July 27, 2008

"The X-Files: I Want to Believe" Movie Review

After the non-stop, high-speed entertainment extravaganza that was this summer's movie release schedule, "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" is the equivalent of suddenly finding yourself in a school zone.

While I wasn't a fanatical, catch-every-episode follower, I really enjoyed the series. It was good sci-fi, and I like good sci-fi. Solid characters, fresh takes on classic sci-fi/horror concepts (along with plenty of original concoctions) and sweeping, impenetrable conspiracies... how could anyone say no? Hell, even the first "X-Files" movie, with it's plot tightly bound to the murky miasma that was the show's central alien conspiracy plotline, was entertaining on its own. "I Want to Belive" was not.

The plot follows everybody's favorite (and now former) FBI Agents, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), as they are pulled back into the weirdness they've apparently been avoiding in the... however many years since there stopped being "X-Files." Anyway, some sympathetic-to-the-paranormal FBI lady (Amanda Peet) wants Mulder's professional opinion on a supposedly psychic, pedophile priest (Billy Connolly) who claims to be having visions of kidnapped women, including an FBI Agent. There's also a sub-plot involving a young patient Scully is treating in a Catholic hospital and the controversial stem cell treatment she wants to use to cure him.

So, I guess writer/director Chris Carter wanted a plot with some heft to it. It feels like they took the plot from an unfilmed, one-shot "X-Files" episode and forcibly hammered it out to movie length. And if your movie feels over-long at only an hour and 40 minutes... oops, you've screwed up.

As much as I tended to prefer the stand-alone "X-Files" stories to the don't-miss-an-episode-or-your-head-will-implode (and taking notes wouldn't hurt) central plot, I can't help but miss the dark, cryptic, space alien weirdness when confronted with this plodding, vaguely supernatural crime-drama.

According to stuff I read on the Internet, this film was Chris Carter's way of putting out feelers for a third, alien conspiracy finale "X-Files" movie. If that's the case... why the hell didn't he just make that movie?

No Cigarette Smoking Man, no deal.

2 out of 5

-Thad out

Read More......

July 20, 2008

I HATE World of Warcraft Pt. 1

It's an addiction. Not like heroin -- to me at least -- but an addiction none the less. I love many aspects of it, but you assholes make me want the sell my account to some Chinese gold farmer every time I log in.

I should not be writing this... I can feel Sherman rolling his eyes at me, even in his sleep, and I know Thad will flog me with that Whip he got after seeing the new Indy movie. Still, I have to write about it -- WOW is one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons of the modern day gamer. And I play it, and dammit I'm good at it.

I play a Paladin. The noble knight riding along on horseback, there to save the day and win the girl, has always seemed catchy to me. I also play a lot of Clerics in D&D, and a Holy Pally is the same thing in my book when it comes down to WOW.

I also play Alliance on Feathermoon, an RP-PVE server (although I have found the role-playing here involves spamming the Trade channel with Chuck Norris facts, thinly veiled racial slurs and the single entendre. Still... I don't have to explain what Tanking and fucking Argo are to the moonpies on my sever like some of you assholes need). So I have to deal with 300,000 chattering 13 year old emobags that don't know dick about teamwork.

Now that you know a bit about me, I'll start my rant. This week's will be on Skill vs. Gear.

The worst thing that could ever have happened to WOW was the inclusion of the inspect option. Instead of trusting someone when they said they can heal you a group can just look at your gear's stats and your build to note your worth. This may sound good in theory, but in the end you end up judging someone on how shiny their equipment is and care dick about their play level.

"Well gee, Darkcloudlinkillerman, it looks like Healerpally over here doesn't have the 9 THOUSAND +healing I think he needs to make sure I don't die when I pull that giant demon across the bridge and through 37 other demons to hit me with a world-ending pyroblast. Maybe we need to find someone else."

With little exaggeration, that is what I hear every time I try to get into a group. In order to progress in the game I need gear from Karazhan, in order to run Karazhan I need gear from Karazhan. That is the catch-22 I hear from these fuck-baskets. Nevermind that I'm sitting at 1300 plus healing, 300 over what is really needed. Nevermind that you assholes were running it just fine at +800 when the raid first opened up. You want absolute certainty that you will succeed, even though you yourself do not have the gear equivalent to your class you expect me to have.

