The Hobbit- an unexpected journey

If you loved LOTR- you will love this.
If you hated LOTR- you will hate this.

Its really that simple. The almost 3 hour run time flew by for me. The actors were perfect, simply perfect. Martin Freeman is the idea actor to play young Bilbo. Richard Armitage hit it out of the park as Thorin, and Ian McKellan returns to what will absolutely be his greatest role- Gandalf. The other returning cast members were a welcome sight, especially Andy Serkis as Gollum, who once again captivates. There was not much time to get to know all 12 of the other dwarves, but most of them had a scene or two, with focus on a select few for dramatic reasons.

We chose to see it in the new HFR format of 48 frames per second 3D. Normal movies are 24 frames. At first, the experience was jarring. Everything seemed to be moving WAY too fast. Our eyes are used to seeing films move in a certain way and all that extra visual information breaks your brain for a few seconds hehe. After those few seconds of adjustment, I was amazed at the detail on screen. After a few minutes I was hooked.In a rainy scene, you can see almost every drop of rain. Fire looks closer to “reality fire” on screen (something I never realized was deficient before). This HFR reminds me of the jump from film to digital 10 years ago. It seems off and wrong at first, but after a while you start to love the overwhelming benefit of the new format. I am not sure if this will ever be adopted across the board for most or all cinemas, but it should be used on every big budget Hollywood action film. For the first time, I did not feel cheated by the extra 3 bucks they charge for 3D.

Speaking of 3D. this is also the first 3D film to that gave me no eye fatigue due to motion blur!. With all those extra frames, the blur is replaced with motion and the eyes are quite thankful!

What follows are my replies to some of the complaints being put forward by critics:

The 48 fps made the CGI look fake.
The CGI was top notch, and more realistic than ever. I feel the 48 frames helped it.

The story was boring, and not a stand alone film.
The story well constructed while being very faithful to the novel. I did not feel that it was an incomplete story. While it was obviously the first of three chapters, there is a narrative that reaches a resolution in the last scenes. It centers on Bilbo and his journey to be accepted as a member of the Dwarven Group.

The “additional material” introduced from the voluminous backstory of LOTR was unneeded and terrible.
Rather than be put off by the additional material they inserted into the story, I was fascinated by it, and enjoyed every extra second. I am only vaguely familiar with these plot points, so it was terrific to see it played out. It did not stretch out the movie to unreasonable lengths. It added only a few scenes to the final picture.

Radagast is the new Jar Jar Binks.
Radagast the Brown Wizard is not the Jar Jar of these films. please critics… He, and his rabbits, are pretty awesome. Plus who could hate Sylvester McCoy?! He’s great.

The film is too violent. Nonsense. It is no more violent than the first 3 films, and no one complained too loudly back then.

The 48 frames make the film look cheap.
This one has merit, but not for the reasons put forward by critics in what I feel is an attempt to destroy the new format at birth. Many television programs use a higher frame rate. British television seemed to use it quite a bit in the 70’s. Because we have only experienced these sort of visuals in what is perceived to be a “cheaper” format, we immediately associate it as being a lesser product. While I was taken in by the story, I was also forcing myself to be conscious of production value. LOTR films are notorious for insane attention to detail when it comes to sets and props. This film is no different. There was no cheap there. There was certainly no cheap from the actors, and it was not present in the CGI. The cinematography, particularly in battle sequences, was spectacular, and not cheap looking. Final verdict- this one is purely bias due to prior experience.

The 48 frames make it seem less fantasy and more reality- taking you out of the experience.
Obviously, there are no trolls, elves, dwarves, hobbits, rock monsters, magical elven cities, and orcs in reality. But the frame rate does give it a more realistic style. There is something to that complaint, but I feel it is completely up to the individual. Personally, it did not take me out of “Middle Earth” but instead drew me in.

Its late, that’s all I’ve got to say for now. hehe. If you have questions- shoot away! As a guinea pig for those hesitant to try it out in 48, I am happy to help answer questions. I do, however, recommend that you see it for yourself regardless. Its a good movie!

The Three Stooges

Simply put: if you like The Three Stooges, you will like The Three Stooges.

The casting could have destroyed this film, but fortunately they found the right mix.

Will Sasso comes the closest I have ever seen to a Curly impression that is a true Curly. Sasso is able to do the nyuk and barks while still conveying the child-like qualities that made Jerome Howard a star.

