create anything truly scary or original.  It’s the latest pseudo-documentary with hopes of riding off the success of films like Paranormal Activity or at least make a profit with its low-budget fiasco.  Instead of using what made those films good or improving their mistakes, director Daniel Stamm loses track and ends up producing just a poorly done horror feature.

 

Taking place somewhere in the South, The Last Exorcism is about Cotton Marcus, a minister who decides to hire a camera crew to expose the Church’s fraud by performing a staged exorcism with a devout family.  What he and the crew don’t realize is that they may actually be dealing with a real possession.  It starts off like a Dateline special on minister Cotton Marcus, who sells himself more as a comedian than a minister as he slips a recipe for banana bread into his sermon without the parish realizing it, showing the church’s blinding hold over its people and validating his own hucksterism about religion.  The set up makes an interesting news special, but the film wants a “found footage” sense to it, and yet after the introduction on Marcus, there’s rarely a shot that actually feels like someone just filmed it.

 

These kinds of movies are meant to feel authentic, natural, and real in a supernatural setting.  It’s what intensified the fear in films like The Blair Witch Project.  You should be able to buy into in what’s going on even if there are demons or monsters, but the film barely gives you the chance to accept this reality, especially during the two exorcism scenes.  The first one alternates between the bedroom where the ritual is being performed and the van where Cotton shows the nifty gadgets he uses for the hoax.  The second one, the big confrontation, cuts from person to person with multiple camera positions despite the fact that there is only one cameraman, hindering the natural realism this movie is intended to mimic.

 

The plot is just as problematic as Stamm tries to blindside the issues with a few curve balls and succeeds only in losing the focus of the narrative, but audience’s patience as well .  He keeps you guessing a little bit as he plays with the idea of whether or not the situation is actually real, but in the last act, he crashes the two possibilities together into a train-wreck of an ending.  Not two minutes after the film decides to go one way, it completely flips around and finishes with a reveal that only shocks by how absurd it is.

 

The Last Exorcism is marketed as another horror documentary, but the sloppy camera work, uninspired cutting, and ridiculously plotted storyline shows that Stamm was unable to make any sense out of this  mess.  In the hands of somebody who comprehends the appeal of the genre, this could’ve been the Cloverfield of exorcism movies, submerging you into an unreal situation and being terrified by whatever happens next.  Instead, the Last Exorcism is a piss-warm beer that leaves you desperately trying to wash the taste out of your mouth when it’s over.

Tron Legacy

Posted by ron On April - 26 - 2011


Bring on the bad guys! Jeff Bridges does double duty much to our delight in Tron Legacy.

When Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) said, he made a discovery that was going to change every thing from medicine to religion, I thought he was referring to Disney’s attempt to ante’ up the precedent that Avatar had set. After all, the Christmas break has unofficially become the new summer blockbuster season from which, studios try to leech whatever disposable income was left after buying presents in an effort to push new technology that translated to higher movie ticket prices. Case in point, the average ticket in Manhattan was $14.25 before Avatar’s 3-D pushed the price to $20. Nearly a $6 increase per ticket. For a family of three, that’s $60 in the hole before even glancing at the concession stands. So after two years of hype, Tron Legacy was supposed to keep the fires burning for another season. Domestically Tron Legacy did not break boundaries. Via Box Office Mojo, Legacy grossed $172M with a production cost of $170M. Thanks to international and blu-ray sales, Legacy will spawn another sequel. Whether or not it will screen better is cloudy with a chance of backfire.

 

Kevin Flynn had been missing for two decades until Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) received a page from Flynn’s old office within the infamous arcade. Don’t ask why Alan, the creator of Tron, never bothered to look inside the grid but Disney was hoping you’d forget about that egregious plot hole. He decided to tell Kevin’s son, Sam Flynn what he had received and decided to allow him to search for his dad. As Sam followed his father’s footsteps into the grid, he discovered for himself that it’s more nightmarish and less adventurous than his dad had led him to believe. The result was a film that was largely uneven because it tried to be too many things, philosophical, theoretical, spiritual, and action packed.

 

Legacy delivered the visionary world of Tron on an unprecedented level utilizing CGI that the original could never dream to achieve. Deadly discs, light cycles, and light jets equated to multi-level, overly complex and visually stunning imagery that epitomized every gamer’s wet dream. It definitely took Tron to the next level but that’s not where the movie began to ‘derezz.’

 

Much like its predecessor, Tron Legacy tried to push the envelope by integrating a deeper science fiction component to the film. Does total freedom of information require giving up individuality and individual freedoms that western civilization holds dear? The idea of how using information for own personal cultivation brought about imperfection and dyslinear balance was the perfection that Kevin Flynn was looking for but his CLU identity could never understand. Neither could the audience. Like a Philip K. Dick novel, this topic is fret with deep philosophical and socioeconomic jargon that any nerd appreciated. Can it work as a film? Director Joseph Kosinski tried unsuccessfully to flesh the abstract component of Tron Legacy but such deep ideas idea aren’t always filmable especially when your producer was trying to sell toys, video games, posters, and good looking movie stars.

