The line of all lines

Haven’t updated in a while I know. Should have Japan pix up in a couple days. Got them off of the laptop finally.

But the big news is that right now I’m in line for Star Wars – Episode III. Typing this from my phone in the car because it’s raining outside. Will have pix of this on the gallery also.

Looks like it stopped raining. Back to the line of one.

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Sin City

I saw Sin City this weekend. Overall I really enjoyed it. I read the comics when they first started 13 years ago in the Dark Horse Presents 5th Anniversary Special as a first part (continued later on in Dark Horse Presents and later collected in graphic novels).

Overall I was impressed with Rodriguez’s faithfulness to the books. I was also impressed by the way he was able to translate some of the scenes to film perfectly. One thing I think anyone will say who read’s the novels (actually I should say sees them) is that they have a very distinct look to them, something which Rodriguez adapted perfectly.

If I had any complaints though, it is that the dialogue came off a bit cornier than I had always envisioned it in the books. When I read the stories I was kind of envisioning this hardbolied noir talk from the 40’s movies. They talked that way not to be goofy, but because that’s the way they talked. In the movie it comes off a little forced, and a little campy. Especially lines like “Yeesh1” and whatnot.

Though the way the lines came off can be forgiven due to the fact that they remained faithful, and the fact that the rest of the movie turned out so perfect.

Also look for Frank Miller’s cameo (the original writer and artist of the books) as the priest in the confessional booth.

overall grade: 8.5/10

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Them! and the Incredible Shrinking Man

So I headed out to the Times Cinema last night and caught a double feature of Them! and The Incredible Shrinking Man. First let me say that for value, the Times Cinema can’t be beat. An evening movie there only costs $4.50, and they show double features (such as last night) which still only cost $4.50 for BOTH MOVIES! Not to mention a large popcorn is under $4.50 and a large soda is under $3.00.

Anyway, as to the movies. The thing you have to understand about me is that I am a SUCKER for old sci-fi and horror. Throw anything at me. I don’t care how bad you think it is I will be able to find something in there I love. Well, these two are about as classic as you can get.

Them! is basically the story of Godzilla told with ants. Ants are irradiated from the US’ careless testing of atomic bombs in the mid-40’s, growing to as large as 15 feet long. Some local cops, an FBI agent, and two doctors try to destroy the nest in New Mexico only to find that two queen ants escaped so they have to continue to destroy all possible colonies. The acting was stiff, the lines were hilarious (“If I can still raise my arm after this I’m gonna show you how saturated I can get.”) and the fx were cheesy. And I sat there with a smile on my face the entire time through. Just a joy to watch.

The Incredible Shrinking Man was slightly different. Instead of going for the (now corny) horror approach that many movies went for, it went more towards a surreal and philisophical approach, like the Last Man on Earth of The Twilight Zone. The premise is that Scott Carey (Grant Williams) is exposed to radiation (gee, I think I’m noticing a theme here) and starts shrinking. Initially he shrinks slowly but eventually it becomes more rapid. This movie actually struck me as interesting. Long before Peter Jackson used things like forced perspective and enlarged props for Lord of the Rings, here was Jack Arnold doing the exact same thing 45 years earlier. But unlike Jackson who only had to cater to two different sizes (man and hobbit), Arnold had to accomodate for many different sizes in between. And what is interesting is that throughout the film, even in scene to scene, you can pick out the little attentions to detail he put in on the continual shrinking. Anyway, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t seen it, but I was presently surprised at the level of detail paid to the finer points of this movie.

So there is my movie review of two classic sci-fi pics. Hopefully some of you will go out and try them. And if anyone happens to be in the Milwaukee area ever, make sure to check out the Times Cinema. Because in Milwaukee, literally, there isn’t any place else like it.

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DVD Tuesday – or – The most boring DVD Tuesday yet

Just one movie this week that I am interested in

Dutch

One of the most underrated movies of all time in my opinion. This movie is significant for a few reasons.