Chris Diamantopoulos was a perfect Moe. The mannerisms were spot on, and the vocal work was superb.

The real accolades, however, are rightfully given to Sean Hayes (of Will and Grace) who practically channelled the ghost of Larry Fine. Larry is the toughest Stooge to get right, and Hayes was superb. I have heard that voice acting god Billy West was brought in to coach him on Larry, and let me tell you- those were dollars well spent.

The film is about 90 minutes long as is broken up into 3 “shorts”, although there is a larger story in place. Larry David as Sister Mary Mengele was inspired. I don’t know who’s idea it was to dress that man up as a nun, but it paid off. The opening scenes with the Stooges as children are ok, but the real fun starts when we meet up with them around age 35. The story is essentially the plot of The Blues Brothers in that the Catholic Orphange that raised them is broke, and they need to raise cash to keep it open. The rest of the film shows their adventures in raising the money. It is simple, and effective.

There is one scene in the film that so encapsulated the stupidity of the Stooges that I am still laughing 13 hours later. It is a little slice of sight gag perfection that is rarely experienced these days. Without spoiling, let me say that I will never think of Free Range farming quite the same way again. It was such a quick and  stupid gag, but it was perfect. It is obvious that this film was made by people that understand the stooges. There is not much that needs to be understood, but the Farrelly’s get it.

When most of the nation stopped showing stooges in the 70’s and 80’s before their tv revival nationwide in the 90’s, there were small pockets of America that still showed the stooges every day. I was lucky to have lived in the Boston/Providence area where the stooges never went out of style and each New Year’s was rung in with the Annual Stooges Marathon on Channel 38 hosted by “The Movie Loft’s Dana Hersey. I literally watched these guys every week from age 4-10. We had tons of VHS tapes to add to the viewing. (I have probably seen “disorder in the court” no less than 100 times, not to mention “Malice in the Palace”)

The Stooges were a big thing in my family. My father and Uncle loved them, and that was passed on to me. I am particularly  happy to see that they continue to entertain children today- as evidenced by the roaring laughter of the kids at last night’s screening. If you have kids, take them to go see this movie. It is genuinely funny.

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Hunger Games: Food for thought

God that title makes me wanna puke….so smugly unclever.

I will preface this entry by stating that I have not read the books. Until a short while ago, they were not even on my radar. I am sure I passed them in the bookstore (before it went bankrupt) and briefly glanced at the cover and moved on to other fare. What I did not know was that this is EXACTLY my sort of book: a good one with a message. How can I know this without reading it? The Movie.

This film has a lot happening in it. On the surface it is a Battle Royale meets Running Man film where 24 kids must battle to the death, on television, for the world to see. Underneath there is an wonderful anti establishment commentary that every young person should be exposed to in America.

Watching this film, I was taken aback by the amazing fashions in “Capital City”. It is as if Lady Gaga were given free license to completely redesign the world. No….literally.

The Capital is an exciting place! The colors, the art, the music, the energy! I have always loved cities, and it is a place I would want to live in. As attractive as it is, the film shows that the truth is more complicated. The Capital is populated by brainwashed “haves” who are taken in by the glitzy glamor of reality tv and the pop culture world, as the “have-nots” toil away to provide the labor needed for the rich to live in their world. All the while, the administrators of this society keep them controlled and enthralled by “bread and circuses” while others suffer through brutal lives. This is not a new idea. It gave rise to socialism and the labor movements across this world. That this film could be made in 2012 and resonate so clearly to the average person is astonishing. A few decades back, this film would not have worked. It would not have been made, and its message would have been lost. But its time has come again.

As in the early years of the 20th century, and for a time in the 60;s and 70’s, American society is facing change. People are out of work, and the poor get poorer while the rich get richer. This is a political film. It is not necessarily a Liberal film, nor is it a Conservative film. It is a film that imparts a central truth that both parties ignore: The Establishment wants us to be stupid, we are easier to control that way. The endless bickering between politicians and the foolishness of our popular culture (of which I am an admitted sheeple) are blinding us. We, on the blogosphere, are constantly reading of the erosion of our Constitutionally granted rights by Bush and Obama. The Internet is becoming more controlled, we can be labeled as terrorists and detained forever or even killed without warrant. Young liberals are blinded by the “more government to control evil business” rhetoric, and conservatives calling for “less evil government to protect victim businesses” All the while, both lose nothing, and only gain power.

