Thursday, March 25, 2010

These poor guys were abandoned at the Orianna Hill Dog Park last night:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bad Movie Night: Avatar (IMAX)

My Wife and A Tale of Two Planets

Over the weekend, the wife, The Machete and I were finally able to get get tickets for the Imax version of James Cameron's Avatar. Both The Machete and I were blown away by "our" version of Avatar and its innovative 3-D effects which left us feeling immersed in a beautiful, living alien world.

The Wife, however, suffers from a serious Astigmatism - a holdover from childhood surgery to correct a lazy eye (which reappears when she drinks too much). Her movie experience was much different, to say the least, as she was unable to experience the new 3-D technology. Her 2-D version of Avatar was a rehashed conglomeration of Dances with Wolves, Titanic, Aliens, and Fern Gully among others.

The Machete and my version of Avatar:

Like this, only REAL

I had heard nothing but good things about this movie over the last few weeks from several of my most trusted sources, including my friends over at LastBestAngryMan and Soul Kerfuffle. In fact, SK, who hates all things involved with going to the movies (and fun in general) said the experience reintroduced him to cinema when a little girl in the audience tried to reach out and grab a floating wisp.

In my opinion, my friends, many critics and the boatloads of money Avatar is taking to the bank are dead-on correct. This movie introduces game-changing film technology. Instead of just sitting back and watching a 2-D story take place on screen, the 3-D film places you on a moving platform where you watch live-action theater in an alien world. The landscape, characters, creatures and technology are all beautiful and very real. This isn't your parent's 3-D movie experience.

The three dimensional effects were accomplished using new camera technology and techniques created specifically for Avatar. It's impressive. My personal favorite involved strapping cameras to the "alien" actor's heads to capture their facial expressions while they performed. This footage was then digitally enhanced and applied to the CGI characters to great effect. And by "to great effect" I mean the alien Na'Vi looked as real and emotionally complex as any live actor I've ever seen in heavy makeup. The 3-D aspect adds not only dimensional depth, but emotional depth to the characters as well; you can distinctly see how they feel because the transfer from "real" actor to "CGI" actor was so crisp.

This is impressive. Also, The Machete had some very "descriptive"
opinions of both Zoe Saldana and Neytiri. I will not go into detail.

The story itself was interesting, yet not particularly new, and you can see where it draws directly from other sources for inspiration. LBAM told me of a conversation he had with SK regarding this. They agreed (I think) that to use this technology effectively, you couldn't really have a shiny new story - you need something familiar so the groundbreaking effects aren't lost. I agree wholeheartedly.

Tangent Warning: somewhere along the line, James Cameron went to a movie exec and said something like "Hey, can you finance my next movie? I'm going to remake Dances with Wolves in space with a touch of Fern Gully and the robot suits from Aliens, except with giant machine guns. Oh yeah, it's going to be $300,000,000, CGI and in 3-D." And they greenlighted it. Hollywood, home of swinging for the fences, but I digress...

The casting and performance followed in step with the plot. Every major character's performance was strong enough, but also very familiar - no iconic character boundaries were broken. Don't think of this as a negative - I think this again was intentional. The new technology highlights the ability to turn recognizable actors playing recognizable roles into something far more (and Sweet baby Jesus does it).

I feel the best example of this was Sigourney Weaver who just about stole every scene she was in, both human and alien versions, while doing what she does best - delivering smartass, poignant dialog. However, the digital production crew was able to take the recognizable Weaver and turn her into a 10-foot tall, blue alien version of herself. The power of the 3-D technology is clear when you realize the Na'Vi version of Weaver has the exact same familiar smirk and swagger as the real version - every expression was captured and transferred with minimal (if any) error.

The Machete also had similar opinions about Sigourney
Weaver as one of the Na'Vi as he did about Zoe Saldana.

Beyond the comfortable characters and familiar story, however, the setting was the star of this film. The lush world of Pandora in Avatar, when viewed in all it's three-dimensional "holy crap that's CGI" majesty, is absolutely mesmerizing. At times you almost feel like you can reach out and touch one of the glowing wisps flying by your head or feel the moss under your feet. As I said above, you feel like you're on a moving platform traveling through an unfamiliar yet exotically beautiful alien terrain.

All in all, I think this was the point of having all the familiar plot lines and characters (and even the score, which The Wife pointed out). Taking these recognizable aspects and putting them in a new, foreign, yet realistic 3-D environment highlights just how impressive this technology is. It can take stories and characters we know and remodel them to involve the audience where they actually feel like they're in the movie. It truly takes a Thor's Hammer to the reality line.

