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2008 – The Year In Geekdom (Part 1)



Posted by Steve

As 2007 wound down, the Geek world held it’s collective breath as we were thrust into a year that promised the answer to monstrous questions, the beginning of a new day for Marvel movies, the return several old favorites, and a strong outing for favorite television shows even in light of a strike that threatened to put a halt to television and movies for a long time.

In the waning days of ’07, the  question on the minds of many movie-goers was “What is Cloverfied?”  The campaign leading up to this movie was the most effective viral marketing cloverfield_galleryteaser2.jpgcampaign for any movie that I can remember. “Concept art” was leaking.  People were getting screenshots of split second moments in the trailer in an attempt to get some kind of look at the design of the monster which had been kept well under wraps.  Online, people were jumping to dozens of websites trying to find some piece of information on the plot, the origin and the look of the monster, pictures, and video.  It was my first REAL look at what a viral marketing campaign can do and be to fuel the fires of a movie being hyped.

The movie itself? was a great experience for me and I can’t believe that I haven’t really watched it since it was in the theater.   I have the song “Roar,” which is the orchestrated piece that plays through the end credits of the film, and it is an amazing piece of music that evokes the feel of the classic Japanese monster movies, and manages to be fresh and nice to listen to as well.  It was a nice opening volley for what I have dubbed the “Year of the Geek,” and things only ramped up from there.

While a monster destroyed New York on the big screen, in the living room it was time for monsters of a different sort to show up.   On Sunday, January 13th, a mere five days before the Cloverfield monster showed up in Manhattan, the world was treated to one of the most surprisingly good pilots on television EVER.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chroicles, premiered on a Sunday night, and much to my surprise the_sarah_connor_chronicles.jpgI was hooked from the get go.  In the midst of an ongoing writer’s strike and the ramifications thereof, audiences were shown what good writing means.  I maintain to this day that T:SCC is one of the most well-written if not THE most well-written series on television. What should be nothing more than a bunch of gun fights and running from robots is surprisingly full of depth, literary allusions, and incredible character development. (And gun fights and running from robots of course.)

The advent of The Sarah Connor Chronicles brought about a new age in podcasting for Derek and I. Together we started The Skynext Podcast. I had no idea what it would mean to do three podcasts, but through Skynext, Derek and I have both made some good friends and had some great times. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was my biggest surprise of the year and the first season was one of the most enjoyable nine episodes of television I’ve watched in a while.

While Sarah Connor and family were blasting their way through time traveling terminators, another sort of blasting took place on January 25th.  January 25th is my birthday and it happened to fall on a Friday this past year, and what a birthday it was as I traveled to my favorite theater (well, the best one that is closest to me.) to sit down and watch Sylvester Stallone return to his role as one of the greatest action heroes to come out of the eighties – RAMBO.

In my original review of Rambo, I gave the movie 3.5 out of 5 whatever I give 5 of. Over time, I have upped that to a solid 4. I genuinely like the movie and what an experience it was to go to the theater the night of my birthday and watch Stallone do something I never thought was possible. Revitalize a character that had become such an ingrained part of our society in such a way as to make him fresh and new…and make me want more. Between ROCKY BALBOA and RAMBO, my respect for Stallone jumped a dozen notches. The guy’s not an idiot. For any flaws you may read about him, he has a good head on his shoulders and really desired to do justice to the characters he had created.

Between Cloverfield, Rambo, and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, 2008 was off to a good start.

As February rolled in, it was more about anticipating what was coming in the following months than anything else. On television, Smallville ramped back up at the tail end of the writer’s strike with a solid closing to what was originally supposed to be a very short season. But, the trailers…oh the trailers! Iron Man’s publicity machine had gotten it’s wheels rolling, The Dark Knight was showing Cloverfield how viral marketing can really work the fan base up, and we got one of the coolest teasers ever for a movie in the teaser for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

That’s what February was all about…well, that and my forray back into comics. Jeph Loeb was getting crunk with Hulk, and I was loving it. Marvel was gearing up for the big Secret Invasion, and DC was counting down to Final Crisis. Things weren’t all good. However, in Action Comics and Superman, Geoff Johns and crew were doing things to set up those titles becoming the great frontrunners of the DC Universe once again.

Oh…and it was announced that Star Wars would be returning to theaters.

March, it’s said comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb…not this time. For 2008 was the year of the geek. Geeks everywhere were on hunts around major cities to meet up with the Harvey Dent campaign. They were online dissecting trailers. They were gobbling up every leaked photo, clip, and bit of information they could in anticipation for one of the greatest Summers to be a geek in a long time.

To whet our appetite, DC animation released the stunning direct to DVD “Justice League: New Frontier.” A really well put together animated movie that was very respectful to the source material upon which it was based. Fans were a buzz and for a moment forgot a bit about what was coming down the pipe for all of us. Then Aaron Eckhart confirmed the presence of a highly anticipated villain, and as I was sitting in the big comfy chair…I saw a commercial for a teaser.

The hype for the Incredible Hulk had officially begun. We were now hip deep in hype and May couldn’t get here fast enough.

It bears noting in March that Ric Flair retired from Professional Wrestling (to my knowledge at this point, permanently) and I watched the match that would mark the end of his illustrious career.

So it was in the beginning of 2008 that geeks had much to be excited about. As we did the usual blogging conversing, whining, and complaining, we kept a sharp eye on the calendar, waiting for what would surely be the greatest Summer in a long time to be a geek.

Rambo – ‘Nuff Said



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.