Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dune: Theatrical Version and Extended Edition

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Dune:  Theatrical Version - 3 out of 5
Dune:  Extended Edition - 2 out of 5 

Where would sci-fi be without bald women?
Where do I begin?  I've always had a passing interest in everything Dune.  And I mean that I only like the sandworms in the story.  I've never really been a fan of Frank Herbert's novels because, to me, they've always represented the pretentious aspect of science-fiction.  Dune always embodied the arrogant nerd who believes that nothing anyone else does or enjoy as a nerd/geek/dweeb is ever nerdy enough/geek enough/dweeby enough for them.  Not to mention that when I read the novels, I could almost sense Herbert's own false sense of superiority doused in every page, like he had somehow wrote the greatest sci-fi story of all time.  The stories were always overly complicated, the characters are way too over-the-top and the world he created just feels fake.  In fact, the worlds he crafted always gave me the sense that one could live in them but couldn't touch anything because it would either break, crumble or possibly unbalance the delicate nature of these creations.  It's like your grandmother's living room.  The whole place is pristine.  You can't wear shoes because you might ruin the carpet and you're afraid to even enter the room because you might accidentally brush up against one of the hundreds of glass knickknacks that feel like they cover nearly every single square inch of the area. 

Ah, the sandworms...the only thing I actually like in Dune.

However, David Lynch's film adaptation of Dune holds a special place in my heart.  A special place because the movie is an outright disaster to watch.

In the future, people fight inside jello molds.

You feeling alright, man?
If you never knew it, an adaptation of Dune sat in development hell for years before Lynch entered the picture.  What would follow would become a cinematic piece of shit that even Lynch himself has openly admitted that he dislikes thoroughly.  Dune is such a mess, that I can't help but love it and enjoy watching it.  The story, like the novels, are overly complicated (needlessly when you realize the story is very simplistic) and it was so bad when it arrived in theaters, that some cinemas actually gave out cheat sheets for viewers so they don't get lost.  In fact, if you haven't read the novel, you'd be struggling to keep up with what the hell is going on--and if you've ever seen a David Lynch film, you already know it's hard enough to keep up with what on Earth is going on.  So, since you have to already have read the novel to have a grasp at what is unfolding on the screen, I feel like it would be a pointless gesture to try and sum up the film--However, like I said, the story is actually pretty simple and Herbert tried, in all his pretentious glory, to make it more complicated than it needed to be.  Here's the story:  There is a spice that is important because it bends space and is required for space travel.  So, to quote the film, whoever controls the spice, controls the universe.  Sure there is other things going on and a bunch of unlikeable characters giving lots of inner monologues (if you like hearing people's thoughts, you should probably watch this movie) but at the heart of the film, it's about getting your hands on this precious, precious spice...also there's the sandworms.

David Lynch making a cameo.

See, I didn't lie about that.
Now, I'll admit this, I'm a David Lynch fan.  The man has...a very unique eye (and that's putting it mildly).  Sure he makes some movies I absolutely hated (like Mulholland Dr. and Blue Velvet) but I'm a big fan of Twin Peaks and Eraserhead.  There is a charm I love in the insanity he is able to toss up on to film and I think the fact that Lynch has written off this one and said he "sold out" making it somehow makes me enjoy this film even more.  There's a delight in bad movies but to have a bad movie's director come out and say he hates it too makes the delight even more enjoyable.  In fact, David Lynch hated the Extended Edition (the one that is the edit used for TV) so much, he refused to have his name put on the film and used the old pseudonym Alan Smithee to distance himself from the project.  In fact, Lynch was so upset with the studio's interference with the film, that he credited himself as Judas Booth for the writing credit.  He combined Judas with John Wilkes Booth to show how horrible the studio was to him and how they destroyed the movie he was trying to create.  I guess that name is better than his original idea:  Adolf Satan.

I was telling the truth here, too.  Why do you doubt me so?