The Wife's version of Avatar:

This is pretty much what my wife saw.

30 seconds into Avatar, I leaned over to The Wife, adorned in giant yellow 3-D glasses and heard the phrase I was dreading: "this isn't working for me." She was worried for the weeks leading up to the movie that she wouldn't be able to use the 3-D glasses. That unfortunately turned out to be the case because of her astigmatism.

Instead of being transported to the gorgeous jungles of Pandora, she sat in the theater next to me watching yet another "outsider learns from people he's supposed to infiltrate" movie similar to Dances with Wolves. Instead of seeing the way new dimensions added to the CGI characters' expression and emotions, she saw more computer animation on par with Gollum from Lord of the Rings trilogy. Instead of seeing how the colors blended and moved together, she just saw lots of fluorescents and brights on a flat screen. Instead of experiencing something familiar in a completely new and original (and at times mind-blowing) light, her eyes just hurt.

In other words, while sitting in the audience, she missed Avatar. Trying to explain to her the "point" of the technology is like trying to explain certain colors to someone who is colorblind - they just can't perceive it. And that sucks because it was awesome. Yeah, The Wife, I am talking directly to you!

Seriously though, and all joking aside, I hope that there is a way for people with an astigmatism to begin to experience this technology soon because they are really missing out on a directorial tool that can make the audience feel like they're in another world. And since WETA (pretty much Peter Jackson's personal effects team) worked with this technology on Avatar, you have to hope they'll use it for The Hobbit. And I don't want to keep trying to explain to The Wife how cool Smaug looks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

TPTT's Top 5 Albums of the Decade

My friend and fellow blogger (although I am horribly out of practice) over at LastBestAngryMan had an idea for the two of us, as well as our other friend at Soul Kerfuffle, to create several "Top 5" lists for this past decade as, you know, it's coming to an end in less then a month! No, I didn't really think about that either.

Needless to say, this should be very interesting. While the three of us have similar tastes in many things including books, video games, music and movies, we tend to respectfully disagree a lot. And by "respectfully disagree" I mean make fun of (read: lambaste) each other's opinions. Well, they have opinions, I have truths. The sooner they realize this, the better (for them).

So without and further delay, I give you my top five albums of the 2000s...

5. Tweekend by The Crystal Method

Released in 2001 at the beginning of my club-going "party" years (read: not finishing my engineering degree), this album blew my frickken' mind. While I had enjoyed electronic music since first hearing Orbital's Halcyon (required listening), this triggered some switch in my mind, forcing me to buy turntables and start trying (not very well) to spin.

Highlight: The song Wild, Sweet and Cool gives me chills. I feel like I'm in my early 20s again when I hear it.

4. Stankonia by Outkast

This album was introduced to me by none other than Soul Kerfuffle while he was DJing back in the day (when we were both cool - ok not really, but we thought so). Stankonia single-handedly got me listening to rap again and I think illustrates just how creative and impressively performed it can be.

Highlight: I distinctly remember Soul Kerfuffle putting on B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad) in our apartment's living room. I didn't know how fast a human being could speak. Now I do. The Wikipedia article says the song is "high-tempo" which could be the single greatest understatement ever.

And now it gets ridiculously difficult as the next
three are among my favorite albums ever.

3. Black Holes and Revelations by Muse

Do you know what it would feel like to lovingly run head first into a beautiful wall of sound? Listen to this album and you'll know. It's a huge, epic, layered sound adventure filled with aliens, conspiracies, cowboys, robots and mariachi trumpets.

Highlight: The song Knights of Cydonia defines this album and the video is probably one of the best I've ever seen (link to the video here). My wife says that's how I do martial arts. No one's gonna take me alive.

2. Mer de Noms by A Perfect Circle

Another one I got from Soul Kerfuffle. This album is beautifully composed and powerfully performed. I'm not sure there are too many song writers out there who can hold a candle to Maynard James Keenan's lyrics and ability to really convey emotion. You listen to the song Judith and you want to break something in a powerful rage. You listen to 3 Libras and you want to cry. This album is a rollercoaster in every possible way an album can be.

Highlight: Either of the previously mentioned songs are like direct-injection aural emotion.

1. Matter + Form by VNV Nation

Matter + Form is not just a dark, brooding electronically-laced industrial album. To me (since this is my list and all), much like Mer de Noms, it can bring out several powerful emotional responses from anger to sorrow to hopefulness both through the lyrics and the music composition. In my opinion that's what determines and separates incredible albums from good albums.

