Archive for the 'TV and Movies' Category


lessons learned

Today I decided to go on an epically bad movie watching binge. Usually when I do this, it’s a theme … like zombies, or vampires, or British … you get the idea.

Today’s theme was “Mega.” This came about after hearing some friends talk about how glorious SyFy’s “Mega Python” movie was (which I didn’t get to see, but it’s on my list). So, on the docket: “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus”, “Mega Piranha”, “Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus”, and lastly, “Sharktopus.”

And here’s some valuable lessons that I learned:

  1. Jump Jump: Prehistoric sharks have tremendous jumping ability. I mean, they are like the Evel Kenievel of the animal world. They jump navy ships with ease, and even jump up to eat commercial jets. Simply amazing for such an obviously heavy animal.
  2. Location, Location, Location: Giant monster animals travel via wormholes to anywhere on the planet. You can tell this because they can go from New Foundland to Tokyo in a matter of seconds. Actually, no one follows the laws of physics and locations … a ship goes down off Africa, guy washes up on shore in a Latin American country. Giant Croc attacks Miami, and then hits Orlando in a matter of minutes. Who knows how this all works?
  3. Beaches = Danger: If you are anywhere near the shoreline, anything could happen. Mega Piranha could fly out and eat you whole … tentacles from Sharktopus could drag you in to the water, a prehistoric croc could come out of nowhere and eat you. But luckily they tend to go after dudebros, bikini bimbos and dumb reporters, so the vast majority of us are safe. I’m sure the Jersey Shore is their prime hunting ground.
  4. Mad Ninja Skills: Monster creatures often sneak up on people. We’re talking you turn around, and BAM, 19,000 ton prehistoric croc is RIGHT. THERE. They can disappear from sonar and radar and satellite at will.
  5. Tactics: When going after killer fish, the best way to go about it is via helicopter.  And from there, machine guns and missiles. If for some reason that doesn’t work, use nukes. If the nukes don’t work, then obviously you have to send in the SEAL teams with the orders to “shoot for the eyes.”
  6. Take your best shot: Navy gunners have no idea of how to shoot at giant monsters. They often man WWII era anti-aircraft guns instead of going for newer, non-manually cranked, surface-targeting weapons.
  7. Science!: Biologists are often the same as chemists are the same as climatologists. And you know you are found success when the mixture starts to glow.
  8. Decisions: When it comes down to it, I think you have to take Debbie Gibson over Tiffany for your monster movie actress. But of course I think I’m basing my decision on the fact that Tiffany looks an awful lot like my dad’s third (now ex) wife. Plus Debbie puts out, Tiffany doesn’t.
  9. Wait, what?: Sometimes bullets don’t work at keeping a monster at bay, but poking it with a large, wet stick will.
  10. Money shot: Syfy will give you plenty of opportunities for senseless, gratuitous nudity, and yet won’t give you any. And that’s just a damned shame.

Tron: The gorgeous girl with no personality

All the zazz, none of the style

Tron. I’ve been seeing a lot about it recently, and it’s been talked about with geeky, giddy excitement for months now. Being a complete and utter nerd, I knew I had to go see this flick … especially because I actually kinda enjoyed the first one.

I rolled into the first showing, kinda surprised that more people weren’t there. In fact, most of the back row was taken, leaving me the entire middle of the theater. That was kind of odd, but hey, whatever. I was about to see Tron! Lots of colors! A digitized Jeff Bridges face! Bad haircuts! Disc fights! Let the fun begin!

And fun is what it is … initially. First we get the introductions out of the way. We meet young, digitized Jeff Bridges and his son Sam, and the Disney filming crew does everything possible to ensure we know that it’s 1982. There’s an Apple IIc in the background. There’s a movie poster for “The Black Hole.” OK, we got it. We’re in the past and there’s still shameless self-promotion. Let’s get to the good stuff!