"I am Brad Dourif.  I was the voice of Chucky.
Fear my eyebrows."
Now, I've already said that Dune is just a mess of a movie and that's why I like it.  However, after seeing the Extended Edition for the first time (I've never watched Dune when it's televised), I realized it was absolutely possible to take a bad movie and actually make it worse--and it actually made it bad in the fact it's terrible, not bad as in the badness makes it fun to watch.  The Extended Edition, to help confused audience members, narrates nearly the entire movie and opens with the silliest prologue ever filmed.  The film opens with pictures of really bad paintings of the world of Dune that look like rejected sci-fi novel covers and the narrators basically gives you the history of the universe.  Now, the Theatrical Version opened with a young Virginia Madsen filling you in on the happens but it's a little more direct and to the point than the history lesson you get in the Extended Cut.  But the narration won't stop at the begin.  Whenever there is silence in the film or a montage, the narrator will return to help out those who don't really understand what montages are or who are plain just not paying attention to the film and can't pick up plot points carefully placed within the dialogue.

"You ask David Lynch to help you move once and you're in his debt for life.  'Sure, I'll do another movie for you, Dave.'"

"Someday I will be in a decent sci-fi franchise.
I will make it so....hmm, make it so.  That's got
a certain ring to it."
Dune is just an all around silly film that I enjoy for the wrong reasons--except the Extended Edition, I can't emphasize enough how bad that one sucked.  I never watched the movie because I enjoy the story or the characters--in fact, I can't think of a single character I like in it.  Sure there are actors I enjoy in it like Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks and Desperate Housewives) who plays Paul Atreides but the character of Paul is laughable the entire film as he goes on his typical sci-fi hero's journey and matures, falls in loves and becomes a savior in record time, like he's trying to get it all in before he has to get to his doctor's appointment.  There's a whole host of great actors working here like Jurgen Prochnow, Patrick Stewart, Brad Dourif, Dean Stockwell and even David Lynch himself has a cameo but each character played are just ridiculous--but when you consider the source material...I'm just saying.  And Sting has a part, apparently he took a break from telling Roxanne about the red light and having tantric sex long enough to do a movie.  Like I said, I've never been a fan of Dune, however, the movie, with its history of fails that came with its making and release, and the end product we got was just awful enough, that I love to watch this one.

Let's put some pants on, eh Sting?  I'm having a hard time looking you in the eye right now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Super 8

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Super 8 - 2 out of 5

"Okay, I want to rip off all of Steven Spielberg's films from the late 70s and early 80s and then I'll throw in a monster that looks like a cousin of the creature in that movie I produced called Cloverfield.  I'll call it Super 8." - an actual quote from director J.J. Abrams. *

I avoided seeing Super 8 in the theaters because I'm, plain and simple, not a fan of J.J. Abrams.  Every single thing he writes, produces and creates follows a very specific formula:  It's starts out very creative and unique and quickly slides into a slope that takes it into a pit of crap that makes you wonder why you wasted your time watching his shit in the first place...and, for some mysterious reason, he loads every single solitary second of it with lens flares.  It happened with Lost (a show that ended with me wishing I had the time back I wasted after it delivered 5 seasons of shit after its first epic season and delivered a season finale that made me believe that getting kicked in the nuts would have been less painful) and now J.J. Abrams can add another to his list of mediocre entertainment in the form of Super 8.

Hey look, lens flare.
Abrams even ripped off Spielberg's trademark "look" shot.
Just like Abrams other works, Super 8 actually starts out decently with some promise that a alright story might follow...that is, if you can get passed the fact Abrams is ripping off Steven Spielberg the entire time.  Imagine if The Goonies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.:  The Extra-Terrestrial all had an orgy and Cloverfield provided the booze...well, that crime against nature's love product is Super 8.  However, since Abrams was able to bribe Spielberg to produce the film, I guess we can't say he was plagiarizing the man.

Hey, more lens flare.
The film is about a group of kids out to make a film, utilizing their super 8 camera (hence the title), that they want to enter into a film contest.  However, they end up in the middle of a large train crash and a mystery follows as strange goings on start to happen (like in Close Encounters) and then the movie decides it no longer wants to be unique (but with all the rip-offs its doing of Spielberg's work, how unique was it really?) and it falls down to the bottom rung and becomes a generic alien/monster movie...and the monster's face looks suspiciously like E.T.'s.  Was kinda expecting a Great White shark to come out at some point too.  Possibly as the kids fly off on their bikes so they can literally jump the shark.

