Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

I can't believe it!  A good horror movie?  And more than that, a good horror remake!  I thought I hated horror remakes?  I went out of my way in my hugely positive review for "The Guard" to moan for a full paragraph.  Then, just to prove how much of an idiot I really am, a wonderful remake of "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" is released, produced by none other than Guillermo Del Toro.  And I feast ravenously on humble pie.  Mmmm... I can feel my pride as an Internet Guy melting away.

"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" is a remake of the 1973 TV also known as "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark".  If it were a remake and they changed the name, it would be really confusing, right?  To remove some confusion, this movie has absolutely nothing to do with the Nickelodeon TV show, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" - though its a shame nobody ever made a movie about that!  Now the 70s TV movie is something of an obscure classic of the horror genre... which really confuses me because not only have I not seen that movie, I've never even heard of it!  I'm a man who watched "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein", and I never heard of this one.  Clearly my movie knowledge isn't as extensive as I thought either.  And I do so well at games of "Seen It".  Well, I guess there are true movie masters and people who can only dream, like myself.

Guillermo Del Toro is one of those true masters.  The guy has had a rough patch of years since "Pan's Labrador".  Wikipedia is completely confused by what movies he may or may not be making, his article is a total mess of failed projects and submerged films.  First he's directing "The Hobbit".  Not any more, that movie turned into a huge legal mess and Del Toro just couldn't take the Development Hell any longer.  Now Peter Jackson is taking over.  Then Guillermo is making movies for Universal, all five planned films are in limbo.  Then he's doing a second "Haunted Mansion" for Disney.  Then he's doing "At the Mountains of Madness" (which was flat-canceled*), then its "Beauty and the Beast", and then its some Godzilla movie.  How many of these things are going to become movies?  I have no idea.  Honestly I want to watch all of them, but fate doesn't seem to be on my side here.  Still we can all thank the God of Films in the sky that "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" actually got made.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bleach Recaps: Ep. 219, Rock Lobster!

Holy crap!  This episode was AWESOME!

So I survived Hurricane Irene.  I saw at least one person was actually concerned about me, to which I'm thankful.  As it turns out, Irene was far too busy losing all her strength before reaching the New York City area to actually disrupt my life.  So not only was I completely unharmed the power stayed on, and indeed I even saw a movie last night, "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" - look for a review soon.  All we got here was a little rain, a few branches fell, and days and days of endless news reports and warnings that it turns out we didn't need at all.  It was a nasty storm, but not exactly a life-ender.  We got lucky here, that's clear.  And I can't help but think that God himself intervened in order to let me see this wonderful "Bleach" episode.  Yeah, this episode was that good that I consider its existence to be an act of God.  It was incredible.  As exciting as a hurricane is, "Bleach" this week was even more action-packed.

There hasn't been a fight scene this good since the Ichigo vs. Grimmjow episodes which were - what? - two years ago now?  Yeah, there have been a few good episodes here and there since then, but let's be honest:  pretty much every show I've recapped so far has been universally horrible.  Lately things have only been getting worse, last week's episode being an especially low point.  You know an episode has to be fucking lousy when I start wondering if I should end these recaps altogether.  And honestly, you wouldn't think last night's episode would be any better.  Mr. 69 fights a nameless Arrancar?  Hardly better than Kira fighting some other nameless enemy in terms of plot importance.  But that's not calculating the magic that can occur when suddenly the animators start to give a shit.  Suddenly you get an action scene with proper pacing, creative camera angles, and actual excitiment.

WHY CAN'T EVERY EPISODE BE LIKE THIS??  Why do we have to put up with bullshit every other Saturday of the year!?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Guard

Now this may not mean all that much considering the kind of year that we've been having film-wise, but "The Guard" is the best movie of 2011.  So far, of course - I do have hopes that other movies will top this one.  But for now "The Guard" is king.  Long live the king.  The conclusion I've drawn about 2011 is that America as a filmmaking nation has failed this year.  We made "Drive Angry" and "Winnie the Pooh", otherwise we should be ashamed of ourselves.  How did we fuck up "Captain America"?  Seriously?  How did we fuck that up?  So instead, I think I'm going to see what Ireland can deliver.

