Monday, December 31, 2007
Best Visual Effects - Transformers; the staggering amount of effects needed for each transformation borders on ridiculous let alone keeping the chaos on screen intact for various battles. I can only imagine the number of painstaking nights spent working on this at ILM.
Best Comic Book Adaptation - Spider-Man 3; I wouldn't be surprised if 300 is the correct choice here but I unfortunately haven't seen it yet, so this will have to do. Mostly because it certainly beats out Silver Surfer, the usage of Venom, Sandman, and Gwen Stacey along with the new Goblin were interesting, if not at all times accurate. But in general, the series remains one of the most joyfully comic book like out there.
Best Film - ???; immediately I have to say, I doubt I've seen the best movie of the year. With that said, if I had to pick anyone movie, I'll pick the Bourne Ultimatum. It has few if any flaws, is tense and gripping with a smart, mature story that leaves one satisfied with the conclusion of the trilogy.
Most Anticipated Film - Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull/The Dark Knight; no choice but to award a tie here. Dark Knight is the safer bet to be good, but Indy holds so much cool promise for us. They could both be great, we can only hope.
Best New Show - Chuck; the smart combination of action and comedy isn't seen too often but this show pulls it off deftly with heart as well. For the geek in all of us, this show speaks while melding the spy genre. A neat concept that tv needed badly.
Best Returning Show - Heroes; a slow start got moved along with the reintroduction of Sylar and Adam Monroe. It may prove better for what comes next but it's still a very enjoyable show. Smallville actually wasn't too far behind this time believe it or not, for embracing a lot of mythology including Supergirl and other Kryptonian ancestry, Bizarro, and the clear return of Brainiac.
Most Anticipated New Show - Terminator, The Sarah Conner Chronicles/Dollhouse; let's face facts, anything that involves Whedon or Whedon alum is automatically at the top of the list. Add to it that the first is a terminator tv show with Summer Glau as the machine in question and the latter is Whedon's supposed return to tv and you've got a great mix to work from.
Most Anticipated Returning Show - Lost; the promise of the end of last season with a shorter season and non-stop episodes could really start to quicken the pace and relight the show. With the flashforward last season, anything is possible.
Best Song - Foo Fighters, The Pretender; a strong, kinetic song announces that once again, the Foo Fighters freakin' rock. It's catchy, simple and it rocks. That's really all you need.
Best Album - Hoobastank, Every Man For Himself; the bigger album release this year was Linkin Park's Minutes To Midnight and while it's a good entry, it doesn't quite have the near perfection the previous albums garnered. Hoobastank immediately jumps into a series of inspiring lyrics and crafty chords. There's too many good songs on here to ignore.
Best Release - Stephen Colbert's I Am America! And So Can You; sure it's only real book I got this year, but it's quite clearly the funniest and most entertaining out there. This is good stuff from what I've read so far. A great continuation from America the book.
Best Comic Book - Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8; as if there was any question I would choose this. Sure I haven't read it yet but it's not like I was going to pick anything else, heh.
Got comments, suggestions, complaints? Think of anymore categories I could add? Feel free to let me know.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The early part of the film dealing with the F4 all acclimated to life and trying to get on with Sue and Reed's wedding tries way too hard to go for some comedy that is often miss. In fact the funniest moment might be when after Johnny has encountered the Surfer and has power switching problems, Sue gets his power and is screaming about being on fire through the window Reed is blankly staring at. This series continually tries to pander to families, not that it shouldn't be family oriented, but it has a hard time being just a little mature when necessary.
The plot is simple enough, the wedding is interrupted by the entrance of the Silver Surfer, whom Reed is trying to track as he makes disturbances around the world. And I do mean around the world, this film manages to take place in New York, China, Siberia, England, and even Latveria. Yes Latveria, where the previous villain Dr. Doom is magically brought back by the cosmic energy of the Surfer. Unfortunately his interpretation still lacks, especially the use of his normal, non-scary voice with the mask on. Eventually he joins forces with the four to bring down the Surfer who is working for "the destroyer". As every comic book fan knows, that's Galactus. Soon enough they manage to catch the Surfer, whose representation is actually handled pretty well, though I keep picturing Morpheus everytime he talks.
Suffice it to say that the best sequence in the film involves Doom's double cross, when he steals the Surfer's board (because the military helping them are complete fools) and goes on a rampage, chased by the four in the Fantasticar, a neat little sequence of special effects. The ending isn't all that thrilling since only the Surfer can stop Galactus and I won't complain about his appearance, it's moot at this point.