Then we flash to modern times: Sam is a rebellious young man. Bruce Boxleitner (the original “Tron” program character) is on the board of some evil Microsoft-esque company that Sam is actually the owner of, but wants no part of. Sam just wants to know what happened to his dad, because his dad disappeared 20 years ago (kind of like Racer X in the Speed Racer cartoons, except there was no racing or spywork involved).

Eventually, Sam finds his dad’s workshop in the middle of an old, unused arcade. And honestly, if that place existed, I’d go. Lots of games, gizmos and gadgets from when I was a kid. I was literally sitting there with a big grin on my face, remember those electronic football games and early computers. Sam starts fiddling around with his dad’s computer, and ends up zapping himself into the electronic world.

Now, this is the stuff we want to see. Big, lumbering flying ships. Bright neon colors in a dark, dreary world. Sam is picked up as a rogue program by the authorities and thrown into the games.

The games are like a gladiator affair, with rogue programs being made to fight for everyone’s amusement. Sam stands out in the disc fights, and they discover that he is actually a “user.” That discovery results in Sam meeting what he thinks is his dad … but no! Digitized Jeff Bridges face is actually a program made in Bridges’ likeness named CLU. And CLU is driven to make a perfect system/world, regardless of the tactics involved in doing so. He decides he wants to kill Sam personally in the games, so they move from the disc fights to the motorcycle races.

Let me tell you, the effects are obnoxiously good here. After some drag brought in from the conversation between Sam and CLU, I immediately perked up and was totally pulled back in. I found myself thinking, “If the rest of the movie is this good … holy balls!”

As you would image, Sam manages to escape with the help of another program named Quorra. She’s brings him to meet Sam’s father … non-digitized Jeff Bridges … and there’s a lot of hugging and talking and boredom. We find out that there’s about an 8 hour window for them to escape before they are trapped in the machine like OG Flynn. Sam wants to escape with his father, but Dad is reluctant to act. The scenes seem to drag on forever, and I really wanted something cool and fun to happen. But instead, they laboriously plod through the story, totally ignoring that whole “show-don’t-tell” axiom that writers normally have banged into their skulls.

And that’s how the rest of the movie goes. It plods along, and then there’s an ultracool fight scene. Then there’s more blah blah blah, followed by an epically cool fight scene. Rinse and repeat, and welcome to Tron.

That’s why I’m saying Tron is that gorgeous girl with no personality — you have no problem looking at her, but talking to her? Boring. But then she takes her top off and you’re suddenly interested again. And trust me on the “no personality” part … if you don’t get flashes to any number of “Star Wars” movies while watching this, then you obviously haven’t seen any Star Wars movies. We’re talking hooded hermit, Death Star bridges, and lightsaber-ish type weapons. Lucas could probably take them to court over this stuff.

Or, let me put this another way: If you take out the special effects, this newer Tron would be a warm and fuzzy after-school special about a boy looking for his dad, being mad at him and then growing to understand his dad. That’s all well and good, but wow, total yawnsville. The cumbersome writing and plodding pacing just left me looking for the remote control so I could get to the good stuff.

Will this be a hit? Sure it will. “Avatar” was a total snoozer in my book, but that didn’t stop it from raking in a kagillion dollars. Again, the effects are staggeringly good at times, and I found myself totally enthralled with them … and truth be told, I almost wish I would have seen it in the IMAX theater. It’s definitely a big screen flick.

So is it worth the cash? If you’re an effects geek, you will LOVE this movie. Go see it, and see it now on the biggest, IMAXiest screen you can find. You won’t be disappointed.

But if you demand a little more meat to your movie and aren’t won over by pretty colors or a Jar Jar-esque young Jeff Bridges face, I don’t think I can recommend it. However, if you find you MUST watch this movie, I think you have to splurge and see it on the big screen. I just don’t think a home theater system would do it justice.

2.5 out of 5


‘The Warrior’s Way’: A quick review

Ninjas. Cowboys. Why not?

