Save Star Wars 2: IN 3D!

Read part 1!

Last night Lucasfilm announced officially that they will be releasing all 6 Star Wars movies in theaters again, but this time IN 3D! (you have to shout it) Starting in 2012 when Episode I is released, with one a year coming after that supposedly.

I’m not excited as one would expect. In fact while I am a Star Wars fan, this only give me bad feelings. Let me break them down for you.

Continue reading “Save Star Wars 2: IN 3D!”

REVIEW: RiffTrax Live – Reefer Madness

Last night was the live event I’ve been waiting all year for: RiffTrax Live.  For those that don’t know RiffTrax is the next generation of the cult show, Mystery Science Theater 3000.  For those that don’t know MST3K, it was a show that was on Comedy Central and moved to Sci-Fi Channel about a man and some robots who were forced to watch bad movies and they made fun of them.  “Manos: The Hands of Fate”, “Mitchell”, “Space Mutiny”, “Prince of Space”, all terrible old movies, all movies riffed on by the show.  I grew up with the show and while I didn’t get all of the jokes, I loved every minute.

The show has been off the air for over ten years now, and four years ago several of the members got together and started riffing on more recent movies, which they called RiffTrax.  They release the riffs as MP3s that you sync up with your DVD of the movie and listen along.  It’s just as funny as the original show, but the movies are more familiar.  Bad movies like “The Happening”, mediocre movies like “Twilight”, and even good movies like “Casablanca”, anything is possible.  They’ve even gotten to the point where they can release Riffs the day before a movie comes out on DVD!

Last year they started something new: RiffTrax Live.  They perform their jokes during whatever movie to a live audience, which is then broadcast live to theaters around the country.  We went to the first one, “Plan 9 from Outer Space”, but somehow missed the Christmas Special (with special guest Weird Al).  I decided to make up for it by going to see the stoner classic “Reefer Madness.”

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Save Star Wars

This past weekend, George Lucas announced at Star Wars Celebration V the eagerly anticipated Blu-rays of the Star Wars Saga. What a lot of fans want from this set is every possible version of Star Wars in the format, much like how Blade Runner has 5 versions from the 1982 test screening workprint to the 2007 “Final Cut”. However, in interviews, Lucas has said regarding the original theatrical versions of Star Wars:

“You have to go through and do a whole restoration on it, and you have to do that digitally,” he added. “It’s a very, very expensive process to do it. So when we did the transfer to digital, we only transferred really the upgraded version.” (NY Times Art Beat)

What does this mean, you ask? Let me break it down for you.

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REVIEW: Inception (2010)

What dreams are made of.

Summary: Dominic Cobb is an “extractor”, someone who is hired to commit corporate espionage by stealing information out of people’s minds in controlled dreams. When he is hired to do the opposite, he and his team have to go deeper into dreams than any before them, exposing more about themselves than the target.

Thoughts: Inception is a great movie. It has pretty much everything you could want out of a movie: great plot, great effects, great acting. It has enough twists to keep you on the edge of your seat, but not so many that its one of those movies that you leave not understanding what happened. It actually plays as more of a heist movie than I expected, which is great.

Unlike most heist movies the characters don’t know more than you, so the threats are more real because you know they don’t know how to get out of it. What I mean is that its not like Ocean’s 11, which is great but all of the threats were already foreseen by the characters, so its like the characters actually pulled a trick on you along with the target. In Inception, they tell you the plans, and everything has its own internal logic that you can understand, so when something is threatened in the movie, you understand it.

I also liked the internal logic of the movie. Nolan has created a dream-science that makes sense. The idea of being able to sneak into people’s dreams to get information they might know is really cool. I don’t want to go deeper into that, but you needn’t worry about things not being explained to you.