The other problem with that logic is judging a healer's stats off of one class against a healer's stats of another. I need less +heals than a Priest. I don't have a HOT or a mass heal (yet, thank you WotLK) I have a big heal and a fucking huge heal. Plus a barrage of buffs I can place on you and myself to keep you alive and me with more mana. I also crit fairly regularly which in turn makes me heal faster and restores mana as well as heals you for more. So judging me against a Priest, or a Druid or Shaman is ridiculous. I am not telling the rogue he needs more Strength or something retarded like that, so shut the fuck up about spirit. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THE CLASS, and that is not my fault.

The thing a good player can bring, which is often overlooked, is skill. I might not have the gear that the weirdo living in his parent's basement has, but I can promise you that if you die one of three things happened.

1. You fucked up and pulled agro on something that can one or two shot you.
2. The tank fucked up and dropped agro on something that can one or two shot you.
3. You are the tank and took a couple of unlucky crits back to back that one or two shotted you.

So the next time you spam "lf healer 4 kara must hav t4 OR BETER" remember what I said, stop being an asshole, and for Christ's sake, learn to spell.

Fuck why haven't I just let the account expire.

-Richard (AHH!) Kloiber

Read More......

July 19, 2008

"The Dark Knight" - Three Geek Review

Spoilers may lie ahead; make your choice...

Anyone who's been following superhero movie releases over the last several years -- going all the way back to Dick Donner's "Superman II" -- knows that the second movie in a series often has the power to knock the pants right off of you. The world has been made, and floats fully formed in the back of the viewer's mind. With no assembly required, the movie can pull you right in the deep end, immersing you to the eyeball from word go.

This is how we're brought in to "The Dark Knight" -- though, ironically, "Batman Begins" has a similarly no-nonsense introduction, as well.

I meant to time how long it took for Batman to show up on screen, but the movie's domination over me was too quick and too complete. There's only one line of commentary in my notebook, from the first few minutes... the rest of the time I was just watching.

Choice elements from the greatest Batman stories every told are seamlessly blended with original content to make something totally beyond all that came before. Seeing the movie on opening night was a true event -- cheers, applause... magic.

"The Dark Knight" is better than any movie I've seen this summer -- and even beyond that. Batman with real-world motivations; Batman as a man. It's something that you only see in the best of comics.

I once wrote an academic paper comparing superheroes to Shakespearean characters, with Batman having a line drawn directly to Hamlet -- maybe I'll share it with y'all sometime -- and nowhere does that idea pan out more flawlessly than in this film. Tragedy, humanity, flawed heroes... this is the grand glorification of the superhero genre. No excuses required. You don't have to be a "real fan" to appreciate it. You just have to be a person who enjoys a good story.

And, for my part, there's nothing I love more.

And it's about Batman.

Heath Ledger's Joker is destined to join "Darth Vader" atop greatest movie villain lists of all time. Surpassing even Jack Nicholson's iconic performance. Nicholson's was entertaining, and is no less so today than the day it graced the screen, but Ledger's is horrifying in the best possible way.

And Two-Face finally blots those disturbingly pink and purple memories from "Batman Forever" out of my mind. No offense to Tommy Lee Jones, who I'm sure did the best he could with what little he was given.

See this movie. See it in theaters, buy it on DVD, get it in your life somehow because this is American Mythology at it's peak, it's the new goal -- and, for me, it's beyond rating:

See "The Dark Knight" out of 5

-Thad out

I love Batman. I love, love, love, love, love Batman. He's one of the few holdouts from my childhood that stand the test of time. Remember "Thundercats" and "He-Man"? Go back and re-watch them and tell me what you think now. After that, watch "Batman" or "Batman Returns"... hell, even "Batman: the Animated Series" and compare. You'll see what I mean.

I was ecstatic when I saw "Batman Begins." It captured the spirit of the Frank Miller Batman without the rampant usage of "WHORES" and the brilliance of the Tim Burton's film adaptation while knowing more than dick about the character. It was the greatest superhero movie ever made...

Until now.

"The Dark Knight" keeps everything from the first movie and heaps more onto it. This is not Frank Miller Batman, this is Jeph Loeb Batman; and you can't get better than Loeb when it comes to the Caped Crusader.

Christopher Nolan took the characters I grew up loving and put them in pain -- deep-seated, physical, emotional, mental and, hell.. you could argue, spiritual pain. He explores the pain that comes from the mask and why someone like Batman needs to wear it. This is all shown to the audience by the brilliant Christian Bale. Keaton was good, but Bale is what the character needs now. Some have said the character falls flat; this is a lie. Bale's portrayal is exactly what Batman/Bruce Wayne is; a drunken fratboy-esqe Billionaire by day, dwindling his father's fortune frivolously and an unstable vigilante hero by night, hell-bent on stopping crime and protecting everyone; the good, the bad (the ugly... that was lame) at high cost to his body and mind.

Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman reprise their roles, as Alfred and Lucius Fox respectively, with absolute brilliance. Alfred is still the father figure and friend that grounds Bruce in sanity -- as well as a brilliant sounding board for witty banter -- and Fox runs Wayne Enterprises, while helping out the Batman with cool Bond gadgets.

Also returning is the ever-spectacular Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon. Gordan's role is much larger in this sequel and is more reminiscence of "The Long Halloween" than the previous film. Gordon is transformed from the lone detective, curious about the Dark Knight into the authority we know him as. Rounding out the returning characters is Rachel Dawes, now played by the immaculately beautiful Maggie Gyllenhaal. With more screen time and character development, it would have been a sin for Katie Holmes to reprise her role. Even so, and I don't mean to sound spiteful, but Katie you truly are an idiot for turning this down.

The truly fantastic performances were by newcomers to the franchise: Aaron Eckhart, playing District Attorney Harvey Dent, and Heath Ledger as The Joker. Dent's romantic relationship with Rachel partnered with his absolute fearlessness in the prosecution of Gotham's criminal element as the "White Knight" of Gotham and the eventual breaking of the character make this Eckhart's best performance since "Thank You for Smoking."

And finally, Heath Ledger...

I will say this to start: if he wins an Oscar because he died, it will be a travesty. If he wins because of his talent, it will be truly deserved.

There are two uses of The Joker. One is as a simple annoyance -- a tool to hammer out a Batman storyline. The other way is far greater, and that is to make the most frightening, insane sociopath ever to walk to land of fiction; to stalk, hunt and break people and not care about anything else. Heath Ledger did the latter. He is violent, crazy and believable as not just a comic book villain, but as a caricature of everything we fear from terrorism, serial killers, thugs, murderers, and stalkers. There is a sort of frenzied, calm nihilism to The Joker. If he steals from you, hurts you, kills you -- it's for the joke. He is a "Clockwork Orange" version of Andy Kaufman. That is the true terror. And the scariest part is that Ledger makes you see the insanity, yet understand it. As morbid as it is to say, he at least gets to be remembered for his best role as opposed to "Beverly Hills Ninja," or "Street Fighter," or "Sidekicks," or "Wagons East" as other actors are.

This movie is amazing, see it now, in theaters or you are a horrible person.

6 out of 5.

All summer, it feels like, has been building towards one singular event.

It started with "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls," continued with "Iron Man" and "Hulk" and "Hellboy II." It faltered slightly with "The Happening" and "Hancock." They weren't bad movies, just not the rousing successes of the rest of the season. Ever since the summer line-up was released, we all sensed it.

The build up, the journey, the roller coaster that would take us to feverish heights. The pinnacle, the destination, the dizzying precipice, as it were: Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight," the sequel to 2005's "Batman Begins." Nolan took a realistic, gritty take on Gotham's nocturnal protector, giving Batman the hard-boiled, noirish feel that fans had been clamoring for since Tim Burton's "Batman."

Not that Burton didn't have a hard-boiled, noirish atmosphere. It's just that his was more of the silent film era. Early German Expressionistic Fritz Lang, as opposed to later day, escape-from-Nazi-Germany Lang. Make sense? Probably not, I tend to get lost in my own reasoning.

Regardless, Nolan's “The Dark Knight” is a pitch-perfect masterpiece on every level. Acting, writing, directing, camera placement, lighting, characterization: everything was brilliant. His biggest triumph is not that there is so much story -- 2 and half hours worth -- it's that all his stories ties together to create a rich, subtle, darkly disturbing, enriched masterpiece. Second time I've used that word in this paragraph. Get used to it, I may use it again.

I'll assume you already know the plot, and instead will focus on the relationships in the movie. In fact, I'll focus mainly on the triangles, for there are many. This is one of the true strokes of genius, the relationships can be broken up into trios.

The holy trinity of Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), and Gotham's white knight of a District Attorney, Harvey Dent (Gary-- I mean Aaron Eckhart). The trio makes a pact to clean up the diseased city. Eckhart's Dent is filled with a potent desire to do good, something that attracts the attention of both Gordon and Batman. Batman sees Dent as the hero Gotham so desperately needs. Batman does not see himself as the hero, in fact does not wish to be. He sees himself as the protector.