Went to catch “The Warrior’s Way” this afternoon. And while I don’t have time to write a full on review, here’s what to expect:

  1. Very stylized. Think “300” … except as a Western. And with ninjas.
  2. Loved the first part. Hero doesn’t really talk. No really clunky exposition as you might expect. It does a lot of “showing” instead of “telling,” which is awesome. OK, you do have a narrator telling you stuff, but the expressionless face … the dragging of his sword … the wandering … it’s all nice touches.
  3. Middle part simply drags. I think this is because of the inevitable romance angle. I mean, really, we’re here because we want to see ninjas vs. cowboys, so let’s get to it! The romance feels like they were throwing “Titanic” into the middle of “Godzilla v. Mechagodzilla.” Yes, I understand … character development, advancing plot, yadda yadda yadda. But it was total snoozeville.
  4. Loved that he was in no rush to embrace his ninja past when the town is in danger.
  5. Had no idea of how the cowboys got Browning water-cooled machine guns, but hey, whateves. The audience is expected to heavily suspend belief for this one, especially since it’s a campy flick.
  6. Fight scenes are great. Violence is the stylized comic book type.
  7. Fight with the big boss was pretty lame. Really, the flashback felt completely out of place.
  8. The ending was hilarious, in my opinion.

Overall, total popcorn flick. Would I pay full movie theater price for it? Nah. It has its moments, but isn’t a barn-burner with “ZOMG must see” flash. Really, if they would have whittled the middle down by about 15 minutes, it would have rated much higher in the campy-comic-book-turned-movie genre.

Summary: First part had my attention. Lost focus during middle (long-winded, uneventful character development), and that bog stuck with me until near the very end, which is when the action forced me to pay attention again.

Rating: 3 swords out of 5. It is what it is … campy fun … but I think you could live with catching it on video.


It all makes sense now

Recently, I ditched my HD cable feed. I know that this is shocking to some who know how much I loved having it … but when looking at the cost of it and how little I actually watch TV, I decided it was something that could go.

In its place, I got rabbit ears to bring in the broadcast HD for Steelers games, and I subscribed to Netflix.

Now, Netflix has brought me a ton of enjoyment. The instant streaming to my PS3 and on to my HDTV is pure awesomeness. Tons of old TV shows that I loved are accessible. Tons of new ones that I missed are there, too. That’s on top of all those movies that I’ve been meaning to see but never got around to it.

One of the shows I stumbled across is the wonderfully awful and cheesy “Buck Rogers” from 1979-80. Now, Buck Rogers is one of the shows I really remember from my childhood. I mean, sure, I watched shows like “Space 1999” and the original “BattleStar Galactica,” but neither of them stuck like Buck Rogers did. Twiki, Dr. Theopolis, Erin Gray, Hawk, the various ships … I remember drawing huge space battles between the Draconian fighters and the Earth Defense Force ones (and I could always draw the Draconian ships better). I had models for both, and in the epic battles in the living room of my grandma’s house, the Draconians always seemed to win. For the time, I’m sure the effects were staggeringly good (despite occasionally using footage of the wrong ships), and I must admit, I’m totally enthralled again with the show.

Metal bikini AND grand poo-bah hat!

But this time, I’m watching it as an adult.

And all I can say is, “Holy. Balls.”

Now I get why this show lasted as long as it did. It wasn’t the cheesy writing. Not the gripping special effects. It wasn’t Mel Blanc being the voice of Twiki.

No doubt about it: it was the space girls.

I mean, yeah, part of sci-fi’s draw is hot space chicks. Princess Leia as Jabba’s slave was hot, no doubt about it. But the Buck Rogers girls put her to shame, no matter how iconic she is. Buck Rogers didn’t need no metal bikinis …

OK, maybe one. Or two.

(And you can’t deny Princess Ardala’s hotness despite the ridiculousness of her get up. Metal bikini, horned hat … cape … the dance scene that this picture is from is hilarious.)

But I mean, Erin Gray certainly didn’t need the metal bikini. She wore skin tight uniforms all the time. And I know that made an impression on all of us boys at the time, because any time you bring up Buck Rogers, the first thing most geeks my age will say is, “Erin Gray is fucking HOT.”