Highlight: The whole thing is impressive. Chrome is a great song to beat a punching bag or aggressively ride a bike to. Perpetual is downright uplifting (for VNV Nation). The song Endless Skies however, reminds me of my wife and my friends every time I hear it which probably makes it my my favorite song of all time.

Runners Up:

Futureperfect by VNV Nation
Inhuman Rampage by Dragonforce
Kid A by Radiohead
Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer by Of Montreal
The Used by The Used
From Here to Infirmary by Alkaline Trio
Bunka by Paul Oakenfold
George is On by Deep Dish
Discovery by Daft Punk
Word of Mouf by Ludacris
8 Diagrams by Wu-Tang Clan
St. Elsewhere by Gnarls Barkley
Kala by M.I.A.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I Lose!!!

I have lost my bet with SoulKerfuffle. This is bound to make everyone associated with Watchmen in any financially-oriented way VERY upset:

Watchmen Current Results


Weekly Take

Box Office Total



















Predicted Watchmen Box Office


Weekly Take

Box Office Total


$ 323,735.06



$ 142,725.82

$ 106,884,460.88


$ 62,923.86

$ 106,947,384.75


$ 27,741.39

$ 106,975,126.13


$ 12,230.41

$ 106,987,356.54


$ 5,392.05

$ 106,992,748.59


$ 2,377.21

$ 106,995,125.80


$ 1,048.04

$ 106,996,173.84


$ 462.05

$ 106,996,635.89


$ 203.71

$ 106,996,839.60


$ 89.81

$ 106,996,929.41


$ 39.59

$ 106,996,969.00


$ 17.46

$ 106,996,986.46


$ 7.70

$ 106,996,994.16


$ 3.39

$ 106,996,997.55


$ 1.50

$ 106,996,999.04


$ 0.66

$ 106,996,999.70


$ 0.29

$ 106,996,999.99


$ 0.13

$ 106,997,000.12


$ 0.06

$ 106,997,000.18


$ 0.02

$ 106,997,000.20

Of course the math above is just to be funny, so don't hold me accountable. I have a feeling someone at Warner Bros. is definitely being held accountable, however. You know, for all of the millions lost.

(Edited to make graph more clear)

Monday, March 16, 2009

FOLLOW UP: Bad Movie Night: Watchmen

In it's second week in the box office, Watchmen was beat out by Race to Witch Mountain, it's sales falling by approximately 67% to about $18.1 million in it's second weekend (source).

This has prompted a small wager between me and my esteemed friend over at Soulkerfuffle. I believe that Watchmen will eventually cover it's production cost (~ $150 million) through ticket sales while SK claims it will lose money in the theaters. LastBestAngryMan will act as the fair and impartial judge.

My reasoning is that pretty much absolute garbage is slated for release over the next few weeks and Watchmen can potentially cling on in theaters. That said, it's still almost three hours long and dropping like a rock.

We'll see!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bad Movie Night: Watchmen

Over the weekend I caught Watchmen with the wife and a few friends (including the gentlemen behind Soulkerfuffle and LastBestAngryMan). Ever since viewing the stunning trailer and reading the acclaimed source material I had been very excited to see what could be done in the film version. Upon leaving the theater, having a few beers and several rounds of discussions, seeing Watchmen felt more like I had been on a really terrible date with an extremely attractive person.

What do I mean? Well, true beauty is far more than skin deep. Watchman's gorgeous outter skin includes stunning visuals and several strong performances, but for a movie that really wants that brass ring (and not just a ride on the carousel), it's what's on the inside that counts. Unfortunately this film is plagued by a few aspects that are either truly awful or leave the audience (both those who read the graphic novel and those who haven't) utterly confused.

LastBestAngryMan wrote a great review in which he broke the movie down into good, bad, and confusing aspects. I will attempt to do the same, however I'm going to try to limit my comments to three of each: good, bad, and What the Hell? I'm also going to add an "Eh" catagory to list three things that riled a lot of people which I didn't mind and/or care about as much.

Let's start with three good things about Watchmen:

1. Like LBAM I was really impressed with the way many of the characters were portrayed by the actors. Three real standouts were Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg / Night Owl, Jackie Earle Haley as Walter Kovacs / Rorschach, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Edward Blake / The Comedian. I felt that Wilson successfully captured the abject Schlubbery of the "dysfunctional" Dreiberg, Haley was a very gritty Rorschach, and Morgan was a deplorable human being (aka successfully illustrating to The Comedian to the audience). Casting Director scores points for these guys.

