Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Movie Trailers

Got nothing to do this morning, so let's watch some movie trailers:

21 Jump Street
For real? Honestly, I never understood the popularity of this show even back in the day. Why did teenagers tune in every week to watch a show about narcs? Is there anything teenagers hate more than a narc? Anyway, having said that, it's still odd that they are doing another conedy remake of a show from the 80s that was originally played straight. And Channing Tatum is really our lead in a big action comedy movie? That guy sucks! Having said all that... I'll watch it, when it comes to TBS. I laughed.

Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace 3D
I know I should be ashamed to admit this, but I'll see it. I bet it'll look cool. (But don't tell anybody I said that.)

The Hunger Games
I'm marginally aware of the fact that there are some books or something called The Hunger Games, but that's all I know. Anyway, this trailer looks neat, the cast is cool, and that Jennifer Lawrence sure is pretty. This trailer makes it look like Logan's Run meets that Ray Liotta movie No Escape, which actually sounds pretty cool now that I think about it.

Underworld Awakening
They're still making these? How many have they made by now? 4? 5? I ask because I don't know, since I only saw the first one and thought it was pretty lame. But god bless 'em for their perseverance. I'm not interested, but maybe somebody will be...

Safe House
Number 25 in a serious of films starring Denzel Washington opposite some young, handsome white guy. Anyway, they're all good, and this one looks like fun. I'll rent it.

Red Tails
Is this the prequel to Soul Plane? Was that racist? Anyway, I'm sorry I started off with that joke because this actually looks like a pretty good movie with an interesting, important story. But I'll go see it just for all the WWII era planes.

Snow White and the Huntsman
When I first clicked on this link, I had the same thought you did: Boy, this looks awful. But it actually looks pretty awesome. I don't know how I feel about the profoundly mediocre Kristen Stewart playing Snow White, but everything else about it looks pretty cool. I'm in.

Sleeping Beauty
Uh... is this child pornography? What the heck is this?

My Week With Marilyn
I'll admit that I have zero interest in seeing a biopic about Marilyn Monroe, but if you are interested, this looks like a pretty good one. Michelle Williams sure looks and sounds exactly like her, and the rest of that cast looks awesome. Maybe I'll rent it someday.

Is this an actual movie or just an experiment in special effects? Either way... it looks pretty neat. This is probably one of those movies where just watching the trailer is good enough.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Now, I never saw Journey to the Center of the Earth, but I'm pretty sure it was a Brenden Frasier movie, so why does this one have The Rock? Also... Journey 2? We're all of a sudden on a first name basis with Journey to the Center of the Earth? And this is supposed to be an adaptation of The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne? Sight unseen, I'm going to go ahead and call this the most unfaithful adaptation of all time. But it might be worth seeing (or, at least, the trailer is) because Vanessa Hudgens is gorgeous and she spends the entire time walking around in a tank top and shorts.

I have nothing to say about this movie other than this: Who the hell is Steve McQueen and shouldn't he change his name? This is not "a Steven McQueen film." Bullet is a Steve McQueen film. The Great Escape is a Steve McQueen film. Who the hell is this guy?

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
They're remaking this too?! At least it's not a comedy starring Channing Tatum. Actually, this looks pretty awesome. I'll see it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Greatest Captain American Hero

For fun I mashed up some scenes from the recent Captain America movie to the theme song to The Greatest American Hero, composed by Mike Post and Stephen Geyer and performed by Joey Scarbury.

Why? Because somebody had to:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

That's a Blow Out!

Here's a cute video of one of my nephews helping my sister change my niece's diaper:

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving morning seems as good a time to write this review as any other morning:

Anyway, I got a McDonald's McRib a week or so ago, and it was ok. According to the people who write content for websites like Yahoo! and magazines like Entertainment Weekly, the McRib is something of a cultural icon that is either beloved or despised by all of those who had it cross their paths. In reality, or at least from what I've noticed, most people are only marginally aware of its existence, and nobody I talked to had ever tried one, nor did most show any interest in trying one, or even talking to me about one, for that matter.

"That sounds gross," most people would say after I broached the topic. "Also... who are you why are you talking to me?"