Even action scenes aren't safe from lens flare.

Noah Emmerich, you're a great actor, too bad
lens flare is stealing your thunder.
Some of the kids in the film, like in The Goonies, are great actors and carry the movie well but the other half are as annoying as J.J. Abrams love affair with lens flares.  But even more annoying (and something that made my eyes tired from the constant rolling and tempted me to turn off the DVD) was the obvious fact Abrams wanted you to know, every second of the film and located right next to his lover (lens flare), that the movie takes place in 1979.  If the over-saturated soundtrack of every single number 1 hit from the era wasn't enough, every set was designed with every cliche from the 70s and he even includes pointless, unrealistic and mind-numbing dialogue about a walkman in one scene.  The film was milliseconds away from Abrams himself jumping in front of the camera and yelling, "IT'S 1979!!!" before feverishly pulling out his hair.

"Alright son, we're about to rip off the ending of both E.T. and Close Encounters. 
But at least there's no lens flare...for now, at least."
In the end, I can't say I was greatly disappointed with Super 8 because I went into it with absolutely no hopes for a good film.  In fact, I got exactly what I expected:  The usual J.J. Abrams uninspired film, only this one decided to spend more time ripping off works of its producer than making a film that was interesting and captivating.

Enough with the fucking lens flare!

* Not an actual quote.

Joe Versus the Volcano

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Joe Versus the Volcano - 3 out of 5

This SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY, see the hypochondriac Joe Banks take on the lava spewing rupture on the tectonic plate; The Volcano!  Punches will be thrown, ash will be released and a movie that held more promise than it delivered will be on display for all to see!

"I know Kung-Fu...and I shall use it on the Volcano!"
I haven't seen Joe Versus the Volcano since it came out in 1990 and having re-watched it now, I realize I really didn't get it before.  In case you're too young to remember the movie, pre-Da Vinci Code Tom Hanks (when he was still mainly a comedic actor and not obsessed with boxes of chocolate) stars as Joe Banks, a hypochondriac working at a dismal medical supply factory (which is where the film opens and is quite possibly the best representation of a soul-crushing trudge into a man's workplace ever filmed).  Well, our friend Joe is always sick and decides to see a doctor who tells him he is suffering from a "brain cloud" and that he will die.  Soon, Banks is visited by three ghosts--I mean, Lloyd Bridges who plays an extremely rich man out to get a mineral from a native people of a small island (doesn't that sound familiar, James Cameron?)

Meg Ryan plays this girl...
Well, lucky for us the people aren't the Na'vi and the mineral isn't unobtainium.

She also plays this girl...
Anyway, the island contains a...wait for it...a large volcano where its natives believe a willing human sacrifice must be made to it once every century and the natives don't feel like volunteering this time around.  So, Bridges' character, in order to get the minerals, decides to hire Joe to be the man to take the swan dive.  Since Joe is dying, he decides to do it and Bridges lets him live it up till he gets to the island of Waponi Woo.

Also, the natives seem to really like orange soda for some reason.

And Ryan plays this girl, too.  She might have also been Hanks stunt double, too.
When I was younger, I don't think I was able to fully appreciate this film--especially not the opening sequence where we see Joe completely immersed in a job and life he totally hates.  Now that I am living that dream, I see to understand where Joe was coming from.  Now, although I enjoy the film on a different level now as a grown man, there are still some issues I have with the movie.  Don't get me wrong, I find the movie entertaining in a off-the-wall sort of way as the movie is just plain ridiculous and unapologetic about it.  The movie offers up some great laughs and Tom Hanks is great in it along side Meg Ryan playing not one, but three characters.  In fact, the first half of the movie is built fantastically and seems to be on a track to a great third act as we see Joe get ready for his trip to the Pacific and his one-way ticket to lava town but once he sets sail on the great blue ocean, the movie flies off the tracks.

