June 30, 2008

ThreeGeek vs. The Pink Robots

I sat here trying to type up the opening sentence of this review for about 10 minutes, but all I can open with is, "See 'Wall-E.'" It's funny, touching, thrilling entertainment -- and it starts with the Disney logo.

I know; crazy isn't it?

It's been years since I saw the Disney logo flash onto the big screen and actually cared. It took Pixar to change all that.

I will leave the plot synopsis to Sherman, he's better with those anyway. What I want to talk about are the risks Pixar took to make such a wonderful film. First off, this is not a kid's movie. Don't get me wrong, it's appropriate for children of all ages -- and they will enjoy it, but there has to be some life-experience under your belt if you want the full effect.

For the first part of the movie, Wall-E (Ben Burtt) is alone on the cold, desolate shell of what was once Earth. There is no one, save the cockroach he keeps as a pet. Not some singing, Jiminy Cricket insect, just a regular, little cockroach that follows him around.

This brings me to the next risk: silence.

See, if there's no one to talk to, then there's no dialogue. When used well, this is a powerful choice, but executed poorly, it can ruin a movie. For example: depending on who you talk to you talk to, the movie "Cast Away" did both. I think it was brilliant, but who am I to argue with the masses?

Oh yeah... a critic. So, shut up. You're wrong.

And this movie nailed it.

(Editor's Note: The end portion of this review has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The draft used above was found near a 6 foot square of scorched earth, littered with machine oil and cigarette butts. I have used the extensive computer banks in my shadowed headquarters to extract a plausible score from the recovered notations -- if Richard is ever found, I hope it will conform to his wishes. --T)

(Editor's Note, Part II: Oh, wait... here it is. --T)

Ahem... as I was saying before the "break": This movie is great. I love it, you will too. Everyone will. If they don't, I think they might be evil robot commies from Hell.

This review was hard for me, I rewrote it 5 or 6 times before Thad finally forced me to just go with it. I urge you: see this wonderful film. I know I'm having troubles describing it... that 's because you can't, you just have to experience it.

5 out of 5

It's not often that this particular reviewer walks into a movie with high expectations and ends up with those expectations not only met, but, in a way, transcended.

There have have been many great movies this year -- hell, this summer. Well, there's a new five-star film out there and it comes in the guise of a children's movie, starring an unassuming robot. Pixar's “Wall-E” is one of the best films of the year so far and, in this reviewer's opinion, the best Pixar movie, bar-none.

It's rare that a children's movie is filled with such love and intelligence that it practically envelopes the entire audience in a warm embrace of sorts. The first forty-five minutes are virtually free of dialogue, and yet there is not a single moment where we are left wondering what Wall-E is thinking or feeling. Pixar has once again shown that they are more than mere animators; they are film-makers, as well. The first segment shows an understanding and love of storytelling that will leave you in awe.

For those who may not already know, Wall-E is a robot. The last one on Earth. His job is clean up the mess left by the human race. Apparently, we got so good at consuming consumer goods that we started to run out of ways to dispose of our garbage. So instead of cleaning it up, we shot ourselves into space for five years and waited for the planet to become inhabitable again. But the five years soon evolved into 700 years.

Wall-E has been dutifully carrying on his job all this time -- his only friend, a cockroach. As he goes about his job, he collects odds and ends, such as cassette tapes, spare parts from other robots for self repair and lights to decorate his home. Wall-E, it seems, has a soul -- or as close as a robot can get to having a soul. He builds skyscrapers out of the trash he compacts. He seems to be adding on to the city, while he works. In other words, Wall-E seems to be doing what we as race failed to do: find a use for the garbage.

Then along comes Eve (Elissa Knight), a robot sent by the Axiom, the vessel containing the last of our race, to see if life is sustainable. She is in search of plant life. She finds Wall-E. What follows is one of the sweetest courtships in recent history. Especially when Wall-E presents Eve with a plant he found. Upon her acceptance of the plant she immediately goes into a coma-like state and awaits the return for her survey ship. Wall-E, never giving up, cares for her in her hibernation state and follows her home when the Axiom returns for her.

I will leave the rest for you to discover on your own. Suffice to say, I have never felt so deeply for non-human characters in my life. There were times, a whole stretch of the movie in fact (well, damn it... most of the movie), where I had tears in my eyes. I wasn't crying, by I watered up consistently, to the point where there was a danger of genuine emotion escaping.

I know, I was scared too.

Writer/director Andrew Stanton has done a superb job at crafting what is quite possibly one of the best children's movie ever made. The fact the many children may not enjoy it as much as the adults may prove this reviewer's fear about the next generation to be sadly accurate.

Some of you may find this review too positive. You may think this reviewer guilty of drinking the kool-aid. It may appear that I am just another among many, faceless masses gushing about the latest Pixar movie as though they can do no wrong. Whatever you may think of my efforts, or however they may appear, they are one thing if nothing else: honest.

So is "Wall-E," and it's a masterpiece to boot. That's an achievement in it's own right.

/ 5

Yours Until Hell Freezes Over,


I'm afraid my proclivity toward hating robots, as well as the need to spend time with my girlfriend, prevented me from seeing this flick.

I was gonna draw you a picture, but I got extra hours at work.

I do the editing too, so technically I'm everywhere already.

-Thad out

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June 27, 2008


There's something in the construction of the universe that, when the invisible waves of cosmic energy strike the earth with just the right angle and force, you're able to see a movie way before everyone else. I'd go more into detail, but I haven't taken a physics class since high school.

"Hancock" opens on July 2, but I'll tell you right now that it's worth seeing. Isn't knowing in advance a wonderful thing? That's the sweet flavor of professionalism, baby. And ain't it grand...

