Saturday, December 24, 2011

Silents, Please: Artists At Work

Only one silent movie has won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, but in 2012, that number might double.

In a world of movies filled with Dolby sound, CGI, Imax and 3-D, the idea of making a silent movie just like the ones in the '20s seems quaint, and maybe crazy. How can such a movie match up to Transformers, Harry Potter, or even Bridesmaids?
Michel Hazanavicius, who was well-known for making two very stylish spy films, came up with a way called The Artist. It has the look of an old silent flick of the 1920s, but has a few modern tricks up its sleeve to tell the story of a silent film star who couldn't accept progress, and played a bitter price, only to recover thanks to a girl who owes her success to a chance meeting.

In 1927, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) was a dashing matinee idol, kind of like a cocky Douglas Fairbanks. By chance, he meets a girl named Peppy (Berenice Bejo, aka Mrs. Hazanavicius). Their meeting makes Variety, much to the concern of George's wife Doris (Penelope Ann Miller). To say their passion is rather chilly is putting it mildly. Her favorite pastime is doodling on George's face in the magazines.

Peppy manages to land a job at George's movie studio, and it's clear they have a connection. It doesn't lead to romance, but it inspires her. Then George is hit by a one-two punch: the Crash of 1929 and talkies. Both lead him to a road of ruin while Peppy's star is on the rise.

As I mentioned, Hazanavicius uses some great tricks to keep the story going. When George is confronted by the "threat" of talkies, he finds himself in a world filled with sound, while he stays silent. George and Doris' fading love is illustrated by a scene that may remind people of the "breakfast table" scene in Citizen Kane, which was also a portrait of a marriage gone sour. When George's self-produced movie fails against talkies, he drinks, and sees a miniature version of himself on the bar. Even the marquees show themselves to be a Greek chorus. Why else would we see a movie title called "Lonely Star" just after George is forced to sell his belongings?

Dujardin is wonderful as George, a man who is frightened by the future despite his bravado. His slow collapse is hard to see, and you wonder why he won't take a risk at people hearing him on film. If you notice early in the film, he's interviewed on the radio. Bejo is also dazzling. You can just see her develop her personae from typical girl to movie star. All the while, she never forgets George.
If there's a scene stealer, it has to be Uggie as George's dog. It's a pity he can't be nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
If The Artist comes to your town, please see this movie. It is poised to dominate awards season. There may be some who may dismiss this movie because the fact that it's a silent film is a gimmick. They'd be wrong, of course. Hazanavicius uses the lack of words to its advantage. You don't need Doris to say she's unhappy being married to George. Just see her ruin his pictures. You don't need to hear his despair. Seeing him burn his films but not want to leave the flames is proof. It's all about the visuals.

If I had my way, I'd run this as a doubleheader Hugo, Martin Scorcese's latest movie and proof that he can even do family films. The trailers may suggest it's about a boy who is trying to repair a mechanical man, but it's really how this boy completes a more complicated job: repairing a human soul. Namely, an old man who thought his career in the movies wouldn't be remembered. Thanks to this young boy, it is. I saw it in 3-D only because I wanted to see what it would be like. It looks really good, but 2-D will still do.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

High School Does End, Mavis Gary

Let's be clear about this: Juno MacGuff would be able to handle life after high school...decades, even.
Mavis Gary, however, didn't. Not really.
She's a ghost author for a dying young adult book series. She's in a condo tower in Minneapolis that has seen better days, like her. She wastes time watching reality shows, or sleeping off the night before, with her Breakfast of Champions...Diet Coke.
Now she gets an e-mail from an old high school beau, asking her to visit at the old home town of Mercury and see his wife and new child.
She thinks it's a sign, that she can have a second chance at high school glory.

Thus, Young Adult begins, where Charlize Theron plays a different kind of "Monster": the high school prom queen that was so popular, everyone hated her.
Director Jason Reitman says Theron was only person who would bring Mavis to life, and man, was he right on this one. She plays the girl who's afraid she peaked too soon perfectly.
Still, Mavis hangs on to those years: she still has a cassette mix tape from Buddy Slade, the high school sweetheart in question. She plays "The Concept" over and over. You see t-shirts from the '90s, from the Pixies to the Breeders.
Her plan: to get Buddy (Patrick Wilson) back, despite the fact he's married and with a kid. Hey, it's just baggage to Mavis.

She later meets Matt, played by Patton Oswalt, who had a locker next to her back in high school but she didn't seem to notice. She just knew him the guy who was beaten and crippled by football players who thought he was gay. Once people found out Matt wasn't gay, they didn't care about him anymore. Despite this, he's managed to move on. He's there as Mavis' sounding board, and also her conscience. Oddly, they even have a connection. Oswalt is great at this role, and it's too bad he's not getting more love from award shows. Hopefully, Oscar will fix that.

But just as Juno was Ellen Page's show, Young Adult is Theron's show. It's a story of a girl who desperately wanted to feel as special as she thought she was back at Mercury High School. It's safe to say she couldn't do it. Would her reunion with her friends in Mercury change all that?

She does use her visit, and her occasional eavesdropping of "typical teens", to write the final "Waverly High" book, or try to. In it, she casts herself as "Kendall Strickland", who trying to figure out life as graduation nears. It's a clear parallel to what's happened to Mavis.

Theron should easily make the final cut for Best Actress at the Oscars, and two scenes will guarantee that. The first is when Mavis is at a local bar, seeing Buddy's wife's band play. Once they play "The Concept", which Mavis thinks is HER song with Buddy, the look on her face says it all. The other scene is the naming ceremony for the baby at Buddy's house. Just look for it. It will lead to probably the most unlikely and tender love scene in the past 20 years. Credit writer Diablo Cody and Reitman for pulling these moments off.

So, if you want a more realistic rom-com, Young Adult is for you. Check it out, guys. I predict it will get nominations for Best Actress and Original Screenplay, and maybe a longshot for Best Director. At least the Critics Choice Awards are giving it the love it deserves.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cinematic Titanic Returns..Finally..on DVD

It's been more than a year since Cinematic Titanic, one of the Two MST3K alumni groups, has released a DVD. The crew (Joel Hodgson, Trace Beauleau, TV's Frank Coniff, J. Elvis Weinstein and Mary Jo Pehl) have been busy touring the nation, spreading their mirth and movie riffing far and wide. They were even in my neck of the woods, namely UC Davis, but I couldn't make it.

Well, just in time for the holidays, the CT gang has the perfect companion to the Santa Claus Conquers the Martians DVD: War of the Insects, aka Genocide, a turgid Japanese drama that, according to Joel, is the type of movie that "needs a good Gamera attack". I saw the CT gang riff this movie live in August 2010 at the Castro in San Francisco. My review of that performance is here, but here's the plot: a cheating husband named George is seen with a foxy blond named Annabelle ("From eternity to here?") who is actually a mad scientist. She wants to unleash insects to destroy all humans. Meanwhile, A US Air Force bomber crashes after a huge swarm of bees attack it. No, really.
Another group of officers show up to look for the bomb, unaware they're already in a bomb...namely this movie. Add the fact George is arrested for murder, and his wife Yukari is pregnant, and you start wishing Godzilla would show up to put them all out of their misery.

This performance was taped in September 2011 in Minneapolis, the birthplace of modern severe movie criticism. Compared to the Castro performance, they added a lot of new jokes, and changed their anti-Glee riff. The first riff on what Michelle Bachman's first day as president was kept, along with J Elvis' haunting song at the end. I liked the DVD show more only because I could hear the movie better. Some of the highlights:

Charley, one of the Air Force guys, goes nuts when he sees a bee outside the plane:
MJ: His memories of watching the History Channel have haunted him forever

The owner of the bar is happy to see new customers thanks to the bomb search:
Frank: It's like a stimulus package with dead people.

Dr. Komura is still upset over being attacked by an insane Charley, who was laughing and shooting a pistol. "I don't understand at all.."
Joel: Who would ever vote for Rick Perry?

Dr. Nagumo allows himself to be bitten by the poisoned bees to see why they are attacking humans. He convulses, hallucinates and babbles like Charley
Joel: Insects, peppermint, meaningless nouns

Annabelle explains her plan to Nagumo: "Genocide. The extermination of man. That's what I've been waiting for."
Joel: That, and Star Wars on blu-ray (which finally happened a few days after this performance)

And Trace summing the whole thing up: I always thought the end of the world would look like Carrot Top.
There also also jokes about Piers Morgan, Monty Python, Bewitched and David Carradine.

Aside from the movie, there are clips of the live show, with audience members raving about it, along with trailers to Danger on Tiki Island, East Meets Watts and The Alien Factor. This may suggest they are abandoning studio shows, where they pretend to be trapped in an underground facility, forced to riff on bad movies for future generations for some reason or other. There is supposed to be a new DVD called Rattlers, where mutated rattlesnakes cause havoc.

You can order DVDs and get a schedule of their 2012 tour at

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's Not Your Older Brother's ICWXP, But Still Funny

If you miss the days of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in its original form, namely seeing a guy and two robots mock bad cinema while dealing with some intergalactic problem or other, those days are back.

Rikk Wolf and his movie-riffing epic, Incognito Cinema Warriors XP, has returned for a second season with a new DVD that was released this week. While Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic are both content with MST3K alumni mocking movies, good and bad, young and old, without a B-plot in between the movie segments, ICWXP revives the old MST3K version with its own mix of comedy and lousy movies.