Science needs to learn how to resurrect Bridges...NOW!
 I never realized it before but Joe only spends about 10 minutes on the island before, ultimately, the movie ends with closure that felt like the production was on a time crunch and had to end prematurely.  This heartbreak is compounded by the fact that the film does a great job of building up this trip to Waponi Woo and ultimate ends up being the film equivalent of a family trip to the Grand Canyon--I get it, it's a giant hole made by mother nature!  (My apologies to mother earth, you did a great job of creating the Grand Canyon and I hope to see it someday...if Vegas wasn't so respectively close.)

Ah yes, the look of a man who is currently peeing in the pool of water he is sitting in.
Even though the film ends with a black cat snap and not a mortar boom, the movie overall is decent and a well put together comedy that, as an adult, I'm enjoying more than I did as a naive young boy.  Finally, I will leave you with this clip from the film that not only is amusing but best illustrates my own dancing abilities...if I was slightly better than I currently am at that skill.

Treme Season 1

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Treme Season 1 - 4 out of 5

I had never had HBO when David Simon's epic series The Wire aired but within the last two years, I caught myself up on the show and it is, without a doubt, one of the best things I've ever seen!  So, when I heard he did another show for HBO, I knew I had to get my hands on it once it arrived on DVD.

Clark Peters as Chief.
Seeing Creighton discover YouTube is one of the funniest moments in the show.
Treme focuses on the people of New Orleans as they try to rebuild after Katrina.  Like The Wire, the show's focus is on the characters and their growth.  Now, the series can throw a lot of characters at you and, at the beginning, feels like there's no way Simon can recapture the magic he had on his cop drama set in Baltimore--however, as the series progresses, the balance shown and given to each and every single character as they grow and their individual stories development is composed like a beautiful piece of art, music or a culinary creation.  Which makes sense since the music and culture of New Orleans is so perfectly showcased in the show.

I'm a big fan of Steve Zahn and his body of work.  This show is just another top quality notch on his belt.

There are so many great characters on this show, it's almost unreal.
As the episodes passed, I challenged myself to come up with character I enjoyed the most.  We had Khandi Alexander as Ladonna on a quest to find her brother who went missing before the storm.  There was Kim Dickens as Janette, an overworked chef out to reopen (and keep open) her restaurant during the trying time of seeing the city being brought back to life and getting such things as electricity and gas to once again be a part of everyday existence and can be firmly taken for granted again.  In the second episode, a dating team of street musicians of Sonny and Annie are introduced and they are torn with their relationship as lovers and their individual careers that start to take flight.  Throw in a dash of the married couple of Toni and Creighton Bernette (played respectively by Melissa Leo and John Goodman).  Toni is a lawyer helping Ladonna and Creighton is a angry teacher and writer who finds a voice as a blogger on the internet.  Veterans from The Wire even make appearances as Clarke Peters plays the Mardi Gras Indian Albert Lambreaux and Wendell Pierce plays the trombone wielding Antoine Batiste.  And finally, one of my personal favorite actors, Steve Zahn, stars as Davis McAlary, a eccentric musician who can't quite figure out how to best utilize his annoyance and talents to express how he's feeling over the government dragging their feet on rebuilding New Orleans.  However, the cast of amazing characters doesn't end there, there are oh so many more.

I've never been to New Orleans but the depiction of the music and culture feels so organic, Treme made me feel like I was actually there.

After watching an episode, you'll want to learn an instrument.  I picked the accordion.
As I sat through the series, I found I was completely unable to figure out which character I found to be the most riveting because not only does Simon and the other writers do a fantastic job of crafting these interesting gentlemen and ladies, all the actors involved gave performances that were nearly hypnotic.  With all this working for the show, and the fact that David Simon created it, I can only hope that the series will get even better as it goes on, similar to the way The Wire only became better and better with each season.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cheaper by the Dozen

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Cheaper by the Dozen - 3 out of 5