And, of course, it does sound gross. It's a pork patty molded into the shape of a small rack of ribs, placed on a bun, and the smothered with barbeque sauce, onions, and pickles. Actually, that doesn't sound gross at all, but I can understand why some people might have that reaction. To be clear: there are people in this world who hate McDonald's, and I am not one of them. McDonald's is fast and cheap and easy, but I honestly go there because I legitimately like the flavor of their food. I have lived in Europe and wined and dined at some of the finest restaurants in the world over the course of my life, but I still love the taste of a Big Mac. My ideal breakfast is a sausage Egg McMuffin. When I get McNuggets, I always ask for extra packets of BBQ sauce because I actually like their sauce and put it on everything.

Anyway, I told you all that so I could tell you this: I wanted to try the McRib only partly out of morbid curiousity, but also because I genuinely like McDonald's and thought it sounded kine of tasty.

And it was. It was definitely kind of tasty.

When I first ordered the combo at the drive through menu board, the woman told me that it would be $4.25 or whatever the price was, then asked if I would like a second McRib for only a dollar. Wow! I was literally speechless for about half a minute as I processed this information. That's a hell of a deal, but I turned it down for two reasons: I've never even tried the sandwich before, so why would I get two of something that might be awful? And, secondly, I just didn't want to be the kind of person who ordered and ate two McRibs in one sitting. One McRib, fries, and a coke was enough for any man, so I politely turned down the offer, but I am mentioning it here in case somebody does want two McRib's, or just wants to go get one along with a friend who's actually willing to try one as well.

When I opened the box, it looked like a crime scene from CSI: Burgertown. There was sauce every where, and not just in the box, but all over the insides of the bag. And in case I'm not being clear, that's a good thing. If I get a barbeque sandwich, I don't want it to be easy to eat or clean at all. I expect a mess, and I hope it to be somewhat frightening and kind of nauseating to behold. Every review or report I've heard about the McRib talks about how it's molded into the shape of ribs, but it's not, or at least mine wasn't. It just looked like a slightly longer, more oblong burger patty. It tasted just like a McDonald's burger too, albeit one smothered with sauce, pickles, and onions. That's not a bad thing, although I was expecting... pork. It turned out just to be the same kind of weird, indeterminate meat that they use for all of their products. And, again, that's not a complaint.

So... the McRib. It was kind of tasty, but I don't ever need to eat it again.

Friday, November 18, 2011

(Robots) Wouldn't Want to be Like You: A Video Tribute to the Greatest Robots of All Time

Here's a video tribute I put together in honor of my favorite robots, androids, cyborgs, and artificial humans from film and TV, and of the Alan Parsons Project album I Robot.

Why? Why not?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quick Game Reviews

I've played a few different Xbox 360 games over the past month or so. Here are my quick thoughts:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
I literally just got back from returning this to the Redbox machine. It was so good, I seriously thought about keeping it for a second night and paying another $2.00, but that would just be crazy. Who am I, Bill Gates?! Anyway, this was a fun first person shooter that I enjoyed a lot. The graphics are amazing, the action was intense, and the entire production seemed pretty epic and extravagant. It's a good game.

I didn't understand the plot, however, since apparently it's the third part of some kind of trilogy. I haven't played any Call of Duty games since the first one came out way back when on the PC, so I didn't realize there was an on-going storyline. I tried to follow along during the cut scenes at first, but as I progressed I skipped them and went straight into the action. I didn't miss anything. Even if I knew who these characters were and what was going on, I'd probably skip the cut scenes anyway because they weren't that great. And, come on, I've only got a day. I just want to shoot some bad guys!

In the shooting bad guys department, this game sure delivers about as good as anything I've ever played. If you like FPS, check it out. It's first rate.

Alan Wake
This was a good game to play during the month of October. It's a horror game about a writer who has to deal with writer's block... and ghosts! Or something. This was a truly exceptional game that stands out as one of the best looking and most creative games I've ever played, but after I finished it, I doubt I'll ever play it again any time soon.