I really don’t know what else to say without spoiling most of the movie. I want to leave you with the basic ideas, but just know that it is worth seeing when you can. It might even change the way you think about reality…

Overall: Great movie with everything you’d want.
4/5

REVIEW: Empire Strikes Back Revisited: Rogue Workprint

Revisiting My Favorite Movies

A couple of years ago I was introduced to a fan-edit project called “Star Wars Revisited”.  This guy called Adywan was about to release an edit of the original Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope).  He attempted to fix most of the continuity errors, enhance the existing special effects, and remove a lot of the ill-advised CG additions Lucas made to the movie in 1997.  This involved color balancing the entire movie to fix something that had gone wrong on the DVD, re-rotoscoping every lightsaber and blaster bolt, and basically going over the movie with a fine-toothed comb to fix mistakes most people wouldn’t even realize were there.  While he was in there, he decided to further enhance the movie with new effects and almost a completely new sound mix, creating what most fans believe the Special Edition should have been.

Shortly after he released his version of A New Hope, he moved on to The Empire Strikes Back.  This made a lot of people worried.  Empire is widely regarded as a “perfect” movie by fans, so some have feared that Adywan’s enhancements will detract from the perfection, especially after Adywan started talking about how he was going to build physical models and create all new shots with them and even found a group of costumers in California to film some new shots of Rebel Troopers fleeing the Imperial Walkers to replace some bad mattes.

After several delays, pushing his release date from May 2010 (the 30th anniversary of Empire) to December 2010 to sometime in 2011, Adywan decided to encourage the costuming group (a.k.a. Rogue Squadron) by sending them a rough draft workprint of the work he had completed through June 2010.  He also sent one to me to get my opinion on what I thought of it so far.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Empire Strikes Back Revisited: Rogue Workprint”

REVIEW: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)

It all begins with a choice, even if it makes no sense.

Summary: Bella is torn between two supernatural worlds, but everyone knows which side she picks, no matter how many times she’s told that its a dumb choice.

Thoughts: This was by far the best of the four books, and with a director who knows “real” vampire movies (David Slade directed the recent Thirty Days of Night) this had the opportunity to be the best of the movies, even if it wasn’t a good movie.  It does succeed at being the best possible Twilight movie, but its still not strong enough to be a good movie on its own.

Slade comes from how I would approach this movie, focusing on the action and humor, while glossing over the will-she won’t-she of Bella’s “love triangle”.  The problem with the love triangle is that I don’t believe that Stephanie Meyer really saw it as a triangle.  She tried to make Edward the obvious choice and New Moon was supposed to show that they’re meant to be together by Bella’s desperate insanity when Edward is gone and Edward’s suicide attempt after thinking she’s dead.  My problem is that I believe that Jacob, while a werewolf, would be the best choice.  She wouldn’t have to leave her family, she wouldn’t have to change into an undead, bloodthirsty creature, and so on.  I think that after the “New Moon” book was released, Meyer did not anticipate people actually wanting Bella and Jacob to be together so while writing “Eclipse”, she turned Jacob into a creepy obsessive jerk so that people would agree with Meyer that Edward was the better (though still creepy and obsessive) choice.

Throughout this movie, Bella gets advice on whether or not she should throw her mortal life away for Edward, and everyone, Edward included(!), thinks that it is a bad idea.  Seriously, there’s a scene with her mom not wanting her to run off with the first boy she falls in love with, same with her dad.  Her friend gives a valedictorian speech about how growing up is about exploring all of the possibilities and making mistakes because nothing is permanent (except vampirism, but her friend doesn’t know that).  The other Cullens give big speeches/flashbacks about how becoming vampires were the worst things ever to happen to them.  And Jacob spells it out for her that he is the better choice.  None of this sways her in any way, because its Edward that she’s “meant to be with”.

Basic plot flaws notwithstanding, the movie is rather enjoyable.  Like I said, the director knows how to do the action sequences and that is great since this movie has the only real battle of the series (spoiler for Breaking Dawn).  It’s also a battle that he had free reign to choreograph since the books are first-person and Bella wasn’t present for the battle, so it is shot well.  The way that the vampires take damage to their granite-like bodies is pretty cool and they sound they make when they break apart sounds painful.  The CGI werewolves look much better this time around as well.

