Saturday, December 29, 2012

review: Band Updates

I've been very, very lazy.  For some reason, despite more free time than ever due to unemployment, I am more lazy than I was when I was working 50 hours a week. This is a review of the concerts that I went to over the summer and I'm just gonna roll these into one giant review. In this review I'll be covering bands I've previously done reviews about: Foster the People, Young the Giant, and Gotye.

 The oldest concerts that I went to was for Young the Giant. You can find my initial review for them here. I first gave them 3 out of 5 stars which, in my now reformed former opinion of them, was generous. They really didn't deserve that review but that song "My Body" was just so freaking catching - I had to. However, due to my awesome cousin who works on their lighting crew, I was able to see them again when they came back to Portland in April. Not only had a had more of a chance to listen to their album but they also had time to enhance their live performance -which was lacking the first time around. They were better able to engage the audience - and maybe that because they're much more well known now - and they in turn were more reved up. I also got to meet their bassist  Payam Dootzadah, when my cousin took me and a friend backstage. They still have a great sound and even played a song off the new album they're working on. But for me, it mostly took time to get used to the remainder of their album and for them to up their stage presence. Having done that, for their revised rating I give 3.5 out of 5 stars to a more confident Young the Giant.

I saw Foster the People (initial review here!) with my mother at the Edgefield Summer Concert Series in June. Concerts take place on the Edgefield lawn - this huge open space out in Troutdale, Oregon. Edgefield is owned by McMenamins which owns a variety historical venues, hotels, brew pubs and restaurants all around the Portland metro area and extending beyond. Edgefield is actually a vineyard and hotel but they also host summer concerts on the lawn where they served food and alcohol - guaranteeing a fun evening. Concerts are for all ages and typically people throw down a blanket and chill out with the openers and then get up and dance for the headliners. Now, I've always liked the music from Foster the People and the concert didn't change my mind about that. But what it did reveal to me was that front man, Mike Foster, is kinda a dick. Most bands have at least the common courtesy of introducing their other members. Foster did none of that. Not only that but everyone was in grey or black but he wore white... yup - I stand by my assessment... kinda a douche. But they had a great backdrop, excellent energy and an awesome remix as their encore. So I had a great time. I maintain the original 4.5 out of 5 that I gave them for excellent music, stage presence, and overall fun but a douche for a lead singer.

Gotye (first impressions here) was the third concert I went to over the summer and another of the Edgefield Summer Concert Series - although I  did not attend this one with my mom. I still stand by initial assessment that his album is rather mismatched with his singles released from his Making Mirrors album being so vastly different but I do love his album in its entirety. Gotye is also a really cool dude. He introduced his entire band which definitely earns him points in my book. But by far the coolest thing about his concert were the amazing videos. Each one was different and so very interesting and odd. From trains in space to unzipping one's body to find out what's inside. The other really awesome thing was his song "Bronte". Before he started he asked the audience for quiet as it is an intense emotional song. Most of us complied - minus the assholes to our right who were talking about dogs pooping on their yard. Loudly. Throughout the entire song... Needless to say he was pissed off but instead of being an asshole about it he spoke about how going to a concert is like entering into an understood contract - he agrees to play and we agree to be the audience. For the concert to be awesome we need to listen and to respect each other. When that doesn't happen the concert experience fails one or both parties. Way to keep your cool, Gotye. If I could I would give Gotye 6 out of 5 stars for awesome energy, music, being an overall cool person. Kudos.

I highly recommend checking out all three bands!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

review: Sherlock (tv)

I have the theme song stuck in my head as I write this. Just FYI. That's how much I love this series. It's rather addicting despite the fact that there are not a lot of episodes out.

Sherlock is an awesome show on BBC (or more illegal places if you refuse to pay for cable -- like me). It is a crime drama show based on a more contemporary version of Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson. Now, Martin Freeman has been in all sorts of awesome movies and TV shows (The Office, Love Actually, and numerous cameos including Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) and definitely has some chops and although Cumberbatch has only been around for the last 10ish years and had his big break in 2004 by portraying Stephen Hawking in a TV movie and ever since then he's taken off - acting in huge movies and even rumored to have a part in the next J. J. Abrams Star Trek movie and Peter Jackson's new Hobbit trilogy.

Sherlock, if you've never read any of the books or seen any of the movies, is... well, a dick. He's arrogant, brusque to the point of rudeness, doesn't listen to anyone's opinion, is highly controlling and performs experiments on people without their consent or regardless of time of day or anyone's opinion. And this Sherlock is no exception to this rule. And like the other renditions of him out there, somehow his amazing powers of deduction seem to win over most people around him. Well, at least they respect his skills even if they can't stand him on a more personal level.

The series ends up taking very traditional and popular Sherlock Holmes tales, for example: A Study in Pink (well scarlet for the books), The Hound of Baskerville, and A Scandal in Belgravia (based on Scandal in Bohemia), and giving them an excellent modern update.

I have two problems with this series. One, like in the books, you can't solve the mystery before Sherlock explains it to you - there are no clues for you to follow, no facial expressions to catalog, no a-ha! moments. You just have to watch him solve it. And two, there are only three episodes out per season. And only two seasons!!!!! I must have more so step on it, BBC!

I give Sherlock 4.5 out of 5 stars for snarkiness, mystery and humor. You can watch a trailer for it here!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

review: Magic Mike (movie)

I didn't see this movie in theaters namely because 1- I couldn't convince anyone to go with me and 2- I couldn't talk myself into going to go see it alone. And I’m kind of glad it turned out this way. Instead of attempting to listen to Channing Tatum, apparently the world’s sexiest man (obviously they didn't seek my opinion), talk to people over really bad and loud remixes (almost like you’re in a real strip club!) which would cause my ears to bleed in the theaters, I got to watch it at home pausing to rewind the awkward and hard to hear dialogue.

I have to say after having seen this movie I have no idea why it was so phenomenally popular. When the plot finally appears it’s not original: a slightly messed up stripper boy with an unrealistic dream meets (apparently) hot sister of stripper friend and needs her disapproval of his stripping ways to save him from his messy life. Another thing: it takes the plot forever to emerge. I ended up stopping the movie about 15 minutes in so a friend could answer the phone and that’s when I noticed – there had been no plot yet. We had no idea what was going on in the movie. And while it was funny at the time, 45 minutes into the movie it really wasn't anymore. I guess they were trying to make it so subtle it was almost invisible. They try to portray the plot as his midlife crisis but it doesn't occur until about 30 minutes from the end. Instead most of the movie is about the fun a young stripper boy can have: girls, drinks, drugs, in general - a good time.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were some good points within the movie. What straight female/gay male doesn't like to ogle some pretty pretty men. And there were pretty men. Matt Bomer... yummy (and so gay). But that was probably the best part of the movie. That and the stripping routines were funny and interesting (see aforementioned pretty men). And is it just me or is the salvaged furniture that he makes really unattractive? And he dream of turning it into a business an unrealistic expectation, especially in Tampa, FL? *sigh*

So, basically the only redeemable thing about this movie is the pretty men and the main one isn't all that pretty. So, in short, don't go see Magic Mike. I give it 1.5 starts out of 5. 

You can watch the trailer here if you really want to subject yourself to it. It's at least shorter than the movie.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

review: The Dark Knight Rises (movies)

First off I must speak my peace pertaining to the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado. I don't want to talk about the shooter whose name I will not speak, for it is always the serial killers who get famous when it's the victims who deserve our focus, but I think George Takei said it best:

"Many victims of today's tragedy were fans of science fiction/fantasy. 
They stood in line to be the first to see, to be inspired and to escape. 
As a community of dreamers, we mourn this terrible tragedy 
and this senseless taking of innocent life."