1) It proved that Ed O’Neil IS capable of more than just Al Bundy. his performance in this movie is entirely different than the Married With Children character and is just a blast to watch.

2) This marks John Hughes’ last great movie ever. :( A sad fact but significant nonetheless.

3) It is just a great movie.

Anyway, like I said, nothing really notable this week EXCEPT for this. However, in my book this IS notable. Plus it’s only $13 at Amazon. Well worth every penny.

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DVD Tuesday (the new and improved actually on Tuesday edition)

Well, it is the DVD Tuesday post, this time actually on Tuesday. Here are the discs I will be looking at picking up today (though not necessarily all of them or even any of them).

Bambi

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie

Bringing Up Baby

Other notable releases are:
Hoosiers (2-Disc rerelease)
My Own Private Idaho (A Criterion 2-disc to boot)
Exorcist: The Beginning (*NOTE* This is not the original Schrader cut. I would STRONGLY recommend waiting for the Schrader cut instead of this stinker).

Will comment on the discs I pick up later.

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Oscar is snoring

Well, I did it. For the first time ever since I have been a movie freak and watching the Oscars religiously (probably like ummmmm… 13-14 years now) I went to bed before Actors, Director, and Picture awards were announced.

This is the year that Oscar bored me to sleep. Call me a fanboy, or mainstream, or joe six pack, but I had no interest in any of the nominations for the most part. Sure I like Clint, and Marty, Jamie is a decent guy and everyone loves Johnny, but the roles or pictures they were nominated for were enough to just suck the interest right out of me…

What’s funny is that I’m not the only one. From friends, family, and websites alike this year I heard it constantly. “Why was Saideways nominated?” “Million Dollar Baby was good but hardly enough to be remembered in 10 years.” “Aviator was not even good as Gangs of New York, let alone some of Scorcese’s best pictures.” And Hillary Swank.. man.. she isn’t a bad actress, but CERTAINLY not good enough to earn ONE Oscar, let alone two… oh wait, that was me saying that.

Anyway, Jodie Foster said it best this year. What a bore for Oscar. Luckily Hollywood is cyclical and every time you have a drab and boring year in it it causes investors to flood in and start investing in more pictures, better pictures. So I guess we can thank the 2005 Academy Awards for being such a stinker. Hopefully that means the 2006 and definitely 2007 awards will really be something to crow about.

Anyway, I’m not even going to bother printing the results here. You can go to www.oscar.com to see the results for yourself. I’ve already had enough sleep for one night. I don’t need a few more minutes while posting that yawn-worthy list.

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DVD Tuesday

So I picked up a few DVDs yesterday. Haven’t watched them all but here they are (and also some I didn’t pick up but would like to or will just mention)

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

This is the first release this week from Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli company. To understand the importance of this you first might need a little background. Studio Ghibli is a Japanese Animation studio; think the Jpanese version of Disney. Only instead of creating family oriented movies with minium storytelling and cheap animation, they weave deep and enriching storys inside some of the finest animation ever to be put on screen.

Nausicaä was, previous to Spirited Away, considered Miyazaki’s crowning achievment. It is a story about how man has destroyed Earth’s environment in the far distant future and Princess Nausicaä’s attempt to prevent to warring tribes from destroying it even further. However despite the mature sounding themes present Miyazaki has approached the story as he always has and made it entirely accessible by kids as well. It is a wonderful story and at the same time very emotionally satisfying. While Spirited Away is his crowning achievment, and may well be never replaced (it is currently the highest grossing movie in Japan, even beating Titanic over there) this movie is still certainly no letdown and arguably better than anything released in the US in the past few years.

This movie comes to you on an outstanding two disc DVD collection, with plenty of insight into the story as well as the animation and history of the movie. You are also able to watch the movie in a dubbed english track or in its original japanese language audio track and English subtitles.