 

Once again, Jeff Bridges continued his streak of brilliant acting. He played both sides of the coin with great panache and sage wisdom. As Clu, Bridges’ CGI-ed youth showed no rust as it represented Flynn’s ego and overachieving will power gone mad. As Kevin Flynn, Bridges’ aged expressions expressed the appropriate vulnerability towards his son as he tried to make atones for his sins both in the real world and the grid. By far, the strongest narrative in the film was the Flynn character coming full circle with his legacy, ambition, and his tragic flaws. When his reach overextended his grasp, he paid the price. Tron Legacy was the ultimate inquiry into the soul of humanity in the modern age. Our bodies cannot possibly live long enough to satisfy the human desire to finish what we started. Is our immortality within the machines we created? A good question worth pondering on the way out of the cinema.

 

If I had to rate Tron Legacy, I’d give it well-aged Bourbon. Lively taste then a subtle after taste that makes you rethink what you had before taking another taste to fully enjoy it on another level.

 

Cheers,

Ron

NMS: MoCCA 2011

Posted by ron On April - 24 - 2011

Nursing My Sundays: MoCCA 2011

Learn a lot about the industry of commercial art through starving artists who never met a costumer they didn't like

Nursing Sundays: 2011 MoCCA Fest & the fallacy of Comic Cons

OP/Editorial: I was never more convinced that Comic Cons were reduced to a Winnebago sales pitch than the 2010 NY Comic Con. Pretty much every major comic book website, blogger, or TV personality failed to recognize the elephant in the room: Comic book movies weren’t translating to new readers. At the Image panel, pretty much the last 20 minutes was nothing but uncomfortable silence. Suddenly as a hand went up, the person called upon had asked, “Got any new movies coming out?” None of these established sites commented on the war between Marvel scribe Peter David and a fan over pricing. I loved the stink face on Rick Remender and Marjorie Liu. Nothing beat the body language of writers with their arms crossed and the facial expression, “I can’t wait for this panel to be over.” Forget the X-men panel, debate was so heated that you’d think the fan was asking David to move to the Marcy Projects over a $1 per issue. With all the individuals dressing up as it was the NY Halloween parade, this was the center of diehard geekery via the Disney route. I’m willing to bet very few of those individuals dressed up to be someone’s screen saver knew anything pertaining to the character they represented in the last 5 months. Shocked they didn’t have name tags of the comic book characters they dressed as. It’s about as sincere as fans who wear jerseys of players with their names on the back. If you can’t tell who #2 is, you shouldn’t come to Yankee stadium. However, there is hope for fans of comic books who want to attend a convention that doesn’t subscribe to Hollywood but rather humble writers and artists.

MoCCA 2011 didn’t support too many costumed attention whore clowns. On Sunday, I saw a lesbian couple dressed as Bucky and Batwoman. That was it. It’s because without the G4, MTV, and TV affiliations, you’re not going to see the theatrics. It’s a convention that supports self published creators who are often overshadowed by Marvel, DC, Image and other mainstream publishers.  Beware walking past any of the tables because starving artists can smell any loose change on you. As Ayn Rand taught us in the Fountainhead, society was always slower to come around to an innovative idea. Most of the most profound art in this world is about this very problem. So I’m sorry you brilliant minds, you’re going to have to suffer before you’re picked up. In the meantime, I’ll do what I can to help sell what most fans miss out when they are busy wiping the drool off their face whenever Geoff Johns, or Brian Michael Bendis walk the floor.

It never gets old when a creator signs your book. It just eels personal and intimate.

Meeting Sarah Glidden Up Close and Personal

I usually never walk the floor at a comic con. First of all, they’re always trying to push something on me without bargaining. My old school trick was to put $5 in my wallet and show the guy that was all I had. More often than not, he buckled and took it. Pretty much comic book retailers will take every red cent from you just to dump a book in your lap. I did however, talk to one creator, Sarah Glidden author of How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. I introduced myself and said, I really liked her speech at the DC Vertigo Panel, by far the only panel where every seat was filled. I gave her $3 for an excerpt and she nervously handed me back $6. I advised might want to hire an accountant to handle your money. Bought her book how to understand Israel in 60 days or less at NY Comic Con. I told her how much I admired her for not only telling a great story but also admitting that she didn’t know shit about Israel and the other half about being “selectively” Jewish outside of a few extra handy holidays they’d like off. It was unique to converse with a female artist/writer who did her work by hand on a journalist/memoir kind of commentary about what an American knows collides with the grim realities of the world. Kind of like when Obama was elected to be the anti-Bush and then re-instituted the same policies as Bush including extending Gitmo, I imagined some NSA guy opening the big book of reality and his face knowing fear. Suddenly all the talk, means nothing. Survival takes precedence. Her next book will be about Refugees from North Iraq in Syria. Looking forward to it.

