Friday, May 25, 2012

Bondathon Bonus: Skyfall Teaser Remix

The recently released trailer for the upcoming Bond film Skyfall was neat and all, but I thought it was missing something... The James Bond theme song! Just for fun, I edited slightly and put in the signature tune just to see if it would feel more like a trailer for a proper Bond film. I kinda like it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Skyfall: Official Teaser Trailer

The first official teaser for the upcoming Bond film Skyall was just released... and it's neat. Teaser trailers are never bad, but they're never all that good either. But this looks cool, we get to see Daniel Craig shoot lots of people, and lots of stuff blows up. I'd like to have heard the Bond theme maybe... and was his name even mentioned? I can't remember. Anyway... looks cool, and I'll obviously see it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tonight Show: Steve Martin Reads From His Diary

Do you subscribe to The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson on Youtube? Why not? If you did, you'd get to watch regular updates like this:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Avengers

I'll go ahead and make this easy: This was probably the best comic book movie ever made.

Of course, it was almost five years in making and built up over six films, so the comparison between this and every other comic book movie might be unfair. This was less of a film and more of an event. But still, best is best, and I can't think of any other comic book film that can compare with this epic. This was absolutely, 100 percent, bad ass.

If you go in expecting an adaptation of The Ultimates, that is. As an adaptation of The Avengers, it leaves a little to be desired, although even then it's a lot of fun, very cool, and contains some of the best comic book action ever put on screen. But most people who read comics these days are probably more familiar with The Ultimates than The Avengers anyway, and those people who don't read comics at all won't understand or care about the distinction between the two, so why should I care? Marvel made a movie that will be loved by fans of the current comics and those that just love great action movies, so if the eight year old me sheds a tear over the changes to the beloved characters he grew up reading, his beef is with the comic book company, not with the people who made this movie. And, anyway, the 35 year old me got to finally see a live-action fight between Thor and the Hulk*, so he's not going to complain either.

In case you're curious, the Avengers comic debuted in 1963 and had been published consecutively since then. In the early 2000s, the entire series was redone in a more "realistic," contemporary style, and renamed The Ultimates. If you saw the previous films based on Iron Man, Thor, and Captain American, you pretty much saw The Ulimates version of the characters. The Ultimates was a well written series that was certainly successful in bringing a lot of attention back to the characters, but that wasn't the team I grew up reading, and a lot of the changes they made to the characters were unsettling and rubbed me the wrong way, so when I see them put on screen instead of the characters I know, well, it makes me sad. But I'll be damned if these aren't great films, all culminating in The Avengers, which, as I said, was the best comic book movie ever made.

That isn't to say it's perfect, since the story is actually pretty weak and makes very little sense. The script by Joss Wheadon was also typical Joss Wheadon, in that it was overwritten and filled with too many witty jokes by every character, regardless of the tone of the scene. No matter what was going on, it was a safe bet one of the characters was going to crack a joke. This style or writing got tired around season three of Buffy, but at least his jokes are occasionally funny. Also, Wheadon's dialogue is definitely better when it's performed by an actor like Sam Jackson or Robert Downey Jr., as opposed to, say, Alyson Hannigan or Summer Glau.

 Speaking of the cast, let's look at our principal players:
Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr.
Everybody has seen at least the first Iron Man movie, which was great, and some people have seen the sequel, which was terrible. Not my favorite character in the movie since he seems to me to be the least faithful to the comics, but Downey Jr. is a brilliant actor who is great at reading Joss Wheadon's dialogue. This isn't the Tony Stark from the comics, but this is the one we got for the films, and at least he's always fun to watch. And when he puts on the Iron Man suit, well, he's bad ass. There is more and better Iron Man action in this film than there was in both of the solo Iron Man films put together. No joke.

Captain America: Chris Evans
My favorite Avenger, and probably my favorite actor in the cast. I thoroughly enjoyed his performance in the Captain America film, even though the film itself was somewhat lacking. He's given a pretty great role here, and Evans manages to rise to the occasion as the team's defacto leader. Evans has amazing comic timing, is as handsome a leading man as I've ever seen, and he has the conviction and sincerity needed to pull of this kind of serious yet fantastic character. I can't say enough good things about this guy. He was Captain America. And his costume is way better here than it was in his previous film, but it's still not great.