The humor is played up a bit more.  Once again, Billy Burke as Bella’s dad Charlie rules the day with every scene that him and his mustache have the opportunity to grace.  Much fun is poked at the werewolves’ lack of clothing, but it still surprises me that no one realizes that something is really weird with the Cullen family, with their pale cold skin, color-changing eyes, slight sparkliness, and general creepiness.  Maybe its like Clark Kent’s glasses, they can’t see the obvious in front of them because they don’t want to see it?

Anyway, this is an enjoyable film.  If you thought the first two were good, you’ll love this one.  If you thought they were mediocre at best (as I did), you might actually like this one.  If you hated the first two with an undying passion, you’ll hate this one too, but you might get some laughs from it.

P.S. I’m not looking forward to the Breaking Dawn movies.  It’s bad enough that Meyer was forced to expand her two book idea (“Twilight” and a mix of “New Moon” and “Eclipse”) into a four-book series, but forcing the last book into two movies just seems to exacerbate the problem further.  And I’m not sure the guy who directed Dreamgirls is the best choice for a teenage vampire movie.  However, the RiffTrax should be epic levels of awesome.

Overall: Much more enjoyable than the first two, but still not a really good movie due to the flaws in the source material.
3.5/5

Read my other Twilight reviews:
Twilight

New Moon

Five Years

My wife and I have been married five years now.  In celebration, I got permission to reprint something she wrote last year.

The 9 Signs That You’ve Been Married to a Nerd for too long!

  1. You understand the jokes on “Big Bang Theory” and don’t really think they are funny because … they make a good point!
  2. You get upset when a movie or show your watching has sound effects in space.
  3. People start asking YOU for computer advice.
  4. You dread cooking sometimes because you KNOW a food replicator would be so much easier.
  5. You argue with people over which Star Trek TV Series is the best. (Voyager hands DOWN!)
  6. You trip over something and think to yourself “Well, I guess I failed my acrobatics check”.
  7. You hear Japanese people talking out in public and you can pick out phrases and words they are saying due to too much Anime.
  8. You turn down hanging out with people in your town to play xbox online with your “real” friends.
  9. You hear a landspeeder go by and realize it was a car.
  10. You find yourself describing something you appreciate as being “Leet” a.k.a. “1337”. (a late addition)

See why I love her so?

LOST THOUGHTS: “The End”

When I went to bed around midnight, I didn’t know what to think.  A six year journey, come to an end.  Six years of mysteries left unanswered.  In “The End”, all that really matters was the characters.

I’m not going to recap the episode, I’m going to try to place my sleepless night into words.

It wasn’t the ending I thought I wanted.  I wanted answers.  I wanted a revelation so big that it made me want to find the first season again and watch it with new eyes, finally able to understand that which I couldn’t.  But that wasn’t what “The End” was about.  It was about reunions and happily forever afters.

Up until the last minute, they had me thinking that what I thought was Alt2004 was an alternate reality which was their happily ever afters.  Until Jack’s dad appeared and undid the entire flash-sideways concept by basically saying that it was a construct built by the Losties so they could find each other after they died.  Not what I expected or wanted.

But all I can think about is the reunion in the church.  Everyone together, everyone happy.  Then I realized that time travel, magic, belief, that’s not what the show was about.  It was about these characters and the crash that changed all of their lives forever.  I was too caught up in the sci-fi parts and trying to figure out the mysteries that I missed the Big Picture.  And I think I have been the whole time.

Sure none of the series is any clearer in the light of the finale.  In fact, half of this final season added up to nothing due to the fact that the flash-sideways wasn’t meant to show us that they were always meant to be together.  But the characters have come full circle and get what they deserved in the end, after years of separation: they get to be together.

Does it make me want to watch the entire series again?  No.  Would I even suggest to people that they watch the series if they hadn’t yet?  Not really.  This probably isn’t the result that ABC wanted, but it seems like the writers were just here to give us a ride, and what a ride it was.