I first ran into "The Guard" when I snuck into it for ten minutes waiting between "Another Earth" and "The Devil's Double" at the nearest arthouse movie theatre.  Both of those movies are completely forgettable and disappointing, I've been all through that before.  But "The Guard", that was something special.  I could tell immediately it was special because people were laughing, something I rather doubt people do at arthouse cinemas.  If you want to look sophisticated and "above Hollywood drivel", you can't laugh.  You're not supposed to enjoy a movie because its funny or exiting or cool, you enjoy it because its some kind of brilliant exploration of the hidden emotions of socioeconomic racial disparities or a postmodern deconstruction of socialist gender modes, or some bullshit.  Anybody who has enjoyed a Lars von Trier film is not a person who is emotionally capable of laughter.  However, "The Guard" got them to laugh, they weren't loving this movie for the art, they were loving it because it was a great movie.

"The Guard" is a dark comedy starring Brendan Gleeson as an Irish cop (or "Guarda" as their cars call them) who largely does not give a shit.  He's fat, he's alone, he generally screws around with everybody he meets, and he likes his liquor and whores, that's it.  As a matter of fact, Brendan Gleeson doesn't give a shit so much, he's actually the last Irish cop around on the west coast.  So when a trio of ruthless yet oddly philosphical drug dealers come into town, its up to Gleeson and his Black America buddy cop (the buddy cop has to be Black, this is a law), Don Cheadle, to kick some ass.  Everything about this movie is fun, hilarious, and well-scripted.  Its just perfect for what its trying to do, its excellent.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bleach Recaps: Ep. 218, Captain Buzzkill and the Letdowns

Alright, for a second I considered actually ending the "Bleach" recaps.  This show has gotten really terrible and boring really really fast, almost stunningly so.  Honestly, I don't think I have much more of this show left in me, I think I'll continue until Ichigo beat Ulquiorra and end it there.  So why am I continuing at all?  Well, one guy complained in the comments, and I feel bad.  If he had said "where is Bleach?" I might not have even considered going ahead.  But his complaint was such a silly demand, almost childish.  It was just "BLEACH.".  One word.  More of a heckle than an intelligent comment, but it spoke to me.  If honestly nobody cares to see these any more, please tell me.  This is turning into way more of a job than it should be, which is why you might see more of my schedule falling to pieces like it did this week.

Okay, as I mentioned, "Bleach" has gotten painfully boring.  "Bleach" 218 is just the most boring thing I can possibly imagine, to the point that I wish that we were back in the Amagai Arc.  Yeah, I know I say a lot that I like the fighting scenes, but this fighting scene is so utterly pointless.  Its between Kira, a character I don't like, and an Arrancar we met only two episodes ago.  He's nobody!  What is the point of this crap?  The Arrancar guy has no backstory, not all that much character, not a particularly interesting way of fighting, and ultimately, no purpose at all other than to give Kira an episode in which to do something.  And why would I want to watch a Kira episode?  Why would anybody?  Are there Kira fans out there?  Seriously, are there?  I can see them now, a gaggle of Japanese schoolgirls writing furious death threats to Tite Kubo because Kira didn't get enough to do in the Aizen battle.  I can see it now:

"Tokyo News Special Report:  Famous manga author Tite Kubo was murdered today by a deranged fan dressed as a Soul Reaper.  The fan reportedly killed the author because his favorite character did not get to fight a minor disposable red shirt character in one the show's arcs.  Kubo is survived by his wife, a pair of fashionable sunglasses."