Imagine her running in this outfit, cause she does it. A lot.

And don’t forget guest stars.

Now, see, I didn’t remember any guest stars, because why would I? I was all about epic space fights, Hawk’s ship having claws and wondering why I couldn’t stop staring at Erin Gray.

There’s just so many faces I recognize. Roddy McDowell. Jack Palance. Apparently, even Gary Coleman makes an appearance later on. Part of the fun of watching these again is seeing these actors making appearances, and just sitting back and laughing.

But then, imagine my surprise yesterday when I see Markie Post’s name in the opening credits in Episodes 4 and 5.

Again, all I can say: Holy. Balls.

Buck, how the hell you pawned her off on Twiki is beyond me. I mean, yeah, New Chicago was in trouble and 10 million people were going to die, but still … look at her! If she doesn’t warm you up after being frozen for 500 years, I don’t know what will!

So not only do I finally understand how this show was so popular … but I also get why I loved it (and sci-fi in general) so much.

Not only did shows like this spark my dreams of traveling through space, having a laser pistol and visiting cool new species in my space fighter … but I think it also sparked my interest in girls, and gave me the idea that maybe there was some sort of use for them after all.


‘Machete’ is about as sharp as a butterknife

Machete! At long last, the parody movie clip from “Grindhouse” had come out on the big screen. I, like a lot of others, wanted to see that clip actually made into a movie, because it just looked like kick-ass fun. Long-time and familiar faced extra Danny Trejo in a starring role? Bonus!

I rolled into the theater early, figuring a lot of people who were off from work for the holiday and high school kids would be packing the seats. But as the movie started, there were only about 8 other people in the theater with me. Hmmmm. Did they know something that I didn’t?

Well, the movie starts off with a bang. We find Machete is a federale, going to save a girl from a drug kingpin. He’s a straight-ahead, fearless guy who carries around a big machete, and prefers it over a gun. (During this particular scene, I had a flash to Brock Sampson from the “Venture Brothers” — the violence is that over the top.) He’s extremely deadly with his machete, effortlessly lopping off heads and limbs and faces alike. Now, the violence is pretty graphic — and also pretty comical — and I found myself thinking that I was really going to love this flick. It’s revealed early on that Steven Segal is the bad guy, which somehow makes things even more comical. Awesome!

Next we come across a group like the Minutemen patrolling the Texan border with Mexico. They attack the Mexicans, and their leader, played by Don Johnson, ruthlessly shoots and kills a pregnant woman. Not only is he a scumbag, but we find that a Senator with them, played by Robert DeNiro, also takes great delight in killing the immigrants as they cross the border — saying “Welcome to America” before gunning a man down.

Later, we find that Machete is in Texas, trying to make a living as a day laborer. He is picked up a well dressed man in a BMW, who has a different proposal: He wants Machete to kill the Senator, and he’ll pay him $150,000 to do it. Machete reluctantly agrees, and gives the cash to a woman, played by Michelle Rodriguez, who runs a group called “The Network” to help illegals find work and establish a life in the U.S.

Well, as you could guess, there’s a double-cross, and Machete is framed for attempting to kill the Senator. But, it goes deeper than just a simple framing … and various plot twists emerge left and right and blah blah blah … honestly, it’s long, uninteresting and tedious to watch unfold.

See, the problem here is that the movie leaves its campy roots and tries to make a statement about the whole illegal immigration issue. And it’s not done in a funny, goofy way like in “Blacksploitation” flicks. It’s flat, and I found myself reaching for the remote control so I could fast forward through all the crap to get to the fun. But, alas, it wasn’t there, nor was any great, campy dialogue … so I was stuck waiting for the crap to pass.

But then, near the end of the movie, the camp seemed to make its way back. Chollas shooting submachine guns, Mexicans attacking the bad guys with shovels and gardening tools … it was all laughably awesome. However, by that time, it felt entirely too late and it was like 2 different movies had been spliced into one.