As a fan of fantasy/science fiction, there is nothing that hurts me more than to see someone take something as innovative and far reaching as "Batman" and pervert the feeling that this character and this movie give us. At least the shooter didn't claim to be Batman, who everyone knows disparages the use of guns - as the movie and comic both show. Alright - enough of that. On to the review:

*** I'll try not to have tons of spoilers for this or the previous two movies 
(Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) but seriously - if you haven't seen these movies - GET WITH THE TIMES!***

Like everyone else who has seen the previous two installments of Nolan's Batman saga (I refuse to call it a trilogy in hope he'll make more), I was so excited to see The Dark Knight Rises. I had some concerns - namely if it would live up to the hype of being the supposed final installment, who the new love interest would be (yes, I knew it was Catwoman but that didn't mean that Bruce would like her) and if Anne Hathaway would actually make a good Catwoman because, let's face it, Michelle Phifer and Halle Berry most definitely did not.

The movie opens eight years in the future where Harvey Dent has been made into the white knight that Batman and Commissioner Gordon ensured that he would be at the end of The Dark Knight (so much for limited spoilers... oh well) by Batman by taking the blame for Dent's attacks and also for killing Dent. Wayne, although absent, is holding a party on the eighth anniversary of "Harvey Dent Day" where the city remembers its fallen white knight and how the city turned around and threw most of the organized crime members in jail without the possibility of parole. Wayne hasn't left his mansion since the Joker's defeat and Rachel's death. Alfred accuses him of running away from life. And he's right but Wayne won't admit it. Instead it take another woman to snap him out of his mundane existence. Could it be 1) Miranda Tate - sexy, smart business woman who wants to save the world via clean energy or 2) Selina Kyle - sexy, flexible, thief who breaks into Wayne Manor to steal Bruce Wayne's fingerprints.... and his mother's pearl necklace?

It's Selina Kyle - aka Catwoman - and boy, does she just sizzle. This was one of my biggest concerns going into the movie. Anne Hathaway was the lucky lady who received the role and I don't know if you've been following her career but she really hasn't had a lot of experience playing the vixen/bombshell or even the "bad guy". In fact every major movie she's been in she's been the victim or hapless princess or prissy receptionist (The Devil Wears Prada, The Princess Diaries, Ella Enchanted - see my worry?). Not that I don't love her work - I do, but I had doubt she would be able to pull of Catwoman who is the very antithesis of her previous works. Catwoman is suave, sexy without being objectified because God help you if you do, incredibly limber and seriously jaded (at least in Nolan interpretation). Gone is cartoon and comic Selina Kyle, wealthy philanthropist heiress with serious cat-lady issues. Hello pissed, rough and tough, Catwoman who will eat you alive.

So Catwoman escapes Wayne Manor with a pearl necklace and Bruce's fingerprint which she attempts to sell to his competitor Daggett, who is funding a take down of Wayne Enterprises - well, he really just wants to control it. Now, Wayne Enterprises is almost broke due to funding a very ambitious joint project between Wayne Enterprises and Miranda Tate for self-sustained renewable energy. This renewable energy source is a fusion reactor which could actually be used as a nuclear weapon. Thus Wayne locks it away until mankind can be trusted with this amount of power.

While this is happening Bane, a hugely powerful mercenary with a fanatical following, is building an army in the sewers.To what goals, we have no idea - but let's be honest - I doubt he's goiong to hand out hot chocolate and kittens to everyone. The only reason Batman even knows about Bane is due to Commissioner Gordon who ran into Bane in the sewers during a kidnapping/shootout with Catwoman. And Bane is the real danger here - his plan is to destroy Gotham - finishing Ra's Al Ghul's work that he and the League of Shadows started in Batman Begins.

The remainder of the movie finds Batman figuring out all the plot twists and tying up loose ends. Nolan does an amazing job keeping his audience entertain and invested in both the plot and the characters, both old and new, good and bad. I really can't go into more detail without giving away major plot lines, revelations and end game spoilers - I will say that this is a stunning conclusion to the story of Bruce Wayne and Batman. I give The Dark Knight Rises 5 out of 5 stars. It's a movie that makes you think about your own world and how you want it to go. It makes you feel for the characters, whether you liked them or not. And like all good legends - it inspires us. May your heroes never die.

You can check out the trailer here!

Monday, September 3, 2012

review: The Amazing Spider-man

Although I have seen all the old Spider-man movies starring Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, I was (somehow) not jaded enough to avoid seeing the new The Amazing Spider-man starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and (re-starring, as he also appeared in the previous franchise) Dennis Leary. And I must say, I enjoyed this re-boot.

It was billed as "the untold story" of Spider-man but how many untold stories are there? The origin story for Spider-man always center on Peter Parker's absent parent (dead? undercover? who knows!) so he has lived with his aunt (Mae) and uncle (Ben) since he was young. Now, according to the comic, teen Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider (thank you 1960's nuclear war paranoia) however in the movies it's a genetically engineered spider -- poTAYto, poTAto to me. In the 2002 Spider-man, the spider comes from Oscorp (same as the 2012 one) where Parker works in college but tours as a highschooler. In the new one, Parker sneaks into Oscorp (as a highschooler) to see what his father, an Oscorp employee who disappeared over 10 years ago, was working on. Now, although the base plots are very similar, the implications are worlds apart. In the 2012 movie - things are personal. Either way, Parker get bitten by spider which imparts him with awesome powers and super reflexes and stuff.

While Parker is running around enjoying his newly attained powers,  he still retains his  shy/geeky persona when he's not wearing his Spider-man mask and hormones, girls and responsibility are the bane of his existence. And it's the last item which leads to the death of Uncle Ben. Parker is shaken by his death and vows to use his powers to make things better - vigilante style. In this movie, quite a bit of the classic origin story is left out - namely Parker's stint as a professional wrestler... but that's kinda it. They both start in high school and are true to the comics in different ways. In this new one, that means Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). I had no idea who she was until I did a little research. Gwen is Parker's first college girlfriend. She was also a science major and more serious than Mary-Jane (the girls were good friends). Now, I don't want to give anything away, especially since there are going to be more movies - but something happens and Parker ends up with Mary-Jane.

I felt like this movie was much more lighthearted than the 2002 movie which took itself way to seriously. I also like how Spider-man was more glib and witty than Parker - being his alter-ego, it's important that Spider-man offers Parker the chance to do and say things that he can't as Peter Parker. I also thought the villain, The Lizard, was much more interesting than the Hob Goblin, despite being a much more minor character in the comic series. I have a feeling that The Lizard will be much more integral to this series seeming as he is Parker's link to his parents' disappearance and his father's work.

I give The Amazing Spider-man 4 out of 5 stars for an excellent cast, wit and excellent effects.

You can check out the trailer here!

Monday, August 13, 2012

review: Brave (movie)

According to many people, this movie was only okay. Most claimed the source of the meh-ness was that the movie was too Disney for a Pixar (which is owned by Disney...) movie. And I can kinda see where they're coming from looking at Pixar's previous films (here are some of the best): Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, WALL-E, Up, and Monsters Inc. All of these movies are so innovative in comparison to Brave which is kinda the new classic princess plot - i.e. a headstrong princess who wants to escape her fate so she takes it upon herself to find a way.... with the help of a witch and some magic (not the whole waiting on Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet). Nothing entirely original about that plot, but then again, what's original anymore? The thing that makes this movie seem to be a standout is the Celtic angle which is different from other classic Disney movies -- although Disney loves to come in and put their own spin on certain cultures as seen in Aladin (Middle Eastern culture but was originally Chinese) or Beauty & the Beast (which is supposed to be in France hence the opening song: "Bonjour").