Actually, that sounds like something I'd want to see.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ghost Rider 2 Trailer

2007's "Ghost Rider" was an especially poignant moment in the history of film.  ...Actually no, it wasn't.  "Ghost Rider" actually is one of the very few movies that caused me to actively wonder if I had seen it.  As a matter of fact, "Ghost Rider" is the only movie that I've managed to forget about.  Words written in concrete fade faster than my encyclopedic memory of every movie I have witnessed.  From "Pig Hunt" to "Swimming With Sharks" to "Blade Runner", I got it all.  I forget nothing.  Yet Nicholas Cage's painfully generic superhero movie forced me to look it up before I could remember it.  Not even "Daredevil" did that to me.  Not even the Thomas Jane "Punisher" movie.  Not even Thomas Jane remembers that movie, and I do!  But "Daredevil" defeated the master, it was just that mediocre, that mundane, that utterly without positives and serious negatives, that it lost me.

You know how dull and forgettable "Ghost Rider" is?  I forget the title of the movie while writing this very post!  So here's a trailer, let's see if it can make an impact:

Okay, so we open with two guys who claim to be co-directors.  I believe the bald guy on the left might actually be a director, but the guy on the right... no way.  That guy is so redneck that he must be physically incapable of making any movie that doesn't include the words "Dale Earnhardt" or "Dale Earnhardt Jr." in the title.  Also, can these guys possibly have their tongues in their cheek any further?  I get the sense that the co-directors are about to burst into hysterical laughter at any time.  "No, we're shitting you, Internet!  You fell for it!  Ghost Rider 2, that's the oldest one in the book."  Now given assurance that this movie is in the sturdy directorial hands of these two, the trailer can begin.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

As you might have noticed, my plan of a "Summer of Dragon Quest" has really fallen apart.  Instead I've retooled the project as a "Second Half of 2011 of Dragon Quest"!  Which is just as good, though a lot less snappy to say.  Unfortunately I just do not beat RPGs all that fast.  So I'm about two thirds of the way through "Dragon Quest VIII", and I fear if I don't review it now, I'll never review it at all.  I'm currently thirty hours in, and as far as I know, there could be another thirty hours ahead of me.  That means the review happens now, and as a matter of fact, you're reading it.

"Dragon Quest VIII" is a notable chapter in the Dragon Quest story because it was the first - and so far* the only - fully 3D main series Dragon Quest game ever made.  Its also the first and only one to have voice acting, which is a feature that only came in the overseas versions.  This is also the first game to feature Level-5 as the main developer working under Square Enix and Dragon Quest grandfather, Yuji Horii.  In North America, "Dragon Quest VIII" probably more than any other game allowed this franchise to gain a large fanbase, though this title is probably still best known for coming paired with the demo for "Final Fantasy XII".  Its certainly the first Dragon Quest game I ever saw, even though it took me some six years to finally play it.

Now "Dragon Quest VIII" is a milestone.  Unlike the latter day Final Fantasy titles on the PS2 and PS3, its kept up the same classic styles of the older games like "Dragon Quest IV".  This isn't an update of the Dragon Quest formula, simply a repainting.  It may have the graphical powers of the PS2, but it is much less advanced than a typical PS2 RPG.  Dragon Quest is not a franchise that moves into the future without being dragged kicking and screaming.  And as always, I got to admire that kind of steadfast obsession with remaining the same.  Everything about this game is classic.  They didn't remake the franchise when it came into the third dimension, they took a regular Dragon Quest world and gave it 3D graphics and voice acting.  Everything else was kept the same.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Machine Gun Preacher Trailer

What do you get when you try to make a stirring religious movie to appeal to the Evangelicals by showing how White Men can still save the world, and instead end up with a movie that looks like the newest feature in the "Grindhouse" series?  "Machine Gun Preacher", that's what.

I'm not entirely sure how Hollywood could have made this mistake.  You wanted to show Red Staters a movie where Christian moral values and geterdone toughness can solve all of the world's problems, and instead made something that I'm actually 50% sure that I want to see.  Why do I want to see it?  Because its called "Machine Gun Preacher"!  If the main character doesn't fight with a massive canon in the shape of a cross like on "Trigun", I will feel profoundly ripped-off.

Yeah, I guess somewhere in this trailer there's some kind of plotline about building an orphanage and the main character finding himself and making a difference.  But there's a also trailer where Gerard Butler probably single-handedly destroys the entire Sudanese military.  All it needs are some proper 80s action movie lines like "Jesus forgives... I don't" and "The Lord said, let there be DIE!!!".  Gerard Butler totally needs two pistols on each hip named "Fire" and "Brimstone".  And that outfit is way too civilian, he needs to dress up in full black robes and get a big ass preacher hat.  Also, Sudan is a nasty place and I'm sure its military isn't staffed with nice people, but couldn't they have found a way to have Gerard Butler fight some Satan-worshiping vampires?

Sadly, I think this movie is only half a self-parody.  They need to go all the way with this concept.  Gerard Butler needs to crucify at least one person, and he needs to beat somebody to death with a King James Bible.  It is necessary.  Because that's what a movie called "Machine Gun Preacher" promises, and I don't think this particular film is going to deliver.  Too bad.

"I kick ass for the lord."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Devil's Double

I went to the movies recently to see "Another Earth".  I came in hopeful for a thought-provoking intriguing SciFi movie that wouldn't be afraid to delve into serious emotions.  I left knowing that I had been lied to, conned, and completely ripped-off, so I snuck into "The Devil's Double" in order to get my full ticket price.  If "Another Earth" didn't want to be a proper movie about doppelgangers, then certainly a movie about Uday Hussein's body double can scratch that itch.  Might not be introspective SciFi, but essentially a mafia movie set in Saddam's Iraq?  Count me in on that!

First some history:  Uday Hussein, in case you didn't know, was Saddam Hussein's first-born son and nominal successor for many years.  Uday was also an extremely notorious sadist, being completely unhinged and uncontrollably insane.  And remember, Uday is in Saddam's Iraq, not exactly a place lacking in psychopaths working for the dictatorship, and somehow he still managed to stand out as being especially nuts.  He was so deranged that Saddam actually had to jail him for awhile after he murdered his father's main lieutenant in public, in front of the wife of the President of Egypt.  Eventually Uday was paralyzed in an assassination attempt, which mellowed him out considerably, and thankfully took him out of a position of command.  His younger brother, Qusay took over.  Both were killed in a firefight with US special forces during the 2003 invasion.

"The Devil's Double" is a movie made about Uday's body double, Latif Yahia, and is partially based on Yahia's own memoirs.  The main gimmic of the movie is that it stars only a single actor to play both Yahia and Uday, the British Dominic Cooper, who recently was Papa Stark in "Captain America".  Cooper is excellent in both roles, but it leads to a number of problems with the movie, mainly that the entire time you can't actually tell which one is the hero and which one is the dictator's son.   The gruesome horrors of Saddam's reign are pictured well, though, and the movie is fun.  Unfortunately, its just not fun enough.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bleach Recaps: Ep. 217, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Let me sum up "Bleach" 217 in one word:  gay.

So I'm not going to recap this one.  Its an entire episode based around Charlotte, the most offensively awful character ever made.  You take Dondochakka, Granz, Pesche, Princess Lampshade-hat, Jar Jar Binks, Tingle, Vaan, and throw in six Carmen Ghias for the right about of pure homosexuality, then you get Charlotte.  I physically could not watch for a single second.  Instead I watched "Married With Children" on Nickelodeon, that wasn't unrelentingly horrible.  I'd rather watch an marathon of Larry the Cable Guy movies.  On that thought, all you need to do is put Larry in a thong and you'll approximate the raw pain that comes from watching a single moment of this show.  I'd rather have the box set of the "Transformers" trilogy surgically sewn into my optic nerve so I can never see anything ever again but Michael Bay's filmmaking brilliance.

Hell, I'll dress up as Charlotte myself before watching him on TV.  At least that way I don't have to see it.