If you've missed the TV ads, "Hancock" is the story of an alcoholic bastard of a superhero named John Hancock. It stands as an answer to many a question regarding what would happen if Superman wasn't so damn nice all the time.

Along for the ride is Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a PR agent and all-around nice guy who, after being saved by Hancock, decides to reinvent the hero for the better. His wife (Charlize Theron) and son (Jae Head) have opposing views of this, the son's being "Awesome!" and the wife's being the extreme opposite of that.

Have you even noticed that Will Smith is one of those actors who makes his roles seem like they were written just for him? Well, that happens here. When we first meet Hancock, all we see is drunk and angry, but as the story progresses we see more of the closed-off lonesomeness behind it all.

If you don't know this already, and even if you do, Jason Bateman is a comedic mastermind. I first got to know him on "Arrested Development," which is absolutely the funniest show I never saw until after it was canceled. Having him stealing scenes from Will Smith in a summer blockbuster makes me quite happy. Though I suppose stealing is the wrong word, because the cast works great together. Good ensemble, y'know?

Charlize Theron is pretty severe... but in a good way. I don't know that I've seen her in much before this, though she did guest star in a run of "Arrested Development" and yes this is my none-too-subtle way of hocking the show at you all. It's good.

The effects in "Hancock" are pretty spectacular, as well. They give a lot of focus to flight and I'm fine with that. Show me a person who has never wished they could fly and I'll show you a either liar or a soulless automaton from an apocalyptic future. But things get broken left and right in supercool ways too, and I think everyone can get behind that.

The only fault I found, and this is just me picking nits, was that there was shit that went down that was never really explained... but that didn't come up in my head until after the movie. It was too totally sweet at the time to appropriately question. But then again, one of the writers used to work on "The X-Files," so I guess weirdness just ought to be expected.

So, chalk "Hancock" up as another victory in this great summer of movies. Catch it next week, y'know... when it opens.


Even though I've seen it already.

4.5 out of 5

-Thad out

P.S. - If you want to check out my other review of "Hancock" for some weird reason, check out my, er... 'blog' (I hate that word) at inkkc.com. That's right: it was so cool I wrote it up twice.

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June 25, 2008

"The Happening" and Other Weird Stories

This movie happened.

1 out of...

No, that's a lie.

Well... not entirely. The movie did, in fact, happen. But it was far better than 1 star, and I have much more to say about it.

I was admittedly timid going into this film. I was not impressed with "Signs" or "The Village," and never saw "The Lady in the Water" -- mostly based on word of mouth -- so timid may actually be an understatement.

But I was wrong. "The Happening" is M. Night Shyamalan's best work since "Unbreakable."

The concept is great: people start offing themselves for no reason, en masse, showing no emotion or pain. They just jump, or shoot, or cut. The range of on-screen suicides goes from the honestly gruesome to the somewhat ridiculous. The story itself comes from Marky Mark Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife, Alma (Zooey Deschanel), trying to flee the city along with The Pest their friend (John Leguizamo) and his daughter (Ashlyn Sanchez).

This is much more entertaining than it sounds.

This movie is getting a lot of heat from critics. "Signs" and "The Village" were hailed as being too predictable in being unpredictable and now it seems that M. Night is getting the reverse rap on this. No, there isn't a big "YOU'RE DEAD!" plot twist, nor is there even a basic understanding of why this happened at the end.

Shut up and enjoy that fact.

3 1/2 out of 5

Just when you think all the cool ideas are taken, something comes along and causes massive sections of the population to kill themselves for no reason.

While there were some pretty screwed up deaths tossed right at the audience, I wasn't freaked out by "The Happening" so much as interested -- curious, even. I wanted to know where we were headed and I was honestly wondering what would happen to these people.

Richard got his digs in up above about the whole "Marky Mark" thing, but I have to admit that I'm totally oblivious to any of that. Wikipedia had to clarify things for me after I caught a similar reference during my study of "An Evening With Kevin Smith." All that aside, I have nothing but respect for Mark Wahlberg after his performance in "The Happening." He plays a regular guy, a high school science teacher, and he plays it flawlessly. This is especially cool because the first memorable Wahlberg appearance for me was as the forceful, filthy-mouthed staff sergeant in "The Departed." Couldn't be more different, but both delivered expertly.

The whole central cast was great, from John Leguizamo to Zooey Deschanel (who I held a bit of a grudge against for being in the rather middling "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" movie). And let's not forget young Ashlyn Sanchez, who showcases Shyamalan's continuing streak of unaggravating child performances.

The greatest moments, however, were in the interactions with the bizarre people found over the course of the film's exodus. Betty Buckley as Mrs. Jones was particularly striking.

But honestly, my comments are meager compared to Jeremiah's, which will shortly be taking you on a thrilling exodus exposing the crimes committed in other reviews of this film you may have stumbled across. So, let's wrap it up.

For my part, normal people confronted with the bizarre and unknown, when played well, always makes for a good time:

3.5 out of 5

-Thad out

M. Night Shyamalan's newest movie is not near the rousing failure that others would have you believe. It is by no means a rousing success, but it does make an attempt, and for that we must give it credit.

It seems, for one reason or another, when it comes to M. Night, people insist on judging his present works against his first two masterpieces -- and they are masterpieces, let's not squabble on that.

Spielberg and Scorsese are looked at film by film. When either one of them have a new release, people judge it as a film by that particular person and, depending on the quality, say yea or nay. Sometimes they will say that it is their best or, for their less successful attempts, say it was admirable . Yet rarely will critics say "Well, it's no, 'Jaws.'"

Critics do this constantly to M. Night.