This might be the best looking game I've ever seen, or at least one of the most shockingly beautiful and the most moody. The graphics are just stunningly well realized and the locations, atmosphere, and effects create a sense of tension and horror that never lets up. Gameplay wise, it's a lot of fun, although it does tend to drag on a bit since there's really only one or two kinds of enemies from start to finish. The locations change and the story progresses, but the enemies stay the same as does the one method of taking them down: Shining them with a flashlight and then shooting them with a gun. The combat in this game is actually a lot of fun, it just needed more variety.

As for the story, it was gripping and well written and a lot of fun to watch progress, even though I didn't really understand what it was about or what actually happened in the game. It was clear that the game's writers really, really love Stephen King, but Alan Wake's story never really matched the quality of his novels. But, again, it was pretty good as far as videogame stories go.

Anyway... it's a short, fairly repetitive game that is definitely worth checking out for the fun gameplay, entertaining story, and the incredibly beautiful and moody visuals.

Now here's a fun game.

If you love first person shooters but the latest Call of Duty sounds too intense, check out this one, since it's a more laid back shooter that has a pretty good mixture of action, quests, and role playing elements. But, then again, the action may be lacking for shooter junkies and the quests and leveling system may be too light for diehard RPG fans, but I liked it. The entire production isn't up there with Modern Warfare, but the cell shaded style of graphics are quite cool and the amount of weapons you can choose from borders on the ridiculous. And the control just feels... right, which is the only way to describe a good first person shooter.

The game is a bit repetitive, however, with too many quests that feel too similar, and enemies that are just more powerful versions of enemies I already fought already. The Alpha Skag may be bigger and tougher than Skag Whelps, but from a gaming perspective, they're the same thing. One just takes a few more bullets to kill. Also, enemies respawn at a maddeningly annoying rate and the save system isn't the best. As an adult, I like games that let me save anywhere, at any time, if only because I don't have that much time to devote to videogames anymore so if I need to end my session during the middle of a quest, I don't want to have to start all the way over at the beginning every time.

But... this game is a lot of fun. If you find it cheap (and since it came out a year or so ago, that shouldn't be hard), check it out.

Goldeneye 007: Reloaded
Here's another game I rented at the Redbox, and it's another good one.

I actually didn't even know this game existed before I saw it in the Redbox machine, but I figured... how bad could it be? I knew they had remade the classic Goldeneye 007 for the Wii a little while ago to good reviews, but I didn't know it was being released on 360 and PS3 as well. Anyway, this game is awesome. It's really a remake of Goldeneye in name alone, since other than a few similar locations and plot points both game shared from the original game, it's a very different -- and better -- experience. This game doesn't even have Pierce Brosnan, since one of the updates included replacing him with the current Bond actor Daniel Craig.

Well, maybe I shouldn't have said this was a "better experience" than the original game back on the N64, since that was a product of its time and was exceptional when it first came out, but this one is exceptional right now. If you liked that game, you'll like this one, since it has a similar premise, but ups the action, translates the graphics to HD, and has some of the best control of any FPS I've ever played.

Long story short, this game is great, and I'll probably even buy it one of these days, since I'm a huge fan of shooters and of James Bond. Check it out.

Dead Rising 
I'm not sure if this was a launch title or not, but if it didn't come out the same day as the Xbox 360, it definitely came out pretty soon after. I picked up a used copy the other day for five dollars, and it wasn't worth it. This game sucks.

Dead Rising had a great concept: rip off Dawn of the Dead's basic zombies-in-a-shopping-mall plot and turn it into a videogame, but the execution was so weak that the game is nearly unplayable. Running around the mall and killing zombies with just about every item you can pick up is great fun, but the story is way too convoluted and full of cut scenes and menus you have to follow or read through seemingly every few minutes, horrible escort missions that are nearly impossibly because the friendly AI is so poorly done, and awful controls that you'll be fighting more often than the zombie hordes that are trying to kill you.

Seriously, the controls in this game felt stiff and the button layout was awkward and designed in the worst way possible. And don't even get me started on the horrible control for the shooting sections or having to switch to a camera in order to take photographs every few minutes. And here's another game with a terrible save function that seemed designed by people who intentionally want to waste my time.