So the recap I'll give is this:  gay.  That's the only word I'll ever need to describe this episode.  Instead, I'll throw in a pic of all the "Bleach" girls standing around looking sexy.  I was going to go with the nude one, but I suspect somebody would get made at me if I did that.  Here's to next week, when "Bleach" might actually be watchable.

Another Earth

So this review is going to be quick right now.  "Another Earth" is a movie that is the biggest lie since the Donation of Constantine.  It promised to be a SciFi film with an interesting premise:  what if there was another Earth in the sky where another you lived?  Well, the movie then goes out of its way to completely ignore the implications of that idea, and instead is a lame pretentious Indie movie.  Here's a tip, film-makers, if you're going to make a movie called "Another Earth", have at least one SECOND of your movie take place on Another Earth!!  This isn't a SciFi movie, its a boring drama that just happens to take place in the same universe where a SciFi movie might be taking place.

The real plot is about some chick who looks like Lightning from "Final Fantasy XIII" sitting around looking dreary and not talking for a long time.  She ran over some ugly dude's family a few years ago, so now she's depressed and gets naked in the snow at one point in a repulsive soup of over-thought symbolism.  So Lightning goes over to the dude's house, tries to apologize, but since she's a loser, she chickens out and instead becomes his maid.  Then they fall in love.  At this point I considered fleeing the movie theatre, but stuck with it because at least the television and radio reports in the background are talking about Earth 2.  Lightning finally wins a trip to Another Earth, has a Golden Ticket... but then has to tell the dude that she killed his family, and they're all sad.  Then she gives him the ticket, and WE NEVER GET TO EARTH 2!!  The movie ends just as the concept gets interesting, just when Lightning is visited by her doppelganger.  Lightning stares at Lightning, and... movie over.  Do they make-out?  Do they touch and cause the universe to implode upon itself like at the end of "Southland Tales"?  You'll never know, because the horrible filmmakers of this horrible movie don't care about that, they care about the boring shit.  All the Earth 2 business is some kind of complex arty symbolism that I really don't feel like unraveling.

So exactly at the moment that "Another Earth" stops being a boring as fuck drama movie and becomes the movie I wanted to see from the beginning, it ends.  So if you never heard of "Another Earth", that's good, because you don't want to see it.  Its a lie.  Its a fraud.  Its a rip-off.  Critics have praised this movie for being a SciFi movie without aliens and laser guns, but I wanted the laser guns!  This is the least fun movie ever made, the exact kind of slow overwrought piece of shit movie that people only pretend to like to make themselves seem more sophisticated.

I really need to read reviews before seeing movies, don't I?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Dance With Dragons

Let's be quick with this right now:  "A Dance With Dragons" is the worst book of "A Song of Ice and Fire".  I know a lot of people consider "A Feast For Crows" to own that dishonorable position, but they're wrong.  "A Feast For Crows" might be slow, disjointed, and clearly inferior to the first three books, but its not a giant tease.  It at least has the good measure to finish up its plot points.  I was fine with the way the events at King's Landing ended up in that book.  Somehow "A Dance with Dragons" is the second-longest book, with over 1000 pages, yet it can't finish anything.

There is no satisfaction to be found at the end of this book.  Rather there's only more hunger.  Because every single plotline ends mostly incomplete you're left with nothing to enjoy.  The main point of this book is two wars, one in the North, one in Essos.  Neither are completed.  The book actually ends just as battle is about to begin on one front, and another battle occurs off-page, and the only possible conclusion we're given is a letter from a character who is untrustworthy to say the least.  These should be great moments, but they're not in this book.  Combine that with the fact that the first 600 pages have basically nothing happen, and you have a book that is miserable.  "A Dance with Dragons" could be part of a great story, merely a lead-up to the final act, but on its own, its nothing.  Cliffhangers, cliffhangers, and more cliffhangers.  Nothing is answered, nothing is gained, one step forward, three steps back.  The worst part is that Martin doesn't write quickly, so we have to wait YEARS AND YEARS for these cliffhangers to be answered.  Only a very cruel cruel author would leave his readers hanging on these plotpoints like this, when the next book probably won't be out for another half a decade, at least.