While the film does still manage to be entertaining and keep you watching throughout, perhaps what also held it back for me was that it reminded a little too much of X2, having the good and bad guys team up while also dealing with a military organization. F4 is clearly the most laid back of all the comic book adaptations, and while it is the most imaginative and fun book to base stuff off of, it doesn't quite translate that well to the big screen.
With that said, I'm willing to give it the Silver Medal of Surfing, because anything else just wouldn't be appropriate. Now Julian McMahon do us a favor and develop a real villain voice. I can only imagine how dumb Christian Bale would sound with his normal voice as Batman.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Now let's first look at the fact that this is the 4th in the Die Hard series, but the last was quite a few years ago, Die Hard With A Vengeance. The first thought here is, why are they making a sequel to this all of a sudden after 3 movies? Is Bruce Willis just desperate for it or is there a good reason to have this movie exist? It turns out that this was a long time in development and that effort actually does show up on screen. The next thing I thought was, when it comes to Die Hard movies, the titles are a bit lacking, especially Die Hard 2: Die Harder. I mean are you kidding me? Die Harder? I kept waiting for Die Hardest to come out but it never did. Thankfully, Live Free Or Die Hard is actually a pretty darn good title. None of these besides With A Vengeance, which is cheesy anyway, seem to correlate directly to the plot though this one generally does.
Let's get right to it. This film focuses on a plot to essentially bring the US infrastructure to its knees using all the computer controlled things we hold dear, like transportation and power. Shut these things down and you can create massive chaos, which definitely makes sense in today's world. Just seeing how the Northeast power outage affected people adds weight to the film. So we've got a pretty smart bad guy to pull this stuff off and he's an American this time around, so none of that outside terrorism stuff we were expecting going in, though his henchmen may be foreign. John McClane, wily cop that he is, always in the wrong place at the wrong time, a topic the film plays on tongue-in-cheek, has to keep a hacker safe played not too badly by Justin Long who inadvertently helped the bad guy. So as things keep getting worse and eventually the bad guy takes hold of John's daughter, the action just keeps amping up.
Perhaps the best sequence involves a tunnel, where both directional gates are opened up on our heroes and then the lights turned out, scary stuff if you were the one having to survive it. But survival is McClane's middle name, you cannot kill this man. He'll jump from a semi to an F-35 all while cracking wise and walking away from an explosion to hunt the bad guys down on foot if he has to. Yet strangely enough this is all handled with wonderful aplomb and intelligence. Action sequences may sometimes be over the top, most notably one of the last scenes but it's still the best and grittiest Die Hard since the original.
As I said this was the Unrated version and as a rental, not much else existed on this version of the DVD. The purpose of the Unrated version was moreso to put the swearing back into the movie, which was not present in the theatrical PG-13 release. Frankly you don't make this movie unless it's an R, because taking away curse words from a guy who has to pull off this kind of crap all the time makes no sense. I doubt the R was used for much else, the violence isn't overly bloody or gory in any way.
The film surprisingly both lives up the name and is a great entry into the action genre. This was a late sequel worthy of creation, a trend getting more popular with the likes of Rambo, Rocky, and Indiana Jones. This series is the easiest to create new things with though, because all you need is John McClane and a wild situation he's stuck trying to solve. That's the beauty of Die Hard, our hero doesn't go looking for trouble, all the bad stuff happens to him and he has to somehow survive it and unwillingly solve it.
Live Free Or Die Hard gets the Gold Medal of Yippie Kay Yaying. Alan Rickman would be proud.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Now then we have 3 major criteria for this list and they are - Longevity, Impact, and Creative Universe. With that said, let's get on with it, dammit! The Best Movie Trilogies...EVER!
8. Pirates Of The Caribbean
Longevity: Being of the newest trilogies on the block, it doesn't fare well here yet. But when you consider the ride it's based on has existed for decades, in a few theme parks, that's saying something. Especially today where all kinds of classic theme park rides are ripped out and replaced with something "new".
Impact: The ride itself had great impact in entertainment. As for the films, they marked easily the best pirate films in years. May not be saying much but considering the number of ones that were unwatchable, it means more than you think. It also reminded everyone of the talent of Johnny Depp, who for the first time actually revisited a character, one he clearly perfected and had steal the show. It's made a strong impact in our culture today, but we'll have to see what affect it has years from now. Also caused the rides to be revamped to include the movie's characters and stories.