Young people: There is nothing wrong with enjoying reality tv, the latest movie, or music craze, but don’t let that be ALL you expose yourself to. Learn about our country, its history, and what is happening in the world. For every Kardashian or Jersey Shore you watch, wikipedia American social history. Make an effort to educate yourselves. Hunger Games, which bridges both of those choices, is a great place to start.

Oh noes…..

The Doctor Strange Movie is coming! This reported at comingsoon.net:

t has been confirmed that the script for Doctor Strange has been completed by Thomas Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (Conan The Barbarian, Sahara) and Marvel Studios are now actively seeking a director to come in and helm the project. Once the director has come on board, they will then be searching for the cast to star in Doctor Strange

That’s right! The two assholes I ripped to shreds in my best/worst of 2011 article are writing this. Wasn’t it enough to destroy Conan for me? Now they move into the comic world. fml

 

SWTOR takes off for my Guild!!

On and off for about 10 years now, I have been gaming with the good folks over at rgf.darkjedi.org

Rebel Ground Forces: created for Star Wars Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight! I came into membership in 2002, for the release of JK2: Jedi Outcast. That game, and the many that followed it, have ended. RGF now finds itself in a new era of gaming with Star Wars: The Old Republic. The members of the Guild did something monumentally stupid in the months leading up to release. They made me leader.

Now, I have led things before, but this is a horse of a different color. I had exactly 4 people left in RGF that were active for SWTOR. 5 including me. This is not an auspicious start. Going into release, we were up to 9, but 4 of those were non active. Basically I thought I was screwed. Then something amazing happened. The 5 members we had, went on a recruiting tear, and now we have not 5, but 85 members…whoa.

Every day we seem to pull in another couple of recruits. I now find myself in the position of leading an active Guild again! Seeing our vent filled up was sure a nice sight. Well, enough chatter- back to the game.

Movies this year: 2011

Here it is, in descending order- my favorite films of 2011!

I have not seen Take Shelter, Tree of Life, Week with Marilyn or Martha Marcy May Marelene yet- so they are sadly left to the wayside on this list. (I can’t see everything) This is culled from films that I saw in 2011 that were released in 2011. I did not see everything. This is merely the favorites of what I DID see.

1: Midnight in Paris

This is the story of Gil, a screenwriter on vacation with his fiancé and in-laws in Paris. He is a romantic, and loves the world of 1920’s Paris. His Fiance is the wrong woman for him. He knows this, but is committed to the relationship. She wants him to be realistic and stay in Hollywood writing crappy scripts. He wants to move to Paris and become a novelist. He gets her a pretty moonstone necklace as a gift, and she complains that it is not pearls. Her mother supports her in this “cheap is cheap”. Following this particularly crappy day, he goes walking off into the city late at night…and finds himself transported in time to the 1920’s! Every night, he meets all the luminaries of the period (Hemingway, Picasso, Fitzgerald) all while returning to 2010 during the day. The film follows his epiphanies as he sees what his life is really like.

Owen Wilson has turned in his finest performance yet as Gil, the protagonist of our tale. Rachel McAdams is delightfully annoying as his fiancé, every man’s potential worst nightmare of a wife. Michael Sheen is perfect as the douchey know-it-all that McAdams find so fascinating. The revolving door of classic figures from the 20’s were perfectly cast- with Adrian Brody receiving particular praise for his Salvador Dali! Marion Cotillard is absolutely perfect as Adriana- the woman Gil meets in the 20’s. She is at the forefront of a series of amazing French actresses that have been rocking my world for a while. Ludivine Sagnier and Melanie Laurent make appearances on this list although I wonder where  Audrey Tautou is!? She had no films this year

Woody Allen has written and directed a wonderful movie, which is clearly the film of the year. I do not know of one person who dislikes it. Well worth your time.

2: Sherlock Holmes 2

I delved into it more fully in my blog, but this film was a wonderful continuation of the Sherlock Holmes that Guy Ritchie gave us 2 years ago. Jared Harris is terrific as Professor Moriarty– the great nemesis of Holmes. RDJ continues his great performance as the master detective of 221B Baker Street, but Jude Law continues to rise to the challenge as gives us a terrific Watson. The chemistry between these 2 is flawless. They need to make more movies together.