No ending could have done everything we more sci-fi oriented people wanted.  We were so focused on the mysteries, and I believe that was supposed to be part of the journey.  The discussions, the arguments, the revelations, I wouldn’t give any of them up for anything.  Talking with you people about the show was the best part about it.  And that’s what I think I’ll miss the most.  Finding out the Locke was in a wheelchair, opening the Hatch, finding out that there were flash-forwards now were some great moments of television.  But talking about it made LOST what it was.

An experience.

Network TV “Original” Shows – Fall 2010

I had fun last year pointing out how CBS Represents All That Is Wrong With TV, so after reading all of the junk that all of the networks are trying to pass off as “entertainment” this coming season, I figured I’d break them down to their basic elements and what current/past show it sounds just like.  By the way, “Alternative Series” is what they call reality shows now, and there doesn’t seem to be that many.  Has the reality show finally died?

Keep in mind I’ve not seen these shows or know anything about them, I’m only judging them by how the networks are trying to sell them.  For example, FOX gives out very little information, so I have nothing really to go on.  You can read the actual descriptions on the links for each network.

ABC

“BODY OF PROOF”

The crazy lady (the one that actually got committed, then became a lesbian) from “Desperate Housewives” plays a neurosurgeon who is in an accident and can’t practice anymore, but her new job as a medical examiner finds her “graying the lines of where her job ends and where the police department’s begins”.  Also stars 7 of 9 from “Star Trek:Voyager”.
Sounds like:
A mixture of “House” and “Bones”.

“DETROIT 1-8-7”

A fake documentary/drama following Detroit cops, starring one of the guys from “The Sopranos”.
Sounds like: A cross between “NYPD Blue” and a serious “The Office”.

“MY GENERATION”

A fake documentary/drama following high school students, with interviews from them “ten years later.”
Sounds like: A cross between any number of high school dramas and a serious “The Office”.

“NO ORDINARY FAMILY”

A family crashes in a plane in the Amazon River, then find out they now have superpowers.  Starring Michael Chiklis (“The Shield”, Thing from the “Fantastic Four” movies).
Sounds like: A mixture of “Lost” and “Heroes”.

“OFF THE MAP”

A group of doctors with problems run a medical clinic in South America.
Sounds like: A mixture of “Grey’s Anatomy” (from the same producers even) and maybe the serious parts of “MASH”.

“THE WHOLE TRUTH”

A courtroom drama that tells both sides of the story, prosecutor and defense.
Sounds like: Every courtroom drama, but you don’t root for the same team every week.

“BETTER TOGETHER”

Middle-aged couple who refuses to get married, young couple that are getting married quickly, and the parents of the women who don’t really care.  “With three very different relationships tightly intertwined in one family, will it be free thinkers vs. over-thinkers, or will each couple begin to see things a little bit differently?”
Sounds like: Most comedies, maybe a bit more of “Modern Family”.

“HAPPY ENDINGS”

A couple gets divorced and their circle of friends falls apart without them together.  Whose side will their friends choose?
Sounds like: Most comedies, maybe a bit more like “Friends” if Monica and Chandler got divorced.

“MR. SUNSHINE”

Matthew Perry from “Friends” is a manager of a sports arena and has workplace hijinks.
Sounds like: “Becker” with some “Newsradio” (hopefully).

“SECRET MILLIONAIRE”

“Alternative Series” about millionaires helping out at orphanages undercover.
Sounds like: “Undercover Boss”, but more philanthropic.

CBS

“$#*! MY DAD SAYS”

Based on a Twitter feed, a man lives with his aging father who says whatever is on his mind and comedy ensues.  The father will be played by William Shatner, and it will air after “Big Bang Theory”.  There is no reason to not watch it.
Sounds like: Awesome.

“MIKE & MOLLY”

A couple meets at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting and fall in love.  From the guy that made “Big Bang Theory” (yay!) and “Two and a Half Men” (boo!).
Sounds like: Any number of comedies, but at least its not the “fat man/hot wife” concept we’ve seen a dozen times.