Our story focuses on Merida, a spunky, headstrong, arrow-shooting princess of Scotland. As a child she was encouraged to be herself by her father, King Fergus, who gifted her with a bow. After misfiring an arrow the wee bonnie princess skips into the dark forest to collect the lost arrow. Some will-o'-the-wisp (same as a hinkypunk for all you Harry Potter fans!) lead her to her arrow but alas, as she leaves a giant bear attacks her and her father looses his leg in the process of saving her and Queen Elinor. Now, if this were a classic Disney movie Queen Elinor would hate the young princess and do everything to thwart her likelihood to make it to adulthood. Instead her mother does indeed love her and wants what she thinks is best for her daughter. Unfortunately, it's not in line with what Merida wants, namely her freedom. But Queen Elinor goes ahead and sets up a competition for Merida's hand in marriage inviting the three subordinate clans: Dingwall,  MacGuffin, and Macintosh. The eldest sons of each clan are presented to Merida and Queen Elinor proclaims: "In the traditions of our clans, the eldest child of the clans are invited to compete for the Princess' hand." When Merida hears this she knows what to make her suitors compete in: archery. After watching all the suitors go - and behold a forth suitor appears! And it's Merida. Using the loop hole that her mother exposed earlier Merida claims as the eldest child she should also get the right to compete for her own hand and with three shots she quickly defeats her suitors.

Now this tosses the entire kingdom into chaos. Traditions have been broken, relationships strained, and the clans are on the edge of war. Merida and her mother's relationship is now nearly broken what with Merida embarrassing  her in front of what seemed like the entire kingdom and Queen Elinor throwing Merida's bow (the symbol of her freedom and independence) onto the fire. Merida flees to the surrounding woods where will-o'-the-wisp lead her to a crazy old woodcarver... or at least a witch who also loves carving bears.... Merida convinces the witch to give her a potion that will change her fate by making her mother change (change what? ah, yes, absent specificity - the downfall of all magical spells). So Merida takes the spell, in the shape of a tart/pastry, and feeds it to her mother hoping to make her mother changer her opinion of her engagement. Instead she changes into a bear!

What follows is a journey of reconnecting and self-discovery. Merida is among the new Disney princesses (most recently Rapunzel and Tiana) who are more independent. There was a push in the late 90's for more modern women: Mulan and Pocahontas, both of whom were much stronger women. Pocahontas followed her own path which led to her saving her people and brokering peace with the white man. Mulan impersonated a man to join the army and spare her wounded father from being drafted - she ended up saving her people as well. Merida is the second (Pixar) princess to wield a weapon (Rapunzel being the first with her frying pan). She's also the first to NOT end up with a prince. The trend of more independence and not waiting to be rescued by one's prince charming - is a positive one that ought to be encouraged. I like the new Disney role model. Bravo Disney! I give Brave 4 out of 5 stars for positive role modeling, not making the princess sing or interact with adorable fuzzy creatures (minus the horse... and bears), having awesome accents, and convincing Billy Connolly to be King Fergus.

Check out the trailer here!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: The Avengers (movie)

Once again I have been super busy so my reviews have slipped (in quantity but never quality). I will try to be better folks but working 60+ hours a week makes even things like typing and seeing movies difficult.

I have already written one review about a Joss Whedon film once this year which got high marks (Cabin in the Woods) and I seem to be on a Whedon kick (I'm watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) That said I was a bit ambivalent about seeing The Avengers. Not that it looked bad or that the reviews were bad (quite to the contrary actually), but more because I'm not a huge fan of Marvel's Avengers.... although I do love me some Tony Stark/Iron Man *drool*. But the Hulk, Captain America and Thor or the other two (Black Widow and Hawkeye) were never heroes that I grew up with or truly cared for (neither was Iron Man until Robert Downy Jr.). I was a Batman, Wolverine, and Spider-man fan. So when my mom came to visit me in late June and offered to take me to a movie I figured The Avengers would be an excellent choice - mainly to see the big blockbuster on the big screen for free (thanks mom). And I was thrilled with it. The Avengers ended up being incredibly witty, well written, and surprisingly true to the characters' history and personalities. I'll break this down by character and then plot:

Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk: I was really worried about this actor/character pairing. The Hulk has gone through numerous interpretations starting with Eric Bana then progressing to Edward Norton but neither of whom got it quite right. Bana being way too bland and Norton being well, just an odd choice. Mark Ruffalo combines the perfect amount of brainy, compassionate doctor with the knee-jerk reaction to go from calm, civil, and withdrawn to angry and green and busting out of pants, jacket and shirt. Dr. Bruce Banner, a super smart scientist (physicist to be specific) who had an "accident" resulting in him being... well, hulking, green, and very angry. Ruffalo present his version of the Hulk as more Jeckyll and Hyde like in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen where they can hear each other in the other's dominant state, although it's not seen much in the movie. Ruffalo also plays an excellent reserved, but suffering man with anger-management issues. He is often paired up with Tony Stark/Iron Man due to their common backgrounds in science and genius statuses. The Hulk's opposites are Captain America and Black Widow who are driven by loyalty and duty which is what he runs from. 

Robert Downy Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man: Ah the perfect pairing. Sarcastic, aloof, arrogant but somehow charming. Unlike the Hulk, Stark retains his whole personality in or out of his Iron Man suit. Stark has already been redeemed in his own movies Iron Man & Iron Man 2 so this movie isn't really about him. He is however one of the brains that drives this movie. He helps Dr. Banner accept the Hulk but doesn't get along well with Thor and most notably Captain America although he will (obviously) have to depend on them sometime in the movie. 

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Capt. America: Steve Rogers was an unlikely hero being too small to actually enlist in the military - which was his desire. Instead he was allowed to enlist and participate in an experiment which would turn him into a super solider. It buffs him up and gives him better endurance and better healing.... I don't know. I really could care less about Captain (sorry Cap't.). Anyways, he got trapped in a nuclear submarine in one of the World Wars and was recovered only recently. His stint in the Avengers Initiative is his first real foray back into the real world. His gets along with Black Widow due to their mutual commitment but due to his dedication he is estranged from the Hulk/Banner and Iron Man/Stark.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor: Chris Hemsworth is a very pretty man. Well, alien.. from a planet where the Norse gods live.... kinda. Don't ask me I'm not a Thor expert. He was expelled from his home planet and crash-landed on earth and fell for Natalie Portman while saving the Earth from his evil brother Loki (who - coincidentally is the bad guy again this time around). He, like Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye are all motivated by duty - yes, to different things but it gives them the same goals. Thor feels guilty that again it is his brother (well, adoptive brother) who has put in the world in jeopardy and he has to balance the inner turmoil of the pity and pain he feels for his little brother and having to save the world again - whereas it's just professional for everyone else.

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow & Jermey Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye: Scarlett Johansson is carrying over her role as Black Widow from Iron Man 2 and although I think she and her alter-ego are well paired... I guess I'm just not sure she was entirely necessary for the movie (although they did try and her essential). I get the same feeling about Hawkeye... maybe it's because they seem like such second class heroes without real powers (don't shot me if I get this wrong - as I said, I don't really know much about these two). Regardless, I think that although they could have been written out easily, I like their plot lines and chemistry. 