For the uninitiated, the jist: Rikk is a soldier named Commander Rick Wolf who's trapped in a zombie apocalypse that has nothing to do with The Walking Dead. He finds refuge in an abandoned movie house where he finds two robots, Johnny Cylon (Zach Legler) and TopsyBot 5000 (Nick Evans, 3rd guy to do this). Anywho, they were forced to watch bad movies sent to them by a mad scientist, but he got replaced by Kincaid, an evil agent from the Ludivoco Corporation who had his own evil iPhone. Now HE'S gone (maybe), and the theater sends its unholy films automatically. A comic book based on the show will be produced to explain what happened. The Satellite of Love never did that.

Apparently there was a five year gap between the fourth DVD and the new one, and Rick doesn't remember what happened, although it did involve battling zombies finally. He was also put in an evil chair where he was forced to riff on Bride of the Gorilla, the first movie of the series.

Once he gets cleaned up, Rick and the bots are back riffing. They first see an Alka-Seltzer commercial that features a pie-eating contest and is described as "the Morbidly Obese Olympics". Then, they see a short about Victory Gardens, which is duller than the dirt the garden grows on. Rikk says in the audio commentary they had to add music to make it easier to watch. Some of the choice riffs:

The short is about the Holder Family and their Victory Garden from 1942. The son is named Dick.

Cylon: So his name is Dick Holder. Ouch!

After some more tips on how to grow a garden...

Rick: Yes, soon you'll be wishing you were old enough to be drafted

A couple more from Rick:

Why, just look at this nutritious crop of crabgrass
Farming's a breeze with your Hitler Youth Pocket Knife.

They get pretty bored after a while (Cylon: How about instead of this we just go bomb Hiroshima?), and instead come up with the names of Professional Eating Teams. The Chicago Oprah Thighs and the Buffalo Wild Wings were very popular.

Afterwards, the gang is greeted by a strange image who calls itself Bottomless Epiglottis. Whoever it is hates Ludivuco ("the enemy of my enemy is my...frenemy"), and wants them to help it bring them down. It helps the guys find a back-up back-up back-up back-up generator to keep the theater going. They also meet a new robot called Flux Namtani (Dave Thompson), who has the ego of Buzz Lightyear.

We also get a preview of the next DVD, which apparently features an intruder being attacked by a super-snowblower. It's called "Where's Your Big Bad Apocalypse Now?"

The extras are also pretty good. You see the whole show with commentary by Rikk and newcomer Nick Evans. They talk about how much work goes into the show, and they also thank the fans for keeping this show together. They even mention a few fans who want the show on Adult Swim. However, with the recent success of online shows, The Guild and Dr. Horrible especially, who needs networks? There's also behind-the-scenes stuff about the new set and Cylon getting legs. We also see Rick re-riff the first five minutes of Bride of the Gorilla, apparently while he was in that chair.

While the show will only riff on educational shorts for now, they do plan to go back to full-length features. They even plan a season finale, and let's hope Kincaid will be around for that. In the show's forum, it was mentioned the original actor, Gregory Wyatt Tinnen, couldn't make it for the new season.

You can learn more about the show, and buy DVDs and event direct downloads at For those who are a little impatient for new Cinematic Titanic DVDs, the return of Rikk and the gang is more than enough to satisfy your movie riffing needs. Welcome back, guys!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wondercon Heads South

San Francisco is usually Nerd Central every Spring, because it's Wondercon season. I loved going here because it's easier to get to than Comic-Con, and it's in my neck of the woods.

Well, in 2012, that will change. Wondercon is headed to Anaheim around St. Patrick's Day weekend. With the beer flowing, and NCAA March Madness about to emerge, it would be a heck of a time to have the event.

Now, I've been to the Anaheim Convention Center when I went to one of those Wizard World cons. It wasn't too bad, but it had less events compared to Wondercon. You also had to walk a mile and a half to get to a grocery store. You were surrounded by other hotels, chain restaurants and Disneyland. If only there was a Ralph's.

Hotel prices weren't too bad, if you stayed for a weekend. I'd need four days: three for the con and an extra day to get use from my Universal Studios Annual Pass. If I suddenly got a Disneyland pass, I'd reconsider. Also, there's only one multiplex at Downtown Disney. That's not a big problem, since Wondercon used one multiplex, too.

To afford this, I will have to make some sacrifices. I was thinking about going to the annual Doctor Who convention in February, but that is now out the window.
Of course, I could skip this con and save all my cash for Comic-Con, but that wouldn't be a wise idea. The con would be an ideal spot to start the buzz for The Avengers, especially since Joss Whedon is directing. The Cabin In The Woods, also a Joss production, would be a month off. There's The Hunger Games a week after the con, Dark Shadows, Men In Black 3, and Battleship. It would be wise to be there, especially if they throw in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I should be there, and I hope to add an extra day for my Universal Studios pass. If I can squeeze in a quick L-A trip in December, especially if Southwest Airlines has another cheap air sale, I can adjust.

I've also learned that Wondercon will go back to San Francisco in 2013. It's just that I've been used to going there every fall for this event, it will be quite different to be in the same con but about 425 miles south. I would skip this, but the new location will make it easier for the movie studios to start summer buzz with this event, especially since Joss will be involved, too. So, I gotta go!

Well, March is still two seasons away, but I should be thinking about it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Broken Stars On The Walk of Fame

This isn't exactly news but more of a tourist observing that one of Hollywood's most popular attractions isn't perfect.
It started when I looked for Neil Patrick Harris' new star on the Walk of Fame.

Dr. Horrible Is a Star

It's between the Frolic Room and the Pantages Theater.
While walking around, I noticed not all the stars are shining as bright as they should be. I know the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce knows about this, and it takes big bucks to make sure all of the stars are in good shape. Still, it's a sad sight to see broken stars, like Michael Landon...

That;s No Way To Treat Little Joe

I'm guessing construction work caused this problem, but what about this star of Rodney Dangerfield? No respect, after all these years? Not cool...

No respect...again

or the star of The Three Stooges...

Another Cracked Star

This is the star for Arthur Kennedy. You can barely see which category his star was from. This is probably due to millions of people walking over it over the years.

Worn Out Star

Still, there is hope: I saw this guy making sure the star of actress Hillary Brooke stays shiny. She may not have been as well-known as the others, but she's important enough for this guy...

A Fan of Hillary Brooke

In fact, she takes care of a lot of stars every day. I saw him the next monting hard at work near Hollywood and Vine.

There's also a piece of game show heaven: Allen Ludden and Betty White's stars, side by side.

Game Show Heaven

For the most part, the Walk of Fame is in good shape, honoring the best in entertainment properly. A little more maintenance would be great, but I am sure that is being planned. Meanwhile, there is the sign of a coming attraction, like this one at Hollywood and Highland

Coming Attractions

For the record, Melissa Etheridge will be on that spot. let's hoe a fan will keep her star shiny in the future.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Talk Show Double-Header

Usually, a person has to make a choice when heading to Warner Brothers: either attend a taping for Ellen DeGeneres at 4 PM or Conan at 4:30.
Tough choice. Not today, I got to see both. Thanks, Ellen.

For the first time in six years, she decided to do a live show at 11 AM to talk about the Emmys, and basically hang out with Harry Connick Jr. Makes sense. She was concerned about the temptation to swear...and fell into it a couple of times. So did Harry, basically because he objected to a couple of things she wrote about him in her new book coming next month. They had a guy with a delay button, but he may not have made it on time. Of course, if Ellen did this on cable, she wouldn't need a delay button. Just ask Conan.

Aside from that, it was a great show. They threw in a live interview with Emmy Prom Winner Melissa McCarthy, coming soon to SNL. Ellen liked doing a live show, and may do it again...and she should. Now that Oprah has retired, someone has to do a post-Oscar show at the Kodak or El Capitan. Why not Ellen? Do that for the Grammys and Golden Globes, too.

After that, I walked down Forest Lawn Drive to head to gate 8 to get my Conan ticket. I had so much time left I walked to get a Subway sandwich.The show was unusual. First, I got a FRONT ROW SEAT! I got a great view of Conan in the monologue, but got blocked by cameras once we got to the guests.

No matter. This was pretty unusual because it revealed a deep, dark secret: they tape guests out of sequence, just like other talk shows. That's why I had to see tonight's show to see how Ryan Gosling really did when they taped the interview a few days ago. I am ticked off I wasn't there, because he was a good way. Especially when he accused Disney of breeding a new species of cats. He also gave Conan a replica of the jacket he wore in Drive. It was too small for Conan. Gosling will get Oscar buzz by interviews alone, especially how he did with Conan.

So who did we see instead of Ryan? Taylor Lautner, who taped his interview for Abduction a week early. He was OK, but what really made the interview was a clip from a movie he made when he was 8. Imagine Tayor as a male version of Hanna, eight years old, taking down a nasty bald guy twice his size..and yet he smiles like an eight year old. Funny! It airs next Monday.
This was also the second time I saw him with Conan. The first time was at the Tonight Show two years ago.

Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls was actually pretty good, especially when she chided Conan for staring at her breasts, and delivered a killer Britney Spears impersonation.

So, after three days, I have seen celebrities, a very good movie and two talk shows. Not bad. Tuesday is Universal Studios, Kimmel with Simon Cowell, and a social media mixer. Wednesday is the last day when anything I want, including buying new Guild stuff, and maybe being at a red carpet.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Drive, he what you should see

Say, want to consider this movie?

It makes sense that a quarter mile away from the Regal L-A Live Theater, you'd see a really big billboard for what may be the hottest film around. In this case, the movie would have been more effective than the billboard.
Ryan Gosling has been many things from a romantic lead in The Notebook to a ladies' man in Crazy Stupid Love. He was even Young Hercules a long time ago.

That's why seeing him in Drive will blow your mind. He is a driver for hire. You have him for five minutes, no questions asked, whether it's being part of a robbery or even doing a movie stunt. He's a man of few words, bit he is focused and intense. Just look at the opening scene, where he tries to hide from the cops after a robbery. There's a good reason why he's paying close attention to the Clippers game on the radio. The camera also looks at the back of his jacket, a scorpion embroidered in gold. It is symbolic of what he is: cool and collective until it's time to act.

He crosses paths with Irene, a young mom played by Carey Mulligan. It seems her role isn't that much, but she is also conflicted about things. Her husband is about to leave prison, and she wonders if they can be a real family again. It's safe to say Ryan, known only as The Driver, is keeping an eye on them.

The Driver also has hopes for the future. He and a fellow mechanic named Shannon (Bryan Cranston) hope to get into NASCAR, and figure the Driver can do it for them. They get help from a local hood played by Albert Brooks. Now, forget Brooks' comedies. He ca play a real bad-ass guy you don't want to make angry.It's amazing he never got a chance at this before. It's quite a journey how he starts as a possible sponsor for the Driver's dreams, and winds up as his enemy. He's an easy Oscar nominee only because he does a great job here.

Anyway, the Driver decides to help Irene's husband with a robbery to get him away from the hoods that are threatening him. Everything goes wrong, and it happens so suddenly you'll wonder what happened. That's the thing about this movie: when people get killed, it's done very quickly and very suddenly.

Another unforgettable scene happens in an elevator where the Driver and Irene kiss while a suspicious looking guy is with them. You will not believe what happens after that, but it defines who the Driver is, in every way.

This is a fantastic crime movie that may seem slow, but once something happens, you won't forget it.

I had a chance to see Drive in the "Premiere Cinema" section, which I guess is the "big room" at the L-A Live Multiplex. Still, the #2 screen is also very big and comfortable. So, that's how I spent my first day in Los Angeles. I'll have a busy Sunday and Monday for different reasons, but I expect them to be enjoyable.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where Were You at 9/11?

It was ten years ago, and I was a former radio news announcer trying in vain to get back in the business. To stay above water, I was a temporary worker at a sawmill near Marysville. Didn't pay much.

I also had to get up early to get to work. When I turned on the news, I saw the two burning World Trade Center towers, and heard about another plane hitting the Pentagon. I couldn't stay long, because I had to go.
So, I turned on Howard Stern, when he was still on regular radio. I would never forget the shock he expressed when he saw the towers burn, and then collapse. He even admitted he wanted to get off the air, but he stuck around for a while.

In fact, YouTube has two videos of that broadcast...

Someone called RadioBlooie has an even more extensive recording of this event. That's the one I will always remember. I also have Don and Mike's broadcast, or much of it.

Anyway, the fact I had to cut wood or move tiles around kept my mind off the horror. I didn't have time to stay glued to my TV. I'd have enough time for that by the weekend.

Thinking back on that, I have to wonder how TV would have covered D-Day or even Pearl Harbor, since those events changed our nation. It would probably be much like what we had in 2001, even more so thanks to smartphones.

There will be some events in honor of the tenth anniversary Sunday. I'll be there, taking a lot of pictures.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Warrior: A Two-Fisted Sibling Rivalry

When I decided to check out the sneak preview of the MMA movie Warrior, I thought that the ads for the film told me everything I wanted to know: two brothers wind up facing off in an MMA tournament with five million bucks on the line. The "good" brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), is a teacher with financial problems with a wife and kids to support. The "bad" brother, Tommy (Tom Hardy), has returned from the Iraq war, and reunited with his alcoholic father (Nick Nolte) who trained him as a youth.

Notice I said "good" and "bad" with quotations because as you get to know these guys, you know they both made mistakes in life. They'd like to forgive, but the bitterness is so strong. Anyway, we see Tommy and Brendan on their road to the tournament, known as Sparta. Other rivals stand in their way, including a Russian who looks unbeatable...and he's played by pro wrestler Kurt Angle. Doesn't have any lines, but he sure looks intimidating.

What I like about the story is that they keep Tommy and Brendan apart as long as possible. The story's about their individual roads to the Sparta finals, and what motivates them. For Brendan. it's keeping a roof over his head. For Tommy, it's helping a widow of an Army buddy.
Then, we find out Tommy actually saved some lives in Iraq, but he doesn't want to talk about it. There's a tragic reason why.

I loved Tom Hardy as Tommy. the haunted brother. He's trying to pull his life together, and appreciates the help his dad provides. Still, he has secrets and bitterness that can ruin his progress. Joel Edgerton was also great as Branden, the family man who made mistakes with his own family.

There is the traditional training montage, but at least it's updated with split-screen action--but not with some cheesy Eddie Rabbitt song. It's also interesting how other people get caught up in Tommy and Brendan's stories, and we see those fans cheer their favorite warriors on. The ending is a bit cheesy, but it leaves you wanting just a bit more about how the final result will affect both brothers and the dad.
The producers of Warrior played it smart by having a sneak preview during the Labor Day weekend. This should get more people to the theaters just before the NFL starts its season, and even more may check it out after we see ads for this film in between touchdown drives.

As for the trailers, they're still showing those trailers for Abduction and (ugh) Breaking Dawn. However, I am interesting in Drive because it has ALBERT BROOKS as a gangster. Ryan Gosling and Christina (yowza!!) Hendricks are two good reasons, too.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Attack the Block: Inner City Youth vs. Aliens

While most people were really excited about seeing Cowboys battling Aliens, especially because Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig were part of the fight, another alien invasion movie was featured during Comic-Con. It came from England, and was a big hit at a couple of movie festivals. It's also better than Cowboys battling Aliens. In some ways, Attack the Block is similar to Cowboys and Aliens. Naturally, we've got aliens attacking the earth, and the whole battle is centered in a small area. We also have less-than-heroic guys being the only ones who can save us all. It's easier to root for Daniel Craig as a gunfighter than an unknown who starts the movie robbing a nurse, and winds up as the guy who can stop the invasion. Yet, John Boyega makes quite an impression as Moses, the leader of a gang who is anything but heroic. He starts off the movie robbing a nurse, then his gag makes short work of an alien who lands near their apartment block in south London. He even shows the body off to friends, and Hi-Hatz, a fellow gangster. They think nothing of this....until a few other aliens show up. They are much tougher: big black dogs with glowing and sharp blue teeth. These guys cause a lot more problems. Joe Cornish, who wrote and directed this movie, does a wise thing: he keep s the action centered to the apartment block and not much further, It's a little like Alien, where the crew of a spaceship has to deal with a monster of its own. Seeing a couple of Moses' crew lost in fog, wonder where the monster is, really amps up the suspense. Through circumstance, Sam, the nurse who gets robbed, winds up getting involved in the fight, especially after the aliens take out two cops who just arrested Moses for mugging her. He also has to deal with Hi-Hatz, who thinks Moses is at fault for all that has happened. What Attack the Block has over Cowboys and Aliens is that Moses and his crew use some very clever ways to fend off the aliens, usually machetes or fireworks. Better yet, we don't have anyone providing "unexpected help" to Moses (unlike Cowboys and Aliens, where that "help" nearly ruined the film). He does it his way, and take responsibility in the end. I could have seen this at Comic-Con, but I was called to a red carpet for Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, which is also a great movie. Waiting an extra six weeks for Attack the Block was worth it, and proves once again that the story is what counts, not CGI boogey-men.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Out With the Old, In With The New

Blu-ray DVD players have been around for ten years, but have become more reasonably priced in the past couple of years. I've been tempted to make the big jump to blu-ray, except I like to record stuff on my DVD recorder. That's why I usually buy plain DVDs rather than the fancier blu-rays.

Anyway, since blu-ray seems to be the way to go, I decided to finally join the 21st century and get a player. Thanks to a 50 dollar Target gift card, I got on for 40 bucks net, but also had to get Paul and Super, too (the regular version). Now, the next problem: what blu-rays do I get? Sci-fi? Animation? Should I get gently used blu-rays? Seems to be the way to go, aside from the going out of business sales happening at Borders stores. I might get a blu-ray or two come Labor Day. I certainly won't try to replace the DVDs I have now with a blu-ray version. I'm hoping they'll still play great.

Now, with the addition of new technology, and yet another reason why I should get a flat-screen once my current TV finally fizzles, that means I will have to make the final break with my VHS recorder. Remember those, in the days before TiVo? It also means converting some of my old VHS tapes to DVD. This isn't much of a problem, except I have two really good ABC Sports VHS tapes I can't convert to DVD because they have macrovision on them. It's a pity because of one them has a really good history of ice skating from the 1950's to the late '80s, while the other one looks back at Wide World of Sports in the 1960s. As long as there's a chance I can convert them, I am not letting them go. The VHS recorder, however, is another story.

So, this week, I'm getting rid of the last of the tapes I can convert. They have old Japanese TV shows, subbed of course. Basically Kikaider and Kikaider 01. After that, it's off to Goodwill, and the new blu-ray player will take its place. The only ting left is teaching myself to switch to blu-ray, but not necessarily get rid of the plain DVDs I already have. Some are homemade, and thy also include the Whedon library. I should have it done by the end of the month.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

We All Need Some "Help", and Some Trailer Talk

When a movie house does a midnight showing, it's usually on a Friday morning. The film is usually the latest blockbuster, from Harry Potter to Iron Man, and that means a full house.
So how come the Century Downtown 7 decided to be the first to show The Help on a Wednesday morning? That usually happens just before Thanksgiving. I was almost expecting a bunch of women with their own copies of the book, checking to see if the movie followed the book to the letter.