“HAWAII FIVE-0”

A gritty reboot of the 1970’s series.  About an “elite federalized task force” who fight crime in Hawaii.
Sounds like: “Hawaii Five-0”.

“THE DEFENDERS”

Two Las Vegas defense attorneys share life and comedy in Las Veags. Starring Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell.
Sounds like: Something that won’t last very long.

“BLUE BLOODS”

Drama about a family of cops led by Tom Selleck.
Sounds like: Any cop drama with a twist of family drama.

“CRIMINAL MINDS SPINOFF”

Forest Whitaker leads a team of investigators who get inside criminals’ heads.
Sounds like: “Criminal Minds”.

NBC

“THE EVENT”

A man investigating the disappearance of his fiancee finds out its part of a more vast conspiracy that goes all the way to the top.
Sounds like: Maybe some “24” or “Prison Break”.

“UNDERCOVERS”

JJ Abrams brings us a show about a married couple who used to be super-spies that are drawn back into action to save a friend. (I might give this one a chance)
Sounds like: The movie “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”.

“THE CAPE”

A cop is framed for crimes he didn’t commit, so he becomes a masked vigilante with the help of circus folk.
Sounds like: Batman.

“CHASE”

A Texan US Marshall chases down criminals.
Sounds like: “Walker: Texas Ranger”, but actually serious.  Or “The Fugitive”.

“OUTLAW”

Jimmy Smits (Bail Organa from the Star Wars Prequels, and other stuff) plays a US Supreme Court Justice who quits and starts a private practice to help the little guy.
Sounds like: “Shark”, but without James Woods.

“HARRY’S LAW”

Kathy Bates is a former patent lawyer who teams up with a high school teacher and one of his former students to start their own law office in an old shoe store. (I might give this one a chance)
Sounds like: “Three’s Company.” Actually, it doesn’t at all, I just wanted to say that.

“LAW & ORDER: LOS ANGELES”

THERE’S BEEN A CRIME!
Sounds like: The show they just canceled, also called “Law & Order”.

“PERFECT COUPLES”

Three couples are trying to figure out what makes the ideal relationship.  It’s a “heroic journey” according to the network.
Sounds like: “Friends” had they all paired off.

“OUTSOURCED”

A joke company’s sales department is outsourced to India, along with the manager.  Now has to explain all of the practical jokes to the Indians trying to sell it.
Sounds like: “The Office” with more stereotypes.

“THE PAUL REISER SHOW”

Paul Reiser cast Paul Reiser as Paul Reiser in “The Paul Reiser Show”.  Seriously.  He plays fake-him years after his last successful fake-show and it follows fake-him and his fake-family and fake-friends.
Sounds like: Paul Reiser.

“FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS”

Follows a group of friends “as they navigate the difficult, and often confusing, world of dating.”
Sounds like: “How I Met Your Mother.”

“LOVE BITES”

Romantic comedy anthology series following different women as they learn about “love, sex, marriage and dating.”
Sounds like: “Sex and the City” (same writer/producer), but they’re not best friends.

“SCHOOL PRIDE”

“Alternative series” about communities coming together to rebuild their local public schools.
Sounds like: “Extreme Makeover”: School Edition. Same producer (no surprise).

FOX

“RAISING HOPE”

A single father tries to raise his infant daughter with his dysfunctional family’s help.
Sounds like: Mostly “Modern Family”

“RUNNING WILDE”

A billionaire playboy played by GOB Bluth tries to win the heart of his childhood sweetheart played by Felicity who is a tree-hugging liberal.
Sounds like: A cringe-worthy comedy.

“LONESTAR”

A Texas guy is “caught between two very different lives and two very different women.”  And something about oil.
Sounds like: Vagueness, maybe some “There Will Be Blood”.

“TERRA NOVA”

A family is sent back to prehistoric times to try to save the human race.  Spielberg and the producers of “24” are making it.  I’m going to give it a shot because its freaking Spielberg.
Sounds like: “Land of the Lost”.