I've heard that the sequel corrects a lot of these gripes and problems, but I'll never know unless I find that for four bucks, because five was way to much to shell out on a game this bad and unfun.

And that's that.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy Birthday, Robert Patrick!

Robert Patrick is cooler than you'll ever be, and I can say that pretty confidentially even though I don't know who you are because Robert Patrick is cooler than 99% of the population. Let's put it this way: If you are one of the rare people who is somehow cooler than Robert Patrick, you have better things to do than read this blog. But if you are, thanks!

Anyway, today marks Robert Patrick's 53rd year as one of the coolest and most bad ass actors ever.

Patrick got his start as a thug in Die Hard 2, then went on to great fame and fortune as the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The T-1000 is best known for the pioneering use of CG to convey its liquid metal form, but it was Patrick's performance that gave it depth, personality, and its iconic status. From there, he went on to have a long and varied career, full of both hits and misses, but he is always good and always worth watching. I even liked him on the X-Files, where he did a great job in the thankless role of replacing David Duchovny.

Happy birthday, Robert!

Green Lantern

I don't have a whole lot to say about this one, other than that it didn't suck, but it wasn't very good either. It was kind of the cinematic equivalent of the bread basket you get at a nice restaurant. There's nothing really to complain about, but it's really just there to tide you over until some real food is served. But as a film taken on its own -- not to mention as an adaptation of one of the best comic book characters ever -- it fell flat and left me feeling pretty hungry for the main course that never actually came. Did I stretch that analogy too thin?

Green Lantern has always been one of my favorite super heroes, even though the name has been used by many characters with different personalities over the decades. This film centers around Hal Jordan, who wasn't the first Green Lantern, but he has always been the best, the most popular, and the most enduring. However, Ryan Reynolds played him as just another irreverent generic Hollywood superhero who cracks jokes more than he fights evil or rights wrongs, so the character's name really doesn't matter. This is going to sound geeky so I apologize to anybody who isn't a fan of the comics, but this film was like an adaptation of Guy Gardner's Green Lantern than they just named Hal Jordan. Translation: He was too funny and irreverent when he should've been heroic and stoic.

But I guess funny and irreverent made the Iron Man series a bundle of money, so that's what every comic book adaptation is going to be like. Well, it wasn't faithful to the original comics when they turned Iron Man into a comedian, and it was even less so when they did the same to Green Lantern. But at least Ryan Reynolds is a very charming, gifted actor who has excellent comic timing. I didn't appreciate how they made the character so funny, but at least he was funny.

Much better was the supporting cast. I'm not sure why Tim Robbins was in this movie, but he's always good and he was fun to watch here, even though his character served no actual purpose or added anything to the overall story. Blake Lively was good as Carol Ferris, who goes on to become Star Sapphire, at least in the comics, not here. She is mainly here to set up the character as the obligatory love interest, and has little do to beyond looking beautiful, but she sure pulled that off better than almost any woman I've ever seen before. Who is this actress and how come I've never seen her before? Peter Sarsgaard has a lot of fun as the villain Hector Hammond, but it was an odd interpretation of the character, and an odd choice to have as one of the main adversaries in the film.

Best of all was Mark Strong, who was brilliant and perfectly cast as Sinestro. He looked like he flew right out of the comics, and gave the best and most engaging performance in the film. He stole every scene he was in, which were far too infrequent. Unfortunately he didn't have enough to do, since it was clear they were just setting him up to be the main villain in the sequel. Yeah, good luck with that.

As a straight up space opera, it had a lot of potential, since the film really shined during all the scenes where the characters were not on Earth. Visually it looked amazing, with exceptional special effects and really good representations of the planet Oa and the various alien Green Lantern Corps members like Abin Sur, Kilowog, and Tomar-Re. Heck, the fact that they even had these characters in the film at all is cool, but having them be done well was awesome. I even liked the look of the costume, even if the design was weird and it looked like skin.

Parallax was a let down, however. The character was given no depth, no real motivation, and looked like a muppet. As villains go, this was one of the worst and most unengaging I've seen in a long time, and the final battle between him (it?) and Green Lantern was pathetic.