Did you know he's a huge Doctor Who fan?  Once again proving why he's one of the coolest dudes on the planet.
12 kids?  I can't even handle my own life let alone 12.
Cheaper by the Dozen is a film I wrote off when I first saw the trailer.  Although I'm a big fan of Steve Martin (he's even one of my biggest influences on me while in my youth that inspired me to pursue a career in comedy), the film appeared to be one of those family films that is built around a gimmick with loads of weak jokes about said gimmick that ultimate neither delights or entertains and, by the time the credits roll, you actually hate your family more for having sat through it.  However, one day while bored out of my mind and absentmindedly flipping through the channels on the old idiot box, I came across this movie (possibly being played on TNT or TBS or whatever station plays the family friendly films in the middle of the day) and I found myself hooked.  Since I wasn't able to finish it while it was on the boob tube, I went to my local library and picked up the DVD.  And I have to say, all my preconceived notions about the movie were wrong.

Hello, character from Seinfeld whom I don't feel like acknowledging in the predictable way.

Hmmm...two of their kids are Superman and Lizzie McGuire.
Alright, Cheaper by the Dozen isn't a laugh riot or an epic film BUT, I found it to be pretty entertaining.  Sure the movie is a gimmick (a family with 12 kids) and it's filled with predictable jokes on that gimmick (the family's name is Baker--get it?  Baker's dozen--wait, shouldn't they have 13 kids then?).  However, the film showed some heart and having Steve Martin leading the way, it was kinda hard for me to NOT enjoy the film on some level.

"I'm not a good actor"...he actually says this in the movie.  Thanks, Ashton for finally admitting it.

I said they had heart but Martin looks like he wants out.
Granted, it's difficult to enjoy the film when you put into account that Ashton Kutcher is in it--hell, it's hard to enjoy any movie that contains that obnoxious asshat--And don't give me that, "But Ron, The Butterfly Effect is a great movie," because it isn't.  I don't care what you say, that movie blows and it's all because of that doofus.  But when you're able to ignore him (and some of the lame gags), the movie isn't bad to sit down and just have a good time with.  Add in that Steve Martin and the gang actually have some chemistry on the screen and have the look of a real (albeit, unnecessarily large) family and you have something.  The children of the Baker clan may lack from any real depth and are all just basic sibling stereotypes (teenage daughter obsessed with fashion, the twins, the fat one, the black sheep and apparently one is Superman) but the movie is a family film--who would expect dynamic character development from it?  No, in the end, Cheaper by the Dozen is one of those films that doesn't challenge the mind but doesn't kick it in the cerebellum either.  Dozen is basically one of those mildly entertaining movies that you like to pop in the DVD player once and awhile and kick it with the family with some pizza and popcorn...and possibly beer if you're a bad parent.

Wait a second, Sam Winchester was in this?!?  So, Jared Padalecki DID have a career before Supernatural.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace: The Complete Series

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace:  The Complete Series - 5 out of 5

I'm a big fan of the BBC comedy The IT Crowd.  The show is just downright hysterical and the cast of characters is amazing.  It's hard to say one is better than the other but the character of Moss stands out as one of my favorites.  Well, since I enjoyed him so much, I thought I would take a break from checking on my bank statements, gambling, illegally downloading music, surfing for porn and the few other cliche things the media tells us we do with the internet and decided to research the past works of the man who plays Moss; Richard Ayoade.  So, I went to (in another tab because I was looking at porn on my original tab.  Remember:  That's what the internet is all about.  Ask any first time comedian at an open mic.).  At the Internet Movie Database, I found out that Ayoade used to be on a show called Garth Marenghi's Darkplace in 2004 and he was on it with his co-star on The IT Crowd Matt Berry.  Since Berry is also hysterical on that show, I was sold on watching Darkplace.

Garth Marenghi: author, dream weaver, visionary, plus actor.