The campy, graphic violence is awesome. But the story that we have to endure to get to those parts isn’t well done at all. If the dialogue, story and filmmaking had been a little more campy, this would have been a great, fun flick. But instead, we seem to get a mix-mash of ideas and styles that don’t actually blend well together.

I don’t know … it’s hard to classify this flick. I’d have to say this is either a matinee flick or a Netflix choice, but undoubtedly, it will strike a cord with some folks who will think it’s the most awesome thing since sliced bread. I think I’m gonna have to declare this one a “pick” — it’s not awful, it’s not great; but if you enjoy Robert Rodriguez movies, chances are you’ll love it. For me, it landed squarely in the “meh” category.

2.5 out of 5


Break out the popcorn for “The Expendables”

It seems like all I’ve been doing this summer is working. Whether actually at work or working on the house or working on someone’s computer, I haven’t had the time to check out anything in the theater … until today. “The Expendables” came out, and with as many laugh-out loud scenes that I had seen in the previews, I knew I had to check this one out. (To compound my interest, a friend saw a trailer that said “if testosterone and explosions mated, this movie would be the offspring.” How could I NOT see this flick?)

The movie starts out with Sylvester Stallone and his team (Jason Stetham, Jet Li, etc.) going to rescue a tanker crew from Somali pirates. Dolph Lundgren ends up being a loose cannon, and the carnage starts early with people being shot in half. This is a great way to set the tone for the movie, as the plot, dialogue and storyline are all about half-done, too. Well, Dolph’s misbehavior ends with him getting fired from the team. He comes back to ask Stallone for his job back, and Stallone tells him that he needs to get himself cleaned up (since he’s a junkie), which sets up the second half of the film. (No, I’m not going to tell you what it is, but I’m sure you can figure it out.)

This is where they try to introduce a little story into the flick. Stetham goes to see his girl, but since he’s been gone for a month, she’s moved on to another guy. He leaves, and as he does, he tells her that the new guy is “no good.” And, of course, this sets up another part of the movie that is also easily predictable, down to the dialogue — but it also references something that all the guys on the team seem to have in common: problems with women. Mickey Rourke scores with hot 20-somethings, but is shocked when they don’t stick around. Stetham can’t get over the girl he just lost. Stallone doesn’t get what the big fuss is all about.

So, they eventually get asked to perform a new mission. Stallone meets up with Bruce Willis about the job, but Willis has thrown a little something into the mix … he asks the leader of another mercenary squad to join them to see who wants the job. In walks Arnold Schwarzenegger. But, after several barbs are thrown, Arnie opts out. Stallone has the job — to kill a general that overthrew a government.

Stallone and Stetham go to the small island nation … I guess to do a little recon. They fly around in the sea plane from “Tales of the Gold Monkey,” which is pretty inconspicuous in the fresh paint job and souped up engine. Well, they run afoul of the authorities, Sly finds love and so they do the only thing smitten mercenaries can do … kill 41 soldiers as they make their daring escape. They figure there’s more going on than meets the eye, so they want out of their contract with Willis.

After that, the story makes more attempts at having soul, and Mickey Rourke goes on a rambling diatribe about how he had one chance to help someone, but he didn’t. Stallone can’t get the woman he met out of his head, and so he opts to go back alone. But, the rest of the team won’t let him. And, of course, they seem to have forgotten that the bad guys still want them dead for their visitation.

What follows is filled with explosions, limbings and lots of shooting. At this point, I began to wonder if I had reverted to being 12 again, because you could see showdown fights being set up. Dolph vs. Jet Li. Stallone vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (who is the bodyguard of the main bad guy). Randy Coutre vs. Stone Cold. And the Old Spice guy (Terry Crews) and his automatic shotgun vs. everyone else. The CGI and stunts are outrageous, and I was stifling my laughter as it went on and on and on. Seriously, it was like I was watching Frankenstein vs. the Wolfman or Godzilla vs. Gamera all over again … except this time, there’d be a decisive winner. And lots and lots of CGI carnage. And by lots, I mean LOTS. Again, the only thing really missing is Jessie Ventura with a mini-gun, but the Old Spice guy may have taken over that spot with his auto-shotgun (and his memorable line: “You guys better remember this come Christmas!”)

Well, as you would expect, good triumphs, thousands die, there’s laughs over the boss’ corpse, and the good guys fly home to enjoy beers and comradery.

There’s nothing really new about his movie. No ground breaking anything. Just warmed-over actors with a warmed-over story. It’s epic in its cheesiness and its willingness to go where everyone has gone before. While the inside jokes often fall flat, their failure did make me laugh. But since you’re walking in to the theater pretty much assuming that this is going to be God’s gift to cheesy flicks, there’s really nothing to keep you from breaking out the popcorn and laughing your face off at what transpires.

3 out of 5 Old People


The new quest has begun

When it comes to embracing new technology and utilizing it new ways, I’m all about it. I’m not always cutting edge — in fact, I’m nowhere near cutting edge — but I tend to be above the curve in most regards to the average person on the street.

So, my latest quest has begun: To ditch my cable TV.

Now, see, normally this wouldn’t be hard to do. I went for YEARS without cable, and could easily go without it again … except … well … 3 words: High-def television.

Dear GOD I love my HDTV. I mean, it’s bad … and its even to the point where if it’s not at least in 720p, I don’t see a point in watching it. I openly balk if you have a 19″ pre-HDTV (even though I have one in my bedroom) … I mean, seriously, what kind of primate ARE you that you don’t have HDTV?

HDTV is glorious. Blu-rays just pull you in. And if you watch a lot of shows that have great special effects, they’re just on a whole new level.

You see why I’m having a hard time with this — I’m now a TV elitist, and a complete jerk about it, too.

But I’m also a cheap bastard, and with my finances still struggling from that “no raise for a year, but oh, your health insurance just shot up again” in 2009, I figured it would behoove me to make more cuts to ye olde budget. Eating out was a big one. Cable is probably the second largest cutable item that I have.

So, today, I started experimenting with “free TV.” Technically, I’ve already been surviving on it for the past few months: I tend to download shows to my harddrive and route them through my PS3 to my TV.  There’s a lot of perks to doing that … no commercials, watch at your whim — kinda like TiVo without the monthly fees.

But I was curious as to what else was out there. The problem with d/ling everything is that I’ll eventually run out of space, and have to buy a new hard drive. It’s not a horrible thing, but if I can avoid it, so much the better.

A google search took me to Orb. I started giving it a try, and found that without a TV tuner card, it was pretty much useless to me. I got frustrated very quickly, and probably didn’t spend enough time on it, because, quite frankly, having access to a billion Internet channels that aren’t in a language that I can understand makes it pretty useless.

Then I moved on to PlayOn. This program was much smoother. Both Orb and PlayOn were easy to set up, but PlayOn seemed to be more functional. Plus, there were scripts and plugins so that I can access all kinds of crap on the web. Neat! The picture quality varies, depending upon what source is streaming the video, but the videos on Hulu, for example, seemed pretty good. Not crystal clear, mind you, but hey, what do you want for $free?

The “problem”: It’s $40. I’m running a free trial of it now, and have it for 2 weeks. And yeah, the cost goes away the first month I’m without cable. It’s not a big hit by any means, but hey, it’s still a cost.

But the main problem is this: No live TV. This means no hockey, no football, no live sports at all. I’d have to get an HD receiver and hook it up to my primitive antennae (oh the shame!) that’s still up on the side of the house (ghastly!). Again, it would pay for itself in a few months of not having cable, but I have no idea of the picture quality. Or, if I were a baseball fan, I could pay like $50 and stream any MLB games through my PS3, which would be pretty awesome — except that I’m not a baseball fan. If the NFL and NHL did this, that’d be totally worth considering.

Today, I’m out of time to continue the experiment. But I’m going to goof around and dig a little deeper into this free online TV stuff, and see if it’s worth doing. I’ll keep you posted.

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