Creative Universe: Its biggest marks are here, using a mere theme park ride, though popular one at that, to create an entire trilogy. And yet, manage to at least make passing links back to the ride in each film, hard to do for sure. What was most impressive wasn't the fun characters created, but the amount of pirate lore the films explored. Undead curses on treasures, Davy Jones and his locker, the dead man's chest, the goddess Callisto, etc. Pulling something out of nothing has always been the Disney trick of the trade.
7. The Terminator
Longevity: This is still one of the newer trilogies, not being completed until a few years ago. That said, it started back in the 80s and thus had some time to be digested before each new film. The original Terminator may or may not have stood the test of time, but T2 most certainly has, of course it's only 15 years old.
Impact: Terminator has made a huge impact on Arnold Swlagawlhoihagohag's career (hell no I'm not looking up that name). More than that, T2 made both a huge impact on the career of James Cameron who went on to win an oscar for Titanic, and for special effects in the creation of the T1000 liquid metal terminator, a sight to see in 1992. It has also spawned a theme park ride and this January, a regular television series.
Creative Universe: To be frank, it's not the most creative universe one might imagine. Robots take control of us in the future dystopia. Certainly done to death in books. It had established some basic characters, the Conners, and their race to stop Judgement Day, which it turns out is inevitable. This at the least is a very nice twist we don't learn until the end of the third movie. The creativity of each terminator has been interesting, from the basic cyborg model, liquid metal, and a blend of the two who can control other machines. Maybe the more interesting aspect was that time travel was a one way trip with no way back.
Longevity: Another recently completed trilogy, the focus on this moreso needs to be on the comics, which have been around for 40 some years. On top of that, they are the best selling comic books of all time, beating out Superman, Batman, and all others that existed years before. Impressive for sure, and it took until 2000 before a viable film could be created.
Impact: The X-Men in general have had a huge impact on comics and some other media. They were intentionally designed to be "heroes" who were "hated and feared". The mantra at marvel became making characters more people could relate to, since they felt DC characters they grew up with like Batman and Superman, while cool and fun, were not identifiable in the least. Not many invulnerable aliens or super rich martial arts detectives around. As for movies, while comic book movies surely existed before this, X-Men began a wave of comic book movies that exists still 7 years later, a successful "fad". Most especially beginning the Marvel films, and though while started with Blade, this was the first truly comic book identified movie of the time, after Superman and Batman had been ruined by studios. X-Men ushered in a time that said special effects could bring to life just about any character from the comics and the stories could in fact be done justice.
Creative Universe: Let's not mess around here, it's the X-Men. There's 40 years of stories to work with and characters out the wazoo. It's virtually unlimited. The movies did not follow direct plots but had their own way with them while keeping mostly true, at least until the Phoenix Saga was tackled, something the last film wasn't really capable of handling in the least. But for sure, the first 2 films proved that such a diverse universe could be put to celluloid.
Longevity: Pretty much that of X-Men, as long as Stan Lee's Marvel has been around, these two have flourished. This is also a recently completed trilogy but it will likely stand the test of time, even better than the X-Men trilogy will.
Impact: Spider-Man has had tremendous impact on comics, general youths, television and more. Even before the films he was considered an iconic character. The films simply spread that around and made him one of the most popular superheroes ever. They were also some of the most successful films ever made.
Creative Universe: Again like X-Men, ridiculous amount of characters and stories to draw from. Spider-Man 3 may have overindulged itself on these, but it just goes to show there's still far more to explore with this one. For the most part, the films were rather faithful to the stories behind it. Certain changes were made, usually for the best.
4. Indiana Jones
Longevity: It remains one of the most well loved adventure series ever made, though not a terribly old trilogy per se, one of the older ones on this list. It is such that a 4th film is slated for next year, but for now we won't let that detract from the original trilogy of films, as that one is clearly far separated from the rest and will be judged differently.
Impact: It helped return the idea of serialized adventure stories back to the big screen. Spielberg and Lucas, two of the biggest names in film, united to create a classic character and his amazing exploits. It has also spawned a tv series, theme park attractions, and now again, a return to the cinema.
Creative Universe: Indiana Jones felt like a living, breathing character that everyone loves. Educated, fun-loving, adventurous and being a part of some interesting historical finds. While the 2nd movie detracted from this a bit, it is the rare trilogy where the 1st and 3rd movies are considered the strongest points, which in fact helped keep it alive and spur the 4th film. The stories behind the Ark of the Covenant and Holy Grail held the audience's attention, and it always helped to have Nazis as villains. The addition of Indy's father played by Sean Connery only heightened the experience. Their world travels were always fun to watch, even if they were just red curves on a map.
