Toy Story 3 Trailer

Welp, the first full trailer for Toy Story 3 is out, and it’s essentially what I’ve expected. The reputation of these films is so rock-solid it would take a real WTF moment from this trailer to make me think it might not measure up to the first two. That’s a very good position the filmmakers have made for themselves. Although, unlike the sub-par Shrek franchise, I get the impression that the Pixar folks don’t want to rest on their laurels. Somehow they manage to balance the regular tropes of the Toy Story films while managing to expand the overall story. Kudos, guys.

– So, like I said, this looks just about how it should. Nothing too surprising, but nothing too disappointing.

– The story goes to a logical place (Andy’s all grown up), but still has an appealing draw.

– I’m surprised Andy has kept all his toys. And in such pristine condition!

– Rex’s “Should we be HYSTERICAL?!!” makes me laugh a little more each time.

– Spanish Buzz could be very interesting, and I appreciate how formal and romantic the Spanish is. For no reason.

– I’m happy that something strange happens to Buzz, because without some kind of internal confusion, he’s a pretty pointless character.

– Is this a re-tread of the “dealing with loss” theme from the second film?

I’m very much expecting this to measure up to the first two. What ‘choo think?

Yawnsters vs. Aliens

Keep looking tough, idiots

I finally got around to watching Monsters Vs. Aliens, which I’d been vehemently avoiding since I saw the first trailer. The title really says it all, doesn’t it? I assumed one of two things: Either they were really going full-tilt and making a shameless homage to 50’s monster movies, or they were trying to be cool. Guess what; Dreamworks went with the latter.

Don’t get me wrong, I assume (some of) the creators were in the “50’s monster movie” mindset, but it barely bleeds through. All we get is another forgettable CGI animated feature. Why is it so forgettable? Why is it squarely on my shit list of other movies just like it? Funny you should ask…

– Certain things are really indistinguishable from other movies of its ilk (Bee Movie, Shark Tale, Kung Fu Panda, etc) Especially any quirky, nervous female leads. They always sound forced. Always.

– Don’t forget the instantaneously self-dating pop culture humor. That Al Gore joke will be funny forEVER, you guys.

– I’m perturbed by this because it got decent critical acclaim. Have their standards been lowering over time? You’d think with folks like Pixar pushing the envelope they’d have HIGHER standards. Same thing happened with Kung Fu Panda. Tell me why people were so kind to that movie.

– The animation pushes the models to their limits, and every subtle squash and stretch, along with every cartoony little anticipation/follow-through makes the characters look like jelly. B.O.B. notwithstanding.

– The voiceover work is distracting more than anything. Why are Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen making animated films? Their voices are, frankly, unremarkable. Also, who needs Reese Witherspoon’s EXACT voice to make the character come to life?

– Dialogue feels forced, cliched. The most frustrating part, by far, is that some of these jokes/situations are funny on paper, but somewhere in the scriptwriting/acting/animation/editing phase, the humor was carved out. All those things really need to be in sync in order for something like that to work.

– Story had sooooo much meaty potential, but they lingered in that grey area between overbearing and undeserving exposition. In a film called “Monsters Vs. Aliens”, I’m really not gonna care too much about the rationale behind the characters and the action. But, if you’re thoughtful enough to hand me some, I’d like a little bit more than “we’ve been kept here for 50 years”. LOL WUT.

Monsters Vs. Aliens. Sub-par, and a lot of the visuals look ridiculous and confusing outside of their intended 3D realm. But putting Insectosaurus in your film carries it slightly above total failure.

Reflections on Gremlins

We’ll be watching GREMLINS tonight, as I’m sure you’re aware. Let’s take a little time beforehand to share some reflections of a film that owns property on a small but valuable space of my brain. What do I remember, exactly? Well, it’s been a while…

– Most would classify this film as “black comedy”. More accurately, I think we could label it “wow, this is a black comedy?” Maybe I was too young (read: naive, sheltered) to realize this was supposed to be funny, nay, a PARODY of monster films. Guess I needed to bone up on my cheesy monster movies first.