One must acknowledge that steady working film-makers, from time to time, make masterpieces, with a mixture of luck, talent and sheer audacity. When they're not making crown jewels of the cinema, they are still trying to make a good movie. Even then, one man's masterpiece is another man's "Bad Boys II."

Simply put, M. Night Shymalan is a film-maker and his films are well-made, from the technical stand point. One can hardly punish him because "The Happening" is not as great as "The Sixth Sense" or "Unbreakable." It was still made well, with blood, sweat and passion.

Also, critics -- myself included -- should not wail about how nobody dares to come up with new and interesting concepts, then immediately turn around to yell at the man who attempts to do so. In effect, this is largely what I perceive the critics to be doing to M. Night. The reason may be that, since they cannot discuss or review the the film for fear of giving away the plot, they resort to criticizing the man behind the camera instead. So I will relive myself of this particular yoke.



The plot of “The Happening” is actually quite ingenious. Owing a great deal to Hitchcock's (another director who suffers a similar critical fate as M. Night) “The Birds.” Both plots involve a natural phenomenon starting just as suddenly as they end.

The difference is that M. Night's idea is more intellectually intriguing. You could say that “The Happening” goes about its leisurely, frills-free pace so as to let you ponder. Indeed, at a scant 91 minutes, it hardly overstays its welcome.

By now everyone knows the bare plot: a toxin has been released into the air, causing people to commit suicide. The toxin affects the “electro-chemical blabbity blah blah,” otherwise known as our self-preservation. It shuts off our own self-defense mechanism. The whole twist is who, and why.

Well, here's the twist: there is no twist.

Why does their have to be a twist? Why? Because it's a Shymalan movie? Grow up.

The explanation given is that the plants are releasing the toxin. Mother nature killing us? Some critics have called this absurd, silly, and just plain stupid. Is it though?

Any one with a high school education knows that nature has a hellish freaky symbiotic relationship with, y'know... everything. Man being the top of the food chain, the most rational thinking and, all-in-all, the most complex. But the price we pay is that we are curiously out of touch with nature.

Hell, most people consider nature a bother and wish to get as far away from it as possible. As a race, we have basically raped our own planet. We've done astronomical damage to the one thing that allows us life. So there's global warming, a flimsy ozone layer and for what? So we could drive a fucking Esclade?

This isn't a rant on environmentalism, this is fact. Why wouldn't nature wish to destroy us? Seriously? We've been destroying nature ever since the industrial revolution.

It's no secret that plants evolve at a much faster pace than humans. (Editor's Note: If you somehow didn't know that, have you ever considered why there are so many varieties of corn?) So why is it so unreasonable that the eco-system finally views the human race as a credible threat? It's not. One wonders why it waited this long.

The toxin seems to be relegated mainly to the east coast. Reason? Who knows. It is the industrial East Coast, not to mention all those nuclear power plants. Makes sense when looked at through the spy glass of the degradation of nature.

That's the plot though, the characters are not as bad as the other reviewers would have you believe either. Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) is a high school science teacher. Elliot is our way into the movie. All is from his perspective. That includes his gorgeous wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel). A woman who believes she has committed a graver sin than she actually has. What this sin is, I will not say. I will let this be one of the few surprises in the movie. Suffice to say it was a joy to watch Alma and Elliot realize how foolish they've been. It was also nice to see that the incident in question felt real, and was not there to add unneeded melodrama.

The two flee Philadelphia, when news hits that a possible terrorist act has been committed. The two, along with Elliot's friend, Julian the math teacher (John Leguizamo), and his daughter Jess (Ashlyn Sanchez) flee the city.

The movie is really about the people they meet, and the journey of the foursome. Along the way, they will give theories as to what is happening. At the same time, you will notice that everyone is re-acting very realistically. The journey, in many ways, is an introspective one. Few people are flying into hysterics. Whalberg's paranoia is a slow build and fascinating to watch. Deschanel's Alma starts out distracted and slowly evolves into a focused being.

Then suddenly just as quickly as it began, it stops. Why? “It's a natural phenomenon, we may never know what caused it.” Yet, why did it only concern itself with the east coast? One scientist believes it was nature giving us a warning.

When asked why they can't explain it better, they shrug. How can they explain it better? Conclusions are brought about from careful observation, intelligent thinking and comparative data. What do they have to compare it to. It was a happening. An instant. They can only guess.

“The Happening” is no “Sixth Sense,” and I didn't expect it to be. It's flawed to be sure, yet I was never truly bored. M. Night strove for a new way to frighten us. How can you outrun the wind? How can you escape nature? If you abuse your natural resources enough, will those resources not fight back? All the time he peppers his work with what I call restrained gore. He shows you just enough, and then lets your imagination make you squirm.

M. Night tried to do something unique, which is to give us a new and interesting thriller. He succeed in that, even if his thriller did not fully succeed. I, for one, am grateful for the attempt. While the movie is by no means an event, it is a happening.

/ 5

Yours Until Hell Freezes Over,

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"Get Smart"

I grew up watching Nick at Nite. That may sound weird, but hey, in my house “cable” meant The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, a.k.a. Nick at Nite. So I grew up with “The Twilight Zone,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Monkees,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “F-Troop” and, of course... “Get Smart.”

So, that being said, I went in hoping the movie wouldn't suck and for a few laughs along the way. Well, the movie didn't suck... and it had a few laughs. It was entertaining, and yet I was still kind of disappointed.

The direction and story were sort of,well... meh. The actors did their best -- no one was phoning it in, to be sure. Steve Carell was hilarious, but he wasn't really Maxwell Smart as much as merely the same Steve Carell we know and love. Dwayne Johnson was spot on as Agent 23 and Alan Arkin was, at times, even funnier than Carell. Hell, Anne Hathaway, while not as funny as her male counterparts, turned in a solid performance -- probably better than the movie deserved -- and provided a pleasant visual distraction when the movie dragged. Although I have to say, the great Terrence Stamp seemed to be in a different movie altogether. His lines were delivered with a sort of glum seriousness that made you feel like maybe someone told him this was a Bond film, as opposed to Bond spoof.

