Category Archives: Hollywood

Two Quick Reviews

Yesterday I mentioned that I saw a couple movies over the weekend.  Here are couple tidy little reviews…

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader I read this book when I was probably about 10 or 11.  That’s quite a long time ago.  I remembered a few things about it, but mostly just that I enjoyed it the most out of the seven books in the C.S. Lewis series.  That being said, it was probably the least of the three movies that have recently been adapted.

I think that what the movie suffered from was a lack of adequate narrative tension.  The Dawn Treader is a story that I recall (and granted it was twenty years ago, but still) having three significant narrative arcs: (1) Lucy and Edmund are growing up, and realizing that their days of childhood adventure in Narnia are nearing an end, (2) Caspian is coming of age as the King of Narnia, and heads out on this expedition to the furthest reaches of his lands, and (3) Lucy and Edmund’s cousin, Eustace, joins them for this trip into Narnia to learn more about himself and how to treat others.  It’s a noble endeavor to take on all three threads on the big screen, but difficult to do in less than two hours.  What ends up happening is that none of the three threads feel thoroughly explored (least of all the Caspian thread).

It’s a decent movie, but overall, I have to admit that I’ve been a little disappointed by the Narnia franchise.  It could be that I just enjoyed the books too much at too young an age for a movie adaptation to feel adequate.  I’m not sure what the plans are for the continuation of the this series.  There are four books left, and it’s not clear to me how or if they would all be produced; Book Five is out of sequence with the others that have been made to date, and Book Six is actually a ‘prequel’ to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. The movie still made plenty of cash, and my prediction is that they will continue.

I also fired up the Boxee over the weekend and pulled Futurama: Bender’s Big Score out of the instant Netflix queue.  As near as I could tell (and with absolutely no research) this was the first in a series of Futurama-direct-to-DVD features that came between the time they were canceled by Fox and later resurrected by Comedy Central.

What can I say?  It was funny.  I was actually fairly impressed with the way that they tied together a few different threads over the course of 90 minutes. They did a very funny job of lampooning sci-fi time-travel stories, which can so wrapped up in the paradoxes that time travelers are creating, a viewer can barely keep the time continuum straight.  Those stories also have the distinct advantage of killing and resurrecting whichever characters they want, so long as they can come up with a (barely) reasonable time-travel-y justification.  This Futurama movie had that going for it all the way.

From the mind of Simpsons creator Matt Groening, I have to say that overall, as a series, I like Futurama more than The Simpsons. The latter has some hilarious and epic TV moments, but if I had twelve bucks and could only buy a season of one or the other, I would probably buy a few gallons of gas instead.

After I got home, though, I would probably opt search the ‘nets for on-demand Futurama first.  There are few more Futurama movies on Netflix that are available to stream.  I imagine I’ll get to them sooner or later.



Wanted to offer a summary of my thoughts after the conclusion of LOST.  To give you the short-short version, I was satisfied, and the outcome made sense to me.

The only real frustrating thing from my perspective was that we didn’t find out specifically:

  • what the point of the light at the heart of the island is
  • why Desmond was the one who had to go down to move the rock
  • what the island’s real purpose is

… I guess that makes me want to go back and re-watch certain episodes to dig for the nuggets of wisdom on those topics that were dropped along the way.  In the end, it seems like we need to take the words of Jacob, his mother, and the findings of the Dharma researchers at face value.  Maybe there is no greater explanation than what Jacob explained, and the mysterious powers of the island are just what they appeared to be.

The final conclusion of the show seemed to imply that those things that we were all asking and theorizing about don’t matter that much, though.  Great allegory for human existence and a demonstration of the teachings of most of the world’s religions (demo’ed in the idolatry of so many in the room where Jack and his dad met): the things in this life don’t matter as much as what’s to come next.  What the island is or how it works or what it’s there for isn’t as important as the reality that the castaways spent the most important parts of their lives together; that they found one another; that the loves forged on the island were the most essential ones that any of the characters would have.

I think it’s a bold way to handle the conclusion of show like this (and really, when you think about the path we’ve been led down all this while, should have come as no surprise), to say about the characters: well, in the end they all die.  In the end, we ALL DIE.  What is the most important thing?  That we loved one another.  What happened to Sawyer, Kate, Richard, Miles, and Frank wasn’t important anymore.  What happened to Hurley and Ben wasn’t important anymore.  This was the story of this group of people at this point in their lives, and at the VERY END, they ended up where we all wanted them to be.

It’s actually a very satisfying way to handle it, because you get to kill and not kill everyone; you leave all their fates open to interpretation and speculation while specifying all of them.

My interpretations or ideas about certain key elements:

  1. Did any of the “events” in the flash sideways take place?  What about things like Jack’s son, or Locke’s fiance, or stuff like that? No, none of those things actually occurred; I am fine with Christian’s explanation that the flash sideways was a construct of the castaways shared consciousness immediately following their deaths.
  2. What happened to the island after Hurley became the caretaker? I like to think that he did exactly as Ben suggested (and judging by their conversation outside the church, I’m sure that’s right), and he took care of anyone that found their way there after him.  Whereas Jacob brought people that were alone and struggling through their lives (in the same sorts of ways that HE was), I figure Hurley helped those that were lost find their way home if that’s what they wanted, or helped those that wanted to stay to get along.  Groups of people also consistently came to the island struggling to control its power, whether it was the people who the Man in Black lived with, or the Army after the War, or the Dharma Initiative later on.  I assume others would come and go in similar fashion over time, with minimal interference from the island’s caretaker.  One thing that seemed assured for all those people: the island is too powerful to be controlled by them, and their greed will be eventually be their undoing.  We didn’t get any indication that that would change, so I imagine it didn’t.
  3. To extend that line of thinking, it seems important to note that the mystery behind Jacob/Man In Black’s story seems distinct from the story of the mysterious power of the island in the space-time continuum. I don’t get the impression that Jacob or anyone that came after him understood the nature of the island’s power, but some of them did learn how to wield it.  I think that maybe the island should be understood as a sort of focal point or wormhole in the universe.  Based on the travels of Ben and Locke after turning the wheel, it seems like the wormhole goes to a specific place, and the electromagnetic interference generated by the island is probably a byproduct of that conduit.

However, I still don’t understand what the light and the rock and the pool are doing to keep the island intact.  I don’t quite get how (or if) that relates to the wormhole.  In the end, I think I’m going to try NOT to focus on those elements that may be hard to explain or open to speculation, and drink the creator’s kool-aid in saying, “None of that really matters.  At the very end of everything, what we really care about is where the characters ended up.  And they all seemed to be in a very good place.”

New System

I had an enjoyable weekend in the Greater Twin Cities area, hanging out with Schneider, and taking a morning visit over to the Elko house.

Josh and I had a chance on Saturday night to go see Pirate Radio, which I think both of us enjoyed.  Doesn’t change the fact that I don’t really get to watch a lot of movies anymore, though.

And that’s what my new system is all about.  I have had enough of trying to keep up with what is currently available to see in theaters and trying to shoehorn in an occasion to get there.  No, I will admit that most movies I want to see simply won’t be seen.  That being said, I will now queue them up immediately on Netflix and just hope to get around to them eventually.  Does this system make it more likely that I will see all these movies that I show some passing interest in?  Probably.  Eventually.  The biggest difference is having a convenient place to keep a list.

So how about the Packers yesterday?  While a lot of people in the press around the state seem to be gushing all over themselves, I have to remind people that the game was still extremely sloppy (Packers were lucky they were playing the one team that gets penalized almost as much) and it was 3-0 at halftime.  Am I glad they won?  Of course.  Do I think it means anything in the long run?  Of course not.

How was your weekend?

Show Wordy Some Love (or Hate)

Wanted to pass along the word here, and figured the easiest way was a copy-paste of an email I got earlier today from Wordell:

Just wanted everyone to know that INST MSGS, a webseries I’m working on for launches TODAY.

See it here:
The creator of the show, Justin Simien, corralled a lot of really talented folks helped put it together (Producer Ann Le, and Co-Developer Mathieu Young as well as writers Russ Tamishiro, Angel Lopez and myself), and we’re already getting some really positive reviews and coverage ( Show some love, check out the show, leave comments, tweet about it and pass it around!
Show Info:
INST MSGS is a web variety show that dramatizes social media. Based on everything from submitted instant message conversations to found Craigslists ads, INST MSGS shines a satirical light on modern (mis) communication.

Thanks everyone and enjoy!

Motion Picture Fail

I realized on my way home today that I came up pretty short on viewing all the movies I wanted to see this summer.  True, there weren’t that many that I was interested in back in May, but I have not even hit the 50% mark.  District 9 just came out to some box-office avail, but here we are, August 17, and the only movie I saw after Memorial Day was a random weekday viewing of Harry Potter 6.  Here are the ones that I’ve missed.  Let me know if I’m truly “missing” something, or if I can just let it go until it shows up on Netflix (which, at the rate I get through my queue, would happen sometime in early 2012).

PS – I’m kinda depressed that half the movies I’ve seen this summer were Wolverine and Terminator 4.  Yikes.

I’m sleepy.  Are you sleepy?

Original Watergate Interviews: A Nice Primer to Frost/Nixon

Clearly, there is no reason to avoid the biological fact of my non-existence during the Watergate scandal.  In addition, I received minimal education on the topic during my formative years, and, having such a strong background in history coming out of high school, never was required to take a single history class throughout college.  To sum up, my knowledge of the depth of the scandal, and the details surrounding it were vague at best.