This trio is the greatest thing that could happen to Gotham City. That being said, they must be destroyed. One of them must fall. Who will it be? The White Knight of course. Destroy the shining light and destroy the city's hope.

As the movie progresses, Gordon and Batman begin to see eye to eye on Dent, and when the worst sweeps down upon him like a Greek tragedy, it breaks both their hearts. The pain in Bale and Oldman's faces at the end of the movie cry out for some sort of clemency, for the gods to show Gotham some sort of mercy.

The love triangle between Dent, Bruce Wayne and Assistant District Attorney Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is another fascinating study. Gyllenhaal finds the tightrope of sexy and vulnerable, yet resilient and independent, and walks it beautifully. Rachel knows Bruce's alter-ego and sees the phenomenal capacity of Harvey Dent. Dent never fully realizes that his ally and quasi-romantic rival are one and the same. There are times though, where there's a suspicious glint in Eckhart's eyes that say he might hazard a guess.

Bale has no fear in showing that Rachel is the only woman who makes him feel normal. He is unafraid to bear his soul to her. Her realization that her promise to return to him when the city no longer needs Batman is null and void, is a master stroke on her part. For there may come a time when the city may no longer need the him, but Bruce will always need the Batman.

I would be remiss if I did not mention my favorite triangle, Bruce Wayne/Batman, Alfred and Lucius Fox. These two men are Wayne's only real tether to a reasonable state of sanity. Both are part friend and part father figure to Bruce. Not to mention they're the only two who are totally unafraid of cracking a joke to Bruce or to the Batman. They understand his need to protect Gotham and the need to help clean his psyche. They serve as a reminder that it's okay to laugh a little.

Before I talk about the next triangle, I must take a moment to evolve to it. Talk about the person, his counterpart, and then eventually the triangle he completes. I am talking of course, about The Joker (Heath Ledger). Ledger's performance is nothing short of brilliant; a mixture of theatricality and honesty critical in making an iconoclastic character. He's mad when he should be sane and sane when he should be mad.

The movie hints that The Joker was just your run of the mill thug; not really a team player, just a loose cannon. A man who was drenched with simple nihilism. Then the Batman entered the scene. Before he was just a thug, causing some slight mayhem, but with the emergence of the Batman, The Joker had found something we all yearn for -- a purpose.

The movie's real achievement is making you understand The Joker, as well as his relationship with the Batman. As The Joker says in one scene, “You complete me.” Said with irony and dripping with menace, yes, but it also brings clarity to The Joker's existence. He exists because Batman exists.

The Batman/Joker relationship is an old one. It has supplied countless story fodder for comic writers, the best being Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke." "The Dark Knight" may be better. The chemistry between Bale and Ledger is mesmerizing. Bale's outright confusion at the Joker's methods and absolute random chaos, perfectly counterbalances Ledger's amusement at said confusion.

Enter Two-Face. Not Harvey Dent: Two-Face.

Created, in more ways than one, by The Joker and yet at the same time also created by the Batman. There is a scene between Dent and The Joker that's one of the best scenes of the year, where The Joker bares his psyche to Dent and, in essence, pushes Dent over the edge, into Two-Face. Eckhart does a absolutely bang-up job showing us Dent's tragic downfall into madness.

At the end of the cinematic tunnel sits Christopher Nolan weaving all this together in one giant hard-boiled Greek tragedy. He lights his movie in blues and blacks to give it that sort of nightmarish feel. The unflinching eye of his camera as it stares right into Ledger's disturbing portrayal. Wally Pfister (yes that's a real name), Nolan's cinematographer, deserves some accolades as well. There are scenes in this movie that are nothing short of masterful; several of them iconic, all of them framed perfectly.

There is a scene where The Joker is upside down, his coat blowing in the wind, against the darkness of the night sky, like a cape in the wind, as he tells the Batman how much he "loves" him.

Nolan and his crew have outdone not only themselves, but everybody else as well. This is the best superhero movie ever made and one of the best movie this year. It is the best Batman movie.

For a comic book movie, it will leave you feeling a cornucopia of emotions. Sadness, pride in your fellow humans, regret and fear. Everything a growing boy needs in his summer movie.


Yours Until Hell Freezes Over,

Read More......

"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" -- Three Geek Review

"Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” may well be the best comic book movie to date in that, of all such movies, it feels the most like a comic book. The director Guillermo del Toro, has manged to weave a completely original and imaginative tale, not based on any of Mike Mignola's graphic novels, while still retaining the feel of the books.