But then, it was hard to have a satisfying finale since the entire film felt so flaccid and stale. It had no real character development beyond starting with a guy who makes jokes and says he's irresponsible, to ending with a guy who makes jokes and says he's now responsible. And where was the action? I think Green Lantern used his ring maybe three times, and almost never too good effect. I want to see Green Lantern punching lots of stuff, not flying into space and fighting a CG muppet.

Anyway, Green Lantern. It's worth checking out for some of the visuals, the performance by Mark Strong, and to look at Blake Lively. But if you want a great comic book adaptation, go rent Thor instead.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Celebrity Reality Show Pitches

Monk'd: Aged, over the hill actors become the victims of over the top practical jokes by Tony Shalhoub.

Sorbo The Greek: Kevin Sorbo has to go back to college and rush a different fraternity each week.

The Funky Brunch: Every week, the former backing band for Mark Walberg have to cater a meal for an event on a Sunday morning between 10:00 am and 2:00pm. Guy Fieri hosts.

Deck the Halls: Contestants compete to see who gets a chance to punch either Arsenio Hall, Rich Hall, or Daryl Hall. Guy Fieri hosts.

Get Rich or Die Trying: Contestants enter into a Running Man style bounty hunt where they have to chase after and track down celebrity impersonator Rich Little. Rapper 50 Cents hosts.

MC Hammer: A famous hip hop performer has to go into the inner city and do repairs on a different home each week. Starring either MC Lyte, Young MC, or, if he's available, MC Hammer.

Wuhl He or Won't He? Real people on the street are asked to come up with crazy dares for host Robert Wuhl. 

Naughty or Nies: Out of control teens are sent to boot camp where they are forced to do Pilates with reality star and personal trainer Eric Nies.

Monty's Python: Basically a revamp of Let's Make a Deal, only behind one of the doors is a new kitchen set, while behind the other is a deadly python. Monty Hall hosts.

Alda King's Men: Concept to be determined. Alan Alda hosts.

Next of Ken: Competition to see what up and coming actor will take the lead role in the remake of tv series Wiseguy. Ken Wahl hosts.

Prinze and the Popper: Actor Freddie Prinze Jr. is forced to share a studio apartment with Blues Traveler front-man John Popper.

Lama's Llamas: Renegade star Lorenzo Lamas becomes the guardian of a herd of lamas who move into his West Hollywood loft.

Howe Are You? A camera crew moves in with the family of former NHL All Star Gordie Howe and captures their crazy Canadian antics.

The Real Real World: Former camera and sound operators from MTV's the Real World are forced to live together in a loft in Akron, Ohio.

Let Me See That Kong: Join R&B star Sisqo as he travels throughout Hong Kong. Theme song to be written by Weird Al Yankovick and performed by Sisqo.

Canadian Idol: Aspiring singers from Canada have to perform for a panel of three judges: Geddy Lee, Bryan Adams, and somebody from The Guess Who. Dan Aykroyd hosts.

The Utley Duckling: Beauty pageant where contests compete to see if they are as handsome as Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. Mike Schmidt hosts.

Oh Clapton, my Clapton: A camera crew follows along rock legend Eric Clapton as he takes a class on Walt Whitman's poetry at the San Bernadino Community College.

From the Mailbag

Mugato writes:
How long did it take you to do one of these videos? From planning to upload.
Good question, Mugato. I never really paid attention or tracked the time I spent, but each video, depending upon the length, took somewhere between a couple hours to four or five, and that's just the time I spent sitting in front of my computer. Getting the footage (from various sources, none of which will I mention here), importing it into iMovie, and then uploading to Youtube all took a long time, but I was able to do most of that stuff while I did something else. Uploading the videos to Youtube probably took the most time, so I would usually do that at night before I going to bed.

From start to finish, the process was long but fun... usually. After watching the movie, of course, I would sit down and write the scripts, which usually took about ten to twenty minutes. This was the easy part. Then I recorded all the audio and imported it into iTunes (which automatically imports into iMovie). At first I used GarageBand, but I didn't really care for it and found it to be not very user friendly, so I switched over to Audacity.