3. Back To The Future
Longevity: These films from the 80s are considered "new classics", whatever that means. The point is, BTTF is still considered one of the more enjoyable set of films in recent cinema and quite possibly the best time travel movies ever made. Sure it may be easy to rise to the cream of that crop, but they are clearly a big earmark in the history major science fiction cinema.
Impact: Let's see, certainly put Robert Zemeckis, Michael J. Fox, and Christopher Lloyd on the map, if they weren't already along with Alan Silvestri's classic score. Spawned a cartoon and theme park rides that only this year have finally been shut down. The first film made such a big impact, the last two were shot back to back, something not common to sequels then. This practice (though I'm not sure if it was the first time done) was repeated with Pirates and the Matrix trilogies.
Creative Universe: A DeLorean that goes back in time? It flies too? Hoverboards, alternate universes, changing the past and the future, characters that appeared in different roles throughout time, going back to a scene from the last movie from a totally different perspective. Is that enough? How many trains do you know that fly and travel through time?
2. Star Wars Original Trilogy
Longevity: From 1977, from the words A Long, long time ago...nuff said. The series has been in the hearts and minds of everyone since then, love it or hate it. It has more than stood the test of the time by now, more than 30 years later. And clearly, it's not dying out anytime soon.
Impact: Wow, we don't even have the time. Suffice to say, it's spawned more things than I can hope to thing of, no question. Easily the most impactful trilogy ever made. It changed the way we looked at films, special effects, storytelling, and most of all, science fiction. Every space film since then has been influenced by it, nearly impossible not to be. People devote their entire lives to it, it's just that simple.
Creative Universe: Well the movies themselves were boundlessly creative. To include everything since then is unjust, a ridiculous amount of things have been born out of it. Let's just say when it came to science fiction, it was one of the most creative set of films ever. Simple as that.
1. Lord Of The Rings
Longevity: From 2001 to 2003, it was the biggest thing in movies. But that's not telling the whole story. This set of tales has survived the longest, more than 50 years and still going. It took until then for a faithful adaptation and yet the dream of it never died. That is saying something.
Impact: LOTR has had more impact to storytelling than most even know. The very idea that it had a huge impact on the #2 choice Star Wars should say a lot. When it comes to any fantasy story, all are compared to Tolkien in one way or another. He is the father of modern fantasy, that which all others are judged by. The films themselves took home a vast array of oscars, eventually netting Best Picture, which no other trilogy on this list can boast. They are seen as the most pristine and closest to flawless set of films one could conceive of from such an impossible to film book. Each film got better and never once had to settle for a lesser sequel. It was one continuous story, what every trilogy strives to be, this one achieved on every level.
Creative Universe: Most would think Star Wars would win this. That might be true in some senses, but LOTR has simply had far more time to build their world. And what a world, an endless set of creatives, races, lands, languages, weapons, cities, backstories, songs, simply the most in depth lore of any films on this list. Tolkien went to nearly insane levels to fashion this world. The very idea that he created a new language is astounding. Drew maps of Middle-Earth, wrote poems and songs about its history, described in every detail all of its trappings.
There you go. Don't agree? That's why it's my list and not yours. ^_^
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Now then, let's get on with it. This means I'll now have more free time. Time to write, time to blog, time to ya know, have a life. Ah life, how I miss thee. Not worrying about homework or projects or tests. Sure I still have to work every week but they pay me, not the other way around. Just have to do my best to avoid taking any work home with me.
It's also Hanukkah right now and firstly I want to thank you guys have bestowed glorious presents upon me. My Amazon.com wishlist is a little lighter today. First off, from Stephanie and Sean, I got not one but two sweet books. Yes books, I remember those, the things I used to read before they placed the word "text" in front of them. Well the last real book I read was America (the book), the awesomely hilarious fake text book (bah there's that phrase again) by the Daily Show. Now I've got Stephen Colbert's "I Am America (And So Can You!)" which looks just as damn funny. On top of that, the first part of the comic book run of Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8. A little more Joss Whedon never hurt. You know, unless you're Spike, Wesley, Anya, Buffy, Tara, etc. And because I foolishly checked my wishlist to see some missing items, it means more are on the way. I have no doubt these are from Beerman, because it includes both the new Futurama movie: Bender's Big Score and the special/limited/shiny edition of Serenity. Now I already own the Serenity DVD but not this new one. See I haven't opened the old one yet, never got around to it. So perhaps it can be a gift to someone one else eventually or just resell it on eBay, being still wrapped and everything. Thanks mucho you guys, not to be greedy, but these things being lower on price meant I got more quantity, which is totally awesome. I always look to see if I can't get someone else more gifts for around the same price. You still want all the same stuff but getting more just seems cooler. Hope I'm not wrong for saying that.