Alright, on to plot! Loki, Thor's evil "brother", has new allies in this movie and decides that he's going to throw a major tantrum on Earth to piss off Thor. So Loki steals some alien technology which is supposed to be able to make a bridge across universes and be able to transfer matter - in this case an alien invasion. Next comes the gathering of the heroes - some of which is easy, most of which is not. From the difficulties in recruiting to the conflicting personalities and ideologies - the team fails in their original objective and must somehow pull together to actually kick some alien ass. After about 10 minutes in, I could not stop laughing. Seriously, I was the only one in the theater who would chuckle, bark out laughter, and just chortle with mirth and glee. And some of my favorite moments were with the Hulk. They took the traditional catch phrase of the Hulk: "Hulk smash!" and gave it to Captain America - making it an order. I know it sounds stupid but was hilarious. I give 5 out of 5 stars to The Avengers

Check out the trailer here!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

review: Snow White & the Huntsman (movie)

I was on the fence about this movie. I mean sure - it looks with amazing, gorgeous, expensive special effects. Hell, even the actors are pretty (minus Kristen Stewart - ironic since she's supposed to be the fairest of them all). But, I'm not a huge fan of the Snow White story either - it was always my second least favorite of  the Disney movies (with Alice in Wonderland being my least favorite). I guess I was hopping that the awesomeness of the special effects would balance out my dislike for Kristen Stewart and my preconceived notions of the Snow White story.

So the hotness quotient is there: Chris Hemsworth plays the Huntman - a total hunk; he played Thor in both the self-titled movie Thor and The Avengers. And then there's Charlize Theron, GORGEOUS, who plays the queen, Ravenna and she's been in so many movies I'm not going to bother listing more than her two of her recent ones: Prometheus and Hancock. You already know my opinion on Kristen Stewart and, needless to say although I'll say it anyways, Kristen Stewart makes me want to hurl, particularly for her involvement in The Twilight Saga, although her performance wasn't all that inspired in Snow White and the Huntsman. She's no the fairest of them all in any stretch of the imagination. Actually this comic describes my feeling perfectly. Kristen Stewart is perfect playing a frozen, sickly, depressed, prisoner princess but hopeful or inspiring or even happy isn't exactly her cup-o-tea. 

And while Chris Hemsworth is a very pretty man, his dialogue with Stewart is less than stellar. In fact it's so jilted and awkward, it makes me wish for the silent parts where there's just pretty special effects. Stewart's mouth hangs open almost the entire movie (no covering her buck teeth for that would ruin the "fairest" bit) and there are so many shots of face and over-acting eyebrows it's a little disturbing. There's also no depth to either of them. Theron's Ravenna has a lot of depth but then she just kinda goes off the deep end which means that there are no relateable main characters - the closest of which is William, Snow White's childhood friend and other love interest.

There were things I liked in this movie: the effects, the costumes, the music, the explanation for the step-mom evilness and the Disney nods that were included. The music was great and fit well with the film's composition. James Newton Howard was the composer and he's done some great soundtrack (Treasure Planet, I Am Legend, both of Nolan's Batman movies [with Hans Zimmer], and The Hunger Games). The Disney nods within the movie included Snow White's puffy sleeves with red inserts and then the run through the dark forest with the trees with creepy faces  - although in this version it's the fault of some "magic" mushrooms. The biggest draw for this flick were the special effects. No matter how stupid the rest of the movie is, the effects were amazing. It's like Avatar, plot wasn't great but you saw it for the amazing effects or the first movie with a wide-spread 3D release. Ravenna was one of the saving graces of this film. She had Charlize Theron playing her, kick-ass costumes, and an interesting twist from the classic "evil step-mother" Disney vibe.

The thing that really bothered me was the Christian prayer that Snow White says in the tower. It sets the theme for the entire movie. Any good magic is then considered righteous and probably one of God's miracles while Ravenna is seen as evil (well, to be fair she is) but her magic is a perversion. The only exception is the weird, Mononoke-esque deer in the forest which is obviously a good portent. That and the weird fairies... So, basically only Christian miracles are good magic. Ug, pissed me off so much.

Anyways, I give Snow White & the Huntsman 2 out of 5 stars for beautiful special effects but crappy plot, bad acting, and stupid, unnecessary Christian overtones.

Check out the trailer here!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

review: The Hunger Games (books)

So I've already talked about Hunger Games the movie  - this is the book the movie was based on. And although this book (and movie) were classified as a young adult (or PG-13) there are many adult themes and it is intensely violent. So if you've got young ones and aren't sure if this is the book for them, here's my rule: if you can't enter the games (age 12) you can't read about them either. Although a lot of parent obviously ignored this warning for the movie (stupid crying children). I will also trying to be more plot/character heavy on this review, rather than film/acting/musically focused.

This is my second read through of this trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It consists of: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. All three are written in first person point of view which is, upon the second reading, actually quite refreshing. Instead of feeling like someone is a telling you a story, Collins uses the first person which makes you feel more like you're there despite the out-of-this-world situation.

The Hunger Games takes place in the distant but not unbelievable post-apocalyptic future in what was once the United States. Now called Panem, and ruled by the high-tech and fashion obsessed and bored populace of the Capitol, is comprised as twelve districts (well, once thirteen, but the thirteenth rebelled and was quickly put down), each one responsible for different goods/services (coal, agriculture, tech, etc). Each year to remember the day of the uprising, the Capitol requires two tributes from each district, one male and one female. These tributes chosen in "The Reaping", are forced to compete in a battle to the death in "The Hunger Games".

Katniss Everdeen is a 16 year-old girl from district twelve. She lives with her mother and younger sister - her father died in the coal mining accident when she was eleven. She is well....  stubborn, quiet, rebellious but all without drawing attention to herself (or so she believes). She spends her time taking care of her sister, mother (who spiraled into a deep depression after her husband's death) and hunting with her best friend Gale (male - not female). Anyways, due to some horrible luck, her little sister Prim gets chosen as tribute and instead of letting her go to her death, Katniss volunteers as tribute. The other tribute is Peeta Mellark, the baker's son. They are whisked away to the Capitol where they are beautified and judged as they prepare for the 74th annual Hunger Games.

In the Capitol the tributes are subjected to the whims of the populace and their odd fashions. The games and its contestants are constantly scrutinized and judge both by the populace, game masters, and politicians. These perverted games are Collins' way of reflecting her disgust of reality television and intense scrutiny of the media.Collins' said she was inspired by the Japanese movie Battle Royale, footage from the Iraq invasion and a reality tv show she saw while flipping channels. The use of media through the movie is twisted - from needing sponsors for the games, televised interviews of the champions and the publicly mandated viewing of the intense violence of the games.

One of the things I really liked about this movie was Katniss' insistence on finding herself and doing what feels or is right for her. And although she allows herself to be swayed on a few issues - she does not adamantly deny or refuse them. More focus on establishing self. Doing what's best for herself, figuring out what she wants and who she wants. She doesn't want to be pushed or pulled by people (slight problem seeing as how the Capitol runs their lives). Whether this be how she trains, who she falls for, or how she wins - Katniss wants to do it on her own terms.

In comparison to movie there's a lot more development of Katniss' feelings for Peeta. the movie makes it kinda seem like she's just playing a long but in the book there are real moments where she feels connected to him and where she even starts having feelings about him right back. There's more time spent with Prim and her mother and more history there (which is nice sense the absence of this background was one of my pet peeves in the movie).

In the movie there also only one or two moments of joy or laughter. The book offers many more examples, adding levity and charm to what could have been such a dour book. Many of these moments are with Peeta (granted she is with him for the majority of the book....) where they tease and joke with each other even in the face of the looming games. These moments made Katniss feel more real and highlighted her youth which could be lost at moments in the movie.

I did really like this book - in fact it's my favorite out of the trilogy. I give The Hunger Games (the book) 4 out of 5 stars! How did you think it compared to the movie?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

review: Cabin in the Woods (movie)

Cabin in the Woods is the newest creation from the team of Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon. Whedon is hugely popular in the nerd circles as he is responsible for a lot of TV cult classics including: Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Dollhouse. And such movies as: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Toy Story and one of my personal favorites: Titan A.E. Needless to say, Whedon's got movie/TV cred.