3: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I had little hope for this film. Of the original Planet of the Apes films (I refuse to acknowledge the Tim Burton remake- with the exception of a great Paul Giamatti performance) one of the best was part 4: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. This film is a reimagining of it. What could have been a bad, bad thing became one of the best science fiction films made in years. Andy Serkis delivers an Oscar worthy motion capture performance as Caesar, the intelligent ape. John Lithgow is great as a man suffering from Alzheimers. What this film does that is so awesome is that it gives us a believable premise for how the Apes could realistically take over the earth. This is the best Apes film since the original, and is worth your time.

4: X-Men 1st Class

Talk about another come from behind victory. While the Planet of the Apes films slowly descended into garbage over 40 years, X-Men nosedived in short order from one of the best superhero films ever made (X-Men 2) to the abyss that was X-Men 3 and continued to slide in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This movie flat out ignores the fact that #3 or Wolverine ever happened (something wolverine 2 is also said to be doing). It jumps back to the early 1960’s, as a young Professor Xavier puts together his team of Mutant heroes. The character of Magneto, as in the previous films, steals the show. While Ian McKellan is a fantastic actor, it is clear that he cannot be believably de-aged to appear as if he was in his late 20’s. Luckily, we had one of the best friggin actors on the planet ready to jump in: Michael Fassbender.

michael-fassbender-inglourious-basterds

You may remember how he stole the show in Inglorious Basterds…not an easy thing to do with Christoph Waltz also stealing the show.

2012-10-31-christoph_waltz_header

Essentially,  Inglorious Basterds was a huge act of grand larceny against Brad Pitt…

but I digress. Fassbender is on a hell of a roll in the last few years. I have a funny feeling that his recent film “Shame” would have made it on this list, but I did not get a chance to see it. Based on reviews from critics I trust Shame is awesome. I have no doubt that this man will be getting an Oscar really soon. I don’t know which film it will be for, but it is coming.

This film, like any, is not without its flaws. I am looking at you Betty Draper…

Seriously now. How on earth could the inclusion of the above image be a BAD thing in a movie? She is just that damn untalented.

5: Captain America

captain-america-the-winter-soldier

The epitome of a Marvel Comics film. In fact, the best entry into the Marvel Avengers film series. Chris Evans nails it. Hugo Weaving nails it. Everyone is on the money. Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci were perfectly cast. Dominic Cooper (who appears below) was great as Tony Stark’s Father. If you have not seen this yet, why are you reading my Blog? Get your ass out there a rent it.

6: Beginners

I covered this fully in my Blog as well. In fact, I am just going to be lazy and repost what I originally wrote: (hehe)

Ewan McGregor will always be remembered for Star Wars, Moulin Rouge, and his other big budget fare. I think this is a sad thing. Beginners is a great example of the type of film Ewan McGregor excels at.

The story of a man who’s father is dying and reveals a secret- He is gay. The film follows how the son deals with the news, and his father’s cancer, as he meets and falls in love with a lovely actress who, like he, has issues with making long lasting connections. Christopher Plummer delivers a terrific performance as the father, while Melanie Laurent, one of my favorite actresses who is FINALLY breaking into American Cinema, is the love interest. This movie reminds me a lot of 500 days of Summer, and in a good way.

This is a charming film that delivers its message of life, death, regret, and love in an outstanding way. Worth your time.

7: Devil’s Double

I also covered this one in a previous blog (with text stolen from it) but suffice it to say: that if Michael Fassbender loses the Oscar race to anyone this year, it should be to Dominic Cooper…

I have certain habits when I am on the computer. One is that I always have the TV on. it has become one of the better ways for me to discern how good/bad a movie/tv show is. If it can grab my attention and keep it while the wonders of the Web lay before me, then its pretty good.

The First film in my reactivated Netflix queue is The Devil’s Double, based on an autobiography of a body double for Saddam Huessein’s eldest son- Uday. Dominic Cooper, who came to my notice as Howard Stark in Captain America plays the 2 roles of Uday, and Latif the double.

Sadistically evil is the only way to describe Uday. Dominic Cooper has shot forward in my estimation as one of the best actors out there. He is on a tear right now, with this, Captain American, and My week with Marilyn (review forthcoming) all out this year. Mark my words- he is an actor to watch.

The lovely Ludivine Sangnier, who blew me away 8 years ago in The Swimming Pool, finally returns to my film viewing as Sarrab, one of Uday’s girlfriends.

If you have not seen this movie yet, I encourage you to do so. Lee Tamahori has finally redeemed himself after Die Another Day with this amazing film. I expect this to be among the “Best Picture” nominees come Oscar Sunday.