“BOB’S BURGERS”

Animated series about a family trying to run a burger joint.
Sounds like: Boredom.

“RIDE-ALONG”

Follows cops around Chicago.
Sounds like: “NYPD Blue” or “Detroit 1-8-7” on ABC.

“MIXED SIGNALS”

A comedy about guys who are trying to balance out “their committed relationships with their desire for freedom”.
Sounds like: A show with strong moral fiber.

REVIEW: Iron Man 2 (2010)

The Real Man of Steel

Summary: Tony Stark is Iron Man and has solved all of the world’s problems (somehow).  The Government doesn’t like that he’s not sharing his technology, other weapons manufacturers are trying to copy him, and a man from his hidden past wants him dead.  Tony has problems of his own, but he finds he can depend on his friends and future allies…

Thoughts: I loved the first Iron Man.  It was so much fun and totally unexpected.  I went into this movie with high expectations and had been pumping myself up for a while now.  However, it did not live up to my own hype.  It’s not bad by any means, its just not as awesome as I would have hoped.

The plot is a bit slow at times.  Things will happen, then everything will slow down for a while, then speed up.  Some things that happen are a bit too unbelievable for me, but I suppose if you put a super-genius in a room for long enough, he’ll come up with something.  The main villain’s motivation for revenge is explained, but not why he feels he needs lightsaber-whips instead of just using his knowledge to blow Tony up.

There didn’t really seem to be much character development.  In the first movie, we watch Tony go from being an arrogant loaner who realizes that he needs to try to redeem himself for some of the things he may or may not have done.  In this movie, Tony is an arrogant loaner (again) who I guess realizes that he needs his friends, but I’m inferring that on the movie.  Really, he treats everyone like dirt, and if they’re his friend, they’ll get mad but forgive him.  If they’re villains, they’ll get mad and try to kill him.

The effects were great, as expected.  All of the new armor looked awesome.  The battle scenes were great, but a bit short.  I suppose real battles don’t take 10 minutes like is some movies, but it just seemed that after a few punches the fights were over.  There were a few surprises that even the trailers didn’t ruin, but they look great.

I may be being too hard on this movie.  I was fun, it just wasn’t as much fun at the first one.  It had humor, it had action.  It just kind of slowed down at points where I feel like it may not have needed too.  What I really liked was the parts that are leading into the other Marvel movies.  For those who don’t know, Marvel Studios is making several movies of their superheroes and then in 2012 there will be an “Avengers” movie with them all coming together.  So each movie is leading into the next, almost like we’re getting all of the backstory for “Avengers” in each of these other movies.  So far we have Iron Man 1 & 2 and The Incredible Hulk (the one with Ed Norton).  Next comes Thor, then Captain America, then Avengers which will bring them all together..  They’re planning even more movies as well.  I like that they’re planning ahead with these, instead of just trying to capitalize on the comic book movie wave.

Another things I appreciate is that while there are inside jokes and references, I like they they don’t try to force this kind of stuff directly into the plot.  Sure Whiplash and Black Widow are in this movie, but they aren’t called by name.  The Hulk wasn’t called “Hulk” in his movie either [EDIT: watched it again, and they do call him that in a throwaway line, and he does say “Hulk Smash!”  I still feel they handled it better than the following].  I didn’t like how Fantastic Four (a Marvel movie, but the rights belong to another company) had Johnny Storm come up with their code names from the comics (“Mr Fantastic” doesn’t make any sense, seriously) and everyone used their catchphrases like they knew they were supposed to say them.  Anyway, I’m glad the Marvel Studios-owned properties aren’t doing that.

On a side note: I was excited about the music in the movie since I bought the “soundtrack” which was basically an AC/DC greatest hits album.  However, the movie had two AC/DC songs, which is only one more than in the last movie.  There were a lot of good songs, but for AC/DC to be the entire “soundtrack”, they weren’t in it except in the beginning and the end.

Overall: Not as much fun as the first, but not bad at all.
3.5/5