No such luck. About ten people were inside with me, but it was well worth it.
You know the story: a white girl just graduating from Ole Miss decides to risk a lot to write a book about what it's like for Black maids to work in White families in 1962. We get some interesting viewpoints from Skeeter, the author and Aibileen and Minny, two of the maids.
Risks are taken, and there is a fair amount of loss, but there are also rewards in the end.
The movie does start with Skeeter interviewing Aibileen, but it's really the story of people finding their voice, and making sure they are heard...and it's not just the maids. Aibileen may be the narrator, but she is just part of the story.

We start with Skeeter, played by Emma Stone. After being in Zombieland and Easy A, this is her most serious role yet, and she does a great job. After getting a job at the local paper writing a housekeeping column, she befriends Aibileen (Viola Davis). After a while, Skeeter thinks about writing a book about her and the other Black maids. We also meet Minny (Octavia Spencer), a sharp tongued maid who's been fired from every household. Even with all that bravado, though, life away from work is anything from perfect.
We also meet the social queen bee, Hilly Holbrook, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Now, she may be well-known as a vampire in Twilight: Eclipse, but she is even scarier here. She is the Ultimate Southern Housewife, who believes in good Christian values including building a separate toilet for the Help. She also has a special way of getting rid of maids she doesn't like. Skeeter is expected to fit into this society, but is very reluctant. She even wonders why her family's maid has suddenly left.

So, Skeeter tries to get the maids to hell their story. First Aibileen does, followed by Minny. Soon, others tell their story, too. We see that Aibileen is proud of how she and the other maids take care of the white children in Jackson, and how they grow up to be their new bosses a few years down the line. She is also scared about the emerging civil rights movement, especially the death of Medgar Evers. She knows her place because it's the only place she's allowed to exist. It's that tension, however, that also convinces Minny to help out with the book.

What really caught my attention was the relationship Minny has with Celia Foote, played by Jessica Chastain. The other housewives see Celia as some silly woman who will never be part of their club. Minny soon discovers Celia can't even cook...and a few other things...but they help each other out. You get the feeling that eventually, Celia will soon get more respect than Hilly. This movie isn't about a white person "saving" Blacks. People either save themselves or each other..while others who need help just can't admit it.
Of course, a certain pie is involved in the story, too. Let's say it gives new meaning to the term "just desserts".

You may also spot Sissy Spacek as Hilly's mom, who clearly has more sense than her daughter, Alison Janney as Skeeter's mom who has a big fat regret on her mind, Cicely Tyson as the maid Skeeter misses, and Mary Steenburgen as the New York editor who's intrigued by Skeeter's book.

After weeks of super heroes, robots and super-smart apes, and a few rom-coms, it's nice to have a movie with good performances and a great story. If you want to hide from all the noise of the blockbuster, The Help will be what you need.

They also threw in some trailers, including Breaking Dawn and that overly-sentimental War Horse trailer while I hope reveals a movie that's just as good as the Tony Award-winning play. I'm also interested in Tower Heist, where Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy rob a Bernie Madoff-type of 20 million bucks. It better be good. There was also a trailer for New Year's Eve, sort of a follow up to Valentine's Day. Robert DeNiro's in it, but don't be fooled. There's some guy looking for the girl he thinks is his destiny, and Katherine Heigl's being pointless and annoying...again. There's also Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Susan Sarandon and Ryan Seacrest too. I do know Lea Michele is in it as a singer who's not as driven as Rachel Berry, but she might go places.

While I'm on the horn, I must talk about how they're promoting In Time, with Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, and Vincent Kartheiser as super-creepy Future Pete Campbell. First, you should see this movie when it comes around Halloween because it proves a Logan's Run economy won't improve our global credit rating. Second, the latest movie trailer features Olivia Wilde as Justin's mom too much. I'm guessing the scenes she's in are in the trailer. If you want a better taste of what this movie is really about, try this trailer..

Now THIS will have you counting the days on your wrist.
Until then, we still have a lot of interesting movies like Apollo 18, Attack the Block (please, by Labor Day), Abduction (maybe), Moneyball (a baseball movie with Brad Pitt), Fright Night and Contagion...among others.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

CGI Has Made a Better Monkey, and a Good Movie

Remember the old explanation of how the humans made apes their pets and helpers, but were attacked by them, creating the Planet of the Apes?
Forget it. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a more evolved version of the old movies from the 1970's and even the recent reboot.
They came up with a great idea: what if Man came up with a miracle cure for Alzheimer's, and it wound up making monkeys smarter, and eventually able to outsmart us?

In this case, the man is James Franco, who plays scientist Will Rodman. He has a personal stake in this because his father suffers from Alzheimer's. A prototype is tested on a monkey called "Bright Eyes" (the first of many callbacks to the original Planet of the Apes canon). The drug makes the chimp super-smart, but she is shot dead when she attacks someone at the lab. We see the properties of the drug is passed to her son, who is called Caesar. He is a chimp prodigy, who is able to communicate with Will quite well. However, the chimp has also inherited his mom's temper, and soon he's put in a primate prison. It's there that Caesar gets a hard education that will help him develop into Man's worst nightmare.

It's no accident that while the human actors are generic, although Franco has a wonderful relationship with Caesar, the chimp and monkeys are the most developed characters in this movie. Just look at the expressions Caesar have. You can see him evolving with one look. This is also due to the genius work of Andy Sirkis, who does a great job bringing Caesar to life. Some have said he should get an Oscar nomination for this. The Academy's reluctance to embrace a new type of acting, especially assisted with CGI, will probably keep that from happening. Otherwise, Zoe Saldana could have had a chance at a nomination for Avatar. It's still a great performance. When Caesar does something even more unlikely, I heard a lot of gasps in the audience.

They also have an orangutan named Maurice who's a dead ringer for a familiar Planet of the Apes character. That is no accident. Neither is a guy named Dodge, played by Tom Felton of Harry Potter fame. This guy sees the primates as his own objects of abuse. He's not too far off from Draco Malfoy.

Some may be a bit skeptical abut how quickly Caesar gathers his army against the humans, but the story is a starting point to how Earth could wind up being ruled by apes. When it ends, you wonder if it will become the PotA that we know from the original movie and sequels, or will go a different route.

As far as the trailers that came before the movie, the only one that got my attention was Contagion, about a doomsday virus. It's got an all-star cast, and I hope it can live up to its potential

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Second Movie Double Feature

You know, we should have suspected that Cowboys and Aliens wouldn't live up to the hype when we saw Jon Favreau everywhere. We were distracted by seeing Olivia Wilde everywhere, but still...
I still took a chance on the movie, and it was good, not great. Daniel Craig was the top selling point as Jake, the guy who can't remember how he got a strange looking bracelet that will fire off lasers 1875.
Maybe the problem was we had a generic story, a gunslinger with a mysterious past coming to a town down on its luck and helps them face down a major threat, and added aliens who plan to take over Earth because the puny humans can't possibly fight back.
Or maybe it was a case of too many high-powered cooks not making a good enough broth. The producers included Steven Spielberg, Jon Favreau and Ron Howard. The writers included the guys from Lost and Fringe. It was still entertaining, but this was one of those times where I was glad to spend only $5.50 on it.
But in the name of God, how could it barely earn enough cash than the SMURFS?? I mean, how did they succeed (for lack of a better term) where Alvin and the Chipmunks, Hop and Yogi Bear didn't? OK, maybe it was the kids or nostalgic parents, but by THAT much?

I noticed the BEMs looked a lot like Cooper, the alien from Super 8. At least that movie had a better story that ended in Spielberg schmaltz but still earned big bucks. I would have really enjoyed it if we had a situation where primitive puny humans figured out a way to knock down the aliens without some unexpected help. But the movie decided some "help" was needed. You'll see where, especially if you saw the trailer a couple hundred times before the movie.

The second movie, Captain America in 3-D, was much better. It was fast-paced, loaded with action and good performances. Chris Evans is Captain America without a doubt, but Hugo Weaving was just scary as Red Skull. He makes Voldermort look lame. I also enjoyed Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, and it's easy to expect him to be the father of Robert Downey Jr., and Sebastian Stan as Bucky..this time as a young man and not a teen sidekick. I really hope that somehow Hayley Atwell will be brought back for a Captain America Stephanie Carter, the granddaughter of Peggy--and SHIELD agent.
I also notice Stan Lee is becoming just like Hitchcock, making sure he gets a cameo somewhere in the Marvel movie-verse. He's in Captain America, but I would have cast him in something else.
For now, the Avengers are next. Joss Whedon says directing this movie was easier than he thought, and that his version may be better than the original. Let's hope he's right in nine months.

Happy Birthday, MTV, But Your Party Should Have Been Bigger

Today is the 30th birthday of a cable channel that has changed the world, but whose relevance ain't what it used to be.
Over the weekend, VH1 Classic has been rotating 12 hours of what it considers the best of MTV, Music Television, over the past 30 years.

12 hours? Not a month, at least?

What bugs me is that to limit itself to 12 hours, they leave out a MASSIVE amount of history. They will be airing the first hour of the network three times Monday. We get a fair amount of Mark Goodman, and cameos by Nina Blackwood, JJ Jackson, Alan Hunter and Martha Quinn. It's like talking about the Declaration of Independence and barely talking about the Founding Fathers. Sure, they give us clips of Club MTV (such as a very nice performance by Debbie Gibson), 120 Minutes, the final TRL (why not the first one, you knobs?), Jackass, Unplugged, House of Style, Remote Control, Cribs, Beavis and Butthead, and contest promos.

But come on! Why not turn VH1 Classic into MTV Classic, where we get bumps of the VJs, and throw in both Julie Browns (especially Just Say Julie) and Adam Curry? Why not have ENTIRE VMAs? Who wouldn't want to see the year Dana Carvey hosted, or the first one? How about the retrospectives the network had in 1999? Show whole episodes of Remote Control, especially with Denis Leary and Adam Sandler? Heck, show where the VJs are now. It's sad the original network doesn't think being 30 is important enough to throw itself a birthday party. I'm sure Katy Parry, Gaga, Rhianna, P. Diddy, and Pitbull would love to be on the decorating committee.
On the other hand, maybe MTV didn't want to admit hitting the big 3-0 because it's afraid the kids won't trust anyone over maybe CNN.

Martha Quinn had her own take on the big 3-0, and her brthday wish speaks volumes. Bless you, Martha! You were so great as a VJ, Canada had to invent its own version of you.

OK, so let's admit You Tube, Vevo really, has replaced MTV as the main source for music videos these days. Let's at least honor the channel that started it all.
Well, when August 2nd rolls around, and China doesn't foreclose on us because our government's financial expertise is worse then Bernie Madoff's, this will all be forgotten.

I will give VH1 Classic credit for showing MTV's first hour with the original ads. It just reminds us what we had back then, especially Superman II, a gum that's no longer available, and cologne that would be rejected in favor of Axe spray.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Movie Double Feature

Today I've done something I haven't done in about two years....I went to two movies, and enjoyed the second one more.
I still have some cash left in my Fandango gift certificate, and decided to check out Bad Teacher, mainly because Cameron Diaz was actually beating Green Lantern in the box office. Maybe SHE should be Star Sapphire if they really bother with a sequel.
Diaz is truly a bad teacher as Liz Halsey. Even as she tries to take advantage of the system and also get a bonus to pay for a boob job by hook and crook, you can't help but like her, especially if she has an annoying nemesis teacher who's a bit too perfect. Lucy Punch is great in a role that's a long way from Dinner for Schmucks. She will also be in the pilot for Powers, too. Justin Timberlake is also such a nerd as Scott, the target of Liz's diabolical plans to land a guy who'll take care of her. One surprise is Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family. He's in this movie as Liz's biker roommate.

The other movie was Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, a documentary of last year's nationwide tour that reminded people that NBC still has the wrong guy hosting the Tonight Show. You really get to see Conan unplugged and raw, and you admire him for pulling off a great tour despite all that he felt after losing the big gig. We see how the show was formed from very fast sellouts minutes after the tour was announced, rehearsals, and then the first show in Oregon. We also see stops in Las Vegas, L-A, Seattle, New York and Bonnaroo. We may see him overworked but we also see that he just loves to perform....and we love him. If you can, see this movie. It's worth it.

Oh, and as far as the trailers are concerned:

If Kevin Bacon has any need to tell people to reject the Footloose remake coming in October, the trailer has done the job for him. Dennis Quaid is no John Lithgow, Julianne Hough is no Lori Singer, and whats-his-name is no Kevin Bacon (OK, he's Kenny Wormald, but still...). There's no Kenny Loggins in the new soundtrack, either. Adding a secret place where the teens dance to hide from their parents doesn't help, either. HitFix's "C" grade for the trailer is generous.

Much better trailers include Horrible Bosses (which was seen on UFC on Versus this past weekend), 30 Minutes or Less, and The Help with Emma Stone, which may be the ideal movie for those who are Harry Potter-ed and Transformer'd out.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Comic-Con: Now the TV Beauty Pageant Begins

Remember when Comic-Con was an annual convention where a bunch of comic book shops got together and talked about the latest Spider-Man?
Me, neither. No one does, or at least no one under the age of 40.

Two things got me to make this event an annual summer tradition: Sarah Michelle Gellar and Joss Whedon.
Whether either of them will be in San Diego in about nine weeks is not certain. After all, he has this movie to direct.

What is certain is that people will get their first looks at what most of us will be seeing this fall. Sometimes a show can have a really cool pilot, then fade out fast. That's why The Event was really the pilot episode, when the plane vanished to keep the President from getting killed--followed by a loud bunch of nothing.
Other times, it can be the start of shows that have become classics, from Lost, Chuck, Warehouse 13 and Fringe to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Being Human, Stargate SG-1 and The Guild (yes, Felicia, your show counts because it proved all the internet can be better than cable sometimes).

So, now that the Big Four and a Half networks have unveiled their fall plans, let's see which shows will likely get a panel at Comic-Con.

ABC: Castle will be the only returning show, thanks to the appeal of Nathan Fillion. Two mysteries will be discussed: will Rick and Kate get together after she recovers from what happened just as season three ended, and if his Derrick Storm graphic novel will sell more books than Nikki Heat. Three new shows will likely be featured: The River (search for a missing explorer), the Charlie's Angels reboot, and Once Upon a Time (what if part of Maine was the home of fairy tales). I think Angels will get more attention because of the legacy of the old show and even the movies.

NBC: Like ABC, only one returning show, Chuck. Fans of the show will be speculating what will happen next for the Bartowski Gang. Two new shows may get a panel: Grimm, a crime drama where fairy tale characters are involved, and Awake, where a man lives in two realities after an accident. I'd throw in the new version of Prime Suspect with Maria Bello as a wild card.

CBS: Hawaii Five-O may be back. It was a popular panel last year. Big Bang Theory is a lock for a return. One dark horse may be A Gifted Man, about a surgeon who gets life lessons from the ghost of his dead wife.

CW: Hellcats will not be here. Nikita will, and a lot more than just a new episode. Supernatural will also be back because the girls just love those Winchester Boys. Vampire Diaries will also be back. The new Kevin Williamson show, Secret Circle, is certain to get a preview.
To most people, though, there is only one CW show everyone wants to see: Ringer. It's the only show because of Sarah Michelle Gellar, making a long-awaited return to TV as a girl who impersonates her rich twin sister, only to learn sis also made too many enemies. It will air Tuesdays at 9, which happens to be when Buffy used to air way back when.
The only question is whether she'll be there to promote the show. She hasn't been in San Diego since The Grudge. If she is there, they'll need Petco Park and Hall H and the Sails Pavilion to accommodate everyone who wants to see her.

FOX: As usual, this network will dominate the TV side of Comic-Con. It's a mix of animation domination, returning shows and two high-priced rookies. The veteran dramas include Fringe, Bones and Glee. The animated shows include The Simpsons to Family Guy, along with two new ones, Napoleon Dynamite and Allan Gregory.
Most of the attention will be on Terra Nova, where a family goes back to prehistoric times to save Earth's future, and Alcatraz, where several inmates from that prison somehow travel to the future. Terra Nova got an early look at Wondercon, and more special effects scenes will be featured to get people to watch this show on Mondays. Alcatraz has the backing of JJ Abrams, and Jorge Garcia for the Lost fans.

Cable shows will also be featured including Doctor Who's second half of the 2011 season, Being Human, Warehouse 13, Eureka, True Blood, Game of Thrones, Torchwood: Miracle Day, and even Weeds. (ETA: I forgot about Alphas, a new Syfy show where people with enhnced abilities join together against evil. It will premiere before the con).
TV networks of today are dominating Comic-Con the way neighborhood comic book stores did when Comic-Con fit neatly in a local hotel.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thor: If He Had A Hammer

While the USA is literally one of the last areas of the world to see the long awaited movie version of Thor after months of hype, some lucky souls have already seen the movie thanks to many sneak previews.
There was one last weekend in Sacramento, and I was lucky to get a seat to it. It meant losing a bit of sleep, but it was worth it.
It's a variation of the origin story where a man picks up a hammer and becomes Thor by striking it. Instead, Thor gets exiled from Asgard to Earth, and becomes mortal and must prove to be worthy of his status as God of Thunder. Natalie Portman is there as the plucky love interest, but Kat Dennings was pretty funny, too. Any Norse gods out there who'd like to share a beer with her?
Chris Hemsworth, though, is great as Thor. He seems to be one of the best actors no one has seen yet due to MGM's money problems (he's in two movies made by them, including Cabin in the Woods). When he first meet Thor, he acts like the cock-sure big man on campus, sort of like Brett Farve times 20. He's let his own glory go to his head.
It's when he's tossed to Earth that he gets a crash course of how he must be a real man to be worthy of his title. One scene that really got my attention is when he finally finds his hammer in a crater outside of town. Once he realizes he can't lift it, the fact that he's lost his divinity really hits him hard. Of course, he will prove himself, or The Avengers will be missing one hero.

Against Thor is Loki, played to diabolical perfection by Tom Hiddleston. However, the movie is slightly sympathetic of Thor's brother, even revealing his real origins that Odin only knows. However, when his jealous leads to destruction, then he becomes Thor's dark rival.

The movie has some connections to the Marvelverse which will all come together in next year's Avengers movie. There's a scene that's familiar to those who saw Iron Man 2, while Dr. Selvig (Skellan Skargard) talks about a man who experimented in gamma rays. There's a scene where many locals try to lift Thor's hammer, including an old man who wrecks his truck by trying to tow it out. Let's just say the guy will look familiar to many.

Granted, the Rainbow Bridge did look like a disco floor to me, and seeing Thor fly did remind me of Green Lantern (also about an arrogant guy who learns true heroism), but the 3-D was pretty good, especially the aerial shots of Asgard.

I'd say Thor was between the two Iron Man movies in quality, and is a good start to the Summer movie season. I am still very interested in the Captain America movie, and how that will play out. In any case, with two Iron Man movies, Thor and Captain America about to be in the books, it looks like Joss Whedon's vision for The Avengers is taking shape. Can you imagine Thor dealing with Tony Stark and HIS arrogance? Or Captain America wondering about how things have changed? This year's Marvel movies are just the preliminaries to the main event next year, while the DC movies featuring Batman and Green Lantern just have to prove themselves. There's less pressure since a Justice League movie is far in the horizon.

In any case, Thor has already taken theaters around the world by storm by earning 93 million before the big premiere Friday. With good buzz so far, he just may turn a profit by Mothers' Day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Killer Fairy Tale: A Review of "Hanna"

Commercials for Saoirse Ronan's new movie, Hanna, have been going strong. People are pretty much aware of the new movie about a teenage girl who's been trained to kill, and that her target is a CIA official who has "Evil Stepmother" written all over her. Anyone who's seen the trailer, though, wonders why the dad is leaving his snowy cabin in a suit.

During Wondercon, about 350 people, including myself, were lucky enough to get a six-day head start on finding out what Hanna is all about. Ronan and director Joe Wright, who has worked together in Atonement, were even there to talk to the fans afterwards. They both had a lot to say, and I'll include that in this review.
Here they are....

After the screening

This movie is an action thriller, but Wright says it's more than that. It's structured like the old fairy tale about an innocent girl having to leave her cozy home and go out in the big bad world to battle whatever is out there, if it's a big bad wolf, evil witch, or ogre.
Hanna is a girl who has lived with her father Erik Heller (Eric Bana) for most of her life. She hunts, learns about the world from an encyclopedia and a book of fairy tales, and is also a skilled fighter. Her dad has trained her for a specific purpose, and if that means never having Bieber fever, that's the price she'll pay.

Eventually, as kids do, they want to move on. She tells her dad "I'm ready". So, she turns on a transponder, whose signal is picked up in Washington. Specifically, it's heard by a CIA official named Marissa, played by Cate Blanchett. She passes it off as no big deal, but we soon learn Heller has done a lot of things for the CIA, and now must be captured. Naturally, she wants it kept quiet, which is a tip-off she has something to hide. Heller leaves for Berlin and tells Hanna to let herself be captured. We soon learn they want Marissa killed, and this is all part of the plan.
Once Hanna is in an underground compound, she asks to see Marissa. Someone does come but it's a decoy, who inadvertently winds up as a lamb led to a slaughter.
The chase is then on: Marissa tries to find both Hanna and Eric before they get to Berlin.
Simple, right? The hook is a teenage girl battling bad guys, and she's about as skilled as Jason Bourne.
Not so. There are other factors, such as why Hanna grabs her medical file before she leaves the compound...and discovers she's in Morocco. It's really all about what Hanna really is, and why Marissa will do anything to keep that a secret.

It's been a while since we've seen Ronan, who was last seen in Atonement and The Lovely Bones. At Wondercon, she said Hanna is really pure because she's lived in nature for so long. She doesn't know about the media-saturated world that tries to define what a girl wants, or what girl power is. Wright knows that, and isn't happy about how powerful women have to be sexualized.
Hanna is an innocent, even if she is also deadly. She gets excited seeing a plane for the first time. She is fascinated by turning a fluorescent light on and off, then is terrified when things like an electric kettle and a TV start rattling. She also feels free in movement, whether on a scooter or RV. She's able to use the fact that she is a lost and naive girl to her advantage, and hitch a ride with a vacationing British family. Through all that, she is looking back, wondering if the Big Bad CIA Agent is about to get her.

Speaking of which, Marissa soon gets help from a very creepy strip club owner named Isaacs, played by Tom Hollander. He reminds me of a German Tennessee Williams, although someone at the screening said he seemed to be from A Clockwork Orange because he whistled while he worked. She orders him, in a southern drawl that will make your skin crawl, to find Hanna. It's just like in Snow White where she sends the Huntsman to cut Snow White's heart out. The only difference is, Isaacs the Huntsman will follow her orders, but Hanna may be more able to cut hearts out than he is. Still, it also means the family that Hanna has joined are in danger, and it's up to her to make sure they don't get hurt.

There's another great scene when Hanna is in bed with her new friend Sophie, played by Jessica Barden. Hanna is excited to have a friend, and share a part of herself. It's all closeups, because that's how she and Sophie see each other. Barden is also a riot as a very typical teen who soon gets caught in an untypical situation. Olivia Williams (Dollhouse) is there, too, as Sophie's mom Rachel. At Wondercon, Wright described Rachel as a "failed feminist". She admits she doesn't like wearing makeup, and tries to cling to a little idealism of her youth. Hanna doesn't mind, because she finally has a mother figure to be with.

The relationships between mothers and daughters is an important part of the movie. You might say Hanna is the "daughter" (note the quotes here), while Marissa is the "Evil Stepmother". Hanna has to escape Marissa's clutches to return to her dad, and to grow up. Once we learn more about Hanna's true background, and how Marissa is part of it, that becomes more clear. Compare that to the relationship between Rachel and Sophie, which is truly typical.

You may also be impressed about how Bana tries to get to Berlin, even swimming across Europe if he has to. However, his determination also leads to major damage, and one very cool fight scene at a subway stop.

You will also love the soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers. Whether it's mimicking sounds of nature early in the film, pouring our techno music as Hanna tries to run, or even a fairy tale song as Marissa finds Isaacs in a strip club that includes a hermaphrodite stripper dressed as Snow White, it's a great counterpart to the film.

Still, Wright reminds us that this is still an action movie, if it was written by the Brothers Grimm. He pointed out at the press conference the original Grimms' Fairy Tales were really violent, and happy endings aren't as guaranteed as the Disney versions of these tales. That's why the final confrontation takes place in an amusement park complete with gingerbread house, where a guy called Grimm lives.

Saoirse Ronan meets with fans

Ronan really does a great job as the teen assassin who, in the end, is the one with the purest heart compared to the adults trying to capture and/or kill her. Blanchett is a great villain as Marissa. Maybe she should be an Evil Queen/Stepmom in a future fairy tale movie. She has that role down in this movie.

Again, the screening at the Metreon attracted 350 people but could have drawn twice that if they decided on two screens. Wright was asked why we don't find out what happens to Sophie's family after Marissa questions them about Hanna. He said he left that ambigious because he did have a scene in mind, but the studio considered it too dark. When you see what happens to those who are also interviewed about Hanna, you'll see why. He also decided against having an epilogue after the fates of everyone are revealed. Actually, that decision does work out.

Check out Hanna when it comes to theaters this week. She'll be battling Russell Brand as Arthur 2.0, plus Natalie Portman as a warrior who'd also clobber Cate Blanchett, but she'll hold her own.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rainn Wilson is Super in San Francisco

Rainn Wilson is Super

With tons of superhero fans looking for a movie to see after the first day of Wondercon, what would be better than one about a short-order cook who loses his wife to a drug dealer, and decides to become a superhero to bring her back?

Sounds like a fine, upstanding commercial project.
Now, add James Gunn, then Rainn Wilson, Kevin Bacon, Liv Tyler and Ellen Page, plus a dash of Nathan Fillion.

There. you have Super, a superhero movie that clearly is not for everyone. In fact, Super has split the critics, but it has found an audience for those who want something a bit different.
Friday night's 7:30 showing at the Landmark Embarcadero was two-thirds full, but the crowd really enjoyed the action, especially Wilson telling crime to shut up, with a wrench in his hand

Now, this movie is very violent, and not just with Wilson and his wrench. Even in the credits, there's a lot of blood. In fact, the only superhero who could be traditional is the Holy Avenger, played by Fillion. He is the inspiration that convinces Frank, the cook, to become a superhero. Fillion is incredibly cheesy as the Bibleman/Heteroy-type hero shown by a religious channel. The guy who plays the villain is kinda creepy, too. Just check the credits.

What also stunned me about this movie is Ellen Page, as a comic book store clerk who becomes Frank's kid sidekick. She was a superhero once, namely in X-Men 3, Here, though, she enjoys being Boltie a bit too much, and gets way too close to her costume.

Overall, this is a twisted superhero/revenge story, but there is heart as well. See Frank recall how he met a married Sarah, who was a recovering drug addict working with him. You can see why he'd do all this for her.

After the movie, Rainn talked about the film, and how it is an underdog story, compared to all the other superhero movies coming this year. He also said he'd like to get Page on The Office next year.

Super will be adding more screens through this month, and will also be available through on-demand cable the end of the month.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wondercon's A Lot Less Wonderful This Year

For the past few years, Wondercon in San Francisco has been the little brother of Comic-Con. People get a chance to see some big productions abut upcoming movies, and see a star or two. In recent years, it's been a pretty impressive event. It's where I got my first Joss Whedon autograph, and very close look at Serenity.
Last year, fans got a chance to see Kick-Ass early, see the cast of Chuck and Human Target, and even see the latest episode of V. Heck, it's where most people got their first look at Inception.

You'd think the 25th anniversary of Wondercon would mean big stars plugging big movies. The fact that it's held on the first weekend of April would be perfect timing for a preview of Thor, Scream 4, Apollo 18, Fast 5 or even Dylan Dog.
Well, no. The fact that no one from Thor is VERY surprising. However, we will get a panel on Super, James Gunn's version of Kick-Ass. Rainn Wilson will be there with Gunn. It makes sense because it premieres in San Francisco the day before the panel. There's also a panel on Hanna, which starts a week later. I'm interested in that because Olivia Williams (Dollhouse) will be in it.
The big panel will be Green Lantern with Ryan Reynolds on 4/1, which will probably be the highlight of the whole weekend. What's surprising that three movies that won't premiere until much later in the year will also appear: Cowboys vs. Aliens (late July), Three Musketeers (October) and Immortals (November). At least with Immortals, Henry Cavill will get a lot of interest since he'll be the new Superman.

What's also surprising is TV Sunday will not be as star-studded as it usually is. Or, as Daniel Feinberg of HitFix tweeted:

@loquaciousmuse "Fringe," "Chuck," "Smallville," "Camelot," "Castle," "Community," "Supernatural." Heck "Glee" goes to supermarket openings.

NONE of them are coming to Wondercon. You'd think Smallville would come because it is ending its run on the CW, while Fringe and Chuck would have big finales.

So who is coming?
Doctor Who is coming, since it will kick off its new series with a visit to America (how come he doesn't drop in to San Diego, July 2011? We'll make room).
ETA: The panel will be moderated by Chris Hardwick. Mark Sheppard (aka Badger) will be there along with Neil Gaiman and director Toby Haynes. This should rival the Green Lantern panel.
A new Fox comedy called Breaking in, about high-tech security guards, will be coming with Christian Slater. That big new sci-fi show, Terra Nova, is also coming, despite the fact its May preview was cancelled a couple of weeks ago. There will also be a screening of Nikita, which resolves a big cliffhanger from the night before.
Two panels may be interesting because they involve two shows that likely won't be back. One is Human Target with Mark Valley. The other is V with Elizabeth Mitchell. I kind of hoped Morena Baccarin would also be there, too, since she and Liz never shared a real scene in season two. The V panel will also be interesting because fans will be asking if those who died in the season two finale are beyond resurrection, not to mention the show itself.

How Wondercon ends is also a surprise: we'll be seeing Dr. Horrible instead of Once More With Feeling. I'm not sure why, but this may be a new pattern: Dr. H at Wondercon and Once More With Feeling at Comic-Con. We'll see.

Wondercon is 25 years old. It should have gotten a better party. I hope it's not too late to add more guests.
Anyone want to e-mail Asgard?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Paul: He's Of Peace Always, and a Real Event

You notice these days that people are telling us not to trust aliens if they ever decide to come here?
On some radio shows, they figure aliens will be as arrogant and cruel as humans were towards their less civilized brothers, such as the Spaniards against the Aztecs and the Ack-Ack Martians in Mars Attacks!.
Recently, a lizard lady from space made Earthlings her slaves while she locked up her double-crossing human-loving daughter, while another alien wants to start a nuclear reaction to set up a portal to bring his people over...and kill us.
And let's not forget that alien invasion in Los Angeles that was stopped by Aaron Eckhart, Ne-Yo and Michelle Rodriguez.
Yeah, aliens. Just can't trust those arrogant critters.

But then there's Paul. He's grey with a big head held up by a small body. He's got eyes cuter than that Puss and Boots guy in those Shrek movies. What's so dangerous about him?
Nothing, really. At least that's what two British sci-fi nerds learn, and a lot more, in a new movie that would be considered The Complete Sci-Fi Cliche Assortment, but is also a good road movie.
It's written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, who revolutionized zombie movies with Shaun of the Dead a few years ago. They're the British nerds who decide to take a road trip after visiting Comic-Con. One night, they see a car in a rollover accident. When they look for survivors, they see a strange looking creature with a cigarette. That creature is Paul, who sounds just like Seth Rogan.

Anyway, once Paul convinces our two nerds he comes in peace, but would like to leave now, he gets them to drive them to the place where his alien friends can get him home. He also claims that he's played a large part in popular culture, especially a familiar movie and TV show.
They're followed closely by tough-as-nails Secret Service Agent Zoil played by Jason Bateman, and his assistants played by Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio. Bateman is really convincing as Zoil, and should repeat that role in other dramas. However, his boss is even more bad-ass. For most of the movie we only hear her voice, but we do know she has a picture of President Bush the Elder with the words "best thing I ever invaded", Gee, does Barbara know?

Along the way, the gang meet up with a lonely Christian trailer-park gal played by Kristen Wiig. I kind of liked her as a girl who gets a very unique revelation about her world, and how it convinces her to help Paul. Problem is, her dad soon joins the chase....along with two other rednecks who are upset the nerds wrecked their truck before they found Paul.

After weeks of us vs. aliens, it's nice to have a movie where reaching out to someone or something new is encouraged. Sure, the sci-fi references come thick and fast, especially in a redneck bar, but it's still quite entertaining.
When I saw it at the Century Stadium 14, the place was half-full. Apparently humans are in full March Madness even though the games so far haven't been close this March 19th. It may not overtake Battle: L-A, but it should do well in the long run. As usual, it's the story that sells the movie, even more than special effects.

As for the sneak previews, I saw the Bad Mother trailer again, but to get the real taste of that movie, find the red-band version. There was also Your Highness, and it does include Natalie Portman in a thong, and Hanna, who will put new meaning to the term "Hit Girl". They'll likely be featured during Wondercon, and I am going to say right now if Cate Blanchett isn't revealed as Hanna's mom, I will be shocked. I also saw one for Dylan Dog, who's a "cop" to keep the peace in the world of zombies, vampires and such. I was pleasantly surprised by that one, and I may check that out.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Triplecast Lives Again...In March Madness

For the first time, basketball fans can literally see every game of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. The new deal with the NCAA allows fans to choose between CBS, truTV, TBS and TNT to see their favorite teams, or at least a game that's more interesting than the others.
The only odd thing about this is truTV actually being a sports channel for a few days. It's about as strange as Lifetime carrying the WNBA for a while.
So why spread the NCAA basketball wealth on cable, rather than subtly suggest that getting a special channel on DirecTV to see all of the games would be better?
Two words: Olympic Triplecast.
I'm an old man, compared to the average age of people who write blogs. I remember when Pay-Per-View channels were new, when you could still hear what was happening even if the picture was scrambled. That was 1992, and it was the year NBC decided to offer live coverage of the Summer Olympics in Barcelona for a fee. Remember the Red, White and Blue Channels? They expected people who just HAD to see the Olympics live to pay a fee to get that chance.
Well, that didn't work. In fact, they discounted the price almost immediately, and even simulcasted the pictures on CNBC. That's why NBC decided to just spread the events to its cable channels four years later.

However, the idea of letting cable channels pick up the less popular Olympic events did work out for NBC. For one thing, it helped curling pick up fans in the past three Winter Olympics.
When CBS approved a new deal with the NCAA for the men's basketball tournament, it realized that whipping around from one game to another is no way to cover a billion-dollar event. So, they set up their own "quadruple-cast", with TBS, TNT and truTV carrying games at the same time. It also came up with a bar on top to show the scores of the other games happening on the other channels. Turner Sports and CBS know fans will be turning to their favorite teams or the most exciting game, but they still benefit.
So, why not offer this to, say, new satellite subscribers of DirecTV, or maybe a premium cable channel like the NFL RedZone?
Because still remember how much of a flop the Triplecast was. If you can offer people a special event, and avoid charging them for it aside from commercials, do it!That's one reason why the World Series and the Super Bowl will be on free TV forever. Anyone who tries to turn them to PPV events would be considered worse than al-Qaeda.

So, the idea of the Triplecast does live on, but in the best way: not charging fans for something they'll figure out a way to see for free.
After all, who needs a Triplecast when there's Twitter, Facebook, and certain ways to see PPV stuff for free?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

PBS Brings Back Les Miz

A staple during PBS pledge drives is showing the 10th anniversary Dream Cast Special from Les Miserables. It was shown mainly between 1995 and the early 2000s. It was part of my diet of occasional Broadway along with Sweeney Todd, pre-Tim Burton version.

This past weekend, a new version of Les Miserables was shown on PBS during another pledge drive. This was the 25th anniversary arena version that was shown in theaters first (kind of like how they show operas from the Met). It's also available on DVD.

The reviews in the papers mainly harped on how Nick Jonas ruined what's otherwise a really good special. I realize casting him as Marius, the boy among men, is also designed to get the tweens to learn about Broadway. Ironically, the people who created this musical already did that with the "schools version". Seeing young students perform the musical at the very end showed that you don't need a Jonas Brother to keep Broadway alive, If they wanted a teen near-idol as Marius, get Cory Monteith or David Archuleta. At least Lea Michele makes a credible Eponine because she did that as an understudy on Broadway (and young Cosette before that) and in concert in Hollywood.

So, how about the venues: the Dream Cast played at the Royal Albert Hall, while the 25th anniversary event was in the O2 arena, which is like doing A Chorus Line at Madison Square Garden. Despite that, presenting the musical like a massive concert still works, thanks to big screens that add backgrounds and scenes. People still miss the rotating stage, but the O2 stage still works. Also, the Dream Cast is mainly a concert while the 2010 version is more like a musical, including some scenes I didn't see before.
I thought Alfie Boe looked a bit too young as Jean Valjean, but he really made the role his own. Just avoid shedding a tear while he sings "Bring Him Home".
Norm Lewis is a very menacing Javert, a man who has no doubts which winds up staining his humanity. It's the first time I've seen an African-American in that role, but the way he struts around is something you don't forget.
The one thing that recommends this version is bringing back Lea Salonga, the eternal Eponine, as Fantine. Having her be the doomed mother who gives all for Cosette was a great idea.
Matt Lucas makes a great oafish Thenadier, and if his wife looks familiar....yep, it's the same Jenny Galloway who was there 15 years before. Hasn't lost a step. I thought Katie Hall was a bit too bright as Cosette. I guess I prefer Judy Kuhn in that role.

What also makes the 25th anniversary special great is the Four Valjeans, including Colm Wilkerson signing "Bring Him Home". It's as incredible as the hearing 19 different Valjeans from around the world, including Iron Chef Chairman Kaga, signing "Do You Hear the People Sing?" in 1995. Also, we hear from the people who created the musical, including Cameron Mackintosh, and the current London casts and the original members. For now, I'll keep my copy of the Dream Cast, but might pick up the 2010 version eventually.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

History Celebrated in Sacramento

It's not every day that world history can also be celebrated in Sacramento.
Local Egyptians had their say in what was happening in Cairo. First, they held out signs at 16th and J just after the protests started...