After that I went ahead and edited the movie, choosing clips that seemed to match when with whatever i was saying on the audio tracking, trying to punctuate certain points by featuring short scenes from the movie. This is the fun part, and the annoying part. It's fun because editing is challenging and sort of like putting together a puzzle, and when you put together the elements in the right way, it can be very rewarding to rewatch. However, it's also tedious, and you have no idea how long a few seconds of film really is until you start cutting together movies piece by piece.

For example, a sentence as simple and short as "Day of the Dead was directed by George A. Romero," might take up only about four seconds, but that's four seconds I have to fill with footage. That's longer than it seems, especially since I have to scan through a feature length film in order to find the perfect four seconds. Sometimes I pull it off, sometimes I don't. That's why some of these videos are better than others, even from moment to moment.

So the Dead Snow video probably took me about two hours or so to put together from start to finish, and that was one of the shortest one. The Resident Evil review, which was around ten minutes and spanned all four films, took me close to an entire day, but I kept getting annoyed so I took a lot of breaks.

And sometimes I got lazy. For example, a lot of the footage from the Serpent and the Rainbow review was taken from a trailer I downloaded from Youtube. I mixed in some footage, but it's mostly just the trailer cut up because I was too lazy or busy (or, in the case of that movie, just unengaged) to do it all myself. I think I did that with a few others, but I can't remember which ones.

I use iMovie to edit these films. I use Audacity to record the dialogue. I used the website Cooltext to create the logo. Oh, and I meant to mention this in my recap, but the "theme song" is taken from the opening of the film White Zombie. I just thought it would fit.

I hope that answered your question, Mugato. Thanks for watching and for reading!

And if anybody wants to learn more about Mugato and his crazy antics, check out his great blog.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blockbuster Online

Hey... have you heard of this thing called Netflix? I think they've been in the news recently or something.

I've been a Netflix subscriber for years, and never had any complaints about my service, until they upped the prices a few months ago. I wasn't happy about that, but I understood it, and even at double the price, it's still a good deal considering how ridiculously cheap it was for years until this recent price hike. Then they made online streaming an additional price, which was annoying. I opted to keep the discs and ditch the streaming since my internet isn't very reliable or fast and the selection of movies on disc just blows away the instant streaming options. Everything the instant people can watch, I can get on disc, but everything I can get on disc they can't get on instant. Then they announced they were going to split off into two different websites, one for instant streaming and another for discs, so I figured this was a good time to look at my other options. They have since recanted on the move to split to two different websites, but by then I had already started my month long free trial of Blockbuster Online.

Long story short... I'm not leaving Netflix anytime soon... at least, not for Blockbuster Online. It totally sucks.

In order to understand why I'm staying with Netflix over Blockbuster, let me walk you through my month-long trial by comparing and contrasting the two services:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Zombiethon: Recap

I'll be honest: I'm glad that's over.

Creating and poster a new video review every day for a month was more work than I thought it was going to be, and going in I knew it was going to be a challenge. But it was also fun, and I'm glad I managed to do it because it felt like some kind of true accomplishment. I was originally just going to do a random assortment of reviews based on whatever I felt like watching that day, or whatever random Zombie film I happened to find or rent. But at some point, it turned into an historical journey through the development of the zombie film genre. I'm glad it turned out that way, since it gave me a chance to look at the entire genre as a whole and talk about how it developed, but it wasn't my original intention. Had I known I was going to do a Zombie film history class, I might've chosen the films a bit better, adding in some others and maybe nixing some that I did. But all in all, I thought it was a pretty decent list. I probably didn't need to do Zombies of Mora Tau, however. Nobody cared about that one.

And I ever going to do something like this again? Probably not, but who knows? I actually already have another idea for a long term video review project... and it's a good one. However, I dunno if I'll repeat this format any time soon. Posting a video each day for a month was a strain on both my mental health and my social life. Also, I think it was a strain on my viewers as well. A new video each day -- some of which were pretty long -- is a lot to ask of people. But... we'll see. 

Anyway, just for fun, here are some useless statistics and observations: