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Archive for January, 2008

Rambo – ‘Nuff Said

29

Jan

Posted by Steve

I really had no idea how to title this review….hence the title.

I watched the original Rambo trilogy in the weeks leading up the films release this past Friday (my birthday by the way) just to get in the mindset.    I was nowhere near the mindset I needed to be in to watch this film when it started up.

RAMBO is a different animal from the First Blood/Rambo movies of the eighties and nineties.  If you haven’t seen it yet, that’s important to remember. 

If ROCKY BALBOA was Sylvester Stallone’s way of paying homage to not only the character of Rocky, but the previous movies as well, RAMBO was Stallone’s way of restarting the franchise.   Seriously, if this is goodbye, then it’s a fitting farewell.  However, the movie has such a more intense feel to it than the Rambo movies of the past, it feels like Stallone may have been starting something up. 

The movie opens with news graphic news footage depicting the violence and genocide in Burma.   This is real news footage with commentaries from different broadcasts over the years all mixed in a familiar montage style.

As the credits come up, we are treated to our first look at the movie’s villains and there leader as they callously send prisoners running across a rice field (for those who don’t know, rice kind of grows under water) where land mines have just been randomly thrown.   There’s no music.  No build up.  Suddenly, there’s an explosion and blood and meat flying everywhere as one of the prisoners steps on a mine and the Burmese soldiers open fire on the rest killing them. 

Thus, the tone of this movie is set.  We know from the outset that we are dealing with people who will kill for fun.   Then, we meet Rambo.  Stallone isn’t trying to impress anyone with his well sculpted muscles in this film.   The Rambo of this movie is a John Rambo who has lived in the jungles of Asia for years.  He is huge.  He is an animal.   He’s…catching snakes?  Yep.   He’s a snake wrangler for a snake show.   One thing that is apparent from the outset with Rambo is that he is still a man who is unsettled.  While the rest of the world has moved on from the war that made Rambo the man he is, he has not.   He still has his demons.  He still hasn’t figured out who he is since the mess in that Oregon town in First Blood.    John Rambo is a man who does what he has to do just to get by.  And he’s not taking crap from anybody.

The strength of this film lies not in revisiting an old friend like we did in ROCKY BALBOA.  Rather the strength of this film is the fact that the main character has moved on in the best way he knows how.  He still hasn’t, as Trautman said in RAMBO 3, “come full circle,”  but he has evolved and changed.  He’s not looking for peace anymore.  He’s given up on finding it.  He’s not concerned about going home anymore.  He feels there’s nothing there for him.  He’s not concerned about fighting anymore.  He’s done his time.  But he still hasn’t come to grips with who he is…what he is.  Until now.

When Rambo starts being Rambo, it’s like slipping on a favorite pair of shoes.  You know that you should probably start looking for a new pair, but these are so comfortable.

Another of the films true strengths is one that made me very uncomfortable.  The violence.  This isn’t the cool, traps that mame the pursuers, or big explosions that are pretty to look at.  This is legs being blown off, people literally being blown to bits, entrails spilling out, women being raped, and even kids being bayonetted and babies thrown into a fire.  (Seriously, the film shows a soldier rip a woman’s child out of her arms and throw it into a fire.) It’s hard to watch in some places, but it’s necessary to accomplish what Stallone wanted to accomplish in this movie.  For one thing, it doesn’t bother you to see the bad guys get it in the end.  Then there’s the desire that Stallone had to raise awareness to the situation in Burma. (I’ll come back to this in a bit.) 

Yes, apparently the action movie has evolved from the fun frolicking romps of the eighties and nineties.  The new action film is all about grit and guts.  Which, I guess is okay, but I think it takes a certain kind of courage to trust your audience to have fun in an action film.  The makers of Live Free or Die Hard did it and while it was met with mixed reactions, I for one enjoyed it and appreciated the spirit of the original Die Hard films being there.  So, I kind of missed the over the top, that could never happen, style of Rambo 2 and 3.

However, Stallone did one thing well.  Rambo has become a joke in our popular vernacular.  He’s a throwback and people seem to forget that FIRST BLOOD wasn’t really a “fun” action movie.  It had depth to it.  Stallone brings that back with RAMBO.  A certain depth to the character, what he doing, and where he ends up.

I liked this movie.  I didn’t have fun with it.  But, I liked it.  Why didn’t I have fun with it?  Too real.   I have honestly lived my life in complete ignorance when it comes to the situation in Burma.   The brutality of what is going on makes me uneasy mainly because I don’t know that anything has ever been done about it.  I don’t want to get politcal or anything, but I have to wonder why the great United States has never taken an active role in trying to bring peace to that land.  I don’t mean through force, but at the very least diplomatically.  I guess I don’t understand the situation so it seems like pointless slaughter in the name of power.  It seems like the kind of thing we in America usually take a stand against.  This movie gave me the same uneasy feeling.  I couldn’t cheer Rambo, I could only hope that he made these evil men pay for what they had done not only to the missionaries, but mainly to the natives of Burma.  (By the way, he made them pay.)

The only real problem I had with the movie was the characterization of the leader of the missionary group.  I’ve known a lot of missionaries in my life.  I have never met any who go to places that are war torn and dangerous to have the attitude that that guy had in the film.  So it felt a little mischaracterized.

Ultimately, I suggest this film only to fans of the original FIRST BLOOD.  It’s not a date movie.  Don’t take your wife/girlfriend to see it.  Don’t take your 13 year old kid to see it either.  In fact, unless you’re 17 or 18, don’t see this movie.  Seriously.

Overall, I give the film a 3.5 out 5.  It was a good movie, and if it’s the farewell we get to give Rambo, then it’s a fitting one.  He has finally come full circle.

What is Cloverfield?

21

Jan

Posted by Steve

That’s the question I got asked last week when I would tell my friends, “I’m excited for Cloverfield this weekend.” 

I couldn’t believe that they weren’t in on everything.  I couldn’t believe this one has slipped by them.  I would explain, “Big monster….trashes New York….handycam?”

Then they would say, “Oh yeah…not too sure about that one.”

So, I knew that it was off to the movies by myself to check out the latest in geek phenomena. 

I wasn’t really aware of this movie until the teaser before Transformers last Summer.  But that teaser got me hooked.  I began to buy in to all of the marketing, all of the rumors, and all of the pictures, and I loved that when I walked into the movie theatre all I knew for sure was what I had seen in the trailers and movie clips that had been released.

If you haven’t seen Cloverfield, don’t worry, I won’t spoil too much here.  This is an experience that doesn’t need to be spoiled.  The less  you know going in, the better.  Why?  Because this movie is all about discovery.   The discovery that New York is being destroyed and what it’s being destroyed by.  The discovery that everybody isn’t getting to safety.  The discovery of…well, I don’t want to spoil it.

Suffice to say that the scares work.  The effects work.  The monster works.  The characters work.  This movie just works.  Period.

The success of this movie, though, is not in the monster, the marketing, or even the story.  The success of this movie is the characters.  There’s not a single character that you don’t recognize.  We all have that friend that is the organizer.  We all have the friend that never takes anything seriously.  We’re all friends with that couple that’s not together, but should be together.  We’ve all been in that situation where everyone should be having fun but two people start arguing and it becomes a tense evening.  We’ve all got that one friend who is the glue to the other friends.  The “main dude.”

So, when things start to get nasty in New York, you’re actually pulling for these people.  You want them to succeed at what they’re doing, and you want them to survive.  You hurt for every character that dies and you hurt for every character personally affected by the death of another. 

There is an eerie feeling to the film as it puts you right in the middle of a circumstance that we literally cannot imagine other than seeing it on the big screen. 

This is not THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.  You aren’t constantly hoping to get a glimpse of the witch.  The actors aren’t running around overacting and ad libbing.

This in not GODZILLA.  The focal point of this movie is not the monster.  You don’t think this monster is cool.  You want to see it stopped.  You don’t want the army to have to pull out all the stops and accept whatever collateral damages they have to accept.

This is not WAR OF THE WORLDS.  You don’t know if this is happening everywhere or just New York.

This is something similar to all of these movies, but at the same time nothing like them at all.  There are inspirations from everything from ALIEN to OUTBREAK  to ET  the classic Godzilla movies and other obivous genre films.

Go see this movie.  Even if you don’t flip for it the way it seems so many people are, it’s worth seeing on the big screen.   Do I think it’s a genre defining (or redefining – however you look at it) movie?  I don’t know about that.  Is this movie this generation’s Star Wars?  No.  It may be this generation’s Godzilla, but I doubt it will have the cultural impact of Star Wars.  Is this the greatest movie ever made?  No, Citizen Kane will probably always hold that title.  Is it a great movie.  Yes…yes it is. 

This is that movie that people will be talking about for weeks.  In fact, Rambo may get overlooked to an extent this Friday because there are so many people talking about CLOVERFIELD.  I can’t wait to sit and watch this movie again.  I can’t wait to be able to see it over and over again on DVD if for no other reason than to pick apart every scene and see the story that is unfolding around our characters.  So, I say again, if you haven’t seen it go check it out.  Let me know what you think. 

Star Wars Fans Take a Hit…

16

Jan

Posted by Steve

In June of 2007, right during the heart of the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, a project aired on the History Channel that peeled back the layers of storytelling in the Star Wars saga.  The special explored the link between Star Wars and classic mythology.  It showed the depth and richness of every facet of the films and hopefully opened the eyes of some to allow them to see how deep, intricate, and intelligent the films are.

I actually had some good conversations with non-Star Wars fans who were friends of mine after they saw that special.

Then there’s the airing of shows like Star Wars tech and the science of Star Wars, where intelligent, educated people talk about the real possibilities of the technology and science in the Star Wars universe and what it would take to make the imagination of George Lucas truly come to life.

Projects like these, and charity events sponsored by the people of the fighting 501st have, over the past few years, really helped to shed a good light on us Star Wars fans.

Then American Idol aired last night. 

If you didn’t see it, then you missed a couple of people who set out with a mission…and accomplished it.

The mission?  Give the general public yet another reason to point and laugh at Star Wars fans.

Let’s begin with the young lady who wore fish net stockings, a Star Wars belt buckle and Princess Leia Cinnabon-esque hair puffs. (Which were fake by the way.)

I think it’s great that she was proudly displaying her love of the Star Wars saga.  I think it was bold for her to (at the time she was actually there) potentially go on national television embracing one of the greatest things about geek culture.  However, I’d like to, in hind sight, offer a few suggestions:

1.  Your real hair?  Long enough to do the little bun things for real if you’d take the time.  This would have prevented you from giving America the moment where you rip off the fake hair pieces and hand them one by one to your grandfather who was attempting to console you and suddenly found himself holding fake hair.  I didn’t want to laugh…but I had to.  As one came off and the other goes and there’s good old Grandad sitting there with this hair looking like, “What am I supposed to do with this?”

2.  The ranting and raving?  Didn’t help your cause at all.  You set out to prove that we geeks (you called us dorks…at which I take offense.  Look up the word dork…we aren’t dorks) aren’t total losers.  The minute you made excuses for your audition going poorly, guess what princess…you looked like a loser.

I don’t intend to be harsh, but spoken like a true geek she said, “They don’t want unique.  They need a new look.”  No…No they don’t.  The show’s been pretty successful for what is now it’s 7th year without the unique look.  Actually, I’ve seen some pretty plain jane people make it to Hollywood and beyond based on their TALENT!!!

3.  It was Celebration 4…not “The 30th Anniversary Celebration at the Los Angeles Convention Center in LA. Duh.”  How ’bout for all the people who aren’t in the know just call it the biggest Star Wars convention in the nation?  They know what you’re talking about.

4.  Finally, you have potential with your singing…get some voice lessons, learn to talk to people without making them scared of you, and lose the Star Wars belt buckle…unless you’re at Celebration 5.  Who knows, do those things and next year you could take your unique look to Hollywood and get your picture taken with that Chewbacca guy who attacked Elmo.

Aside for Leia-girl we were treated to a guy who knew what he was doing when he showed up for his audition in a cloak that stretched from his neck to the floor covering up a Leia slave bikini outfit that HE was wearing. This wasn’t a man confused about his sexuality, or attempting to be a cross-dresser.  This guy wanted to get on TV and make an impact.  And he did.  He bellyflopped Star Wars fans right out of the gene pool with that thing.

Not only did he disrobe once, at Paula’s behest he went and got his chest waxed came back again and almost got to do his little marching routine to “Dontcha.” 

I got the joke dude, but couldn’t you have done a Uhura outfit or something.  Might not have been as nasty, but at least we could have laughed at the Trekkies…heh heh heh Trekkies are losers.

Oh, and by the way, you do much plumbing?  Because you were sporting that buttcrack like a pro, sir.

I would like to offer a suggestion to both of you.  Before you ever go out in public again, please check out my free service to geeks everywhere in a little blog I call How to Be a Geek in Public and Still Have Friends. It may help.

I just want to speak on behalf of the Star Wars fans out there.  We aren’t all like that.  We know our place.   We are cooler than the general public, but we realize that the general public isn’t ready to accept that yet.   So, we’ll keep to our conventions and blogs and do our best to fit in to the outside world.  Waiting. Watching. Until that day when the Force is with us all.

Terminator: The Sara Connor Chronicles Begins

15

Jan

Posted by Steve

This past weekend, Fox debuted it’s nxt big television sensation. 

I’m not sure how much either episode cost, but the creators of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles had to come close to busting the budget on the first two amazing episodes of the show.

While the show raises questions about it’s place in the Terminator movie timeline, and the rules of time travel that are so important on other sci fi staples (The Temporal Prime Directive in Star Trek) the show delivers the action and suspense that was a part of all three Terminator movies.

From the very outset of the pilot, we meet a Sarah Connor who is at once trying to live her life with as much normalcy as possible, but can be shaken out of happiness and go on the run again all because of a dream.

The Terminators are present in the form of a robot that takes on the name Cromartie when he acts as a substitute teacher seeking to kill young John Connor. 

A new addition to the mythos is Cameron.   Cameron is…well…she’s not a Terminator….but she’s not a human.  She is a cyborg, and when a Terminator scans her and realizes that, his programming dictates that he evades her.

There are guns firing, explosions, people from the future, people-killing robots, and it’s just a wonderful adrenaline pumping television show that you would expect as it bears the name Terminator.

Needless to say I have really enjoyed the show’s first two episodes, and it seems that it’s only going to get better. 

Now, I’ve said all of that to say this: 

We’ve got a new podcast.  Check it out at www.skynextpodcast.com.

Weekly, Derek (from SHoE) and I will recap, review and catch you up on news from and about the show. It should be fun. So check us out.

Long Overdue – Smallville “Gemini” Review.

10

Jan

Posted by Steve

Several weeks ago, we were left hanging with Kara in Detroit, and the Fortress going nuts on Clark.   Cue Gemini.

OH… MY….LANTA!!!!

If “Blue” left us hanging, “Gemini” left us with our jaws on the floor.

From the get go, the tenseness of the story ramped up with Lois finding out that Chloe had a bomb on her person.  The catch is, the bomber, Adrian, is apparently in the building and watching Lois’ every move so she can’t warn Chloe. 

One of the more interesting points of the show was watching Lois try to be creative in letting Chloe know about the danger she’s in throughout.

Then, when Chloe finds herself on an elevator with Jimmy and realizes that she’s potentially gonna be blown to smithereens, we get one of the best Chloe lines in Smallville. “I have the worst secret Santa ever.”