Thor: Chris Hemsworth
If you had asked me yesterday to name my all time favorite comic book movie, maybe I would've said Thor.  That movie was a masterpiece, in my opinion, with much of the credit going to Hemsworth's perfect portrayal of the Thor, the God of thunder. Part of the fun of Thor's solo film was watching his journey from God to man back to God again, but in this film he's just a God... and that's fine, since watching him punch stuff is fun too. Hemsworth was great and had some of the best fights in the movie, but I still wish he was given a little more to do since he's a wonderful actor. But still... great character, great actor.

The Hulk: Mark Ruffalo
They keep recasting this character, but luckily for us they keep recasting him with some of the best actors working today. First we had Eric Bana, then Ed Norton, and now Mark Ruffalo. I'm not sure whose performance was the best, but Ruffalo's portrayal was probably my favorite, if only because he was the closest to the character in the comics. At least, he was allowed to be a scientist who was smarter than everybody else in the film. Oh, and the CG on the Hulk was freaking amazing and his fight scenes were the absolute best things about the movie. Here's something I've learned over the course of three films featuring the Hulk: Nothing is more fun to watch than the Hulk smashing stuff. Seriously. The Hulk is without a doubt the best character in this whole movie... or, at least, he's the most fun to watch smash stuff.

Hawkeye: Jeremy Renner
Off casting, but not all together bad casting either. Renner is a fine actor, but not one I've ever found myself overly fond of. He's just... a little boring, which is a shame because Hawkeye is anything but. Renner is an actor who seems to specialize in being grim and brooding, while Hawkeye should be fun and exuberant. But even still, Renner did a good job even though I thought he was miscast and the character poorly represented. But he was good at shooting arrows and had a few stand out moments.

The Black Widow: Scarlett Johansson
Maybe the sexiest woman on the planet, and maybe a good actress. She was certainly fun to watch, and not just because she spent the entire film in a leather cat suit. Anyway, I liked this character more than I thought I would, even though she's not somebody I'd consider to be an essential member of the Avengers. I'd rather have seen The Wasp, Tigra, or She Hulk, but Johansson did a good job with the character.

Nick Fury: Samuel L. Jackson
Awesome. This wasn't the Nick Fury I grew up on, but this was perfect casting for the Nick Fury featured in the Ultimates. The Nick Fury I grew up on was cooler, of course, since he was a grizzled, battle hardened vet from WWII, but this Nick Fury was played by Sam Jackson. What's cooler than that? I'm also not a huge fan of the S.H.I.E.L.D. portrayed in these films, since they seemed to drop the cool, epic team from the comics in favor of a clone of the Men in Black, but at least they have Sam Jackson.

Loki: Tom Hiddleston
Our villain... and he's a good one. He was also the villain of the Thor film, but while he was a bit weak there, he's way cooler and scarier here. He is the only real villain of the whole film who isn't a CG monster, and he managed to carry much of the picture based on his charm and evil grin. This guy was a good villain, and I hope he makes a reappearance in the sequel. Oh... and stay after the credits for a very cool look at who the sequel's next villain might be.

But the real star of this film are the action sequences, which are amazing. This film was definitely the best I've ever seen at capturing the real over the top thrill of a true Marvel comic. The last twenty or minutes or so in particular was probably the greatest extended action sequence I've ever seen, and I don't say that lightly.

So... just go see it. I'll probably see it again, maybe in 3D or IMAX, since it's a visual spectacle that will probably be worth the money. And then I'll probably see it again, even if it isn't The Avengers I grew up on, it's still the Avengers. At the end of the day, this film works because it's the first film I've ever seen that really captures the feel of reading a Marvel comic. From now on when people ask me why I read comics, I can say, "You know that action scene at the end of The Avengers? Well, that's what comics are like all the time."

*Yes, I remember that TV movie where Thor fought the Hulk. Doesn't count because it was awful.

Cowboys & Aliens

Boy, nobody liked this one. It mostly bombed at the box office and got torn about by critics and in the world of mouth by moviegoers. Weird, because it was actually a pretty cool movie. Anyway, I finally got around to renting it last night, and I thought it was a lot of fun. I'm not saying it's one of the best movies or that it deserved to be the highest grossing film or the year or lauded by critics worldwide, but that if you watched this movie and came away thinking it sucked, you probably didn't actually watch the trailer, look at the poster, or even read the name. This was a movie about Cowboys fighting aliens, and a pretty well done and fun one at that.