Darkplace Hospital...just seeing this model makes me laugh.
The series is about a horror writer named (wait for it)...Garth Marenghi.  Well, it seems in the 80's, he was charged with writing a series that dealt with the occult.  The series he created centers around a team of doctors at (once again, wait for it)...(a little longer this time)...Darkplace Hospital.  Here's the problem though:  the series never got released.  So, the show is about a horror writer who is talking about a series he made that never got released and is presented it in a "lost and found" like scenario where he (Marenghi) includes interviews and commentary on each episode as he presents it.  Right off the bat, this formula is not only creative as hell, it is ripe for hilarity but it goes even further by parodying dramas of the 80's with the fashions as well as bad production value.  That is the true highlight of the series and one that had my sides literally splitting (it was gross) and doing spit take after spit take as I went through all six episodes.  The show plays on bad acting--especially with the character portrayed by Ayoade; Dean Learner.  Learner is Marenghi's publisher and has no acting experience and it shows in the series.  Add to the fact that the supporting cast of Matt Berry playing the actor Todd Rivers who stars as the debonaire doctor Dr. Lucien Sanchez, Matthew Holness as Garth Marenghi who stars as the hero Dr. Rick Daglass and Alice Lowe who plays Madeleline Wool who stars as the psychic Liz Asher--when I type it like this, it sounds pretty damn confusing.  It's this dynamic of actors playing actors in a role that makes the show what it is...something awesome!

Ayoade is just brilliant in this show!
The cast does a fantastic job of either hamming it up in their roles or being downright shit actors--and make it both believable and funny.  That shows the true strength of an actor:  If they can play bad actors and make it actually look like they're real bad actors.  Berry's overacting as Todd Rivers is hysterical but the real highlight goes to Ayoade and his brilliant performance as the book publisher with no acting experience.  The way he looks uncomfortable in front of the camera, the way he flubs lines and the way he steals glances at the camera made me literally piss myself laughing (it was gross).

Matt Berry as Todd Rivers playing Dr. Lucien Sanchez.

Notice the camera man in the mirror.  This show is absolutely brilliant.
To add to the humor that each episode already has in its basic formula, its story and the hilarious send up of bad acting, the show also spoofs poor production by filling each episode with bad audio and horrible editing.  It's these elements blended together for each episode that makes the entire series almost too funny.  By the time credits rolled on each one, I felt like I was literally going to vomit from laughing so hard (it was gross).  In fact, Garth Merenghi's Darkplace is such a creative and hilarious show that not only is it a crime that a second season wasn't commissioned, it also made me tell lies in this review and tell you things literally happened when in fact, they didn't literally happen but, rather, metaphorically happened.  That's how good this series was, it made me lie and say that things happened when they really didn't happen at all.  

Oh, and this happened on the show just to give you a taste...

Batman: Year One

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Batman:  Year One - 5 out of 5

I think I'm being overloaded with Batman for the month of November in this, the year of 2011.  I've been playing Batman:  Arkham City to the point I've forgotten what sleep is as I try to find every little secret the game has for me to discover and pillage and, just recently, I watched DC's latest animated film; Batman:  Year One.

Who doesn't like Batman?  Seriously, I'm asking.
If you've never read the Frank Miller comic that this animated film is based on and you love Batman, stop reading my stupid blog and pick up the 4 four issues that compose this story because it is just plain awesome.  But, if you don't like to or don't know how to read, watch this animated film (and if you can't read, you should be able to make out the image of Batman so you'll be able to pick out a DVD copy out of a line-up--and even if you don't get this one, you'll get a Batman film nonetheless and, unless you pick up Batman & Robin, you should be in for a good time.  If you did accidentally pick up Batman & Robin, I'm sorry and you should probably consider it time to learn how to read so this mistake never happens again.)

Life in Gotham is tough...especially when you're Jim Gordan.
Batman:  Year One is about as spot-on as a adaptation can go.  In fact, I'm hard-pressed to think of any film adaptation that was so true to the source material.  Year One focuses on the first year of service of our masked man as well as the beginning of a fruitful career for Mr. Gordan...and Catwoman is thrown in as well.  Year One is brutal, honest and immaculate story telling of the man in the cape and cowl.  Forget any cartoonish action or humor, this is bleak, dark adult story telling at its finest--honoring Frank Miller's original beautifully.  The parallels between Gordan and Batman as they both seek out to do what they feel is right is painted perfectly like Bob Ross creating on an empty canvas.  The DVD not only provides the impressive adaptation of one of Batman's best stories but also, like other DC DVD releases, offers up an animated short of another beloved DC character.  This time it's Catwoman and, like Year One, it's pretty damn adult.  Get the kids out of the room when you watch this one.