No matter what panel you sit through, it's all about the ability to sell, sell, sell! A lesson Eisner taught all his disciples.

1330 Enterprising Will Eisner Panel with Jules Feiffer (Village Voice Editoral Cartoonist), Denis Kitchen (Kitchen Sink Press), and Paul Levitz (Legion of Superheroes, former DC President)

Living in a time when business doesn’t even know a thing about business. The way to make a zillion dollars off traditional syndicated strips are over. Must know how it applies in order to be a comic strip artist.-Jules Feiffer

Sitting in a room less than 10 feet away from a bunch of guys who pioneered the comic book industry, I felt humbled by the brutal honesty that these madmen delivered their thoughts on the Will Eisner way and a career in the funny books. The Will Eisner way was pretty much being a better business man than an artist. This is a concept that Picasso often spoke about. Loved the memories of working for Will Eisner who never spent any money on his studio except when a light bulb burned out. The panelists also spoke about recognition and that artists shouldn’t think this was the industry to get famous or expect a great living. It took Will Eisner 30 years for him to sniff some measure of recognition. While more people celebrate his work more now than ever, keep in mind what I said about Ayn Rand in the Fountainhead. Artists being famous long after they are gone.

Girl Power is a much needed breathe of fresh air in an industry dominated by men for over 50 yrs

1430 Pizza Island Studio Panel with Lisa Hanawalt, Sarah Glidden, Kate Beaton, Meredith Gran, Julie Wertz, and some French girl

It’s rare to have a panel with more than 1-2 female comic book creators together. It’s considered a phenomena to have an entire panel full of young female creators. It didn’t take long for the girls to figure out that pictures of their studio were a little too precious for a panel. This was one of the few panels that asked some really great questions. Many of these girls worked either as a secretary or in media after college. None of them followed mainstream American comic books. Most of them preferred fine art. That was interesting because almost all of them have a very cartoonist look about them. One of them was dropped by their publisher and might give up being a comic book creator if she doesn’t find work soon. Another mentioned that sometimes you’ll have to buy back your rights to your book in order to promote it better before re-selling it back to the publisher. None of them collaborate with each other at their studio. None of them party. Loneliness is the Long Distance Runner in this industry. Creators have colleagues but they wear many hats. Lastly, only the Canadian artist said she would stay in NYC. Affordability has its virtue especially with the internet.

 

An image is worth a thousand laughs when it comes to the New Yorker

15:30 The New Yorker Panel

This was a pretty entertaining panel in that each comic strip artist got to share samples of their work and their demented humor. I think these cats pretty much were happy to work for the New Yorker. One, it was steady salary. Two, it was steady salary. I think one of the panelists took over 700 submissions to finally get a strip published by the New Yorker. I found it interesting that some of the work not published due to its content did not include the controversial image of Barak Obama and his wife. Guess every one has their own taste including the editor in chief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art has played a huge role in political activism, World War 3 has been the watch dog for many stories around the world.

1630 World War Three Panel

Here’s my problem with activist comic book creators, they are about as manipulative and one sided as the establishment they create. So while WW3 invokes Daumier, the Masses, and other socio-political issues. art and politics, propaganda  they forget to mention how activists unfairly pick their battles. Reckless images don’t tell the whole story but elicit a response. Any human being will elicit an emotional response upon seeing an image of a homeless black man on the street as a white man in a business suit walks by. That says nothing of the situation of class warfare, misplaced spending, etc. It’s a mean spirited way to symbolize a villain. Noting no criticism of Clinton’s banking policy leading to the housing market crash or Obama adopting Bush’s foreign policies. Every slide except 2 were personal criticisms of Reagan and Bush. While it’s deserving, I still didn’t understand what Peter Kuper meant when he said, oh we criticize indiscriminately. Really? Could have fooled me. At least half these guys, said “luck..” to ambitious artists trying to make their way in the world today.

For me, that was the best advice given at MoCCA 2011 where the place of art is uncertain in the midst of movies, and circus conventions threatening to blot it out.

 

 

Cheers,


Ron

 

Your Highness

Posted by ron On April - 21 - 2011


Pointing phallic objects at your enemy was the name of the game in Your Highness.

In a tale of two princes, Thadeous (Danny McBride) and Fabious (James Franco) were polar opposites until a naughty wizard stole Franco’s bride and so a raunchy sword and sorcery adventure began in Your Highness. As a companion piece to the Pineapple Express, Director David Gordon Green reunited with his boys and added the talents of Oscar winner Natalie Portman and Tobey Jones with cameos from Charles Dance and Zooey Deschanel. With more brand names than an Adam Sandler comedy, Your Highness had some potential to grow up as the love child of Men in Tights meets Monty Python. Alas my lords and ladies of the D20, this film never made its saving throw. However it had its moments with McBride basically running around with an implied “kick me” sign on his back and literally a Minotaur penis tied around his neck.