Don't worry, that same Casting Director will lose points in a few paragraphs, but I digress...

2. It sure was a pretty movie, and I felt for the most part Zack Snyder was successful in visually translating the graphic novel to the screen - Watchmen was simultaneously georgeous and gritty. 90% of the costumes were spot on and I was impressed how each decade had an authentic look and feel.

3. As someone who read the book, I really liked the easter egg exposition, especially the opening sequence, which I agree with LBAM could be one of the best in film history (save for the song choice, but more on that later). Throughout the movie you get a lot of pertinent information about the alternative history as well as the story's current events through little TV clips, newspaper headlines, pictures, signs, etc... Well played, Mr. Snyder.

I did like that he had the word "Squid" on one of Ozymandias' doomsday counters as well. Again, well played.

Now for the Bad:

1. I think about a week before the final cut of Watchmen, one of the computer animators found somewhere in his notes that they needed a large, genetically engineered Lynx. "Oh shit" he thought to himself, because he only had $5 left in his CGI budget. That day he went without a Big Mac extra value meal and Bubastis was born.

The outcome: Bad Saturday afternoon Sci-Fi Channel movie.

2. Super Ninja Anime Action Sequences!!! This disappointed me because half of the time the heroes fought like competantly trained martial artists and the other half they were doing Chinese opera troop wire tricks. Towards the end I was expecting Night Owl to run up a wall and flip kick three guys while yelling "you think you are the guy, but I'm the guy with training in dragon. You shall honor the floor with your presence."

Yes, I realize Adrian Veidt catches (more like blocks with his hand) a bullet mid-air in the comic book, but he's supposed to be the absolute pinnacle of human perfection - and the bullet still damages his hand.

Movie could have been an hour and a half long if the slow motion fight scenes were shot in real time.

3. The ending went off the rails. I'm sorry but by the credits I was literally wringing my hands at the screen. And I'm not even talking about the lack of calamari either - in my opinion that didn't matter as long as it was, well, done in some kind of character-believable manner. Instead we got a healthy dose of Croutching Bubastis, Hidden Manhattan chop-sockey fighting, Silk Spectre with a gun no explanation explanation why she has it, Adrian Veidt acting like Dr. Claw, and Night Owl going off like Luke Skywalker at the end of Empire (and shooting lazorzcanninz to boot).

What the Hell?

1. Ozymoyeras. No really, Ozymandias looked and was built like Jamie Moyer. Now, I realize that in his 40s Jamie Moyer is an incredible athelete, however he could not pick up over his head and toss a highly trained, formidible 250+ lb man out a plate glass window. The "now you see it, now you don't" accent was also very confusing. Isn't there something to be said for consistency? The above mentioned casting director lost all cred with this one.

"I am going to teleport a psychic squid into right field"

2. This book was written in the 80s and did not have to be made relevant in 2009. Sorry, but all references to an oil-dependant energy crisis and having "big corporate America" as a confrontational bad guy was kinda lacking. Yes, I realize that in the real world there was an energy crisis in the 80s, but in the book, one of the main concepts was that Dr. Manhattan had already solved the U.S. dependance on oil. And he did it without Adrian Veidt's help.

3. While the actual movie score was beautiful and well-written, the songs selected for the soundtrack were poor choices at best. I really don't think they fit the decades with which they were placed - seemed more appropriate for Full Metal Jacket than a comic book movie set in the 80s. As per LBAM, all they needed was Buffalo Springfield.

And things I didn't care about as much as some people:

1. Watchmen is a dark, gritty book and movie - I wasn't disturbed by the over-the-top violence. Trained martial artists and experienced fighters can break joints and limbs given the right opportunity and there is blood when people get shot and/or stabbed. The movie was rated "R" so I went in expecting it. That said, I don't really remember Laurie and Dan killing gang members outright in the alley and the Silk Specter did not carry a gun in the book (until the end when it is clearly explained why). Rorschach and The Comedian were the graphic novel's notable exceptions because these characters weren't vigilantes who "brought 'em in" - they preferred a pine box.

2. Sans Calamari. I know I said I didn't like how the ending went off the rails towards the end, however the fact that there wasn't a genetically-altered squid as opposed to some other "MacGuffin" didn't bother me. Hell, even the ending that was written could have worked if it wasn't just so clumsily "bull-in-a-China-shop" and paid more attention to details (as per conversations with LBAM and Soulkerfuffle, one second after Moscow got hit with a "Dr. Manhattan blast," 51,000 Russian nukes would have been caterwauling towards DC).

