I'm in the process of moving the blog to a new page. No point paying typepad every year when I'm paying for domain registration and hosting.
I'm in the process of moving the blog to a new page. No point paying typepad every year when I'm paying for domain registration and hosting.
Sarah reminded me I hadn't posted here in a while, although I didn't realize it had been almost a year.I'm also pretty surprised I haven't covered Inglorious Basterds yet.
Put simply, it's Quentin Tarantino doing a revenge fantasy version of WWII. If you're not familiar with Tarantino's work, this means gratuitous violence, and witty but generally quite dirty dialog. Actually, it plays more like several movies that all tell parts of a single story.
The first part is a Nazi officer hunting Jews, and Christoph Waltz does pretty much the best charming evil I have ever seen. With as many movies as I watch, it's rare for me to be genuinely creeped out anymore, but this guy... even if you're not interested in the rest of the movie, find a clip this part.
After that, the movie passes into more familiar Tarantino territory, with Brad Pitt leading a team of Jewish Americans in murdering Nazis. He does a passable Appalachian acccent, although Mom informs me his vowels were slightly off. There are even stories he liked the character so much, he did the accent at all times. This part is fun to watch if you like Tarantino dialog and violence, and horrible if you don't.
Those are the best parts of the movie - there's a subplot with a girl that Waltz's character was hunting deciding she's going to murder the entire leadership of the Nazi party, which collides with an Allied plot to do the same thing. Most of that isn't as much fun as the rest of the movie, with two exceptions: 1) Pitt saying Italian words in his Appalachian accent, and 2) the culmination of the plot, which is very nearly as spooky as Waltz's performance at the beginning of the movie.
Verdict: See it if you like Tarantino's movies. (ie, if you're a guy.) Even if you don't, find a clip of Christopher Waltz playing Hans Landa. (And while that character survives to the end of the movie, he definitely gets his.)
I went to see The Book of Eli because seeing Denzel Washington shoot stuff and Gary Oldman be evil are almost always satisfying experiences. Eli (Washington) is travelling through a post-apocalyptic world caused by a nuclear war, where things have pretty much broken all the way down, but he comes on a town where a guy named Carnegie (Oldman) has used a source of clean water and a lot of ruthlessness to impose some order, though not really very much civilization. Think Mad Max 3, but without Tina Turner, or a midget.
Carnegie wants to expand his empire, and to do this he's decided he needs a Bible, but they were largely destroyed after the war. When Eli teaches a girl who was born after the war to pray, he realizes Eli has one, and all the mayhem I wanted ensues.
James Cameron sure does like to wait a long time between movies, although after Titanic I'm sure some people were glad he did. However, Avatar is a return to his over the top but satisfying movie-making.
In the movie, an ex-marine who lost the use of his legs in battle travels to a moon named Pandora, where he will pilot an Avatar - a cloned version of the locals. The locals call them Dreamwalkers, which is a much better name, really. While ostensibly part of a scientific effort, he's offered surgery to fix his legs in exchange for spying on the locals and helping to get them off of a huge deposit of "Unobtainium", a ludicrously expensive floating mineral native to Pandora. Once the marine gets to know the natives, he switches sides and helps them fight off the evil corporation.
Like all good Cameron movies, though, the plot is largely irrelevant. (In fact, an anti-technology plot in a high technology movie, especially once sponsored by McDonald's, is ironic on a scale as large as the movie.) It's just an excuse for stunning special effects, and Avatar is one long special effect. The CGI blends flawlessly into the live action, to the point where visually they are indistinguishable. And Pandora is gorgeous, especially in 3-D.
Verdict: See it on the big screen while you can. If you can bear to spend the extra $5 or so per ticket, see it in 3-D.
Actually, this is about The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), but my version of the title summarizes the movie nicely. It's a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), which I have not seen, but that I'm given to understand is about aliens who want to save the Earth from humans destroying it through war. In the new version, Reeves plays an alien (in a convenient human body) who's come to the Earth to save it from humans who are destroying it with their technology.
Although Keano apparently had all his emotions removed after the Bill & Ted movies, since he's playing an alien who is new to a human body, that actually works for him, and he does manage to show a little bit toward the end of the movie.
Kathy Bates turns in a reasonable performance as the Secretary of Defense, initially paranoid and warlike, but eventually coming around. And John Cleese has a rare but enjoyable non-comedic role as a scientist, who helps to convince Klaatu that humans might be able to change, but only if they've given a chance to try when things look darkest.