If you’re looking for top shelf, lowbrow humor Your Highness delivered more phallic jokes than any 3 Kevin Smith films combined in a tribute to fans of the Dragon lance novels. Unfortunately, it never chose a wise path from which to move the humor in a direction that anted up the laughs. Basically McBride was the butt of every joke in the film, many of which you could see coming from Fistandantalus’s tower. As a result, none of the talent received enough experience points from the dungeon master to level up because the jokes were never on anyone else. Like 3-day-old mead, every thing was exhausted by the second act.

Some of the strongest humor was subtle homage to the love of the Tolkien world. An apropos tongue in cheek homage to the Lord of the Rings films by utilizing cinematography worked as well as some of the recreations of familiar scenes. Green has a lot of love for the world of dungeons and dragons but the humor beats you over the head that it took you out of the loving fun and affection for his geeky roots.

If I had to rate Your Highness, I give it a pabst blue ribbon from the can. An old familiar friend that invokes good times but also a taste I can get tired of pretty quickly.

Cheers,

Ron

Sucker Punch

Posted by ron On April - 17 - 2011


Emily Browning aka Babydoll stares into the abyss of her mind or is that the inglorious mess of this movie?

Five anonymous young ladies with nicknames you might expect to get lap dances plot to escape from an asylum in Sucker Punch. Like something out of Mathew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle, Zach Snyder manifested his own multiple worlds within one body as the ultimate forbidden planet for fan boys. From the mind of one imprisoned girl, young sexpots in costumed high heels fought 10ft samurais, robots, a zombie Kaiser, and a dragon. Unfortunately, all these fictional food groups from so many genres of geekdom were randomly shuffled into a linear format reminiscent of standardized video gaming. When the impact of the reality didn’t measure up to the fantasy, the CGI spell was shattered and left behind a cathartic unidentifiable mess of a movie.

Director Zach Snyder has always had an eye for rich, captivating visuals that were capable of creating awe. Complemented with strong source material, he’s able to navigate a story and at least observe the traffic lights that serve as transition points in character development. The direction in Sucker Punch more closely resembled the Lindsay Lohan School of Driving. Intoxicated with imagery, he ran too many red lights, and went off the bridge of no return. Unfortunately, his 7th feature film served as a cautionary tale when a box office name brand was allowed to run wild without any inhibitions. With Man of Steel, Zach Snyder has raised the stakes even higher and one wonders how does Warner Brothers feel about him directing one of their flagship characters?

Unlike the Usual Suspects, there’s no source or reference for the wild imagination a little girl who lived in a house more closely resembling the Adams Family in what looks to be some time before 8 tracks were replaced by cassettes. So where do the ideas for all these creatures and imagery come from in Baby doll’s mind? Never mind that. Why wouldn’t a girl sentenced to lobotomy by her stepdad, fantasize about getting revenge? In an asylum where molestation and rape of women seemed implied, one has doubts that its victims imagine themselves as burlesque combat machines.

This film aimed to encourage empowerment and fighting for control over your life as a defenseless girl but the themes were an afterthought after it was revealed Baby Doll (Browning)’s doorway into the fantasy world was performing a shimmy that entranced her victims. As the dance number distracted them, the other girls could carry out their plan to escape. Fortunately Snyder spared the audience from watching a barely legal girl dance provocatively in front of the slimiest men caught on film.

Note to the producers of Sucker Punch, in order to make a successful movie you’re going to need 5 things:
1. Plot
2. Screen play
3. Direction
4. Acting
5. Ativan
For movie lovers everywhere, you might need a prescription of Valium before indulging this painful mess of a movie.

If I had to rate Sucker Punch, I’d give it a Four Loko Red Bull suicide note.

Cheers,
Ron

Battle Los Angeles

Posted by ron On March - 28 - 2011


Epic opening to Battle Los Angeles engages the eye but fails to give you much more than a swig of what it could truly be.

Battle Los Angeles was the equivalent of going to a fast food chain expecting a heavy meaty grease saturated guilty pleasure and coming away shockingly unsatisfied despite lowered expectations. Perhaps the reason why it was so unsatisfactory was due to millions spent in marketing the CGI and interviews that promised character depth but neither was delivered.