The confrontation with Adrian, Julian, Lex, and Lois though gives us yet another look at Lex and just how depraved he is.  He has created clones of his brother with the intention of trying to fill the gap in his life that was left by the death of his little brother.  It’s an interesting take on Lex that there is so much he does just to be loved and accepted.  It’s twisted and sad at the same time.  Lex has truly become one of the most sympathetic villains in the DC Universe thanks to Smallville.  However, I have to believe that there will be a point before the end of the show (unless it ends with Season 7) where we learn to hate Lex because everything that we once saw good in him is gone.

The real let down of the episode came right off the top when Clark just showed up.  No explanation as to where he’s been, how he got out, or why he isn’t looking for Kara anymore.  He’s just accepted that she’s gone and now he wants to move forward with Lana by helping her expose Lex.  This takes us, along with Clark and Lana on a stroll through all of the information that Lana has on Lex. 

While on the stroll down expose-the-villain lane, Lana and Clark find themselves in the basement of the building that houses the Isis foundation.  Lana is trying to help a scientist who went into a catatonic state while working on Project: Scion.  The lady is lying there mumbling something.  Clark recognizes it as Kryptonian.  For the first time in any incarnation of Superman on film or radio, we HEAR Kryptonian spoken….very cool.

Clark realizes the woman is repeating something over and over again.  A mystery to be sure, so he goes with Lana to the Daily Planet to find Chloe to try to get some answers. 

Lois is in Grant’s office with Lex and Adrian.   The truth is coming out, and neither Grant nor Adrian is happy.   Lex, in a moment of desparation to get the situation back under his control, shoots Adrian and the remote to the bomb on Chloe’s person is switched on.  In the elevator, Chloe and Jimmy see the bomb start a countdown.  All is lost…or is it.

In the basement, Clark uses his super hearing to hone in on Chloe and hears the bomb ticking and she and Jimmy yelling for help.   Cue the Superman music as Clark superspeeds into the stairwell and launches himself to the level where Jimmy and Chloe’s elevator is stuck.  He runs through a party (complete with cork popping out of a bottle of champagne frozen in mid air) opens the door, gets the bomb, and disposes of it.  AWESOME.

In the end, Lex buys the Daily Planet, Chloe shows Jimmy her healing power and let’s Clark know that the woman’s jabbering was like a computer that is trying to reboot itself (Can you say Brainiac anyone…Clark did.), and Clark is still stuck in the Fortress of Solitude…WHAT?  Yes.

The big reveal came at the very end as “Clark” hugged Lana only to have his face hit some sunlight…IT’S BIZARRO!!!

Yes, Bizarro is back.  Surprising, considering that I wasn’t expecting to see him again with the season shortened.  

This opens up a world of possibilities with the next episode “Persona.” 

So, how did I feel about this episode.  Well, had it not been for the big reveal at the end, I would have been scratching my head about a few things and given this episode a 3.  As it stands though, I have to give the episode a 4.75 out of whatever I give 5 of.  Why?

Honestly, I would have liked to see Michael Cassidy get made up to play Adrian…it would have made a little more sense. 

Other than that, I really have no complaint.  There is just so much good about this episode, from hearing Kryptonian spoken to the Bizarro reveal.   Smallville did in this episode what it does best, it pulled the rug out from under us.  Just when we thought we had the answers. BOOM!!! We…know…nothing. 

Now, with the return of Brainiac on the horizon, Bizarro having taken over Clark’s life, and Lex owning the Daily Planet, it seems that things have been kicked up such a notch that our hero may never recover…if he can get out of that ice….or crystal…or whatever it is.

All in all this entire season has been great and it continued it’s chewy goodness with Gemini.  Now, bring on Persona….

By the way, the screen caps of Clark on Ice and the Bizarro hug are from svfan.com. Jc does a fantastic job every week of capturing the scenes in high def and posting them there. So, thanks to Jc for the hard work and for the screen caps. Make sure you go check his site out and don’t abuse the work he does.