The real star of the movie was the special effects - there are huge glowing space marbles, and Gort, who looks like a giant Cylon, but turns out to be made up of zillions of microscopic metal (but somehow still organic) bugs. Seeing those bugs rip up a military base, a truck, and finally Central Park are the really entertaining parts of the movie. Seeing Will Smith's son Jaden hate and then warm up to the alien I could have done without, as could the movie in general.
The ending I'm not sure about. Klaatu is finally convinced that humans, on the edge of extinction, may be able to change, so instead of destroying the world, he apparently deactivates all our technology. Cars come to a stop, computers shut down, oil wells stop pumping, and even electric watches stop working. The problem I have with this is that if all our technology just quit, billions of people would die, as the technology to deliver their food would no longer function. Could we develop new technology fast enough to save any of us, or would we revert to pre-industrial tech and have to start all over?
But, the movie did leave me thinking at the end, and the visuals were absolutely stunning. Catch it in the theater some afternoon you have nothing better to do; or if not, then rent it when it hits DVD.
The TV spots for the DVD release of The Dark Knight have been billing it as the best movie of the decade. I'm not sure if they mean the last 10 years, or if they're assuming nothing in the next year will top it, and I'm also not sure I agree, but it is a fine, fine movie, and worth seeing even if you're not into Batman or comic books.
This is the sequel to Batman Begins, which was a reboot of the Batman franchise, discarding the horribleness of George Clooney as Batman and Ahnold as Mr. Freeze, and starting over with a new Batman first deciding to put on his black suit and mindfuck the criminals at the same time as he beats them up.
Dark Knight takes place some time after that - Batman, working with his traditional ally in law enforcement, Gordon, has started to make a dent in Gotham's crime (something that most people thought was impossible) but there's still a lot more to do. They decide to involve District Attorney Harvey Dent, but at the same time, the Joker gets involved with the organized crime bosses, and all hell breaks loose. If you don't know how it comes out, that means you haven't seen the movie yet, which is an oversight you should correct.
Christian Bale turns in a good performance as Bruce Wayne, and a slightly less but still acceptable performance as Batman. To be fair, that's been difficult for everyone who has played Batman on the big screen - nobody's been equally good at both, except George Clooney, who was equally awful at both roles.
Michael Caine plays Bruce's butler Alfred, dispensing fatherly advise, sarcasm, and knowledge gleaned from his definately non-butler past, all with great style.
And of course nobody can talk quite like Morgan Freeman, which is important for Lucius Fox, who has to give the appearance that he's running Wayne Enterprises for an oblivious Bruce Wayne, while in reality Bruce is fully in control, and funneling money to use for Batman's wondeful toys. (A line that did not, sad to say, make it into this movie. Oh well.) And his reaction when an accountant discovers that money: "Let me get this straight: You think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands. And your plan is to blackmail this person? Good luck."
Aaron Eckhart, while not as charming as Freeman, can also talk like nobody's business (See Thank You for Smoking for an excellent example of this), and he does well as Harvey Dent, and fairly well as Two-Face. I would've liked to see more of that, but it seems that is not to be.
And of course Heath Ledger player the Joker in one of his last, and maybe his best role. And boy did he play the Joker... I went into the theatre expecting him to pale in comparison to Nicholson, but instead he managed to make the character darker and more menacing, without sacrificing the hilarity that gives the Joker his name.
Oh, and Maggie Gyllenhaal's assistant District Attorney Rachel Dawes makes Katie Holmes's attempt at the role in the last movie look like a little girl playing dress up. Until I saw this movie, I didn't realize that Bale had to carry her in every scene.
I mentioned the story already, and it's carried off quite well, with an ending that, quite naturally, sets up more movies- but when everything is over, everything is also different, which is a welcome change from most sequel set-ups. Also, the moments that were so lacking in the Punisher movie are strewn liberally over the landscape of this movie- my favorite are Batman's tendency to disappear when he feels the conversation is over, usually right when someone has glanced away, but is still talking to him.
Go rent the DVD and watch the movie. Heck, I'll lend it to you. If it's not the best movie of the decade, it's certainly one of the best 10 movies in the last 10 years.
Decent but highly violent action sequences could not keep Punisher: War Zone from being boring at best, and painful at worst. Don't blame Ray Stevenson, who plays the title character - he absolutely shines playing a violent antihero in HBO's "Rome" - that's why I chanced seeing the movie despite less than inviting trailers and bad reviews.