My vacation officially begins on the night of Dec 14th and runs through Jan 1st. I'll be home in South Florida during that time and kicking back during my favorite time of the year: false South Florida winter. With that, I leave you with a wonderful youtube link all about the Jews on Christmas. Of course if you're reading this blog, you probably already know all about this. I'd like to add bowling to this list as well.
Happy Holidays everyone!
DISCLAIMER: This is one of those posts that's about my life. If you don't want to read about this, please move along.
I've been having a quandary of late, a debate about being in the right field of work. See I realized sometime late this year, while at my current job, that I'm not so sure I made the right choice in college. I'm almost sure of it, if I wasn't at least good at what I do now. Sure as a software engineer, I get to work with technology all day, be on the computer and make a decent salary (though I'm actually underpaid right now and plan to rectify that using my success so far and pending Masters degree as leverage). But how did it come to this?
I was film pending major in college, tried twice to get into the film school and failed both times. But with what? I've never filmed a movie before, aside from the classic Tenacious 3, which isn't exactly worthy of submission. Instead I sent in the first 10 pages of a script and a short story, and something different the next time. See I had this crazy idea I could direct movies, yet as I'd never done this before college, I was apparently already at a loss. I took TV Production in high school twice and it was a lot of fun, but it didn't make a dent in such a career in film. Turns out I'm probably more of a writer than I'll ever be a "director", but who knows.
That's the real problem, I realized I followed a safer bet, a more sure fire plan. Use your math and science skills I thought. Sure they're just above average or so but that's good enough. You can work in technology that you like, but still be "creative". Hah, what a laugh, creative. Writing code all day for oil companies. I didn't see any of this coming when I was blinded by the sheer joy of working for Disney, keeping theme park rides safe around the world, even if just by judging test data vs. the in-house limits we had in place and creating new ones. Each week we'd have discussions over rides, rides dammit! That was our job, to keep fun, entertaining rides safe for people, to know the ins and outs of the mechanics and what the standards were. I worked in a building just outside of
What's the real reason I took Computer Engineering? Not just because I was worried I was throwing away my math and science skills, but I was also getting concerned about making a living. What if I failed in film or writing or such? How could I make money? But here was Engineering, Computer in fact that was one of the highest paid jobs right out of Bachelors school. Not necessarily saying much after you've got years of experience in many other fields, but it said something, a job in demand, not a job I'd have to fight tooth and nail to make a dent in the industry. But has it made me happy? At first I thought it might, but Disney spoiled me. I found the rigors of the 40 hour work week tough, maybe because I was going to school at the same time, I don't know. But the idea of the 8, really 9 hour day was tough. Working where I am now, I've had to work extra hours, weekends, while knowing that I have to go home to more work for school. After December, I'll have my Masters degree and that won't be an excuse anymore.
But why did I get my Masters degree at all? How did I get this far in a field I may not even like anymore? I knew that I should go for it, have a chance at more money, easier chance at getting a job. But money doesn't buy happiness. Well ok I don't really know that. I'm not exactly rolling in it, making less than I did at my last job. Moreso because I now am responsible for almost every single one of my own expenses, living alone (which is great don't get me wrong) leaves me paying full price for everything like rent and bills. It's certainly a good life lesson but not easy.
So now as I move forward, looking perhaps for another job, I question, is there one out there in my field that will make me even remotely happy? Where have I applied? I've gone all out right now, probably looking at places I don't have a shot in the world at because while I may be a software engineer, I don't know all the greater programs and moreso, no real experience with 3D/computer graphics. ILM, Pixar, Disney, Google, Weta Digital, video game companies and more. Shooting for the stars? Hah sure, but I don't see why not to do so.
The real problem here is my aspirations are so much greater than mere software engineering. Writing is where it's at for me. Books, tv, movies, I don't care, I crave creativity. I have so many stories sitting in my head that I fear will never see the light of day. Believe me I plan to write once school ends and I have free time again. But if I never succeed at that, what then? I had these dreams of putting together franchises of stories. Hell I've been even crazy enough to wonder if I should go into voice acting (don't ask). Point is, the right and left halves of my brain are at war with each other and I don't know who'll win. All I know is, I better not be programming for an oil company a year from now, at least I hope not.