I suppose I could understand coming away disappointed if you expected an incredibly deep story full of twists and turns, or even a high concept science-fiction movie with ground-breaking ideas and out of this world visuals. But I went in expecting a a fun, B movie with lots of action, and that's what the film delivered. I'm not saying that action films can't have depth or character development -- this film actually had some great characters who grew and changed over the course of the film -- I'm just saying that not every film has to be Hannah and her Sisters. Some films should just be Cowboys & Aliens.

It probably helped that I love Westerns, since this was mostly definitely a Western with a sprinkling of sci-fi elements as opposed to a science fiction story set in the old west. If you want a true sci-fi Western, watch Firefly or Cowboy Bebop. This film felt more like an homage to traditional westerns than anything else, just with the marauding group of outlaws replaced with aliens. And as a Western, it was awesome. The set up was fairly typical -- perhaps even cliche, but I'd say intentionally so -- about a man with no name type who comes to a town populated with outrageous characters who eventually look to him to save them from the gang of bandits terrorizing the town. Turns out this man has no name because he can't remember it, because he was abducted by aliens and had his memory erased. But I don't want to say too much about the plot, because there is so little of it already.

Our hero is played by Daniel Craig, who seems born to play a Cowboy. His performance is incredibly laconic and mostly silent, which is fine because it hid his less than convincing attempt at an Old West accent. But Daniel Craig broods better than just about any actor currently working today, and should win acting awards just for the things he does with his eyes that other actors couldn't do even with pages and pages of expertly written dialogue. Oh, and he's also a total bad ass. The scene where he jumps onto the horse and knocks that one guy down to the ground and then beats the crap out of him actually had me yell, "damn!" alone in my apartment. This was a great character, and one I'd watch a sequel about even if there weren't any aliens involved.

Most Westerns are only as good as their supporting cast, and luckily this one has a pretty good one. The town Doctor, sheriff, barkeep, drunk, and all the rest are played by one of the coolest casts I've seen in a long time, including Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Keith Carradine, Adam Beach, and Walton Goggins. I think they missed an opportunity to include a few more veteran actors from the genre, but then again, maybe they're aren't too many of them around. They couldn't thrown somebody like Harry Carey Jr. in there somewhere. At least the did open with an appearance by Buck Taylor.

Best of all was Harrison Ford as Woodrow Dolarhyde, the rich rancher and all around town curmudgeon. When he's given the right role, Ford is an astoundingly good actor, and this was his best performance in decades, if not his best. Seriously, he's so good and given such great lines and long monologues that he stole the movie and made it worth watching if only for his sublime acting performance.

The movie definitely didn't need to be two hours long, however, and I think it would've performed better had they trimmed it down by maybe twenty minutes to a half hour. It's just too long, had maybe a couple too many characters, and just attempted to be epic in places where it should've been streamlined. But while it occasionally dragged a little or went on too long, it was never really boring, since the actors were so great and the entire film was so gorgeous to look at. I wasn't really a fan of the design of the film, since the alien creatures and their technology was kind of boring and seemed uninspired. The look of the aliens was a little too busy and garish, keeping them from being as iconic looking as they could've been. Also, though he's quite good at crafting a keen action set piece and always assembles great casts of actors, director Jon Favreau is always just good for me but never great. He has made a lot of really entertaining, fun movies, but he just seems to lack that spark that keeps his films from being true homeruns.

So... that's Cowboys & Aliens, a truly fun and exciting Western/Sci-Fi mash-up that's well worth seeing for fans of either genre. It won't rank on any best of lists, except for maybe among he best Westerns of the past decade or so, but fans of the genre know that isn't much of a list so far. But I liked it and I bet you will too.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Expendables 2 Trailer

I had to share this:

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

Pretty good western -- maybe even a great one, I dunno -- but one with a few fundamental problems that kept it from being a great one, in my opinion. But, hell, even a good western is usually better than most great films from any other genre. Anyway, this is a famous (or perhaps infamous) film that I have been meaning to see for years, and I finally found a copy at my local library. It's probably not a must see, but it's definitely a should see. Anyway, I liked it.