First scene is not exactly terrifying. Two technicians (Richard Jenkins and Steve Hadley - both acting veterans and so great for their sarcastic humor) are walking down in all white corridor in some office/factory building prepping for the night's special operation. Suddenly - flash! - evil music and dark red words: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS appears on screen. Bum bum ba!!!!! If the quick switch doesn't make you laugh, this is not the movie for you.

We switch focus now to out young heroes. They are walking cliches, well - modern versions of them. "The athlete" has become a jock; "the fool", a stoner; "the scholar", a nerd; and "the virgin".... whatever passes for virginity in this day and age. "The whore" doesn't really change - after all, it is the world's oldest profession. These five head into the woods - a cabin in the woods - for a long weekend away from school. Along the way they are warned about the woods by a creepy gas station attendant. If this sound cliche - it is. But don't worry, the clicheness it awesome. And the cliche continues: once they get to the house they notice some creepy things - a 2-way mirror in the bedroom, disturbing paintings, weird feelings but they commence with the drinking and of course: the get-to-know-you game, truth or dare. However, midway through the game a cellar door opens abruptly and in true horror movie form, they file on down. Each person is drawn to a different object: a diary, a locket, a picture, a toy, or a globe. Each object triggers a different monster.

Now this is really where the two technicians shine. They are watching everything - even triggering the cellar door to open. And when the virgin, Dana, reads some Latin our of an old diary, the technicians release "[their] zombified, pain worshiping, backwards, idiot, rednecks". Needless to say, there's lots of pain and death with lots of surprises thrown in. The twists and turns between the college kids trying to escape and the technicians trying to have the zombies kill them are hilarious and cliche. But worry not! Almost everything gets explained as the story ends but it doesn't get wrapped in a neat little bow. Which is perfect!

To make this really short - I loved everything about this movie. I don't think I've laughed this hard and so much in a movie in.... well, ever. 5 out of 5 stars. Easily. Go see it.

Check out the trailer here!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

review: The Fall & Eternal Night (The Strain Trilogy vol. 2 &3) (books)


So this is a combined review because I read these two in such quick succession. I'll try not to give away many spoilers however - seeing as it is the last 2/3 of a trilogy and it was awesome... well, I'll try. No guarantees thou. 

A refresher - these books are volumes 2 and 3 of The Strain trilogy by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It is a modern day vampire/horror story. 

Let's start with vol 2 - The Fall (as I deem this the most logical course). This is my favorite out of the three. There's less of a OMG-are-those-vampires? and more of a OMG-vampires-how-do-we-kill-them? attitude. The characters are also really well developed at this stage so you can easily see which ones you'll like and which ones you won't by the time the series ends. 

And although there's a lot of character and plot development, my FAVORITE PART OF THIS ENTIRE SERIES is the mythology that was developed. As mentioned in the end of vol 1. The Strain there is a book of great importance to both the humans and Ancient vampires call The Lumen (literally: the light) in which there's a detailed history of the creation of the vampire species and possibly a key to how they can be defeated. Much of the book is spent trying to achieve The Lumen either through duplicity, alliances or strength of arms. The mythology within The Lumen is what makes this story amazing... arg! I really want to share all of this with you but I don't want to give you spoilers! GO READ IT and then we can talk about it!

Another thing I like about The Fall is the non-traditional hero arc for almost all the characters. Well, on some accounts it's very traditional - mainly in the death department (I'll let you discover who and how for yourself.) But the journey of self-discovery that has to be made is a little different from most other characters in fiction primarily due to the huge role religion ends up playing through the last two books. It's not a preachy book but more of a spiritual and physical importance in the series.

Anyways, book 2 The Fall ends excellently, with the Master (and evil) pulling ahead of Eph (and good). Book 3, The Night Eternal, begins 2 years after the events of The Fall. Eph is rather estranged from his companions through his self medication (*SPOILERS* to blunt the absence of his son who gets kidnapped by the Master at the end of book 2 *END SPOILERS*) and alcoholism. Fet and Nora have grown closer but have yet to really move any closer physically due to Fet and Nora's guilt over "betraying" Eph for each other. 

I really can't tell you much about The Night Eternal without giving away major spoilers.... so I guess the second half of this review is kinda bust. I will say that I go back and forth between liking and really disliking the ending. On one hand I understand why they did it, on the other I think it's a total cop-out. 

I give Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain Trilogy (on the whole) 4 out of 5 stars for an excellent interpretation of vampires. Now - go read it so I can talk to you about it!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

review: Gotye (music)

Sorry for the prolong absence folks! I am in the process of moving and a lot of things have gotten pushed back in the great shuffle that is currently my life. I also have been working a lot. 46+ hours so things have been busy there too. I also just got PROMOTED!!! I'll now be working about 52+ hours a week. So things will probably be a little hectic and delayed until I really figure out my new schedule. Sorry again. But I digress, on to the review!

I'm pushing through all the crazy stuff and putting off finishing The Strain vol. 3 (holy hell - so good!) because I genuinely think this music is awesome. And yes, it's another alternative band (blame Portland if you must). And yes, it's even another band NOT from America! Gotye is one man, a Mr. Wouter De Backer who hails from Melbourne, Australia.  He is a Belgian-Australian and Gotye (pronounced Go-tea-yay) is derived from the french version of Wouter - Gauthier.

Having always been musically inclined, Gotye has learned numerous instrument, in particular the piano and drums. With these skills he formed his first band in highschool called The Downstares. Lucan Taranto, a highschool friend and bandmate, still plays with Gotye on his live shows. Gotye (the band... or man, I'm never sure what to call musicians who don't use their name....) was first inspired by over 80 LPs given to him by an elderly neighbor who used to hear him play. In college, he and two other fellows lived in "the Frat House" where people would just come drop by to hang out or play music.

Gotye has release a total of three albums, however only Making Mirrors - his third release - has made it to the US. His second album, Like Drawing Blood, did receive critical fame in the UK and Australia - being one of the top albums of the year with two hits in the top 100 songs of the year. However, I can only really speak to Making Mirrors, as that's all I've listened to. Gotye's first single was "Easy Way Out" which really hasn't had taken off. However, the second single released "Somebody That I Used to Know" featuring Kimbra, took off like a rocket - at least it did in the states. It's really odd that this particular song made it so big here. It's not what typically makes it big in the states - instead of being loud, energetic, and rock/pop-ish "Somebody I Used to Know" is quiet, but powerful, kinda whiny... in a good way. He reminds me a lot of Sting with his quick crescendos and breathy voice. The really odd thing about this song/album is that their big hit, "Somebody I Used to Know", sounds exactly nothing like the rest of their album... which is filled with loud, fell good music.

Regardless of the mismatch of his hit single versus his album, Gotye's Making Mirrors is an excellent album that makes me dance while cleaning at work. This album is also another rare one where I can actually listen through the entire album. I give Gotye's Making Mirrors 5 out of 5 stars!

Monday, April 23, 2012

review: The Strain (book)

This is another recommendation by Excuse the Quality and once again a good recommendation. I really enjoyed almost all of this book, really just becoming uninterested for about 50 pages about 3/4 of the way through.