I do blame the character he played, though. Frank Castle sees his family get killed by criminals, and the system fails to punish them, so he uses his military skilsl to become the Punisher and see that those criminals, and others like them, still get what he thinks they deserve (violent, painful death). With motivation like that, you'd expect him to be tormented but satisfied by his work - unfortunately he seems to be suffering from boredom and indigestion intead.
I also blame the dialog for being stilted, cliched, or both, and the director, who must have made the mistake of trying to get Stevenson to play Frank Castle differently than he played Titus Pullo in Rome. You can't really blame the plot - sure, it wasn't anything special, but it's based on a Marvel comic book, so the plot is not going to be the strong point.
This kind of movie is made by the moments around the actual killing - a good one-liner, seeing a bad guy get a really appropriate death - and there were few if any such moments. (The only really good one: a bad guy looks down into a bucket Frank kicked across the hall in a firefight, and sees a grenade. Instead of reacting with fear or anger, the bad guy seems exasperated - and partly with himself - and then blows up.)
It's too bad, really. Better dialog could have promoted this movie from a boring waste of time to fun to watch, which is all I really want from a movie. Instead it's one of the few movies I would have preferred to have never seen at all.
And a very quick movie review I've been meaning to put up:
There's a plot involving Werewolves, sleeping vampire elders, and a centuries-old betrayal, but really, it's all about Selene kicking much ass (wearing leather). If that appeals to you, watch the movie; if not, then don't.
The Fallout series is (I am told) a famous single-player RPG. I don't think I ever played the first two installments, but I've spent far too much time playing the most recent one.
The premise of all three games in the same - in 2077, nuclear war breaks out, leaving the USA (and presumably other countries as well, although I didn't find any confirmation of that) almost completely devastated. Games 1 and 2 take place in new York, but Fallout 3 takes place in the Capital Wasteland: in and around Washington, DC.
The nukes in Fallout are somewhat less powerful than the real thing - most of the city is in ruins and irradiated, but not completely obliterated. A few people manage to survive the holocaust in underground Vaults, although many of them wish they hadn't- in addition to radiation and poor living conditions, there are new horrors.
In Fallout 3 you create a character who is raised in Vault 101 - one of the few Vaults that are still operating, and which claims to be completely free of outside influence. The character's appearance, name, and gender are determined by the player - which is nice, although since most of the game has voice acting, it means that it uses generic terms to refer to the player anyway. The character's appearance also determines the appearance of his/her father, voiced by Liam Neeson.
The game proper starts with the character learning that his father has left Vault 101 (which is supposed to be impossible) and that the Vault's Supervisor has not taken this action well - it's imperative the player escapes.
Once out of the vault, the player (generally called the Vault Dweller) can follow the main quest, searching for his/her father, or simply explore the Capital Wasteland, finding loot and killing things.
While exploring, the player learns all kinds of interesting things, especially about the Vaults - saving people wasn't their purpose at all; they were a social experiment by Vault-Tec, a company that makes current-day companies look positively benign.
Players also encounter ghouls (some humans, when exposed to radiation, lose their skin, but actually gain the ability to absorb radiation, and age slower - there are a few ghouls who were alive during the war), the Brotherhood of Steel (a group of humans trying to make sure advanced technology isn't completely lost), various mutated animals, and the Super Mutants (horribly mutated humans who have a sinister connection to Vault-Tec and the military).
While the game features modern graphics, the architecture and decoration are inspired by the past - I don't know the exact era, but sometime in the 20th century. The music mostly comes from the early 20th century as well, and the contrast with the futuristic theme and weapons works very well.
Players can shoot (with everything from a .32 pistol to a gatling laser cannon) and hit (with everything from fists to a lawnmower blade covered in gas and on fire) enemies, and most friendly NPCs as well. Characters vital to the main quest don't stay dead, but almost everything else can be killed. (Children can't be killed, but they can be sold into slavery.) Weapons and armor wear out when used, but can be repaired by other items of the same type, or by vendors. The currency of the day is bottle caps (after all, nobody is printing more money.)
Some actions earn the player positive of negative Karma, which affects dialog choices, and even causes NPCs to appear to hunt the player for being too good, or too evil. Like most games of this type, the choices are mostly over-simplified and over-the top: super-good, indifferent (which will seem rude to most people), or super-bad.
Since there's so much to do and so many choices to be made the game can be (and has been) played over and over to see different content. It's definately one of the best games I've played, especially because I've been able to keep playing it for so long.