What this book needed more than anything else was another 200 pages.  You just can't leave the story like this.  In "A Game of Thrones", the book doesn't end with Eddard Stark's execution.  No, it properly continues, so that you know exactly what that execution means.  You know that the next phase of the story has begun.  This book doesn't do that.  It ends on a similarly dark note, but I don't even know if the character in question is even really dead, let alone what that's done to the political situation.  This is a book without an ending, it ends right before the climax.  Right before everything I've been waiting a whole year to happen.  And what that means, is that the next book, "The Winds of Winter", is going to have to do the work that "A Dance With Dragons" put off till later.  So if you think that "A Song of Ice and Fire" will end in two books, you are dreaming.  There is no way in Hell Martin can finish this story up in just two books.  Its hopeless now.

So that's the non-spoiler part of this review.  After this comes the spoilers, and there are a lot.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Harry Potter and the Search for One More Sequel

Okay, let's be serious for a moment.  2011 has not been a good year for movies.  Some of the movies I was looking forward to the most, "Sucker Punch" and "Captain America", totally sank.  "Sucker Punch" would have been the worst movie I'd seen all year... if not for "Green Lantern".  Let's not get started again on "Green Lantern", we've been down that road before.  "Rango" disappointed, "Cars 2" was as bad as we all thought, its been a nightmare.  The lone pleasant surprise was "Pirates of the Caribbean 4", the rest was either as bad as I thought, or way way worse.  You know how bad this year has been?  "Battle: Los Angeles" is the fifth best movie release so far.  In a good year, "Battle: Lost Angeles" would merely be a middle of the road film, not in the Top 5.

Let's see if "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" can save the year.  Its the best grossing movie of the year; money means something on some level, right?  Also, I still don't actually know how the Harry Potter saga ends, so I simply had to see this movie to get closure on that part of my life.  I know the rest of my generation has probably already read the book nine times, and beyond that went to see the movie on opening night.  At some point or another I lost interest in Harry Potter and started watching anime.  Now however, this door must be closed.  I must see how Harry Potter kills Voldemort and has sex with Ron's little sister.

Compared to "Harry Potter 7", "Harry Potter 7.5" has a lot less camping.  So there's a plus.  The minus is, it doesn't have Harry dancing with Hermione either.  So there's a minus.  There really isn't room for a dancing scene of slow emotional build, because this entire movie is a war film.  Yup, Harry Potter is now fighting the ultimate battle against good and evil, and Hogwartz is the battlefield.  The bodies of students litter the wrecked classrooms as Harry fights Voldemort for the entire world.  These movies got dark, man.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Odd Life of Timothy Green Trailer

Okay, this is the weird trailer I've seen in a long time.  Jennifer Gardner and her husband can't have children because her womb has been cursed ever since she slept with Ben Afflack in "Daredevil".  So she and her husband make a wish... and a mud-encrusted child is born, exactly how the parents' dreamed:

So the rest of the trailer is various scenes of people looking vaguely happy.  The kid comes out of his earthly womb recognizing his parents, assuring them that he is their son.  Now I guess Gardner and her husband have to prove to their neighbors that they didn't kidnap some kid.  Then... um... the kid raises his hands, and then apparently delivers the Sermon on the Mount.  The Hell?  What kind of movie is this?  I honestly have no idea what to make of this one.  Disney only wanted to make a vaguely pleasant movie to make people vaguely happy, but instead, they made a trailer that has to be the most thought-provoking thing I've seen in a very long time.