The coolest part about this (for me anyways) was that the author is Guillermo del Toro (well, coauthoring... with Chuck Hogan). He is best known as a movie director for amazing movies like Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, and the upcoming Hobbit movies (yes - that's right, movies... plural. oh, HP what have you done? First, four Twilight movies... now two Hobbits.... what next? At least the industry's taste has improved). [EDIT - apparently he dropped out of the hobbit movies and Peter Jackson is back on the scene, sorry folks - END EDIT] And now he's getting into books. The only real worry I had was whether or not this would read like a movie script. However, del Toro actually has quite a lot of experience writing as he has also written numerous screenplays including ones for the three movies listed above.

del Toro is considered to be one of the best in the fantasy/horror genre and boy does The Strain count. I really liked how this book was thought of. It really mixed the best of the classic one evil vampire with the zombie/vampire virus plot line. I felt that some of it was a little cliche but at least it was well done. The Strain is the first in the The Strain Trilogy; the second is The Fall and third is The Night Eternal. We start out following the landing of a 777 (it's funny cuz it's God's number) plane where all of a sudden after landing all the communication and power cuts out leaving the plane a shiny, mass of dark metal on the runway.

Eventually the cops decide to break into the plane and what they find prompts them to call the CDC. Dr. Ephraim "Eph" Goodweather is the man leading the team. He's a divorced dad with lots of issues - namely a very busy job which gets him into a lot of hot water with his ex-wife. Eph represents the "viral" side of the story. On the "classical" we have Professor Abraham Setrakian. He's a Romanian Jew and Holocaust survivor. His grandmother used to tell him tales of her childhood neighboring village where creepy thing would happen and children would go missing. So when the same thing started happening at the Treblinka concentration camp, he was aware of the signs. He is an expert in vampirism and has a major grudge against the beasties. He's this series Van Hellsing.

I won't give away the plot just be aware that although some of it is rather cliche there are definitely some really excellent twists in the plot. And of course, a cliffhanger to get you interested in books 2 and 3. I give The Strain 4 out of 5 stars and Excuse the Quality agrees with me. You can read his review here! For me, onto book 2 The Fall!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I know you folks are out there - I can see my visits going up! Leave me a comment! If you do (and you're in Portland) maybe the first 5 people will get a cupcake from Pizazz Sweets!!!!

***EDIT: i should probably mention you have to comment on something.... 
not just post a comment.... except Jessica... cuz she's special... and the first*** 

Monday, April 16, 2012

review: the Naked and Famous (music)

I swear all my music is suddenly becoming alt rock - not that this is a problem - it's better than the pop and emo-rock I used to listen to in middle/high school. All I can hope is that if I ever become a hipster someone will slap me.... please tell me I'm not that pretentious.

Anyways, I stumbled onto The Naked and Famous on the radio (like I do) about 6 months ago. The band was formed in 2008 and they're out of New Zealand. Unfortunately it's taken them about 4 years to get to the U.S. although they only got to Britain about 18 months ago. They recorded their first album "Passive Me, Aggressive You" in 2010 at Auckland College of Music's studio.

Pandora tells me that their music has: electronic influences, danceable grooves, rhythmic syncopation, vamping, and (surprisingly since most my music choices are not) major tonality. Their songs often feel like anthems to the listener - it gives them a powerful and punk sound which I am really enjoying. Their big hit is called "Young Blood" although some of their other stuff is making into daily rotations like "Punching a Dream" and "Girls Like You". A lot of their music has actually been featured in numerous TV shows, including Gossip Girl, the Secret Circle, and the Vampire Diaries, as well as many commercials.

Their whole CD is worth a good listen to if you like electronic anthems that you can groove to. I give The Naked and Famous 4 out of 5 stars. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

review: American Vampire (graphic novel)

Now most of you may know my stance on recently released vampire books, namely The Twilight Saga which is EVIL, but Excuse the Quality recommended American Vampire and his recommendations are usually pretty spot on. However the biggest draw was Stephen King's involvement with this series.  Not only is he a co-author for the first volume but he also wrote an awesome forward called Suck on This. His forward  glorifies the return of vampires as "cold blooded killers" and denounces the wimpy "dewy-eyed" vamp.

With Stephen King, the master of horror, endorsing this I had no fear that this series would turn out to be some about whiny bimbo with no goals who lets abusive men make all her decisions (that's my opinion of the Twilight Saga for all of you who didn't catch on there).  Scott Synder (author) and Rafael Albuquerque (artist) are the co-creators for the series.

We follow Pearl Jones, an aspiring actress from the 1920's, and Skinner Sweet, a murder and thief from the Wild West era. Sweet is the first "American" vampire. He is turned by one of the species of the European vamps accidentally by having some blood dropped into his eye. Fearing Sweets' revenge (because all it takes is one drop to turn you), the European vamps have him locked up in a coffin under 60ft of water. Too bad for them, Sweet escapes to wreak havoc on those who confined him. Unlike the European vamps with their classical weaknesses, Sweet can walk in the sun and is actually fueled by it and traditional methods of disposal do not work on him (sunlight, wood, or silver). Instead he's most weak during moonless nights. And if you want to kill him, it's best to use gold, otherwise he's basically immortal.

Thus he's still around in the 1920's to meet Pearl Jones. Now Pearl is in Hollywood trying to become an actress. And when some bigwigs invite her to a very swanky soiree she accepts (despite Sweet's warning) thinking that she might be a better part. Unfortunately, she gets eaten but Sweet finds her and, as I said, all it take is one drop - now we have two American Vampires. And the shenanigans begin!

With excellent plot and art, American Vampire should be in every 13 year old's (and everyone else's) bedroom. I give American Vampire 5 out of 5 stars. But don't just take my word for it - check out Excuse the Quality's review.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

review: The Sound of Noise (movie)

Like music? Odd music? Were you a fan of the tv show Doug and their "Banging on a Streetlight" music video? Did that reference go over your head? Good.

The Sound of Noise is the glorification of the sound and noise that makes music. Odd music, that is. These musicians hate what they deem to be bad music so much that they decide to hold a concert for the whole city to show them what "real" music is. So they stage an epic concert using non-traditional instruments - like back hoes, telephone wires, operation equipment and even the patient himself.

Some background info for you: This film is a Swedish-French crime-comedy... odd genre but that's what wikipedia tells me. It is in Swedish with English subtitles (yay!) and is currently showing in offbeat theaters stateside despite the fact that it was released in 2010 in Europe. It has received only positive reviews form the New York Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter and even gave it "88% fresh".

The opening scene is a woman driving a truck with a guy playing the drum in the back. She drives the truck to match how he plays the drums... or vice versa. Anyways - it's really cool and not a little amazing. Speeding along they draw the attention of a traffic cop and to get away the drummer in the back throws his drums at the cop. The musicians make a get away but the accident draws the attention of Amadeus Warnebring, a tone deaf detective who comes from an amazingly musical family. For those of you who don't know - being tone deaf sucks. It is the inability to distinguish between musical notes. For Warnebring, music is torture. This detective chases the musicians through the city following their trail of musical destruction and chaos (since he can't actually follow the music).

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The concept was novel; the cast, funny; and the music, epic. The only criticisms of it that I have were that the love interest/relationship plot seemed rather forced and that the comedy, while funny, was rather one note. I give Sound of Noise 4 out of 5 stars!

You can watch the trailer here!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

review: The Hunger Games (movie)

The Hunger Game
I was so excited to see this movie. I was a moderate fan of the books by Suzanne Collins; I enjoyed the first the most out of the three so if I was going to like any of these potential movies then this would be the one. And although I thought there were a few rough spots where I thought things could have been done better/differently, overall I felt like they did the movie very well.

Things I Liked
- Casting: Using a lot of unknowns or at least lesser known actors was smart. Really popular movie series often define a lot of actor's careers but also give a distinct, cohesiveness to the movie series. Anyways, I thought Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men: First Class) looked so much better as a brunette and made Katniss into a scared, stubborn, girl but NOT petulant like I felt the book portrayed her as. Then again what one says in one's mind is different from what one does and it's hard to show what goes on in one's head on the silver screen. Peeta and Gael were exactly like I thought they'd be. Stanley Tucci (as Caesar) and Lenny Kravitz (as Cinna) were excellent additions to round out the cast.