3. A lot of people were upset that Archemides, Night Owl's technologically advanced ship, had chain guns instead of fire supression systems and noise emitters, however I didn't mind. That is a matter of personal taste which I realize is in complete contradiction to most of what I've already said. It just think chain guns are cool. Of course they don't really work with the character, but they're awesome anyway. I want a chain gun so I can mount it on my wife's car. That would rock.

All in all, I can't say I despise Watchmen. In the same sense, however, it is still a little disappointing - I was expecting more, even though many people (including Alan Moore) have gone on record as saying it was unfilmable. I think everyone, from cast to crew, did the best they could to create something mass-marketably accessable from something that was designed not to translate that way.

So back to the original comparison, Watchmen was a bad date with an attractive person - fun to look at but impossible to truly enjoy on any kind of sustainable level. That is, of course, unless you're good at turning off your ears so you can just enjoy the eye candy.

Overall Score: five over Dragon Wars (ten over being the best, equal to Dragon Wars being horrendous beyond belief).

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Most Anticipated Movies of 2009

Once again we stand at the threshold of contention! My friends over at SoulKerfuffle and LastBestAngryMan and I have decided to post our most anticipated movies of 2009.

Unlike Mr. Soulkerfuffle, I am an avid movie-goer. I love watching a film on the big screen and usually am accompanied by The Machete and the Jakiddy-Jake in these endeavors. Our standards are notoriously low at times (usually we only require violence and profanity and/or irreverent comedy), but hey, I firmly believe you can really enjoy sifting through the garbage (D-War) to find an unexpected gem (who thought Iron Man would be that amazingly, ridiculously good?). A lot of times "bad" movies are just as entertaining as "good" ones.

D-War and anything Ewe Boll-related being the notable exceptions.

5. New Moon

Ok, before everyone gets into a tizzy and starts questioning whether "those old rumors are true" just hear me out. Every once in a while (ok a lot of times) I drag the wife out to movies I enjoy (with guns and swords and monsters and all kinds of cool stuff). For some strange reason, she usually does not find these movies all that entertaining (with the most notable exception of Iron Man).

A few weeks back, I volunteered to see Twilight (occasionally she has the reading-equivalent of my movie taste) to make up for all of the crap I've made her sit through. Compared with something like Sex in the City or Marley and Me I'll take vampires, mild violence and comically bad lines any and every day of the week to make her happy (and to fulfill my husbandly date-movie requirements).

4. Star Trek

In the great Star Wars vs. Star Trek war, I am most certainly firmly standing beside Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, lightsaber at the ready. That may have slightly shifted a bit when I saw this:

Holy crap that looks cool.

The thing that has me interested, though, is the cast which includes Nicholas Angel as Scotty, Roldy as the much-The Machete-anticipated Dr. Sulu (oh myyyyyyyy, will he bring his en-tourage to see this film?), Eomer as Bones, Syler as Spock, and goddamned Darwin Tremor as Kirk!!!

I've also included a link to the theme song, which is also AWESOME.

3. Public Enemies

John Dillinger as portrayed by Johnny Depp. Do you really need any more reason than that? Ok, well he's being chased by Batman.

"Dames. They'll get you every time."

2. Watchmen

While this movie is a blatant ripoff of the first season of Heroes, it should be ok.

All joking and button-pushing aside, I agree with Mr. Soulkerfuffle that a lot can and has been going wrong with this film. I still hold out hope, however, that Alan Moore will burn down every theater and destroy every copy of this film personally if it sucks (after that last debacle). The script is based on one of (if not the) best graphic novels of all time, so it has a lot of good material to draw off of, if it isn't changed too much.

The trailer looks exceptional:

Hopefully that's an indication of unbridled awesomeness.

1. Fast & Furious

It seems like only yesterday when I saw the original Diesel-powered The Fast and the Furious in the theater. Eight times. No, literally, I saw it in the theater eight times when it was released in 2001.

I don't care what you say, the second and third sequels never happened.

Even beyond all of the unbelievable cars and stunts, the original 2001 movie was an entertainingly gritty cop/car drama reminiscent of Bullit. I loved every second of it.

Possibly the most badass action movie trailer of all time:

And no, contrary to popular belief, The Machete was neither consulted for nor performed any of the above driving stunts.