Porco Rosso

This is the second release from Studio Ghibli this week. Like Nausicaä, this film was also written and directed by Miyazaki-san. Instead of going for the morality of Nausicaä or the sheer wonder of Spirited Away, this instead is Miyazaki’s attempt at a more straight forward action adventure story, and the results are unbelievable. The story centers around Porco, or The Crimson Pig (literal English translation). He is a man whose head was turned into a pig’s head for some reason. He spends the entire movie fighting evil (in the form of Facism) anbd rescuing people. The movie has an level of fun and excitement to it equal to any similar live action movie released. Fair doses of comedy and action keep the movie going while rarely slowing down. I am not a big fan of the voice dubbing which was newly create for this release. The Japanese track is better IMHO though then you have the subtitle translation which similar to the voice dubbing falls a little flat.

Unlike many of Miyazaki’s other movies, there is no message or morality or enviornmental awareness here. This is a pretty straight foward look at high adventure fantasy, with some elements of self-awareness thrown into the mix. Definitely a good time. Like the other two Ghibli releases this week, this is a two disc special edition with plenty of extras to find out more about the movie.

The Cat Returns

The final film this week to be released by Studio Ghibli, this one was not written or directed by Miyazaki himself as he served as Executive Producer only. However, it is still not to instantly see the tremendous amount of charm and passion put into this movie. It is an excellent fairy tale about a girl who saves a cat, one who turns out to be a prince and begins to change her life forever out of gratitude. It brings back characters originally seen in Whisper of the Heart which in fact WAS written by Miyazaki in an effort to begin grooming other directors and producers for work at Studio Ghibli. Sadly, the director of Whisper of the Heart died shortly after the movies release. The director for The Cat Returns does an admirable job though and the story, while not Ghibli’s finest, definitely holds up against virtually any non-Pixar American animated movie released over the last 10 years. As with the other two this is a wonderful 2-disc special edition and is available in either it’s original japanese language with english subtitles or dubbed in english.

Get Shorty Special Edition

Seriously, what is there not to like about this movie. It has one of John Travolta’s best performances, it has an outstanding non-Italian role by Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini, Renee Russo, Danny DeVito, Gene Hackman.. the list just goes on and on. To sum it up brief, Travolta plays a mob shylock (money collector) who is sent out west to get some money back. After getting out he decides to get into the movie business, using Gene Hackman, a different guy he was sent to collect money from, as his in.

The sheer number of side plots in this movie are outstanding. The writing is outstanding. The acting is outstanding. The script is witty, sharp, and never pandering. The humor is definitely dark and a little dry, but if you don’t need to see someone slip on a banana to get the joke this movie has more than enough comedy to go around. But by far, some of the best comedy in the entire thing has to be just the dead perfect delivery of the lines and the body language and facial expressions that accompany them.

As you can tell, I am a huge fan of this movie, and if you give it a chance, you will be too. As an added bonus, for a limited time copies of the movie come with a free movie cash ticket (i.e. works with pass list suspended) for the sequel coming out next month, Be Cool.

I Heart Huckabees

I know nothing about this movie, though have heard good things about it. Best Buy has it on sale for $15.99 this week. I bought it. That is all. Though I will post the editorial review from Amazon to not totally leave you hanging.

Billed as “an existential comedy,” I Heart Huckabees is a flawed yet endearingly audacious screwball romp that dares to ponder life’s biggest questions. Much of director David O. Russell’s philosophical humor is dense, talky, and impenetrable, leading critic Roger Ebert to observe that “it leaves the viewer out of the loop,” and suggesting that Russell’s screenplay (written with his assistant, Jeff Baena) is admirably bold yet frustratingly undisciplined. Russell’s ideas are big but his expression of them is frenetic, centering on the unlikely pairing of an environmentalist (Jason Schwartzman) and a firefighter (Mark Wahlberg) as they depend on existential detectives (Lily Tomlin, Dustin Hoffman) and a French nihilist (Isabelle Huppert) to make sense of their existential crises, brought on (respectively) by a two-faced chain-store executive (Jude Law) and his spokesmodel girlfriend (Naomi Watts), and the aftermath of 9/11’s terrorism. No brief description can do justice to Russell’s comedic conceit; you’ll either be annoyed and mystified or elated and delighted by this wacky primer for coping with 21st century lunacy. Deserving of its mixed reviews, I Heart Huckabees is an audacious mess, like life itself, and accepting that is the key to enjoying both.