- Plot: It's hard to include everything in a movie from a book with the scope of Hunger Games so I was impressed with how much they were actually able to fit in. I thought they did a really good job cherry-picking the important things and leaving out some of the unnecessary things. Although most of the problems I have are with the plot, I think it'd be hard to improve on what the movie offered without making the movie at least an hour longer.

- Costumes were a big part of the movie because they helped distinguish the Districts and the Capital. The best example is Effie Trinket played by Elizabeth Banks who goes to the Districts every year to choose the tributes to be forced into the annual Hunger Games. She is colorful, outspoken, and flamboyant - the exact opposite of the Districts. The style of the Capital is bizarre - too colorful with odd silhouettes and pattern mixtures.

Things I Didn't Like
- I felt like there wasn't enough time spent on developing Prim and Katniss' relationship. It's possibly the most pivotal relationship in the entire movie as it sets the stage for the entire series. I understand that it's a movie and that time has to be taken into account but this glosses over so much. All you can tell is that they're close and that Katniss mothers Prim.

- The mothering of Prim is due to the fact that their father died in the mine accident which isn't reveal until almost 3/4 of the way through the movie. This is important because the mother gets depressed and checks out for months after his death leading for the tension and estrangement between Katniss and her mother. This is important because it helps define Katniss' relationship with Prim.

Although these are minor issues the may be detrimental to later movies. Overall I thought The Hunger Games was an excellent movie. I worry a little about how the second and third movies will be shot but I guess we'll just have to wait and see. I give The Hunger Games 5 our of 5 stars for excellent acting, fantastical costumes, good plot and heart-wrenching moments.

Check out the trailer here!

Friday, March 30, 2012

review: Mother Mother (music)

Mother Mother's latest album (2011)
Mother Mother is an awesome Indie-Rock band based in Vancouver, B.C. I stumbled upon them last April when they opened for Young the Giants (click to read their review) and they totally upstaged them despite being the opening act! HA! 

The band is composed of five members: lead singer and guitarist (Ryan), bassist (Jeremy), drummer (Ali) and keyboards and vocals (Molly and Jasmin). Together these five create an awesome sound. They bounce from really high energy, rock n' roll sound like in Hayloft to more calm but still really fun, mellow one like Miles. The one thing all their songs have in common are funny lyrics about ridiculous situations. Hayloft is about a daughter's father who hears creaking in the hayloft. I'll let you draw your own conclusions as to what's happening up there. Anyway it turns out her father has a gun. Oh the shenanigans!

They've got three albums out: Touch Up, O My Heart, and Eureka and are said to be working on their forth album due out in late 2012. Mother Mother is consistently awesome and are one of the only bands who I can actually listen through all of their songs.  Unfortunately they're only touring in B.C. so finding them is hard but if you ever get the chance make sure to see them live. They're electric! I give Mother Mother 5 out of 5 stars. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

review: TRON: Legacy

Right off the bat - I've never seen the original TRON movie that debut in 1982. But the concept of going into the internet and living "on the grid" has always been really interesting to me. That and the awesome neon and techno which seem to symbolize the future real attract me (maybe that's just cuz I love me some techno).

The plot revolves around Sam Flynn, the son the inventor Kevin Flynn who created the virtual world "The Grid", the setting for both the first and second movies. It's been years since his father disappeared but when the power suddenly comes back on in his downtown business (an arcade), Sam goes to investigate.

Sam arrives at the arcade seeing nothing amiss decides to play a game. However, the coin doesn't start the game. Intrigued, Sam pushes the game to the side finding his father's secret lab. There he accidentally sends himself in "The Grid". Here he must find out what happened to his father while staying ahead of his father's clone named Clu who seems to want him dead.

Now, while the acting in this movie was not the greatest I actually really enjoyed it since I had such low expectations. The graphics and CG are amazing - especially the high-speed cycle chase/game. The music is phenomenal (thank you Daft Punk). And I actually think the casting was well done - even if their actual acting was lack luster. As for the plot, I liked the idea of it. It's a little cliche but what's original anymore. I give TRON: Legacy 3 out of 5 stars. Welcome to the future!

Check out the trailer here!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

review: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [American Version] (movie)

I was really not excited for this movie. I was a big fan of the original Swiss movie which was released in 2009. Hollywood has been in the recent trend of acquiring phenomenally huge best sellers (Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc) and turning them into huge monetary successes - which is the movie industry's job and sparks the controversy of whether movies are art or commercial. Whichever side of the debate you come down on - most movies are a mix of the two and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is no exception. My personal opinion is that this movie was made just so Americans don't have to read subtitles (Americans are notoriously lazy). Subtitles don't bother me, probably because I read over 100 WPM.

Things I liked about the remake:
- Awesome casting: Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara are an odd but excellent pairing for Mikael and Lisbeth. Mara makes a particularly excellent Lisbeth. She's more aggressive, reserved, and punk than Noomi Rapaace's goth interpretation. Craig is playing a role meant for him. Still cool but not so much Bond but not yet Robert Langdon.
- Pacing: This remake ran much faster than the original. Although this made it "faster", the movies where actually of comparable length. Although I think speed is overrated, I agreed that the original didn't need all those long pans or pauses.
- Great score composed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Atticus Ross. Their magnum opus can be seen through the amazing opening titles. Their remix of Led Zepplin's Immigrant Song is amazing and the visuals are spectacular. But the main reason I like the opening titles is because the set a completely different theme than the 2009 movie. It's a great way to differentiate itself from the original.
- The movie was set in Sweden which was a relief. I can't imagine this being set in the US. Along with the Swiss setting - it was decided that the characters should keep they're given names rather than Americanizing it.
- Scenes with Lisbeth's original legal guardian which weren't in the original. I hope they continue this plot line in the next two movies. The Swiss movies didn't include his story at all which was a shame because it showed a more emotionally involved Lisbeth.

Things I hated about the remake:
- Nils Bujrman. Yes, you're supposed to hate him. He's an authority figure who abuses his position and those under his care. What I didn't like was that they made him into a fat, unattractive man rather than the suave, savvy man that he is in the original. Although you might say his outside matches his inside in this interpretation, I just found this portrayal too cliche.
- The ending was by far the biggest let down for three reasons. Lisbeth seeking Mikael's approval, the motorcycle chase, and Harriet Vagner's explanation.
Right before the big chase scene Lisbeth asks "Can I kill him now?" which I found to be stupid. Lisbeth is a strong woman - she wouldn't seek approval, not even from Mikael. Also, Mikael would never condone the killing of anyone. Worst of all is that when she finals goes to kill him, the car blows up! In the original, Lisbeth allows her prey to die purposely deciding not to save him - a much more satisfactory revenge.
Next item, the chase scene is poorly executed and anti-climatic, also Lisbeth's diving is ridiculous if you know anything about motorcycles and she doesn't wear her helmet.
Finally, Harriet's location and explanation of how she got there is BULLSHIT!!!! so far from the book plot - way over-reaching. Ug, totally pissed me off.

Regardless of its remake status - the American "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" rate 4 out of 5 stars compared to the 2009 Swiss movie which rated 4.5 out of 5 stars (you can read that review here) . However both are good movies worth watching.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

review: Young the Giant (music)

Young the Giant is a alternative rock band that hit the scene early 2011 with their massively popular hit (at least on Portland alt rock stations) "My Body".

Originally called The Jakes, Young the Giant went through numerous line up changes before it settled on their final members.