While the action sequences were done well, they lacked “oopmh.” I was never at the edge of my seat. Granted, one should not expect to be at edge of one's seat when watching a modern-day remake/tribute to a slapstick sitcom from the '60s, but there were times where you got the impression that the director, Peter Segal, was attempting to do just that. Uneven and, at times, just plain boring -- those times being when the funny and the Hathaway (who is rapidly becoming my crush of the month) were absent.

The laughs are there, though. There will be times where you may be holding your gut. They bring out all the gags from the show -- even the robotic Hymie (Patrick Warburton) makes an appearance -- and there some solid original jokes as well. All in all, though not as funny as I'd hoped it would be, I'm not going to punish a movie simply because it failed to be “Airplane” or something of that stripe. I will, however, punish it for being merely mediocre.

Or maybe punish is the wrong word.

I mean, what does it really matter what I think of the hard work that obviously went into this movie? So it wasn't “Anchor Man.” It had its moments and, overall, made me glad that I chose to see it, which is really all one can ask of comedy. We want for more, sometimes demand more and who knows? Maybe we're right.

Still, it made me laugh, and that's good too.

/ 5

Yours Until Hell Freezes Over,

"Get Smart" was a television staple to me as a child. I remember sneaking out to watch it on my parents spare TV in the middle of the night -- one of those boxy, wood-paneled TVs with bad color and horrid sound, but I wouldn't have traded it for anything.

It was my favorite show and I had seen every episode countless times before the age of 10. But all that remains now are the running gags mixed with a few brief, more specific memories... much like what I came out of the movie with.

Steve Carell is funny, that's a given, but he was never Maxwell Smart in the movie. Just Steve Carell doing silly things. Anne Hathaway wasn't 99 and Alan Arkin wasn't really The Chief. They were great, just not who I wanted them to be.

The movie is a complete revamp. You don't need to know any inside jokes or the characters, although it helps, and you don't have to be familiar with the show to have a few laughs. Sometimes a revamp is what you need (i.e. "The Incredible Hulk") other times you should just continue with the flow and assume the audience came to see it based on the source material (see also: "Superman Returns"). "Get Smart" falls into the latter category.

Sure the show is old -- really old -- but it's still a comedy legend. Even now, I still hear people quoting it. It lives in a category along with a few other select shows ("I Love Lucy," "Dragnet," etc.) that need no explanation. Maxwell Smart is established. Skip the pomp and circumstance and throw him into the world of spy parody.

If you want a few laughs see this, or wait for the DVD. But if you seriously want to relive the days of Don Adams, watch "The Naked Gun." You will be more entertained.

3 out of 5

Yeah... I didn't see this movie.

What? I have a life outside here, y'know. Besides, we got Richard back in the game:

What more do you want?

x out of 5

-Thad out.

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June 23, 2008

Force the Sherman I: Screen Poetry

Just how wonderful
Is Hayao Miyazaki's
"Spirited Away"?

Filled to the brim with
Florid imagination
And joyous spirit

Chihiro is a
Brave and intelligent girl
In a strange new world

Haku will do all
He can to get her a job
With Ms. Yubaba

Little does she know
That Chira is in fact a
Bath house for the Gods

Yubaba changes
The little girl's name to Sen
New name but same girl

Many Adventures
with strange spirits as Sen grows
Back to Chihiro

Exuberance and
Great love is the story told
By Miyazaki

A master of the
Fine art of animation
Is Miyazaki

"Spirited Away"
Was so good that it inspired
Me to write haiku

/ 5

Yours Until Hell Freezes Over,

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June 21, 2008

They Might Be Comics: Part 1

While Sherman is on the downhill slope toward the end of his animation marathon, I've decided to start a little mini-series of my own to get my movie reviewing gears grinding back up to speed. Don't let the title fool you: they definitely are comics, you just probably didn't know that when they came out.

Now, at this point you may be thinking that "Iron Man" or "The Incredible Hulk" had the best casting of any comic book movie to date, but what if such a film came out starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman and Jude Law? Look no further than "Road to Perdition."

Based on the first volume of a graphic novel series by the same name, "Road to Perdition" is the story of Irish Mob enforcer Michael Sullivan, Sr. (Hanks) told from the perspective of his son, Michael, Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin). Michael, Sr. has worked -- or killed people -- for John Rooney (Paul Newman) for most of his life, having also been raised by the mobster since he was orphaned at a young age. And he's very good at his job.

Unfortunately, curiosity as to the nature of his father's work gets the better of Michael, Jr. and he ends up stowing away in his father's car and witnesses Rooney's psychotic son, Conner (Daniel Graig), shoot a guy in the head. Things spiral out of control as the ultra-paranoid Conner, fearing young Michael will talk, kills Micheal, Sr's wife and younger son, Peter, mistaking him for Michael, Jr.

And so, Michael, Sr. takes his surviving son on the ensuing mission of vengeance, hoping to force the mob to give up Conner, kill him and eventually reach safe harbor in a town called Perdition. On top of that, they must evade a bizarre contract killer with a habit of photographing his victims as they die (Jude Law).

The film has this amazing flow to it. Highly visual and strangely quiet, making you pay closer attention to the dialogue and violence when it shows up. And while there obviously are several killings in the movie, it's never anything over-the-top; death is shown as an ugly thing, even though the cinematography framing it is beautiful.

