Monday, May 25, 2009

The Green Day Challenge

Ok everyone. Now that you have had a chance to hear both of Green Day's last two groundbreaking CD's, which one is better? Both are punk operas, reminding me of classic rock concept album classics. For cover to cover quality and catchiness, my vote is for 21rst Century Breakdown. What's your opinion?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Star Trek

Here we go.
Above all, the original Star Trek was a show about relationships. At the core of every story a moral nerve is struck and tested . The pace being driven by interesting characters all alone in the eerie solitude of deep space. By remaining true to this formula JJ Abrams has been able to deliver on expectations in this thoroughly enjoyable prequel. Some reviewers are calling it the best prequel ever. Well without opposing arguments (and yes I am opening it up here) I can’t think of a better one, (except perhaps Batman Begins). This new kick at an old premise hits the mark where prequels like the three newest instalments of Star Wars couldn’t. This of course might have a lot to do with acting, directing and casting.

I’m not one to give out any plot spoilers or details that would take away from your experience. So I will not do that here (or ever), and I will urge the other reviewers on our site and those that comment on the reviews to respect the same. In fact, if I see spoilers I will edit them out. My sole goal is to try and direct you to the movies that are good and keep you clear of the bad ones. I might gives expose glimpses of the film's artistic flavours and such, so that you can assess them with your preference and make up your own mind. I’ll concentrate on story, acting, directing, pace, visuals and other intangibles such as entertainment value/watchability.

To start with this movie has great pace. I was thoroughly interested and engaged the whole time. There were no overindulgent preaching, set-up scenes, added characters (save for possibly one, you guess, think innocuous JarJar Binks) or unnecessary monologues. You will not be forced to endure obvious branding for aftermarket action figures or board games. Instead the quality and success of the movie will certainly earn it that marketability. I heard Burger King was the lucky chain to get the drinking glass rights. Note to self, Burger King has a good history of picking quality movies to sponsor. They scooped up the early Star War flicks and stayed clear of the newer ones.

The story is intriguing and sports an ultra-cool cool villain, played by Eric Bana (recognized the face but couldn’t place him until the credits rolled). I think Nero (Bana) would describe his actions as ‘justice’, and who’s to argue with that. This makes him slightly likeable. As an effective villain, he actually has a motive for being nasty. Wow back-story can really make a movie, and this whole movie cleverly entertains you while serving up the necessary back-story.

Chris Pine’s portrayal of James T Kirk is the strongest part of a strong movie. I am and will always be a William Shatner fan, but this guy makes the transition look easy. He has the mannerisms and source characteristics down. The driving bravado we have all come to love is present in every scene, all without the lame attempts to imitate his predecessor. Pine brings the cool back to the captain’s chair. Some would argue that Spock is the most interesting character in the Star Trek series, however it is Kirk that is the point man and all the personality showcasing revolves around how he feeds off of the supporting casts’ quirks and eccentricities. Bringing us back decades, we get to experience Pine, like Shatner make it believable how he orchestrates a talented yet seemingly misdirected crew into great astral feats. This gives the audience a reassuring feeling that under the direction of Kirk, all is possible. Let’s also mention that Kirk handles every situation the way we all wish we had the guts to do. And attracts the most beautiful interplanetary women, while exercising superior out of the box strategies and owning the strength of many men. Shall I go on? Well Pine as Kirk seems convincing in all these areas, while still adding his own personal touch to the Kirk persona. You’ll have to see it to fully understand.

Spock is the most unique character in TV history and this instalment finely casts it with Heroes look alike Zachary Quinto. Christ they could have revealed that Spock’s real name is Zachary Quinto and not have missed a beat. As the plot dictates, Zachary brought his own style into the Spock character giving us a little more emotion than the Nimoy Spock.
Leonard Nimoy himself was not out of place while delivering a swan song of reason in his plot crucial role. There was a moment when he may have been out of place, but to not spoil anything I’ll let you guess and decide for yourself.

The rest of the cast was soundly cast, and provided the customary comic tension that their characters did in the television series. They did not define the plot but rather helped move it along, giving us the occasional laugh. The laughs are genuine here. While they all of the film's supporting cast seemed to feel at home in their roles the standout was clearly Simon Pegg as Scotty. His comic timing was genius and every nuance and facial expression brought crowd reaction.