– For a comedy, this specimen sure is violent. As tough as the gremlins look on the exterior, they’re all goo and pulp on the insides. And don’t worry; you’ll get plenty of chances to see what they’re made of. There was something about a blender, a microwave, maybe some getting run over…

– I recall the gremlins looking too terrifying and evil to be mischievous. For all I knew they could’ve crawled out from the pits of hell to feast on our livestock and kidnap our children. I’m much less likely to assume, based on their appearance, that they’d be running around like Daffy Duck on steroids. I think they tried to offset this in the sequel, but the goofy ones, somehow, are infinitely creepier.

– Man, this movie scared me something fierce when I was a kid.

– Regardless, the theme song is exceptional, and it’ll stick with you forever…

– Setting this during the Christmas season is a nice touch, but it only adds to the creepiness factor. When is an invasion by terrifying monsters LESS funny than during the snowy, tranquil holidays?

– When I hear about gremlin lore, I think of these gremlins specifically. Yes, I’m aware they’ve been around for untold years, appearing in folk tales all over the globe, but…too bad, as far as I’m concerned they’re the DEFINITIVE version of the creatures.

– My dog’s mother was named Gizmo. And she looked like Gizmo. My dog doesn’t.

There you have it, my collection of thoughts and memories about Gremlins. Will I have my mind changed? Will it reinforce itself as a film that’s much scarier than people say? Will it be a 2 hour gloppy, gory, puppet orgy of mayhem? Find out when we watch it…TONIGHT!!!!!

After Hours

It’s official: I’ve discovered the most forgotten mainstream film of all time. That distinction rests with the 1985 film “After Hours“. I discovered it perusing the Netflix Instant Play library. The summary sounded intriguing:

Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) embarks on a trip to New York City’s SoHo district in hopes of hooking up with a recent acquaintance, the beautiful Marcy Franklin (Rosanna Arquette). But Paul loses all his money, and just to get back home he must endure a night of kooks, psychotics, punks and an angry mob trying to kill him.”

Whoa, so like, his whole night just unravels and gets crazier and crazier? I love movies like that!! The downward spiral that takes place over one single piece of time! Well, the movie is most certainly crazy. But the “dark” seems to overcompensate loudly for the “comedy”. It’s strange to watch a film vacuum any humor out of its various situations. There’s suicide, awkward meet-ups with the opposite sex, punk parties, all the wacky stuff that gets punctuated by a night alone in a New York City neighborhood. And yet…nothing the characters do makes any damn sense! Awkward scene after awkward scene between people play out, all the while you’re thinking, “Who would do that?” or “There’s a really simple way to get out of this situation”. Kinda like watching Curb Your Enthusiasm, except EVERYONE is Larry David or weirder. There ain’t a single “regular” person there to contrast the weirdness.

Maybe this movie was created in another, weirder dimension and was accidentally shipped to this one. Although that’d be tough, since the director was (get this) none other than (you ready?) Martin freakin Scorsese!!! In know, right?! There are certain shots that are very indicative of his work, like quick push-ins and long, long, looooong takes in a scene. But they really don’t add anything to the story; they stand out like sore thumbs, mainly because the rest of the pacing, acting, and shot composition are so slowly-paced. This came off as a practice film; each scene had waaaay too much air. And the truckloads of cameos didn’t help (although it does feature both parents from Home Alone…and Cheech…and Chong).

Ideally, a dark comedy should make me feel sly or mischievous, like I’ve gotten away with something. Instead I felt as weirded-out as the protagonist…but maybe that was the idea? There are way too many “but maybe’s” when I reflect on this movie. Perhaps it would have fared better under its original director, Tim Burton (yes, really). He really had a knack for weird, dark, 80s cult comedies. And those were actually funny.

Gawd, even the TRAILER’S pace is saggy.

Clouded Judgement

Having been bombarded with the ads for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs all year, I think it’s finally getting to me. The film looks less than stellar in my opinion, and there are some strange things going on visually. Overall I think that’s my biggest hangup with this thing. The original book has a very detailed, realistic look, no? So why then render the film’s characters to look like they were ripped from a 1950’s UPA cartoon? Additionally, why would you place those very simplistic, stylized characters in a world being overrun with photorealistic food? Anyone else see a slight disconnect?