But I do have a couple of latter thoughts.  I'll ignore the Jesus thing for now, that's the least bizarre thing about this trailer:

Monday, August 8, 2011

Bleach Recaps: Ep. 216, I'm Super Thanks For Asking

I realize that I've been doing these "Bleach" recaps for very nearly a year now.  In that year of recapping, picture capturing, and generally whininess, what have I learned?  When you spend a year of your life doing something, you should uncover some kind of great ultimate truth about yourself, the world, and stuff, right?  Well, so far, the biggest thing that I've learned is that Rukia looks really cute with her hair up.  That isn't going to serve me all that well in my adult life, is it?  The recaps definitely have not put this blog on the map like I dreamed, I don't care for "Bleach" any more than I used to, and um... well, yeah.  There we are.  Then again, these recaps aren't any less pointless and un-blog-mapping then any other post I do, so I guess we'll keep on keeping on.

First thing I want to say about episode 216:  I still like the opening theme.  That was the first thing I wanted to say.

The second thing is this:  has anybody noticed how decidedly un-epic this Final Battle of Ultimate Destiny has been so far?  This show has no sense of pacing or drama.  So far everybody has been standing around on clouds... not really doing anything.  Its wacky folk on one side and equally wacky folk on the other, this isn't the Battle of Helm's Deep here.  Heck, I'm surprised nobody brought up an N64 up there so that they could get a game in of "Smash Bros" in while they were waiting for the plot to get around to give them something to do.  Isn't this, you know, a WAR??  FIGHT!  Is there some kind of code of chivalry amongst the dead that means that you have to set up one-on-one fights amongst somewhat equally-matched opponents while everybody else watches?  If so, somebody should have brought beer, I think.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Review of the Rise of the Planet of the Apes of the Blue Highwind

I'm going to level with you Space Monkeys* here, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is not a movie I particularly liked.  And it wasn't a movie I particularly disliked either.  It was a movie that I particularly saw, and that's it.  I think I'm only making this post because I get to make a wacky title.

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is a movie that dares to ask this burning, emotionally stirring question:  can James Franco save his career after trying to co-host the Academy Awards with Jack Daniels?  The answer to that question is that James Franco's career was never actually in peril, the guy was signing deals to appear in a very ill-conceived "Wizard of Oz" remake.  So he's okay.  I think he's a douche now, and he'll never live down that show, but he'll be in movies and teaching college courses about himself for a very long time.

As for this reboot of everybody's favorite monkey franchise, its going to be okay as well.  The audience in the theatre I went to was loving this movie.  By the end, they all had betrayed their humanity and were rooting for the apes.  I'm not so easily mislead from my staunch loyalty to the human race.  If "Avatar" couldn't get me to side with the blue elves, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" won't get to pounding my chest for primates.  Also, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" just isn't all that well-made of a movie in the end.  It was "eh".  Whatever.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Foucault's Pendulum

What do you get if you mix the Knights Templar, Nazis, the Cathars, the Freemasons, Rosicrucian, Kabbalah, Alester Crowley, and an immortal 18th century aristocrat?  "Foucault's Pendulum" is a really weird smoothie of every flavor of European mysticism, occultism, and not a small amount of college socialism.  This is a novel by Umberto Eco, probably the only man alive who can write novels steeped in Medieval lore and complex scholarship and somehow or another be widely read.  I suspect its because Umberto Eco, from name down, actually is a Medieval Italian character.  If Dante didn't find a place for Umberto Eco in the "Divine Comedy", he definitely should have.

"Foucault's Pendulum" at its core is a reaction to the centuries of occult conspiracy theories that have dominated Europe's intellectual underground.  Umberto Eco, through his characters, sets out to create a Grand Unifying Theory of Conspiracy, which they call more simply, "the Plan".  In modern America, the conspiracy theories mostly revolve around the Kennedy Assassination and UFOs, but this realm of paranoid insanity has gone back centuries revolving around secret societies, wacky religious orders, and of course, the Knights Templar.  The characters in this book decide immediately that anybody who writes about the Knights Templar are automatically insane, so eventually they decide to make the most insane Knights Templar theory.