For these combined reasons, I found the original Nixon interview with David Frost on the topic of Watergate to be both an enlightening recap of events from the proverbial horse’s mouth, and an ideal primer for the fictionalized, Oscar-nominated film Frost/Nixon.

The two DVDs could most certainly be packaged together; one lends depth and context to the other.  If I understand correctly, the Original Interviews is an edited DVD presentation of the Watergate portion of the BBC series.  What I got out of it was a more thorough understanding of the actual events of the break-in, and the longest sustained exposure I’ve ever had to Richard Nixon, albeit through the camera lens.

Watching the original interview made me appreciate Frank Langella‘s portrayal quite a bit more.  Watching the real Nixon, you can see that:

  • He is keenly aware of the television audience, and how he appears on camera
  • He really appears to believe that he didn’t do anything wrong
  • His regrets are not about the Watergate incident, but rather that he screwed up and couldn’t be president anymore

… all of these things were brilliantly conveyed by Langella, and I’m kind of sorry I didn’t watch the original interview first, because I might have enjoyed the performance even more.

If you have some interest in history, Nixon specifically, or political scandal generally, watching this pair is a fine way to spend 3 or 4 hours.

Reviewing T4

Terminator: Salvation was OK, but definitely the weakest of the series to date.  Yes, I’m including T3 in that statement.  No, I don’t think the third one was awful.  Yes, despite Claire Danes in an action flick.  No, I’m not kidding.  It was a decent conclusion (or restart, depending on how you look at it).

This latest one did alright maintaining some believable continuity with the timeline established earlier in the series, but how many more screen-hours of humans running from terminators can we reasonably take?  The “redemption” storyline with the terminator hybrid was pretty weak and cliched.  But honestly, it followed such an obvious and predictable sequence, to stretch it out more would have made it much worse.  The chases, the explosions, the post-apocalyptic landscape of southern California, all combined for reasonable levels of excitement, even if they did nothing innovative.

Bottom line: this flick plays to that lowest common denominator of action movies, and will make plenty of money in the process.  If you’re looking for an exciting adventure this summer, though, I’m gonna give my early vote to Star Trek. Even that Transformers shite might jump ahead of T4, given that they’ve got Hollywood’s king of gratuitous excess, Michael Bay, at the helm.

I’ll give it 5 out of 10.

Long Shots

I looked at my sad little list of tweets on the front page today and it made me feel kind of bad.  Really just haven’t had a lot of blogocity flowing of late.

Anyway, later on this evening I will be taking in a second screening of Star Trek with some of the geek men from MKE.  We caught Watchmen as a group, too.  I’m going to turn in a little earlier than I usually would on a Friday, because I have to head over to the Wordell house in the Falls tomorrow to work on a computer; want to get said work done in the AM hours, so I’ll need some good sleep…

Went out and took some pictures last night after the sun went down.  Been meaning to do some night photography with my new camera, but this was my first chance.  Picked up a couple tips from Wordy on how to make some of them look better (I only uploaded a few of the decent ones).  Tip #1: remember that when you’re doing a 5-15 second exposure of a building and you’re zoomed in @ 300mm, you’re asking for blurring.  It’s just gonna happen.  Good point there.

What’s with the Brewers lately, eh?  They started slow, but things are looking up after a 5-1 homestand that came on the heels of a 3-1 road trip.  Brewers have won 6 series in a row, and they go to St. Louis this weekend playing for first place in the Central.  Yeah, it’s still early, but I see signs that the team is more relaxed and grown up than people were counting on.  I hope they don’t lose it, and they remember what is working during this good stretch.  Oh, and having Trevor Hoffman to handle the 9th doesn’t hurt, either.

I’ve got 2 weeks to go @ UWM before heading back to Osh Vegas for work once again!  How bout them apples??

What’s new with you?

Quick-Moving Saturday

This day just flew by me before I really realized what had happened.  Ended up being out a little late on Friday after all the baseball excitement, so I got a late start.  Lots to be done around the house, and I also watched a movie that Brian lent to me.  Eagle Eye was OK, but it could have been quite a bit better.  Another interesting take on a Skynet-type problem that wouldn’t actually ever happen.  But like I said, it wasn’t awful.

Did some laundry while I was watching this evening’s Brewers game.  MediaPortal is totally worth the trouble on my TV box if for no other reason than the DVR features– being able to pause the live game while I was running up and down the stairs changing loads was nice.  If there were:

  • a browser extension, in order to use hulu and netflix within MP, and
  • a decent music library included

… it would pretty much rock.  I might try Boxee for Windows to see how that works out.  The thing I would like best is to do all the video watching that I need to on computer, WITH the remote.  Having to plug in a keyboard or mouse is a pain.  Ah well, minor thing.

I would like to sneak in my blog-o-riffic birthday salutations to my mom, right under the wire here ON her birthday, 4/11.  Love you, Mom– hope it was a good day…

If I miss all of ya on Sunday, have a happy Easter.