I appreciate that animation studios are starting to branch out from the novelty of 3D and actually using the tool to push the medium forward, but you can only go so far when you’re relying on visuals to support lackluster jokes, acting, and narrative. Now I’m not knocking the source material, but let’s not kid ourselves…this ain’t sticking too close to the book. We’ve still got a ways to go before some of these studios really start thinking about legitimate artistic quality. Sure, it looks interesting, but it’s just empty calories.

You Basterds!!

I had the misfortune of going to film school after Quentin Tarantino burst onto the film scene. Needless to say, by the end of my run, I was sick to death of every cinematic trope he made “cool”. I’d had it up to HERE with lengthy dialogue about some small piece of pop culture, references to film eras I was not privy to, and badass violence for the sake of pure, badass violence.

I’d been hearing about his latest, Inglourious Basterds, for a long, long time. There had been rumors of Tarantino making a WWII-era film for the last 10 years or so. Was I excited to learn that it would finally see the light of day? Not even close. I was ready for that guy to disappear forever, especially after the ultimate self-indulgent flick Death Proof. Goodbye Tarantino, you had your fun.

Yet, I started hearing more and more positive buzz about Inglourious Basterds, and I was hearing it from people who shared the same anti-Tarantino sentiment as me. Needless to say, after absorbing enough of this hype, I marched in to see exactly what they were talking about…

And I really liked it! My life wasn’t changed, but I think that expectation is just a smidge unrealistic for his movies. All of his tropes were there, but they actually served the story very well. And any moments that seemed cool for the sake of being cool actually served the story. See, that’s where I come away with the most respect for this film: It was self-contained. His other films feel like elements of cinema from many different eras all mushed together. Yet, you can tell that this new concoction is made up of tiny little pieces. This flick, however, really blended all the inspirational elements (and there are many) to form something entirely his own. For once he seemed to really use his influences to take this film to a level all its own.

So please do check this one out if you’re at all curious, if not only for its (truly) unforgettable climax. My mind ain’t totally changed on this Tarantino fella, but as an independent work it’s something I can really respect. Looks like the guy finally found a story that suits him just perfectly.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

For one brief second, today was like Christmas for me. After a long day at work and a never-ending softball game, I was eagerly anticipating my arrival back home. I would be receiving a much larger respite than normal.

Finally, finally, finally, Amazon followed through and sent me my copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum for the XBox 360. As a lifelong Bat-fan, I was oh so very excited. This was, however, the game that finally got me to buy the damn system way back when. Unfortunately the game was delayed for a few months, proving I could clench my jaw harder than I ever thought possible.

Because of this release delay, coupled with the fact that there’s never really been a standout Batman game I can mention, I was concerned this would be a forgettable affair. Then the reviews started pouring in. Oh, how they praised the story, combat, acting, visuals, gameplay, and pacing. Oh, and how they’re all exactly on the money. Without parroting too many of the reviews out there, I’d like to say that I am really digging this game.

Everything about this title just comes together exactly the way you think it should, right down to Batman’s appearance (which I’m a pretty big stickler about. I’m looking at you, puffy outfit from Batman Begins). I was raised on the animated series from the 90’s, and Paul Dini, one of the main creative forces behind that endeavor, provides the story for this game. It’s wonderful, as to be expected. You’ll also see the return of many cast members from the show playing the roles that were so very crystalized to me as a child.

The word on everyone’s lips about this title seems to be “combat”, and I can absolutely see why. Creating elaborate, flowing combos is quite easy, and holy hell is it satisfying. Punch, crack, slam…they’re all there. You’ll never again wonder what’d it be like to lay down a Batman-style beatdown. And, not to be forgotten, there’s a “detective mode” that you’ll be making copious use out of as you sneak through the various levels. Taking at least a small cue from The Dark Knight’s x-ray lens thingies, you’ll be able to spot clues and enemies in a very cool and scientific way. You really do feel like the world’s greatest detective.

So yes, I’m writing in praise of this game. In a way, it’s a rough representation of the pretend Batman games I played as a kid…and that’s a compliment. Any time you can accurately personify an 8-year-old’s imagination, you’ve really accomplished something. Go get this game. Go get it now.

And welcome to the madhouse.