Story wise, character wise and editing wise he makes you feel like you're watching a moving comic book. Even down to the campiness, which hits a pitch-perfect note. The way it's edited -- with it's wipe cuts, jump cuts and freeze frames -- is pure comic book, as if each frame is a panel from the page. A comic book movie has not done this good of a job cinematically utilizing the comic book style since M. Night Shyamalan's “Unbreakable”.

“Hellboy II” is much more character driven than the previous installment. There's a plot involving man's relationship with the region of Goblins, Elves, Orcs etc., yet the main drive seems to be characters' choices. What will Hellboy (Ron Pearlman) choose: the love of Liz (Selma Blair) or the acceptance of the people he helps? Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) has a Spock-esque choice to make throughout the movie, after he falls in love with Princess Nuala (Anna Walton). The good of the many or the good of the few? Will Hellboy be able to mature...at all?

Aside from the brilliant character drama, the bad guy is substantially more interesting than the previous movie's villain, Rasputin. This time 'round, it is the renegade Prince Nuada (Luke Gross), brother of Princess Nuala. Can't you just smell the Shakespearean tragedy?

Aside from all this, there's a new boss sent in to monitor the situation and help ease the tension between Hellboy and the cigar-chomping Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor). It is paranormal, German, gaseous cloud, inside an early-19th-century-deep-sea-diving-suit-looking contraption, Johann Krauss (Seth McFarlane). Indeed, one of the most surprising things about the movie is McFarlane's excellence. He plays the role straight, without a hint at his Family Guy flamboyance -- by which I mean his basically being every voice in the show.

The movie is just swell all-around. It's a fantastically fun ride, I think. Del Toro has an endlessly dazzling imagination, and understands the term “dark beauty,” a phrase that must be ascribed to every film he's done, better than anyone else around.

Between you and me -- and those other two geeks on this web-site -- I loved this movie.


Yours Until Hell Freezes Over,

Hellboy -- how can anyone not like him? He's a big, red, good guy from Hell... kinda... I guess.

The second installment of Guillermo del Toro's adaptation of the comic of the same name is brilliant. It has everything the first had, and makes up for everything it lacked. Most impressive of the newcomers was Luke Goss who played the film's villain Prince Nuada.

Maybe villain isn't the right word -- antagonist might be better. Like all good villains, he has his reasons. He views himself as righteous, as the hero, and from another perspective he may be... but fuck that perspective. Demons need a good bleeding and a healthy shot of death to keep 'em in line.

Rounding out the newcomers were Anna Walton as Princess Nuala, the good twin to Nuada and Seth Mcfarlane, playing the German ghost-machine-thing Johann Krauss. All three of us were worried he would be a bit too over-the-top, but he is spot-on. Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones (Now with real talking action!) return for a solid performance as the rest of the BPRD.

Overall, this movie did what it set out to do, entertain and tell a hell of a story while looking really pretty. See it in theaters while you have the chance.

4.5 out of 5

For some reason, it took me all the way up to a few months ago to fall in love with the works of Mike Mignola. I feel stupid for taking so long, but at least now most of his stuff is collected in easy-to-find volumes and any 'ol local bookselling chain.

The Hellboy/BPRD Universe combines everything I've ever loved in entertainment: science-fiction, fantasy, pulp-style adventure, Lovecraftian horror and an extra-dry style of humor.

I think the fantastic translation from page-to-screen is, at least in part, due to its status as the mightiest creator-owned property in all the land. So with mastermind Mike Mignola combining his powers with a living, cinematic fever-dream like Guillermo del Toro... how could it fail?

It can't and it doesn't.

The fantastic world we see on the screen in "Hellboy II" is something to be aspired to. Other writers, directors, designers -- they should be so adventurous. Humor, drama, fancy, monster fights... all fitting comfortably under the roof of a single film. A good story doesn't pigeon-hole itself in one genre niche; it goes where it needs to go, and that's what "Hellboy II" does.

See it, see the previous one and, what the hell, read the books. "Hellboy" doesn't disappoint.

4.5 out of 5

-Thad out.

Read More......

July 04, 2008

On the Road to Adventure

If you happen to wonder where the hell we are over the next week or so, rest assured, so will I.

The three of us are taking part in an epic journey across America -- or at least part of it -- so you're gonna have to entertain yourselves for the duration. I'd recommend reading some "Hellboy" comics to pepare for next week's sequel release, but what do I know?

There may be some travel-logue stuff as well, depending how entertaining it happens to be. In any event, we'll be back for Batman.

-Thad out

Read More......