Of course, to get that level of insanity, to even understand half the things that Umberto Eco is talking about, you better know your history.  You need to know the Crusades, you need to know the Byzantines, you need to know Kabbalah, and you need to know what the heck Foucault's Pendulum is in the first place.  This is a book you read sitting in front of your laptop, plugging in the dozens of obscure words you'll find.  At one point Eco used a word "Metacyclosynchrotron" - a word so bizarre and esoteric that it beat Google.  I still don't know what the heck a "Metacyclosynchrotron" is, and if anybody has a clue, feel free to prove you're smarter than me.  There aren't many books that left me proud that I was able to slug through them while almost completely understanding*, but "Foucault's Pendulum" was one of them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Captain America

Oh...  I don't want to be writing a review in this tone.  I want to be glowing, full of love, like my "Winnie the Pooh" post.  What I want is to happily tell you that this is a magnificent find, Marvel's finest movie of the year.  "Captain America" had everything a great movie needed:  the right leading man, a WWII storyline, and a Superhero that's iconic enough that everybody knows him.  Well, I know of him, I have no idea what Captain America's powers are, but you know, he's an icon, I guess.

I know gloated at some point in my contempt for comic book movies that I would happily miss most of them this year.  Well, right now I'm four for four, as a matter of embarrassing fact, I've seen every superhero movie since "Iron Man", even "Green Lantern" when I knew that movie would suck!  This blog seems to force me to watch bad movies - not that I'm complaining.  "Green Lantern" was without a doubt the best comedy of the year - but "Captain America", I think, is a close second.  Because this movie is a joke.  If you want to know why in general I hate comic book movies, here you go, the gold standard example.  You know why these movies suck?  Because they're stupid!

"Captain America" isn't a WWII movie, its a movie that takes place during WWII.  Captain America doesn't fight Nazis, that's too real for the comic book fans, instead he fights COBRA from "G.I. Joe".  What, are the Nazis going to get offended?  Is Marvel afraid of a lawsuit from the estate of Hermann Goering?  Yeah, there's the most important war in all of history taking place, a battle against the worst supervillains that the human race has actually created... but let's instead have Captain America fight something from a Saturday morning cartoon.  This movie has a good cast, good characterization, the right period feeling, but the completely ridiculous, downright hilarious villains sink this movie right down to the dark depths of nothingness.  Definitely not worth seeing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

FIre Everybody

I don't do politics posts all that often anymore, because frankly, its too depressing.  But I figure somebody needs to say what I'm going to say now.

Okay, so America has this thing called "the debt ceiling".  If you turn on CNN or Fox or go to any news source, you'll hear a lot about it.  Congress, as mandated by the Constitution, is the only body that can borrow money.  Before WWI, Congress had to basically vote every single time the nation borrowed money.  But since WWI would require a huge amount of borrowing, we collectively lumped all of our debts into a single pile.  The debt ceiling is the legal limit set by Congress as to how much debt the federal government can take on - right now we're at $14.3 trillion in the hole.  If you don't raise the debt ceiling, you can't borrow more money, which means you physically will not have enough money to pay for things.  So you can't pay salaries of government employees, you can't pay the bills on the debt you already own, and you can't fund the wars we're fighting right now.

US Government Debt, as it turns out, is an important commodity in the world financial markets.  Because the US pays its debts without fail every single time, buying Treasury Securities, essentially lending money to the government in expectation of a higher return, is considered to be a "riskless investment".  The rate of return on US debt is so certain that its actually the basis of all interest rates everywhere.  You might even hold a piece of the US debt in a drawer someplace, you'll call it a "saving's bond".  Grandma gave it to your for your birthday God-knows how many years ago, and you most likely forgot you even had it.  By not raising the debt ceiling, we're essentially shaking the very foundation our entire monetary system is based upon.  You either raise the debt ceiling, or America defaults.  Only a complete moron or a psychopath utterly without any love for humanity would threaten this foundation - and sadly I think today's government is filled with people who are a mixture of both.