Protesters for Change

The real celebration, and honoring those who sacrificed to change Egypt, came recently. It was at the same corner, but it was just different. I didn't feel I was part of it, but I wanted to be there to show others what it was like, which is why I'm glad to share these pictures...

Egypt is free!

But we should not forget...

Holding a candle and a name

Honoring the best in America and Egypt

It's interesting that Egypt winds up being the best example of people power, and the strongest since the Philippines in the '80s. In the U-S, we have Tea Party followers demanding smaller government, no more spending, lower taxes, and maybe someone else as president. All the shouting, though, winds up to be just that: shouting, which results to nothing except the latest catch phrase which a pundit uses to look messianic and ratings-savvy. What Egypt did, with its shouting, resulted in a new country, and hopes for a new future.

The Return of ICWXP: The Return of Rikk Wolf

Three years ago, heavy metal musician and MST3K fan Rikk Wolf decided, with a few friends, to make a little project where he was a zombie-fighting soldier trapped in a movie theatre with two weird looking robots. A mad scientist forces them to watch bad movies, mainly for fun. He admits it's cruel, and sounds vaguely familiar.
It was made into a DVD called Incognito Cinema Warriors XP, and it was sold on MySpace.
Little did he know that he would create an internet sensation, and something that MST fans have been craving for since the Satellite of Love went into TV history.

Now, after two years of weather disasters, technical difficulties, and depression that the Chiefs weren't what they used to be, Rikk is back with a new ICWXP movie. This time, Rikk, Johnny Cylon, Zed the Zombie Head and TopsyBot 5000 face new perils, including the most boring horror movie ever, and a new Big Bad.

Everything about it is new, starting with a live-action version of the old theme, complete with zombies who are looking for brains or a walk-on role in The Walking Dead. Rikk also recorded a new version of the theme, plus other scenes from episodes never shown including an homage to Dragon Ball.
After a sketch that mocks Starbucks, Rikk and the Bots see that Dr. Blackwood, their old nemesis, has been sent off. He's replaced by Special Agent Kincaid (Gregory Wyatt Tinnen), who is so evil he could clearly be Pearl Forrester's male clone. Anywho, he works for the Ludivico Corporation (who probably started this zombie apocalypse because it's so Resident Evil), and he decides to show bad movies more cruelly. He even has an evil smartphone that Pearl would envy.

We start with Ghost Rider, which isn't the Nicholas Cage movie, It's a safety film where a new kid learns about bus safety from a ghost. It's not bad, but it does drive Cylon to sing Jim Croce and TB5K to remark "The dead walk the earth and they want us to read bus safety pamphlets." It also ends with Topsy doing a killer Morgan Freeman.
Then the gang is startled by a famous Lucky Strike ad where cigarettes are square dancing. In fact, we got a lot of callbacks from the short and ad.

The main event: Werewolf in a Girls Dormitory, an 1961 Italian horror movie which is self-explanatory. After very sexy horror flicks like Lady Frankenstein and Bloody Pit of Horror (yes, even that Crimson Executioner guy), we get 87 minutes of droning talk between the characters about blackmail, gossip, funerals and zzzzzzzzzz, etc. We barely get three minutes of werewolf, and it's not even a good one. In fact, it's described as a "were-Michael C. Hall". We're supposed to wonder who the werewolf is: the Peter Lorre caretaker, the teacher who could be a young Frau Blucher, the handsome new teacher, an old guy who's having a near-affair with one of the students, his creepy wife, or maybe whoever came up with this movie. Rick and the gang have to muster all their strength to come up with some good riffs to keep from dozing off.

Some examples:

Opening titles show the "horror" of the monster: "It's the Satan Platypus!"
The new teacher shows up: "I think I'm going to live it here on Wicker Man Island."
Alfred goes home after talking to Mary, the student who's blackmailing him: "He's gonna lay low in Paul Lynde's house for a while."
The caretaker sneaks into the girls' bedroom: "Ben Roethlisberger, your wet dream is here."
When the real werewolf is revealed in a "plot swivel", he then attacks one of the students: "This makes me feel like a teen wolf again."

The host segments include Cylon and Topsy mocking Ghosthunters, with a surprise cameo, Topsy doing something so disturbing it excites Kincaid, and the worst surprise party ever. There's even a callback to the letters segment MST3K did way back when.
It's clearly a triumphant return to form for ICWXP. Sadly, it's also the last movie they're going to attack. They're switching to short subjects that could be even worse than any movie Nicholas Cage is in. But we're left wondering what is Kincaid's deal, where he got that evil smartphone, and whether Dr. Blackwood is gone.

Actually, we get a few clues in the extras: Rikk has a commentary on the host segments, and reveals a few tidbits on what's to come. He also includes a couple of music videos from his band At the Left Hand of God. There's a Q and A session with Rikk, Tinnen and Zach Legler (Cylon). They even answer a question I forgot I ever sent them. I do find out Rikk didn't start this show because he worked at an AMC theater. We also see how the bots were made, and a quick tour of the studio. It's more cramped than Best Brains in its early days, but it shows how damn good humor can spring from humble beginnings.

They have a new website at, where you can get past DVDs, YouTube bits, including the new theme, links to Twitter and Facebook, apparel, and even a hint on what season one will be all about. I'm praying for Robo-Blackwood, personally, or maybe the zombies will make their own TV show about how they battle the hideous threat of the living, and call it The Walking Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnssssss.
Until then, pray for Rikk Wolf, Johnny Cylon, Zed and TopsyBot 5000..and for more adventures to come.
Maybe they can throw in their version of Alice from Resident Evil, or whoever Kate Beckinsale plays in Underworld, who helps them out because she is an even bigger MST3K fan.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Oscar Party: The Real Season Begins

The Golden Globes were a usual.
So, the Screen Actor's Guild Awards is the real start of the speculation on who will be the new Hollywood Royalty after this 2011 Academy Awards.

So far, people think that The King's Speech is the odds-on favorite for Best Picture, after The Social Network was given that title thanks to movie critics and film societies. People are now betting on TKS because Oscar voters are old, and like quaint things. TKS is an old-fashioned British period piece like (ugh) The English Patient. It's about a British King....who has a stammer....which he has to overcome as his country is hurtling towards World War II. It screams Oscar bait, although not on purpose. This is to Oscar voters what Red Bull is to college students who have to finish a term paper three hours before it's due.
Granted, I loved it. Seeing Colin Firth as a King who is just plain scared to talk in public places, partially because he thinks he's destined to be lost in the shadow of the future Edward VIII, is quite a sight. Remember, we see him as the dashing romantic hero with a way with words.

Still, Oscar voters would rather vote for this man rather than Jesse Eisenberg, who plays the total asshole who gave us Facebook. In fact, Jesse might be considerd third behind Jeff Bridges, who is wonderful as the real Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. I just saw the 1969 version on AMC, and that version just wouldn't fly today. John Wayne got his Oscar for that version because it was mainly his last hurrah as a western hero. However, The True Grit of 1969 was too...bright and clean. It was more of a family movie, like The Rifleman. The Coens thought we should see the real True Grit of the 1880's. We hear what people really talked like back then. We don't see Mattie's family because, aside from Rooster and LeBouef, she is on her own in her bid to avenge her father's murder. Also, the ending is much different.
It also made me would John Wayne handle Hallie Steinfeld, and how she portrayed Mattie Ross. It would have been a better match.

But back to's a good piece of history, but The Social Network is also good history, and it cuts between the two lawsuits Mark Zuckerberg is battling, and how he created Facebook. You see Eisenberg as a driven guy who is so focused, he forgets to make enough friends to have his back. It's a good story...if you're under 45. If not, you'll go to the old-fashioned drama of TKS.

Overall, the academy may spread the wealth in the major awards. TKS gets Best Actor and maybe Best Picture, Social Network gets Best Director and Adapted Screenplay, Inception should get Best Original Screenplay while Christopher Nolan would have the right to punch anyone who didn't think he should have been in the Best Director mix, Christian Bale gets Supporting Actor for The Flighter, while Steinfeld wins Supporting Actress, and Natalie Portman wins Best Actress for Black Swan (and for wisely making a sex comedy that will be 125 times better than the kind of sex "comedies" that will come down the pike in a few weeks (coughJustGoWithItcoughHallPasscoughevenworsethanNoStringsAttached).

ETA: Sure enough, TKS takes best cast. If the actors are leaning towards the traditional choice, then Social Network just lost its last chance to get the middle-age vote. TKS is a shoo-in in the BAFTAs in two weeks. It's all because in TKS, we have a hero and a comeback story. In Social Network, you have a massive jerk who just didn't have enough regrets while he was changing how we use the internet.
I am surprised Melissa Leo beat Hailee Steinfeld in Best Supporting Actress. It looks like Leo will get the sweep, along with Christian Bale. Steinfeld's last best hope could be the BAFTAs, if she wins Best Actress over Natalie Portman. I really think if we get a major upset somewhere, it would be there.

Donald Sutherland and the Walk of Fame

While my hopes of seeing Conan and Ellen Degeneres didn't work out (tip: call the Ellen Standby line hotline at 8:00:01 AM), I did enjoy seeing Donald Sutherland get his star on the Walk of Fame, just off of Hollywood and Orange. It is also where they shot an early scene from the original Buffy movie. It was where she was leaving a lousy movie. The building used to be a movie house, but has been converted to a fancy strip mall. It was also a chance to take my Kodak Zi6 for a whirl. Thing is, I also tried to take photos at the same time, and put both cameras above a few photographers who were in front of me.
However, the photos came out much better.....

Hearing His Resume

With Colin Farrell, who will be in a movie with Donald called "Horrible Bosses":

Colin Farrell for Donald Sutherland

and the sign, who is wondering when its first close-up is coming...

Hey, isn't this my moment?

The Flickr set is right here.