As the arch typical staff sergeant with a sketchy war record, Aaron Eckhart was supposed to convince us of this gritty battle hardened non-compromising rough neck. Instead the material delivered nothing that would suggest this guy was unhinged and untrustworthy after saving two marines at the get go. Without getting too far ahead none of these characters suggested they were capable marines let alone belong in the military. The unit more closely resembled college kids playing lazer tag for the first time. Stop this review if you’ve heard of the lippy soldier, the soldier married with a kid, the soldier trying to get married and the soldier whose family member died with an ax to grind. Maybe that’s why Michelle Rodriguez who played the communications officer was the best shot of the bunch. Maybe she had a career change moment kind of like one has in college when you suddenly realize its not worth pursuing something if you don’t get something out of it.

The most successful war films don’t try to make it about different personalities meshing at a job. Instead they focus on the inner and outer conflict itself. The quintessential problem with Battle Los Angeles was the lack of conflict. Its focused on filling a quota en route to an objective. Therefore the stakes were never raised.

If you’re wondering why I keep emphasizing the characterizations, the CGI is already spoken for if you saw the trailer. The aliens are so out of focus that no one can remember what they look like. To coin a phrase, out of sight is out of mind. A film where its audience can barely remember what the aliens look like makes you wonder, why bother with aliens? One theory, any attempt to do a legitimate Red Dawn with nation du jour would risk offending paying customers in the international box office.

Battle Los Angeles was the equivalent of Invasion USA meets Independance Day except more time was spent hiding in bombed out areas of a Hollywood set than delivering the actual battle.

By the time, the tired plot reached the aliens’ objective it made even less sense why the aliens would choose LA especially if you understand some of the water shortages and fires over the recent years.

If I had to give Battle LA a drink rating, I’d have to give it a day old open bottle of sparkling water. Flat without any of the bubbly personality that violent video game porn should deliver on the big screen. Never thought I would live to say this but where is Michael Bay?

Black Swan

Posted by ron On March - 28 - 2011


Are you crazy is that your problem? Maybe but crazy is often beautiful.

There were no surprises, plot twists or clever ruses in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Simply put, it was a character study chronicling the downward spiral of a young woman’s sanity in the ultra competitive world of ballet. If you’ve ever had any experience with athletics, you can certainly relate to the heavy abusive rituals that Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) endured on a daily basis in her quest for artistic perfection. From the movie’s start, it’s painfully apparent ballet can never be a recreational activity, it’s an all consuming mistress with a stop watch who will take second place from no one.

Unfortunately perfection has its price. The very unpredictable Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) has final say in who dances to his beat in the Black Swan play. Much to Nina’s delight, the lead is hers to lose but on the condition that she would do whatever Mr. Leroy says. As his demands are raised so did Nina’s stress level.

Enter Nina’s rival played by Mila Kunis. Kunis’ free spirit without a care or consequence was the anti-thesis of Nina’s approach to life and the perfect foil for her own downfall as her darker half takes over.

Darren Aronofsky mastery over his craft was also a feat of perfection. The camera work, editing, sound, and execution of the script was every bit of the White Swan: Form and function. The suspense, seduction, and disturbing horrific self destruction of human fragility was his Black Swan. Together, it’s no surprise that this film had received so many nominations. Not since Jodie Foster and Jonathan Demme has an actress and director duo been so insync. Portman didn’t just convince us of White and Black sides of her soul but the most important part, the painful transformation. It’s the transition scenes that really raised the stakes and invested our fears and hopes for Nina.

If I could rate Black Swan with a beverage of choice, it’s easily a fine wine that’s just going to get better with age. Cheers.

Ron’s Best of 2010

Posted by ron On December - 31 - 2010

The Mind Fuck: Inception

“You must dream a little larger darling…” (Tom Hardy) sounds like the buzzword for 2011 and The Dark Knight Rises

Traditionally, the Summer film line up has been reserved for low brow comedies/romances, CGI sugar fueled effects & explosions, and the obligatory high priced sequel. While I expected the success of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight to carry into his next film, I didn’t expect Inception to gross over 292 Million domestically. Inception proved the cynics wrong with a smart cerebral plot, dynamic visuals, and an unforgettable dramatic score. Most Summer films demanded that you check your brain at the door, Inception commanded your attention and dared you to keep up with its complexity.

The Poet: Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go)

While the others explore a tugboat stuck on the sandbar, the previously Oscar nominated Carey Mulligan looks for hope on the horizon at a time when her mortality looks certain.

I read Never Let Me Go in 2005 and thought it was impossible to adapt because it was all based on one person’s memories and thought processes. Yet, director Mark Romanek elevated such a story into a living oil painting you might find in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Every shot is breath taking and at the same time melancholy because every moment of life is precious.

The Chameleon: Leonardo DiCaprio

Are You crazy is THAT your problem? Nope. The fact remains DiCaprio has become an elite actor.