Yeah, those belong to Catwoman.
Catwoman just saw her striptease in her animated short and even she's shocked. 

Not only does the film provide an excellent adaptation to an amazing story, the film also contains the usual top-shelf character designs and animation that you've come to expect from a DC animated film but the voice acting is just plain amazing, as well.  While I was disappoint to see that Kevin Conroy, the man who created the Gold Standard for the voice of Batman in Batman:  The Animated Series, didn't provide the voice for the Caped Crusader, I tried to remind myself that Bruce Wayne is barely an adult in this story and to have Conroy's epic talents here would take away the naivety and innocence that Batman has at this time.  Instead of Conroy, Ben McKenzie step into the World's Greatest Detective's boots and did a fantastic job.  But even better was getting to hear Bryan Cranston take a break from making meth in Breaking Bad to provide life to Jim Gordon.  Cranston's performance alone is enough to warrant putting this one in the DVD player...and having Batman is just the icing on an already rich and delicious cake.

The storytelling is so amazing in this film, you'll quickly forget you're watching an animated film.
Batman:  Year One is, arguably, one of the best animated films that DC has released onto the world.  Every aspect of the film, from the character designs, the story and voice acting is done to perfection that is so rare in the world of animated films--especially when direct-to-DVD.  Batman:  Year One is just plain terrific.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Animal Factory

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Animal Factory - 4 out of 5

My first impressions of Animal Factory were completely wrong.  Apparently, it is NOT about a factory that produces animals.  Go figure!  I have to stop taking these films' titles so literally.

It's the Green Goblin and that actor who does a million movies a year!
Animal Factory is a prison drama directed by Steve Buscemi that came out in 2000 and focuses on a slightly older John Connor--I mean, Ron Decker, who is played by John Connor--I mean, Edward Furlong.  John--Ron--must fight robots to save the future--wait, I'm getting confused with Terminator 2:  Judgement Day again.  I'm sorry, Edward Furlong will ALWAYS be John Connor to me.

Someday, this man will grow up to be Christian Bale.

So, anyway, a young man named Ron Decker is put into prison for selling drugs and, like any fresh fish in the pen, he's having a hard time dealing and he turns to a veteran convict played by Willem Dafoe.  Dafoe's character puts the kibash on a potential prison rapin' of Decker and ends up bringing the young man into his group.  Once welcomed into the pack, Dafoe's character helps Decker out with a better prison job, better cell, better food and making sure his bum cherry remains intact.  More importantly, Dafoe becomes a guiding force in Decker's prison world and even helps him to try and get out...the legal way and then when that fails, he tries the illegal way.

Yes, that's Tom Arnold.  He was in this one.

Believe it or not, that's Mickey Rourke.
As hard as I try to avoid being thrown into the slammer, there is something about prison films.  The camaraderie between the inmates, the elder convicts sharing their wisdom, the potential for violence and the even greater potential of having Morgan Freeman narrate your story...but then there is, of course, the rape.  That is the biggest reason I avoid prison, with the idea of having to relieve myself of all excess waste in a very public toilet taking a very close second.  So, I'll stick to the prison movies.

Danny Trejo is in this one and if you are keeping score, it was made before your mother knew who Danny Trejo is.

Animal Factory, with all my lame joking about poop and rape aside, is a fantastic film with real heart.  Edward Furlong is fantastic as Decker and he really portrays a man who has to one day fight robots--dammit, there I go again--I mean, he perfectly portrays someone thrown out of their element and forced to live in circumstances they are both unprepared for and completely not desiring.  Furlong's chemistry with Willem Dafoe is the true driving force of this film and watching not only their interactions in scenes but the evolution of their characters and their friendship within the film makes Animal Factory one of those stories you won't turn away from.

AHHH, a skeleton in pants!  No, wait, it's just Willem Dafoe.