There's a lot of great stuff going on here -- even the child-acting is pulled off without a hitch. And Daniel Craig plays the crazy bastard like a pro, even amongst all these huge names. Director Sam Mendes is another man who's good at his job. His film previous to "Road to Perdition" was quite good, as well. Maybe you've heard of it? A little flick called "American Beauty"?

Though I hate to admit this, I haven't actually read the "Road to Perdition" graphic novel. What can I say? I'm poor. But it comes highly recommended, as does the series it was loosely based on, a Japanese manga called "Lone Wolf and Cub" (which was made into a series of films in Japan that I've also not seen).

In an event, it's a movie that I highly recommend. And if you get really hooked in, there's plenty of source material to add to your future reading/viewing list.

And just to underline the kind of dork I am, I'd like to mention how I love the wordplay of the title, "Perdition" being both the town they hope to find sanctuary in as well as a synonym for Hell, where all these Irish Catholic mobsters are certain they'll end up; Mmmmm... layered meanings. So add that to your vocabulary, if you have some free space.

-Thad out.

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June 18, 2008

Force the Sherman I: Vampires Are NOT People, Too

Dear Goth Kids,

I know life sucks, as do all jocks and cheerleaders (though, you really should have second thoughts about the cheerleaders... they personally make me happy in a special way). But to exclude anyone who dares to not be you? Well, that just makes you as bad as them. Also, what is with your rampant obsession with vampires (or as I call them, “the douchebags of the night”)? I bring this up because of the anime movie I recently watched. So I guess, in retrospect, this goes out to all anime fans as well:

Dear Goth Kids and Anime Fans,

I have a strong suspicion that goth kids and anime fans gravitate towards the same bigotries. The film was “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” (or "Banpaia Hanta D," in the Japanese), a futuristic, Victorian sci-fi explodathon about vampires (read: douchebags of the night) and D (Andrew Philpot), the half-human, half-vampire hunter who hunts them. Oops, I forgot one:

Dear Goth Kids, Anime Fans, and Sci-Fi Geeks,

Ignoring the fact that half-human, half-vampires defy all laws of everything, suggesting that vampires are actually capable of reproducing sexually, not to mention the radical implications of cross-breeding, would make Darwin weep. So they're dead... yet they still have, ahem... "bodily fluids” and a working undead reproductive system? That just makes my little soul cringe... so I guess I should change my salutation yet again:

Dear Goth Kids, Anime Fans, Sci-Fi Geeks, and people who have such a complete suspension of disbelief that they will allow whatever back-fuck-wards thing any ol' loon off the street thinks of,

There is no way in hell I am capitalizing all that. So, disregarding that fact, this movie also happens to deal with a pet peeve of mine: women who voluntarily love douchebags of the night. Dracula I'm OK with, he had them hypnotized. Nosferatu? So ugly, it could only be magic. But this girl, Charlotte Elbourne (Wendee Lee), has NO spells cast on her. She's under absolutely NO hypnotism, NO mind control... she just... loves vampires. So yet again, I feel I should be more specific:

Dear Goth Kids, Anime Fans, Sci-Fi Geeks, people who have such a complete suspension of disbelief that they will allow whatever back-fuck-wards thing any ol' loon off the street thinks of, and women who are simply making bad life choices -- the ones that even Lifetime deem too stupid to talk about,

Charlotte claims Meir Link (John Rafter Lee) is a “good" vampire (read: “good" douchebag of the night”) and that he has not (since, at least, they started dating) harmed anyone. She would also probably believe that a hooker “wouldn't kiss.” He's a VAMPIRE! They live by taking other people's lives. Lives like yours or, more importantly, mine. Not to mention the supernatural, sadistic, cruel badasses he has that guarding his coach don't seem to be operating from the same ethics manual as your beloved Prince Suckmeister. Don't get me wrong, despite my trouble swallowing the whole half-human, half-vampire thing (Oh, and if any of you out there try to defend this with, “What about 'Blade?'” I'll simply rebuff you with this: Blade may have been half-human, half-douchebag, but he was also 100% Wesley Snipes. A combination of bad and ass so potent that he didn't even have to pay his taxes)... I actually enjoyed the movie, despite all these innate flaws.

It has all the watermarks of things that annoy me, and yet I was still entertained. I enjoyed Leila (Pamela Segall) and D's Left Hand (Michael McShane), especially the relationship between the three of them that had the sick perverse side of me was wondering if there was going to be a love triangle between the three. Which reminds me, I left some people out:

Dear Goth Kids, Anime Fans, Sci-Fi Geeks, people who have such a complete suspension of disbelief that they will allow whatever back-fuck-wards things any ol' loon off the street thinks of, women who are simply making bad life choices -- the ones that even Lifetime deem too stupid to talk about, and fellow like-minded pervs,

"Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust" is a capably crafted and enjoyable piece of impressive animation. How could I not love a movie involving an old man pulling out a gun the size of Danny Trejo? Meir and Charlotte may not be the valedictorians of the school for kids with special needs, but their exploits are laughingly interesting enough... particularly when they plan to leave earth and all the vampire-haters (read: douchebag of the night-haters) behind and launch themselves into... that's right... space (an action, I might add, that would leave Meir with precious few food options, except dear, sweet, insipid Charlotte. Did this bother anyone else?) Not to mention that, apparently, since vampires are supernatural beings, they have a complete disregard for the laws of nature and astrophysics. Too bad, considering the stars they're going to live amongst are actually themselves... suns. Yeah, have fun in space... where there is no night to protect you from, as I like to call it, “that big, round, yellow thing that kills you."