Waiting in the queue for Inception @ AMC Loews IMAX theatre, I suddenly remembered overhearing someone previously declaring Leonardo as Martin Scorsese’s new Robert DeNiro during Gangs of New York. You’ll have to forgive me. At the time, my brain was still damaged from radio stations overplaying Celine Dion’s song from Titanic. I had a hard time digesting it. I never doubted DiCaprio’s talent (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Basketball Diaries, Aviator) but the quality of his work in 2010 was exceptional. He delivered commanding and complex performances in Shutter Island and Inception. Pretty hard to beat such lynch pins and so if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

The Untamed Beauty: Noomi Rapace

Anyone can be victimized but if you think for one second, Lisbeth Salander is a victim of any man, think again.

There aren’t many recurring strong willed female characters in cinema recognized by Hollywood in the last 25-30 years. With Lisbeth Salander, the Millennium Trilogy has produced the best recurring female character since Clarice Starling. A rare talent, Noomi Rapace didn’t have the look of an exotic beauty nor is she the best description from the book but with one subtle facial expression she nailed down the detached, emotionally distant and tortured soul of the character.

He’s an Oldie but a Goodie: Jeff Bridges

From the most expensive computer generated botox ever to the role that few would relish after the Duke, Jeff Bridges is a fine wine and continues to get better with age.

As most actors age, they begin to settle for less juicy roles as the perverbial hook for geriatrics comes out and yanks them to animated features and horrible comedies. For Jeff Bridges, age is like a fine wine. He just continues to refine his methods and bring one memorable performance after another. In Tron Legacy, Bridges’ was supposed to be the old soul to pass the baton off to his on screen son who had zero charisma. Instead, he adequately pulled off one of the most complex performances as both Kevin Flynn and his youthful digital opponent, Clu. To end 2010, Bridges took on the role of Rooster Cogburn in the Coens’ True Grit. Few actors would try to take a role previously held by John Wayne but Bridges knew how to be his own Cogburn. He was probably a true and more accurate representation of a Western bounty hunter.

The Player: Jacki Weaver

In this Animal Kingdom of criminals, the female rules the roost.

In Animal Kingdom, an Aussie film about a dysfunctional crime family (as if there was any kind), Weaver played an evil Mrs. Garrett (Facts of Life) who is equal parts nurturing and butcher.

In the Tower of Babel: The Social Network

If words cut deeper than the sword, the Social Network is a bloodbath of words that will define the words, “Did he just go there?”

Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, A Few Good Men) created a dialogue so punchy and fast paced that it more closely resembled a stream of consciousness that could beat the fasted internet connection. A language unto itself. While I don’t believe the Social Network was a film that defined a generation (that should be reserved for a film about living in a debt ridden country), I do believe the think 50 steps ahead neurotic dialogue captured the fast paced atmosphere that you can believe the way young people today think, thanks to devices that allow us to communicate indirectly with someone at all times.

Under the Radar: Daytripper

Who knew writing the end of people’s lives would only serve as the beginning of a long journey about existentialism and the connection we have with life, death, and each other.

Written and drawn by the Brazilian creators Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon about an obituary writer and how the diseased factor into different stages of his life. It is equal parts soul searing as it is profound and the ending is a spiritual journey that will haunt you in the days to come.

Ferrie’s Monologue: LOST

Never did trivial numbers create such a shitstorm of an internet Easter Egg hunt over arbitrary selection process of cadidates to be marooned on the one place where Starbucks and Cable TV can’t reach.

To ask someone to answer, “what was Lost about?” would be about as easy an answer as who killed JFK? Like Joe Pesci’s character from JFK screamed, “It’s a mystery wrapped up in a riddle inside an enigma…” Er, come again? Not since the days of Twin Peaks has the water cooler talk been so lively over one show. Not since Twin Peaks has a show ever left you with more questions than you had at the start.

See you in 2011 brotha,

Ron :)

Jose’s Fun/Disappointing ’10

Posted by Jose On December - 31 - 2010

Seems like everyone does a “Best of/Worst of” around this time of year. Those are fun, but often there is the sense that people are going with the crowd rather than giving you their own opinion. With that in mind, I wanted to do something different; add my own flare, if you will. Here is what I felt, in my own opinion, to be the three most fun and the three most disappointing aspects in entertainment of 2010.

Most Fun Show: Doctor Who Series/Season 5

It’s not easy to live up to the precedent set by previous seasons/series of Doctor Who. Already going against it was the memorable 2-part finale The End of Time which saw the exit  of head writer and front runner of the new series, Russell T. Davies and David Tennant as The Doctor . To say the show had a lot to live up to would be an understatement. Fans loved Tennant’s portrayal of the Tenth Doctor and to accept someone new as the Eleventh Doctor seemed like an uphill climb indeed.

Thankfully the fifth series/season accomplished so much in its short time that all of these worries were unfounded. Writer of many fan favorite episodes, Steven Moffat was named the new head writer. Playing the new companion was Scottish actress Karen Gillan. And stepping into the TARDIS and the shoes of the Eleventh Doctor was Matt Smith; a trinity that weathered a tough fan-storm and became the foundation for a fantastic series.