Others

Some other releases I was interested in or just discs in general I looked at were Heat Special Edition, Farscape Starburst Edition Volume 2, The Grudge, South Park Season 5, and X-Files Season 1 (when will they ever lower that price.. ugghh).

Until next Tuesday (yes, it will be next Tuesday….)

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Battlestar Galactica

Well, just out of sheer coincidence I checked out the upcoming schedule for Universal HD and noticed that BSG was showing up in the guide for last night. I checked out which it was and lo and behold it was the uncut miniseries with no commercial interruptions. Obviously I Tivo’ed it (and got great weather to boot so no flaws whatsoever) First the technical quality..

As far as I can tell, even though UHD transmits in Dobly Digital, the soundtrack was only in pro-logic. I checked the DVD packaging and the DVD is indeed in Dolby 5.1, so that was kind of disappointing. That being said though, my receiver’s Dolby Pro-LogicIIx capabilities made it sound pretty damn close to Dolby 5.1.

The picture was obviously outstanding. I honestly cringe to watch Sci-Fi or actually any standard definition TV these days just because it looks so bad, but alas that is the only way I can see shows on Sci-Fi so I deal. Well, being able to see this in high definition made me smile.. The quality was ok, but that means it still looked better than most of the best DVDs..

Anyway though, believe it or not I didn’t make this post to talk about the show in HD (though it is definitely the best way to watch it). Instead I made it to reaffirm how truly great this series is. The show has been finished in the UK for about a month or so now and easily available on the Internet, but for those of us still waiting to get through the american season, we are only about halfway through (episode 7). The writing in this show, the dialogue that is, is just pehnomenal. People say what they would say in real life, act how they would act, and they do all of this without submitting themselves to the VERY typical cliches that pop up in virtually every TV series, let alone sci-fi series.

The space fx are awesome, which is really a testament considering I believe that if they were to use their actual models and scenes in a typical shooting style that the modeling wouldn’t look much better than any other current series. But instead they don’t have us focus on the ship models but the action and the story of the combat. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head that can compare to this are the Star Wars movies and the Klingon invasion of Deep Space Nine. To have such capital or widescale combat going on as a single narative without resorting to one person “doing it all” is very refreshing.

Off of the mini-series, some things of the regular series have just blown me away. You Can’t Go Home Again is one of the best hours of television I have ever seen. EVER! The entire show was about making “wrong” decisions based solely on feelings and people not losing hope. After the President chews out the Adamas and Apollo says “I think she’s wrong, I have come to terms with Zack’s death” and Adama sayd “I haven’t.” Man… and the tension of starbuck getting the wing to fly and the series being young and not knowing if they were going to rescue her or blow her up.. I mean sure you thought “Well obviously she is going to be rescued” but you really don’t know.

Likewise in Six Degrees of Separation.. you don’t know what is going to happen to Baltar. They just showed last episode that they can take a semi-regular and throw him in the brig (and offscreen). and the way they are really starting to mess with you on whether Six is a halucination, an implant, real, or all of those.

anyway.. this show rocks. if you have never watched an episode of it you really have to ask yourself why. It airs Friday night at 9pm CST on the Sci-Fi Channel (right after Stargate SG-1 and Stargte Atlantis). The DVD of the mini-series is available for purchase, and if you are at all a fan of science fiction or just love great stories and great writing, you NEED to see this series. And to those who say “I really don’t watch much television,” you need to then STOP watching an hour worth of shows you do watch every week now and pick this one up instead. I guarantee there is SOMETHING on your schedule that doesn;t even come close to the writing and acting of this series.

On a similar sci-fi related note, for those who missed The 4400 mini-series on USA last year, it begins airing tonight on Sci-Fi. Two episodes nightly for three nights starting at 7pm CST.

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