To sum it up there was a high probability for ‘camp’ in a remake of this classic, however my feeling is that the upgrades and dedication to the source characters is as good of a passing of the torch as an audience could expect.
See this movie.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Xmen Origins - Wolverine

What makes Wolverine so appealable? He's the prototypical tough guy. Clint Eastwood certainly made his career playing a group of such characters in Inspector Harry Callahan and the three mysterious strangers of the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. These men are of few words, strict standards, and volatile dispositions. They live in solitude and seem haunted by some unknown demons. They are mere humans, though they continually escape the most improbably dire situations. They live by their own rules, while having a blatant disregard for their own preservation. Well Wolverine isn't exactly this, but he does possess a fair share of these daring qualities. In the Xmen era of comics Wolverine perfectly represented this archetype of the tough-guy character. Although he is arguably the weakest member of the Xmen clan he is carries the most loyal following. Now in the movie version Hugh Jackson certainly looks the part and is a decent actor, however figuratively the Wolverine shoes are difficult to fill. Its not that he lacks the familiar scowling facial expressions or the knack for quick sarcastic dialogue, its rather his lack of the intangible toughness. He just isn't believable as the rebellious gritty anti-hero I described earlier. So lets cast that criticism aside. I have to be fair and give casting agents a break. If they would have cast a giant muscle bound actor like Vin Diesel I'm afraid I would have been complaining about acting skills and ability to believably deliver lines instead. The other part of what makes Wolverine so appealing is that although he sports some handy mutant skills (like regeneration), they pale in comparison to some of the all worldly talents of his Xmen brethren. I think what makes him different is that he is damaged goods. Others have taken advantage of him and altered him into a better killer than he may have chosen to be. Since his skills often fall short of his enemy's, harder work, fearlessness and desperation is needed for him to get the job done. So in a way he like the actor, is the underdog, which allows readers/watchers to better relate to him.
This movie seems to get most of that across. Again, no spoilers. The story line takes us back t0 1845 to bear witness to the tragedy that sets into motion who Wolverine will become. His transition from boy to Wolverine is well chronicled and gives us all some interesting tidbits that even the most serious Marvel fans might not know (like the origin of his name). There are some great action and fight sequences and the story keeps us engaged.
Although Hugh Jackman lacks some intangibles, his work in this and the previous films in the Xmen Marvel installments allows us to find it easier to buy him as the character. Like I said earlier he doesn't talk much, but what he does say is true to the comic book hero. Liev Schreiber is the biggest surprise. Liev plays Wolverine's brother Victor. Liev is realistic and intimidating in the role and really pulls off the troubled blood thirsty quasi villain. The brotherly relationship is strained and sometimes bloody but realistic nonetheless.
The supporting cast of Project X are just 'acceptable'. Short of Schreiber, no one is worthy of praise. Its probably accurate to remark that they just did their job. The story is lacking a real villain. Everyone in opposition to Wolverine were just working on a different agenda. There wasn't anyone that was really fun to hate. Wolverine's real enemy was his own demons.
Let's see, some other things of note. It was cool to see the transformation of Kevin Durand (fellow Canadian) into the Blob. The inclusion of Gambit was also a nice touch, but unfortunately his interesting skills remained unexplored.
I can't be as bold as to tell everyone that they will love this movie, as I believe that devoted fans of the genre or even avid cinephiles may find some of the glaring shortcomings hard to ignore. I am comfortable however, setting it straight by letting you know that if you are a big fan of Wolvy or can be wowed by some cool superhero fight sequences and insight into the Wolverine origin there just might be enough for you here. On the other hand, if you only have $10 to spare and one outing, see Star Trek, its superior in every aspect.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Let's Take On the Establishment

Let's take on the task of setting people straight. A group of friends coming together to give the 'everyman' (no sexes excluded) a reliable take on anything new and noteworthy in the entertainment industry. No more bloated, stilted preaching on what one may have learned in film school but couldn't put into practice. Instead as a group of film and music fans we can collectively give our opposing views and let the readers decide. We will see these films and listen to these CD's early and with the people. Then post our opinions on the most important attributes of entertainment, being watchability or listenability. Of course we will not hold back on weaknesses and the absurd. Let me know lads if you are interested in taking part, and we will set down some ground rules and put this baby in motion.

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