Moffat’s scripts were witty and well-told, maintaining a fairy-tale tone he set out to do since the first episode. Minus the “I’m the last of my race, I’m alone” pathos of the previous two Doctors, Matt Smith plays the Doctor as someone with a zest for life who loves a good mystery. Karen Gillan is outstanding as Amy Pond, a character who, unlike previous companions isn’t bogged down by  love for the Doctor.  Rather,  she’s a woman who has waited fourteen years for her “imaginary friend” and is now learning patience has its virtues.

This could have been a disaster of a series considering what it had to live up to from last year, but rather than lowering the bar, they raised it to a different but fun level. Yes, pathos and tragic stories are engaging to watch, but sometimes you have to have fun, too. And that’s the best word I can use to summarize why, in my opinion, this was not only the best show of 2010 but also one of my favorite series/seasons of the show: fun.

Most Fun Comic: Chew

I discovered Image Comics’ Chew early last year. I picked up the first trade, which was conveniently $10 and found a world where chicken was outlawed, the FDA is akin to the FBI, and a man named Tony Chu can see the history of any food he eats. Once they put him on murder cases, I was hooked.

John Layman and Rob Guillory have created a strange, funny and absolutely creative world. I remember the day after I finished the first trade, I rushed to the comic store to pick up any issues I was missing so I would be caught up. I remember being so excited because I had found a comic that managed to be both creative and funny as hell. In every issue I find something that always impresses me. Whether it’s a creative turn in the story like a chef who can only communicate through his cooking, or fun little side jokes like two cops sitting in a bar and the pictures on the wall are all photos from buddy-cop movies, to an assassin rooster named Poyo. Even during the so-called “down time” issues, you can tell these guys are having fun.

That’s the appeal of Chew. Its creators are very much fans of comics like we are, and they go the extra mile to entertain us. They still do letters pages at the end of the comic—a practice I haven’t seen in years—they showcase fan art and letters, and if a book is late, they’ll let you know and apologize in advance. It’s very accessible to the reader. Some people come for the art, some come for the writing, some come for the crazy plots and some come for fan interaction. Either way, you’re going to be happy. And judging from sales and the announcement of a TV show in the future, I can safely say Chew was the best comic series I’ve read throughout 2010

Most Fun Movie: The Expendables

In a year mired by superheroes, wizards, gritty westerns and sci-fi special effects films, you often get caught up in which movies you feel everyone else loves and go with public opinion. That could have easily been Inception, True Grit, Tron: Legacy or Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, but when I think back to what movie I enjoyed the most this year, it boils down to The Expendables.

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I was bombarded with action movies. Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, you name them and I saw them. When I heard there would be an action movie written and directed by Stallone but also starred a plethora of action movie stars from A-List to D-List, I was skeptical. Man, am I glad I was wrong!

The movie centers on a group of mercenaries set up to taken down a dictator in the country of Villena. It’s your standard action movie formula, but why does this work over similar films such as The A-Team, The Losers and RED? It’s all in the fact that it wasn’t played tongue-in-cheek. While it’s not common to say this for an action movie, it was played very straight. This movie wasn’t about parody or pastiche. This isn’t a movie that constantly winks to the audience and revels in how meta it’s being.

To me, it’s the best movie of the year because it does what it sets out to do and tells a simple story: good guys fight bad guys, shots are fired, shit gets blown up and somewhere along the line Stallone’s character earns his soul. I had a great time watching this movie with my buddies and talked about it for weeks. When the DVD came out, I had to own it. It may not be oscar-worthy or have nerd-cred, but at the end of the day I loved the hell out of this movie.

Disappointing Game: (Tie) Dark Void / Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

It’s hard to narrow down just which game I was disappointed by this year. There weren’t too many I could say were the worst ever, as I don’t play a lot of games, but two I was really looking forward to utterly fell flat on their faces. One fell down to execution and one for length.

Dark Void was a game that hit all the right spots when I saw it advertised: a game that takes you to the Bermuda Triangle where inter-dimensional alien robots in flying saucer-like ships try to come into our world and only a rogue pilot with a jet pack can stop them. Sounds like a fun premise, right? Yeah, well too bad Dark Void loses a lot of that fun with its annoying quick pace and down right boring story. What makes the game disappointing is the fact it feels rushed. When text between loading sessions has to explain key plot points, that’s when you know you have a problem. The game play is all right but controls are sometimes stiffer than an old man on Viagra and you find yourself feeling as though several key scenes were cut for time. There were some solid ideas for a great adventure but in its stead we got a generic video game.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II has a similar, yet different problem. I loved playing as Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice in the first game. With the sequel, and the small setback that Starkiller seemingly died at the end of the first game, expectations were high. We were treated to a story of a clone of Starkiller as he tried to break free of Vader’s control and find his love Juno Eclipse. An engaging story that had me wondering if this so-called clone was actually Starkiller under Vader’s control. So, what made this disappointing, exactly? The length! Folks, just when the game is getting good, just when it’s hitting it’s zenith of intrigue…the game ends! Not only does it end, but it has the balls to leave questions hanging: Are you a clone or are you actually Starkiller? With Vader captured, how does he escape? Will Boba Fett find Starkiller? Normally, I don’t mind leaving things open for another game, but this felt like you got half of a whole story. The game cost $60 and much like everyone else who bought it, we were disappointed to see it end at the point that it did. It felt like everything that preceded whichever ending you chose (Light Side or Dark Side) meant nothing. You went on a journey and halfway through it just stops. All that for nothing.