Fucking twits! Now, I have to start all over again:

Dear Goth Kids, Anime Fans, Sci-Fi Geeks, people who have such a complete suspension of disbelief that they will allow whatever back-fuck-wards things any ol' loon off the street thinks of, women who are simply making bad life choices -- the ones that even Lifetime deem too stupid to talk about, and fellow like-minded pervs, and douchebags of the night who have no concept of the most basic laws of astrophysics,


Ahhh, the hell with it.

/ 5

Yours Until Hell Freezes Over,

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June 16, 2008

The Resurrection of "The Incredible Hulk" -'Three' Geek Review






THAT... ODD...

















/ 5

The Incredible Sher-man


Erh, yeah... the movie may have exposed Sherman to leathal doses of geek radiation, mutating him into a creature beyond imagination...
We should probably do something about that.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I'm somewhat protective of Ang Lee's "Hulk." Not that it's some kind of misunderstood classic or anything, I just don't believe it deserves all the flack it tends to catch.

Okay, so the story goes crazy in the last half hour or so -- I'm with you there. They made it way more about daddy issues than it needed to be -- fine. None of the classic villains -- definitely raises questions. But they had good actors delivering solid performances (with what they were given) and special effects that blew my mind out the back of my head. The fight scenes between the Hulk and the Army are the whole reason I own that DVD. It's gorgeous. The Hulk appears to be standing just right the fuck there.

That being said, "The Incredible Hulk" brushes the previous film aside like a batch of cobwebs and barrels ahead to one of the greatest super-powered slugfests ever to grace the silver screen. "Iron Man" was no fluke -- Marvel Studios has officially stopped kidding around.

The problem with Ang Lee's "Hulk" was that it was all origin story, with Banner only truly adopting his classic man-on-the-run setup at the very end. "The Incredible Hulk," on the other hand, goes the other way. An opening montage fleshes out the origin that we all already knew -- with definite visual influences from the live-action TV show for those of us that are power dorks -- and we're off.

Now, with Louis Leterrier being a professional, and demonstrably talented, action director, I was completely unsurprised that all of the action sequences -- from foot chases to army confrontations to the big monster fight -- were brilliantly executed. But beyond that, I was pleasantly surprised to find delicious Marvel Universe references lurking around every corner. Hints about Captain America, classic Hulk supporting characters and/or future villains lurking about, Lou Ferrigno... fantastic!

Edward Norton fits as Bruce Banner in that almost glaringly obvious way that Robery Downey Jr. captured Tony Stark, though I wonder if he'll get the recognition he deserves, as the Banner character isn't made to steal scenes like Stark. But, c'mon... you've seen "Fight Club," right? Dude's got repressed rage down like nobody's business.

Hell, the whole cast is stellar. William Hurt, Tim Roth, Liv Tyler... sure, the previous film had an Grade-A cast as well, but "The Incredible Hulk" brings the cast and the action and the nerdity to such a high degree that I defy you not to enjoy it.

Go ahead and try.

Plus, Lou Ferrigno lends his voice to the Hulk himself. It's a great day for gamma radiation.


-Thad out.


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June 13, 2008

Force the Sherman I: The Secret of "The Secret of NIMH"

Memory is a curious human faculty.

There were times where I was watching “The Secret of NIMH” and would have a sudden, strong recollection. They were scenes I remembered clearly, that I had carried with me without realizing -- like the emphatic fear that struck me as Jeremy (Dom DeLuise), the crow, was tangled in string with Dragon the Cat stalking nearby. I distinctly recalled my own true dread as Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman) went to seek advice from The Great Owl (John Carradine) or my young eyes being dazzled by the electric magic of Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi), leader of the rats of NIMH.

Scenes I saw as a child, from a movie I don't even recall watching that much, left a strong residue behind. The power of art and motion pictures.

Don Bluth's “Secret of NIMH” holds up surprisingly well. Before this, Bluth (See also: "An American Tail" and "The Land Before Time") was a Disney animator. He desperately wanted to do this film but Disney rejected the idea, saying it was “too dark.” So Bluth -- along with John Pomeroy, Gary Goldman and about 20 other animators -- left Disney and made the movie themselves. At the time, they were called the Disney Defectors.

The characters of "NIMH" stick with you as much as the amazing visuals: Mrs. Brisby and her children, in desperate need of help so they can move their house “to the lee of the stone” or Auntie Shrew (Hermione Baddeley) who always pops in unannounced and gives unsolicited advice or any of the others I mentioned above.

The plot is actually somewhat bare; it's the visuals and the way the story is told that mark it as the animated masterpiece it is.

The rats of NIMH -- lab rats from the National Institute of Mental Health who evolved higher intelligence -- have escaped to a rosebush in front of a farmer's house. After a short while there, they decide to move on. When Mrs. Brisby asks why, they reply, “Because we can no longer live as rats.” However, the dastardly Jenner (Paul Shenar) wishes to continue their ratty existence as parasites of society. Jenner's opponent is Justin (Peter Strauss), the golden boy of the rats, and a favorite of their leader, the rat wizard Nicodemus.

How Nicodemus got his power is never explained -- probably because it matters not. After all, if you accept a rat who can learn to talk, organize a society of order and rules, and knows magic, what does it matter how the magic happens? For a child, the magic is in the magic itself.

The sword fight near the end is right out of an Errol Flynn movie, with a dash of Shakespearean tragedy. But the amazing thing is that this “kid's” movie has the audacity to show blood on at least two occasions: the sword fight and an incident where Mrs. Brisby cuts herself on a cage. In an age where entire wars are fought in children's movies with nary a drop of blood to be found -- such as in Disney's “Chronicles of Narnia” -- such things are completely unheard of! Imagine... telling a child that if he fights, he will bleed!

“Secret of NIMH” is a powerful film, filled with images that stay with you for years to come (Dragon the Cat was terrifying to behold as a youngster). It's rare that you revisit something you love from you childhood to find it has not faded or grown stale. Yet “NIMH” is still fresh, exciting and creepy, just as it was when I was... however young I was when I first saw it.