Fictionalized History

Made it a point to stay up late and Finish “Frost/Nixon” the other night. Why did I do this? Well calm the hell down, I’m gonna tell ya…

I was extremely invested in the story, mainly because it extracted legitimate drama from real-world people and the situations they found themselves in. The real icing on the cake, however, was that it was all BASED ON A TRUE STORY. Oh, what a fun blanket statement. Hollywood can ride for miles and miles on that sentence.

I really enjoyed the movie overall, but I was hesitant to look up any info about the film afterwords (as I’m prone to doing) in fear of having the drama become undermined. I wanted to remain just a little naive and assume that whole thing was strongly rooted in reality. I mean, it was Richard Nixon after all. That guy could stir up some pretty dramatic shite. But, of course, curiosity got the best of me, and I looked it up. Go figure, a lot of it was altered for the purposes of drama. Should’ve expected this from the team that brought you “A Beautiful Mind”. Ech.

I just wonder how much further films could ride on their drama if they didn’t cling so tightly to the “based on a true story” angle. I’m guessing most people take that phrase with a grain of salt. And since the filmmakers never claim WHICH PART of the film comes from the real story, we’re left to optimistically assume that all of this happens in the real world. Would it perhaps be easier to downplay the fact that these have their roots in true stories? An innumerable amount of films are based on true events, even if those events are just small moments of inspiration. Think about how many horror movies ride the hype of “based on a true story”. Now think about how ridiculous it is to claim that a movie about ghosts is trying  to recreate something that actually happened. OOhhhhh.

Maybe the most compelling angle you could hype is to keep the “true” parts to yourself. Compelling stories will sell regardless of their source material, and rigidly pairing a Hollywood film with reality can only harm its credibility.

Oh, and here’s a funny article to support my argument.

Astonishingly Specific Blogs

Here’s a landscape that’s been growing only in recent years: Websites or blogs that are based solely around a specific idea and played out to the nines. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of them out there. It’s a refreshing change from the overloaded media/info sites that try to cram everything in to the main page. Not to mention, these mega-sites are updating CONSTANTLY, so trying to keep up with everything new is an OSD nightmare.

That’s why I’m writing in praise of this streamlined tier of thesis-oriented websites. Take for example one of the more famous examples, FAIL Blog. This site consists of nothing more than images (more recently videos as well) of situations in life that represent failure. It’s simple, simple, simple. And it gets huuuuuuge laughs out of me every time I visit.

More often than not, these sites play for a silly, observational theme. Most of this humor comes from laughing at others, whether it’s their mistakes, ideas, actions, appearance, etc. But hey, what else is the internet good for, really? And they all adhere to that overly-descriptive title and simplistic thesis. Even their domain names are incredibly descriptive; you know exactly what you’re getting. Case in point…(clicky the pics)

This is why you’re fat.

Look at this fucking hipster

Goths in hot weather

Post Secret (not comedy, but a gem nonetheless)

Passive Aggressive Notes

Cake Wrecks

Probably Bad News

Texts from Last Night

…and I’m sure there are loads more, but these are the ones that immediately jumped into my head. Got any more links like these? Let us know; we’d sure love to see ’em!!

Last Night A Red Envelope Saved My Life

I’ve had dealings with Netflix on and off for the past few years, and I’m an unabashed fan. I’m a shameless devotee of this current cultural trend of convenience, yet I roll my eyes at the iPhone. What’s the big difference I wonder? Well…that’s for another time.

The main reason I really love Netflix is because of how much it’s broadened my cinematic horizons. Inexplicably, I find myself much more open-minded about seeing films I’ve either never had time for or have never even heard of.  Why is  this any different from waltzing down to the video store or using the internet as a bottomless resource of content? It’s not like the commitment is any lighter for Netflix films. With a regular rental store, you can rush on back and huck the DVD through their windows if it sucks. If my Netflix rental sucks, what can I do, toss it at a mailbox?

Somehow I become more open-minded when it comes to seeing movies through this system. In fact, I can attribute almost any random/unorthodox film viewing to Netflix. Is it because they have such a broad selection? Does their incredibly easy selection/recommendation system lower the stress of trying something new? Or maybe we’re just getting spoiled by their instant streaming service.

Input? (Please allow 2 to 4 days delivery for response.)