8: Muppets

Come on! You know you love them! Pure Nostalgic heaven. Muppets are back.

9: Harry Potter 7 Part 2

The grand finale to the Harry Potter extravaganza! The three kids in these films: Dan Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson were surrounded by the greatest actors that their country has to offer…No…actually ALL of them. Something had to rub off, and much rubbing off was going on in the making of this series (they were teenagers after all). Ralph Fiennes FINALLY gets to act in one of these films (he performances thus far were essentially cameos) and Alan Rickman, who has been setting up the character of Severus Snape for 10 years, finally gets his payoff as the hero of this series. Snape is awesome, and Alan Rickman is the reason.

10: Paul

See that orgasmic look on Simon Pegg’s face? That was me every summer..in the exact same spot he is walking.

A movie that was made specifically for me. That is the only possible explanation. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost go to Comic-Con. That was the set up of this film. I love Comic-Con. As an 8 time veteran, I am about as in love with that show as you can get. Like me, their characters are completely gaga over Comic-Con. After the show, they decide to go see the famous UFO sites of America…and pick up an Alien. Luckily this alien has the voice and mannerisms of Seth Rogen, which serves to elevate this film into the stratosphere. Their great adventure takes them on a geek ride for the ages, all while Sigourney Weaver is trying to catch them. Ripley….Epic. Literally everyone I know emailed me immediately after seeing this film and wanted to tell me about it. That’s a sign of great film.

Honorable Mention:

Bad Teacher

I had no intention of seeing this film. The wave of stink was flowing off of this, and I decided to never see it. However, being bored this week, I threw it onto my netflix queue. When it arrived, I popped it in my dvd player and holy shit was I wrong. This film delivers a flawless comedy. Justin Timberlake was fantastic. Jason Segel was awesome as a Gym teacher. Actually, the entire cast of this film was phenomenal. I cannot think of one actor that did not perfectly fit the role. Cameron Diaz has made her best performance in years. To those that squawk that Hangover 2 is not on this list, I will admit that it was very funny, but was essentially a carbon copy of the original, and was not as great (sorry). I also did not get to see “Your Highness”, “Horrible Bosses”, or “Bridesmaids” yet, so they were not in the running.

Now….

The Fucking worst movie of the year.

There could only be one choice really.

Now answer me- What is BEST in Life?

Not this.

What a horrific pile of dogshit. Offensive to me on all levels. I cannot fault the cast, but I can sure as shit fault the writers and director. Here are their names. Ban them from making movies.

Writers:

Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer: The geniuses that gave us Dylan Dog.

Sean Hood: This guy is actually not a bad writer. He did “Sick Girl” for Lucky Mckee years ago and he was the guy brought in to attempt a fix on this armpit of a script…and after a little research (research? moi?!) I have found that this is what he had to say:

“Unfortunately, the work I do as a script doctor is hard to defend if the movie flops. I know that those who have read my Conan shooting script agree that much of the work I did on story and character never made it to screen. I myself know that given the difficulties of rewriting a script in the middle of production, I made vast improvements on the draft that came before me. But its still much like doing great work on a losing campaign. All anyone in the general public knows, all anyone in the industry remembers, is the flop. A loss is a loss.”

I kinda feel bad for the guy now. Not for Oppenheimer and Donnelly though. They need to stop writing movies.

Director: Marcus Nispel. This douchebag has been fouling the silver screen for years now. This semi-sentient queef got his start directing music videos  and he has somehow since broken into hollywood with an amazing cavalcade of original productions:

2003: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Horrific remake of the original, and not horrific in the good sense.

2004: Frankenstein: Ok, come on. Who actually knew that there was a 2004 remake of Frankenstein? I live for this and I was clueless.

2007: Pathfinder: remake of a well regarded 80’s film from Norway. I have not seen it, but Its likely crap. But I will give him a pass on this one.

2009: Friday the 13th: It had plenty of boobs, but essentially ruined Jason Voorhees while shitting all over the original in the process. very bad.

2011: Conan the Barbarian: nuff said.

At least he is not going after another classic film I love as his next project…

2012: The Fly… son of a…

Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen has made his best film in decades.

Owen Wilson has proven himself a first rate actor.

Marion Cotillard was perfection, as always.

I have never disliked Michael Sheen or Rachel McAdams characters more. This is a success.

The best of the year.

 

Entertainment Analysis by Superponte