It’s not a hard thing to please me when it comes to video games, but looking forward to these games this past year and realizing they weren’t living up to their potential makes them a tie for the most disappointing game of 2010.

Dissapointing Comic: DC’s First Wave Line

Oh, DC. You started off with a solid concept: A line of comics putting popular pulp characters from the 30’s and 40’s with early incarnations of DC Comics characters? Waitress, give me some coffee to go with this slice of heaven! This was right up my alley as I’m a fan of heroes from that era, especially the ones they were going to use ; Doc Savage and his amazing five, The Avenger, Rima the Jungle Girl and even The Spirit. DC was going to make me very happy! Sadly, that was not the case. It began with the world shatteringly “Meh” one-shot Batman/Doc Savage, which felt like a dull teaser of what was to come. And while three titles were to spin out of that one-shot (First Wave, The Spirit and Doc Savage) you know what it resulted in? Very little! It’s taken about a year to get 5 issues of First Wave out, Doc Savage is unreadable (with an honorable mention to the just-okay Avenger Co-Feature) and while I love The Spirit, the black and white back-ups are annoying.

What’s most tragic is the fact people were actually excited about First Wave # 1. It got a lot of buzz and gave me hope that a concept like this could work.  Sadly, the six issue mini-series was constantly off-schedule. As I said, it’s been almost a year and we’re just now getting to issue # 5. You’re probably wondering why it’s such a big deal when they have two other books in the line to keep it afloat while First Wave tries to get back on schedule. Here’s the thing…FIRST WAVE IS THE MAIN STORY! You can’t expect people to gain or maintain interest in a story when you don’t release it on time. While Doc Savage and The Spirit have kept their schedules, their books aren’t the main story; their satellite books to showcase the characters that are in First Wave. It’s like having a those annoying direct to DVD mini-movies that come with movies like Shrek and Despicable Me constantly thrown at you because the makers of the main movie couldn’t finish the feature on time; sure, they’re nice and all, but they’re ancillary to the major story. This line had so much potential to be good, but because the publishers couldn’t get the main title out on time, you have to ask one important question: why should I care when you obviously don’t?

Dissapointing Show: True Blood Season 3

Yeah, that’s right, I watch True Blood! I started last December and absorbed the first two seasons. It’s not a bad show. It takes all the trappings of Twilight and adds a nice horror element to boot. I was all caught up and ready for the third season. And yeah, you wanna talk about a case of “The bad outweighs the good.” …look no further than season three of True Blood!

The biggest problem with this season was too many stories going on at once. We had the forced and boring love triangle between Bill, Sookie and Eric. We had Hillbilly Werewolves. Jason Stackhouse wanted to be a cop and fell in love with a Werepanther. Sam finds an annoying half-brother.  Tara, still getting over her grief of losing a man she knew for like a week ends up being the unwilling hostage to a psychotic vampire who just wants to be loved. And so on with these characters. All this and we were introduced to two words fans wished they’d never hear again…Hippy Fairy! Yep, our main character, Sookie is a descendant of a race of Fairies. Yes, folks, it’s HBO!

The sad thing is, there was one great thing about True Blood this season, and that was Denis O’Hare as Russell Edgington, the Vampire King of Louisiana. At first, you think he’s just some silly camp-villain, but once someone he loves is murdered…you do NOT want to mess with him. And if anyone saw the ending to the ninth episode will tell you, this is a man who is not to be provoked. But, even an interesting character such as he could not save the show from dull storylines and improbable decisions made by characters…and yes I’m well aware I just used the word “Improbable” when referring to a show about vampires, werewolves and hippy fairies.

It’s disappointing because there were chances to do something really special this season: there was a chance to do something about the Vampire hierarchy. There were chances to do more with the werewolves. There were some great flashbacks involving the character of Eric. All of this potential was washed away with dull character sub-plots and the need to force drama where there was none. This is the folly of True Blood.

And that, in a nutshell are what I consider to be the most fun and most disappointing bits of entertainment of 2010.  Here’s hoping the next year will lift you up more than it will knock you down!

- Jose

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