The film is about, well, you probably already figured that out. It's about Pat Garrett, lawman, and Billy the Kid, outlaw. Well... sorta. It's actually not really about either of those two at all, nor do we learn much about them, their relationship, or their place in this society. The film actually seems to be about the Old West in general and the roles people played in history. Or maybe it's just about Westerns in general and an attempt to tear down the archetypes of the genre. Or maybe it's just about people shooting each other. It's the kind of film that either has so much depth that you can read into it any theory you want, and yet so shallow that maybe it isn't about anything at all.

That is to say, there is a lot here and I think director Sam Peckinpah is trying to say something profound on the nature of violence, vengeance, friendship, and whatever else, but I'm not sure what, either because I didn't get it or because he wasn't saying it well enough. As it is, the film starts with Pat Garrett telling Billy the Kid he's going to track him down and kill him, and then it ends with him tracking him down and killing him, and there is very little in the way of characterization or historical perspective as the events unfold. But it's all a lot of fun and so beautifully shot.

The cast is pretty phenomenal, even though they aren't all given that much to do. James Coburn is exceptional in the role of Pat Garrett, an aged, possibly self-loathing gunman given the assignment to track down and stop his former friend. Kris Kristofferson is the kid, which is funny because he was clearly thirty something, but he does have a babyface, especially since he wasn't sporting his now trademark beard. This was one of Kristofferson's first screen roles, and he was pretty great, and perfectly captured the charm and sparkle of the now infamous outlaw. And then the rest of the cast was filled with a mixture of up and coming character actors like Harry Dean Stanton and legends of the genre like Jack Elam, Slim Pickens, and Chill Wills. If you're a fan of Westerns, the extended supporting cast makes this film worth checking out.

There's also the first film role for Bob Dylan, who also provided the score. I've read some other reviews that criticized his performance, but I thought he was pretty good. His character served no purpose in the story so far as I could tell, but his performance was quirky and weird and likable. But his score was amazing and contained some exceptional songs, such as the now legendary Knockin' on Heaven's Door.

Just check out this scene:

That pretty much sums up the pace and mood of this film. And that wasn't even the death of a major character, but one that we had just met in the scene previous. This is a long, slow paced, fascinating look at the old west, but don't expect much in the way of story or historical information. But do expect to be entertained.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Jack White: Blunderbuss

I don't know nothing about writing no music reviews. Hell, I don't know nothing about music. Only instrument I ever tried to play as a kid was the drums, and I probably ended up hitting my knees more times than I ever hit the snare. But I do know good music when I hear it, even if I can't recreate any myself or really put into words what about it works so well. All of this is my round about way of explaining why I'm not going to review Jack White's new album Blunderbuss, because all I'm going to say is this:

Jack White's new album Blunderbuss is amazing. Check it out if you like good, old fashioned rock and roll. Whatever that is.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Thing (2011)

This was a prequel to a movie that was a remake of a adaptation of a novella by John W. Campbell. The novella was published in 1938, was adapted for the screen in 1951, got remade in 1982, and then given a prequel in 2011, so that means every couple decades somebody has to either remake or add to the Thing mythology. And that's ok with me because it's all great stuff. The original story was one of the most influential science fiction stores of all time that's still a lot of fun to read today, the original film is a sci-fi classic that stands out as a masterpiece of the golden age of Hollywood sci-fi, and John Carpenter's remake is one of my all time favorite films by one of my all time favorite directors. And now there's a prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 film, and... it's pretty good. I liked it.

Of course, if there was every a film that didn't need to be made, it was this one, since even though the 1982 film stared in media res, the back story was all filled in and needed no real elaboration. But somebody decided to elaborate, and at least we got a film that was well done, with a nice script, good acting, deft direction, and some awesome special effects that were updated from the previous film, but so well done that they actually looked like they matched that film's practical effects.

So... check it out. I don't have much to say about this film, since there really isn't much to say about it. It's a prequel to the 1982 classic that pretty much tells the same story, follows the same story beats, and while it isn't nearly as good, it's still good enough. It's worth seeing if you're a fan of the originals or just like stories with big scares and awesome monsters.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bondathon Part 19: The Living Daylights

Part 19 of my Bondathon movie review marathon: The Living Daylights, the 15th official James Bond film, and the first to star Timothy Dalton. This is one of my all time favorites.