Truly a movie that proves the magic of the medium.

/ 5

Yours Until Hell Freezes Over,

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June 10, 2008

"Cool Whip" -Thaddeus

When I become interested in something, I tend to take things a bit overboard. So, with Indiana Jones having recently reasserted his influence over my life, well...

I often chronicle my adventures in illustrated form, though these things usually remain tucked in the margins of school notebooks or hidden sketchpads, unseen by the world at large.

But change is good, or so I'm told.

Fun Fact: Carlos Mencia is high upon, if not the very pinnacle of, my list of comedians who are not only far less funny than myself -- and every one of my friends, both individually and as a group -- but also still manage to have their own television program.

It's terribly vexing.

And the intense, "extreme" tone of the commercials for said program doesn't help one bit.

-Thad out.

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June 08, 2008

Force the Sherman I: A Different Kind of Iron Man

What a refreshing, animated treat “The Iron Giant” is! Here we have another animated feature that realizes kids are much smarter than what we give them credit for. Usually, non-Disney features (excluding Pixar) such as this leave a sugary and hollow taste behind. Yet here, Warner Bros. has given us a respectable voice cast, a lusciously simple animation style and a smörgåsbord of existential themes to deal with.

Taking place in the fifties and set in the picturesque town of Rockwell (surely a nod to the painter), "The Iron Giant" tells the story of Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) and his young mother Annie(Jennifer Aniston), a waitress at the local soda shoppe. Hogarth enjoys staying up late and watching bad science-fiction movies while attempting to eat his weight in Twinkies, as all children -- and adults -- ought to.

It's on one such night that a meteor falls from the sky and lands just off the Rockwell shore. Out of the sea rises the titular Iron Giant (Vin Diesel). A sailor, Earl (M. Emmet Walsh), crashes into it and, of course, nobody believes the crazy fisherman.

Meanwhile, Hogarth is drawn outside when his television looses reception. Noticing something going on at the power plant, he rushes over to investigate and finds the Giant. From there on in, it is an adventure exploring everything from the idea of souls, and their immortality, to the violence caused by guns, with a small detour to examine the uber-American propagandizing going on in that period.

Hogarth decides to hide the Giant in the local junkyard, which is owned by a beatnik artist named Dean (Harry Connick, Jr.). There, they have discussions about death and the possibility of life after death. We learn that the Giant is actually a giant gun, this and another situation prompts the discussion about violence and that idea that, “You are who you choose to be.”

The Government sends an agent (and all that that implies) after the fisherman calls and reports his story. The agent, Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald), is skeptical at first, but becomes convinced after seeing the evidence firsthand. Mansley is not the villain necessarily, just someone who has been drinking heavily from the kool-aid, as they say.

There is an inspired monologue where he spouts out “red scare” propaganda about the dangers of the “giant metal man,” even going so far as saying: “All I know is that we didn't build it, and that's reason enough to assume the worst and blow it to kingdom come!”

Eventually, the army is called in to deal with the metal-plated visitor. The operation is headed by General Rogard (John Mahoney), a man who loves his country and thinks Mansley is a loon. To say more would ruin the movie and a climax that has, even through repeated viewings, left me shedding a tear or two.

The movie has a simple, lustrous look to it -- it seems almost to have been done in water color. The story handles subject matters much more complicated than is typical for the audience animated movies are aimed at, but it is done shrewdly and thoughtfully. Any youngster who sees this is bound to walk away with some pretty big questions.

“The Iron Giant” is a marvel. Animated movies, even Disney ones, are not usually this well executed. The voice talent is filled with great character actors (fricking M. Emmett Walsh!) and the story is more than sound. I asked a friend of mine what made “Giant” so good, and he replied without missing a beat, “The director, Brad Bird (see also: The Incredibles).”

Bird is an absolute genius when it comes to animated storytelling. My research tells me that he spent 8 years as the second-tier of command on “The Simpsons,” and his experience shows. “The Iron Giant,” is, quite frankly, an underrated masterpiece. I have watched it several times, and I am amazed by how much I still enjoy it. My hat is off to Bird and Co. for making a lastingly enjoyable, moving and thought-provoking animated film.

/ 5

Yours Until Hell Freezes Over,


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June 04, 2008

Force the Sherman I: A "Stitch" in Disney

You may or may not have read my last essay, in which I bemoaned the moral downfall of a certain multi-million dollar merchandising machine/animation studio. It's right below this on the main page, if you want to catch up. I can wait...

Anyway, I figured I should start off the marathon with a contradiction to everything I said: Disney's 2002 animated feature, “Lilo and Stitch.”

“Lilo and Stitch” may well be one of the best modern Disney films, and it success lies in their very antithesis. Instead of labored and monotonous songs, you have musical montages set to the songs of Elvis Presley himself. The absence of a major archetypal villain, another Disney staple, is filled by several bad-intentioned characters who, in the end, band together against a greater foe.

Stitch (co-writer and directer, Chris Sanders) or Experiment 626 was genetically designed to cause destruction and mayhem. His creator, Dr. Joomba Jookiba (David Ogden Stiers) -- or, as he prefers to be called, “Evil Genius” -- created him with the intent of global domination. As the movie opens, we see Joomba on trial before a sort of Galactic High Council. The evil doctor is sentenced to life imprisonment. Stitch, being deemed an abomination, is sentenced to exile on a desolate rock. It goes without saying that Stitch escapes from his jailers, steals an escape pod and crash lands on Earth -- one of the Hawaiian islands to be exact -- but I went ahead and said it anyway.

There, we meet sisters Lilo (Daveigh Chase) and Nani (Tia Carrere). Nani is trying her best to keep a job and raise Lilo, but Lilo is proving to be difficult. Her abundant imagination makes her a social leper, and when she tries to be nice, she is teased. Their parents being absent is another contrary-to-modern-Disney trait. Lilo and Nani are on their own, and, while they love each other, they fight a lot. At times Lilo will even lock Nani outside the house. The relationship of the sisters smacks of a realism that's refreshing to see in a children's movie.

A social worker has been assigned to Nani and Lilo, a hulking, mountain of a man Mr. Bubbles (Ving Rhames, who else?). Dr. Joomba, meanwhile, has been released and employed by the High Council to hunt down 626. He is aided by Agent Pleakley (Kevin McDonald), an expert on the endangered species of mosquitoes on the Galactic Preservation known as Earth. Stitch has been run over by an entire trucking convoy and wakes up in a pound... and the movie has not even really gotten started yet.

Lilo adopts Stitch, against everyone's best wishes. Stitch, discovering that his creator has been sent to destroy him, uses Lilo as a shield. Along the way, they start to form an unlikely friendship. Joomba even muses on a philosophical quandary in relation to Stitch. He was created to destroy, with biological markers to gravitate towards thriving metropolises and large business areas, to kill and destroy... yet he lands on a peaceful rural tropical island. He has become a creature without purpose and must cope.

The rest of the movie deals with all these relationships, emotional revelations and attempted assassinations of Stitch, climaxing with space craft chases and exploding volcanoes. All with Island music and Elvis playing behind it. It's a really weird Disney movie. Even the way their drawn, Lilo and Nani are not beautiful Princess. They are chubby in places, Lilo having a rolly-polly shape and Nani having thick thighs... y'know, like real people.

Stitch is a genetic abomination, repeatedly called “unclean” by those hunting him. But even Joomba and Pleakley eventually help Stitch fight what amounts to the movie's overall villain: an Intergalactic Policeman, prejudiced against genetic mutations perhaps, but still not unabashedly evil.

All in all, “Lilo and Stitch” is a surprising masterpiece of sorts. If the movie does have flaws, they're forgivable. The sheer imagination of the plot wins with me. This is the Disney I remember and love.

/ 5

Yours Until Hell Freezes Over,


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June 03, 2008

Force the Sherman I: The Inception

Earlier this month I posted a blog asking you, the readers, to choose a genre, actor, director or any other manner of film-grouping for me to focus on in the month of June, giving you the rare opportunity to control what I reviewed, to hold the very reins of my movie-watching fate!

Well, the masses have spoken. And by masses, I mean the one person who responded. Victoria Easley of Rolla, Missouri wrote in and suggested films that are animated.

So, June shall be the Month of Animation!

I'll be reviewing the gamut of animated films: foreign, computer animated and old-school hand-drawings for the kids and adults alike.

Animation is the one style of film-making where the imagination is truly free to run rampant without the oppressive fists of the laws of physics and budget constraints in regards to special effects. Or the worry how the effects might look, be it too cheesy and fake or the risk that they may be dated in a few years time. With animation, the sky is the limit. This is why most animated films fall in the realm of fantasy and science fiction.

Yet with all this, there is something almost eerie in how accessible the characters are. The plots are often so outlandish that we just accept them without question. Many of the people I've spoken with have confessed that the most terrifying images from their childhood were that of animated films. Be it the wicked witch from ,“Sleeping Beauty,” the evil Queen from “Snow White,” or the mother's death in “Bambi.”

I cited all Disney films because, until the last few years, the name Disney was -- and in some cases, still is -- synonymous with animation. Early Disney had the uncanny ability to entertain children without talking down to them. They were not afraid to expose children to the roller coaster of emotions in life. In a way, they were entertaining children with one hand, placating them, while, with the other, they were getting them ready for the real world. There are people who do purposeful harm to others, some children do loose their mothers and jealousy can drive people to acts of madness. All while peppering in a nice little song here and there.

The latter is what caused the downfall of Disney, in a way. It got to a point where the songs were redundant, monotonous and only there because every Disney movie, by some unwritten (or at least unpublished) law, had to have at least three songs. Children, while often naive, are not stupid. They can tell, even if only it's subconsciously, when a song is there as filler and has no purpose for the mood or story.

Think I'm wrong? Show a child a newer Disney movie, followed by a classic, and see which one they enjoy more. See which one moves them, which one enraptures them the most.

I guess one could say the downfall of Disney would be their loss of faith in the children's intelligence. Of course there will be those who argue that Disney's business is booming, bigger than ever, and that their children don't seem to notice. You mean quite possibly one of the most ignorant and illiterate generations we've seen in a while? Of course the children are not going to notice a difference! No one exposes them to the old-school stuff!

Another argument one might use would be that the glorious second coming of animation is Pixar. Well, I'm sorry to say that, if that's your argument, you're an idiot. Oh don't get me wrong, Pixar is glorious. They have ushered in a new era of children's animation. However, Disney has nothing to do with those, except to distribute them. Animation-wise, story-wise, director-wise and song-wise (or the lack thereof) is all Pixar. In fact, most of Pixar's inspiration comes from Japanese animators such as Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata ("Princess Mononoke" and "Grave of the Fireflies," respectively).

I realize now that my essay on the glories of animation has turned into a rant about the downfall of Disney. When one starts to bitch about how a mighty business conglomerate has fallen, it's time to call it a wrap. So, in conclusion, this month will be full of nostalgia and discovery -- as much for you, I hope, as for me.

I'll be attempting to post two or three times a week, so check in periodically and see me write myself ragged.

Here we go... this oughta' be a blast.

Yours Until Hell Freezes Over,


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