Their music is considered to be alternative despite the fact that it has become mainstream enough to appear on a lot of the pop/rock stations.

Although "My Body" is an excellent song, Young the Giant has only one other hit out: "Cough Syrup". Those are by far the best songs on their album. Unfortunately the rest of their songs really aren't worth mentioning at all.

I was also lucky to see Young the Giant perform April 2011 before they were super popular. I found that they were overshadowed by their opening acts, including one of my favorite bands - Mother Mother.

All in all, I give Young the Giant 3 out of 5 stars. They have two great hits (with good music videos), but are lacking with the remainder of their album and their stage performance.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

review: The Fantastic Mr. Fox (movie)

I had serious reservations about seeing this movie. Not that I have anything against stop-motion animation - I love "Wallace & Grommet" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas". But those were movies from the good old days of my youth and the 90's. Thus the appeal of watching a new stop-motion animation movie without being driven by one's youthful unconditional love was absolutely non-inspiring.

Not only was the stop-motion animation really well done - you could see the detail on the fur!!! - but the plot was well thought out with wonderful little bright moments liberally peppered in with lots of comedy. One of my favorite repeating moments are between Ash and Kristofferson. Ash is the Fantastic Mr. Fox's son and Kristofferson is a distant relation (I believe a son of a cousin... don't quote me on that). Anyways, Ash hates Kristofferson with a passion because Kristofferson comes so naturally to things that Ash struggles with. The best example is seen with this ridiculously complicated game that Mr. Fox has won medals in but Ash is a dismal player. Kristofferson also gets the girl that Ash likes. And has a great personality while Ash is.... difficult in the best of situations..

The story begins with Mr. Fox and a then Ms. Fox breaking into a secure facility to steal some chickens (i believe - again don't quote me) either - Boggis, Bunce, and Bean however after stealing the chickens (maybe?), Mr. Fox triggers a trap. He and Ms. Fox dig their way out after Ms. Fox revealing that she's pregnant.

Years pass and Mr. Fox has given up his nighttime break-ins as promised to the now Mrs. Fox. Instead he works as a columnist. His hum-drum life begins to wear on him so one night he decides to break into one of the three farmer's (
Boggis, Bunce, and Bean) storage facilities. He goes on two more raids to the remaining farmer's storage facilities and raids them too. Boggis, Bunce, and Bean then get together and decide to go after Mr. Fox. The farmers surround the Fox home and wait until Mr. Fox leaves. When they try to kill him all they succeed in doing is shooting off his tail.

To find out the fate of the Fox family and see is Mr. Fox deserves that title of "fantastic", you'll just have to watch the rest of "The Fantastic Mr. Fox". I give this new stop-motion animation classic 4.5 out of 5 stars for great acting, stop-motion animation, and soundtrack.

Check out the trailer here!

Monday, January 30, 2012

review: John Dies At the End (book)

This book has been recommended to me numerous times... all of them by the same person actually. And I have to say, it was a trip. I don't think I've ever read a more... crazy book. It's literally like a giant acid trip... But the acid happens to be this even more crazy drug called Soy Sauce - no joke. This drug lets them see the world behind our world. Or parallel. Or demons....

The story opens with our protagonist, Dave, talking to a reporter in the wee hours of the morning in a Mexican restaurant in "Undisclosed" - a mid-western town. Dave begins the arduous process of telling the reporter his story.

It all starts at a party. Dave is approach by a Jamaican who makes a bet with Dave that if he can guess what his dream was about last night then Dave has to buy him a beer. Dave refuses to take the bet but the Rasta just steam rolls over him telling him exactly how his dream went last night. Perturbed Dave walks off. Well, he actually goes chasing after a dog he sees. Later his friend John says that he's going to drinks with a bunch of friend and the Rasta, Dave declines to go with them.

In the middle of the night Dave gets a call from John who is tripping out of his mind. Dave rushes over there only to find John is even worse off then any of his previous trips. Dave decides to take John to the hospital but somehow they get sidetracked and decide to take the dog home. From here they find out that everyone who went to the party is either missing or gruesomely dead.

Although I was initially very keen to read this book, I found that the more I pushed through it the more difficult it become. It was very compelling through the first "chapter" of the book I found myself getting a little, err - disgusting if only for the extremely graphic macabre and grotesque imagery. Sometimes it was very funny and other times I found it unsettling and disturbing.

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I think it had great bones, but I found that it just didn't agree with me. However, my friend might vehemently disagree with me. You can read his review here. I give John Dies at the End 2.5 stars out of 5. Sorry Jesse!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Updated review: Florence + the Machine (music)

ack!!! new Florence + the Machine album out!!! Their new album is called "Ceremonials" which was released mid 2011. Their first single is called "Shake It Out" which is about letting everything roll off your back and dance and enjoy life. It also continues the themes established in their previous album of being kinda odd with references to demons, religion and cults - but in a fun way. In fact the music video (click on the song!) is Flo wandering around and dancing at a masquerade party.

I'm super excited to see them back and that their second album has as much spunk as their first album. Although "Ceremonials" lacks the harder more punk aspect of "Lungs" (their debut album), most of the songs off of "Ceremonials", can be compared to the song "Cosmic Love" - namely being a more mellow, melodious, and grandiose with a more belt-y sound. Even better is if you buy (or steal - I'm not particular) the deluxe edition you get acoustic version of their best songs and a demo off their possible next album.

Flo and her band continue to impress me with their music. I'm giving their new album 5 stars!

Friday, January 20, 2012

review: Foster the People (music)

Foster the People is a band that made it big this summer with their first hit "Pumped up Kicks" off their album Torches.

Mark Foster is the lead singer, writer and guitarist for the group. When interview he said that he likes to write songs that are "true to life" - about real topics and situations. And although the music is quite dance-able and happy the lyrics are often quite depressing.

For example - "Pumped Up Kicks" is about a homicidal teen who smokes and steals.... not exactly happy but hey! I can dance to it :)

Although they're considered genre bending spanning indie, dance, and pop. They're wiki page calls their music "melodic dance-infused pop and rock". Foster has written songs in pop, indie, electronic, and piano genres.

They've been nominated for Best New Artist, Artist of the Year, Best New Act and a few other variations of being awesome at the Grammy's, MTV Music Awards, and BRIT Awards.

My favorite song is "Houdini" and you can check them out here! I give Foster the People 4 out of 5 stars. Their next album will tells us if they have staying power and possibly up their rating.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

review: The Booth at the End (tv show)

This show is amazing! It asks: "How far would you go to get what you want?" It was originally a Canadian show but can be seen now on hulu - there's a link for you at the end.

The show's only setting is a diner's booth. Here "The Man" (forever nameless), played by Xander Berkeley (seen in great tv like the X-files, M*A*S*H, and guest spots in numerous other shows), conducts his business. People from all walks of life: teens, parents, single adults, and an elderly woman, there are a total of eleven people, come to see The Man and ask him to solve their problems. and he asks them one question: "what do you want?"

Now to get what they want The Man will check in his book to see what it is that they have to do to achieve their goals. We never get to see the interior of the book or learn how it is that The Man chooses their task - only that each task is specific for the rewards.

There are eleven people who approach the man. Some of the stories are interconnected like James and Willem. James' son has leukemia and the Man tells him he must kill a child in order to save his son. Willem wants the girl in the centerfold; to get her he must protect a child. Lo' and behold they choose the same child.

Who will succeed with the task that the Man set for them. Is it necessary to complete the task to achieve their desires? Who is the Man? Is he good or evil? I give The Booth at the End 5 out of 5 stars for an amazing and thought provoking show that will give you so much to think about.

you can actually watch it exclusively on hulu. check it out here!