Friday, November 30, 2007

Mr. Rocks' Magical Soapbox

I try my best not to let my blog be just a dumping ground for all of my personal rants that nobody would want to hear in real life. However, once in a while something irks me to the point that I feel compelled to write about it. Today, that something is the film "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium."

This film bothered me from the moment I heard it's title. Magorium is not a name-- anywhere. Nowhere on this planet is there anybody with the name Magorium, which means that the character's name was just a rhyming device necessary to create a supposedly clever title. If we're making up names, why not call it "Mr. Shmarehouse's Wonderful Warehouse" or "Mr. Tralabishment's Incredible Establishment?"

Secondly, this is yet another in Dustin Hofman's growing line of awful selections of film projects. What is happening to the brains of his generation of actors. Most of the main stars of the 1970's (Pacino, DeNiro, Hoffman) are now choosing absolute nonsense films, effectively ruining their legacy. I have not seen this film, and never will, because to view even one frame of Hoffman's asinine appearance makes me want to either punch him, or myself in the face.

What has happened to children's entertainment these days. I don't mean overall-- that is just too big a topic for this blog. I mean in terms of decent children's feature films. Between this one, "Nanny McPhee" and "High School Musical" I can see why kids are growing up so fast these days-- it's no fun to be a kid anymore. Give them something on par with "The Goonies" or "The Monster Squad"-- something that actually engages them-- and maybe they'll stay around in the basement watching them over and over like I did when I was a kid.

Okay, rant over.

Trailer: "Funny Games"

German filmmaker Michael Haneke, director of the 2005 thriller "Cache", has quite the cast for his new film. In his U.S. debut he directs Naomi Watts and Tim Roth as a couple who are the unfortunate pawns in the twisted game that their neighbor ("Last Days" Michael Pitt) has devised. Their objective-- stay alive. The neighbor's objective-- win the game.

This one kind of snuck up on me. I hadn't heard anything about it and it actually looks quite good. If done well, it has the potential to be a modern take on the great film "Straw Dogs." Maybe that's setting the bar high, but with the caliber of this cast, I'd say the odds are in the film's favor.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mad TV - supporting cast = Frank TV ?

After having funnyman(?) Frank Caliendo crammed down my throat in every other commercial running on TBS, I decided to give his new show "Frank TV" a shot. After all, I like impressionists, especially those who can supposedly do hundreds of spot-on impressions. The problem with that is, after the 8 or so main impressions that Caliendo displays on his commercials, the rest just aren't that good. Hell, even some of his marquee impressions are just okay.

First thing's first, and I may be a jerk for saying it, but Caliendo is a stocky guy at best. Sure, that fits the persona of some of his characters, for instance, Doctor Phil. However, when you're trying to sell Caliendo as an Al Pacino or as the entire cast of Seinfeld, it does nothing to help his act that he is about 100 pounds heavier than the people he is impersonating.

Having said that, some of his voice impressions are quite good. His George W. Bush is probably the best I have ever heard. And of course his John Madden is good, if only as a complete and utter caricature. But he obviously relies heavily on these two impressions, and they are wearing thin quickly.

After having watched two full episodes of the show, I cannot see how TBS possibly expects this show to sustain any amount of freshness given Caliendo's rather limited stable of good impressions. His particular type of comedy seems better suited to skits on Sunday football telecasts and Fox's poorly rated "Mad TV."

In the word's of Caliendo's "John Madden":
"Here's a guy who hit the jackpot and better cash his checks before TBS gets the ratings in or BOOM he's gone."

Monday, November 26, 2007

I've chosen a side...

One of the traditions of a couple who are getting married is to exchange "wedding gifts" on the morning of your wedding day. Until I was actually about to get married I had never heard of such a thing. It's a good thing I did, though, because my lovely new bride saw fit to present me with an HD-DVD player on the morning of our nuptials. In my shock it didn't even occur to me that my choice in the next-gen high def movie formats had just been made for me. Like a sandwich that was made by your Mom, everything is better when someone else does it for you.

I know how I am, and I would have bellyached about "which format should I buy" forever, instead of just getting the sack to just dive in and make a choice. Well, that choice has been made and I am having a ball with the new format. As of yet I only have Peter Jackson's "King Kong" to tinker with, but the difference in picture and sound is clearly evident. I also have several freebie HD-DVD's from a mail in rebate coming to me, and believe me when I say I am anxiously awaiting them.

Do I know whether or not HD-DVD will win the format war in the end? No. But now that I actually have one of the formats that are at war, I look at it this way-- If HD wins in the end that's great, I'll be ahead of the game. If HD loses out to Blu-Ray, that's fine too. I'll get myself a Blu-Ray player and stock up on all of the HD-DVD's that everyone will be unloading on the cheap. Now that's what call a win-win, buddy.

(Pictured above is the actual player I have. It's the XBOX 360 HD-DVD Drive. )

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Honeymooners

I just got married and I'm off to the Bahamas for a week. I'll be back Sunday with a sunburn and a hangover. Until then, enjoy Thanksgiving and save me some Turducken.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lost Web-isode #1 "The Watch"

So, apparently we'll be getting some new "Lost" snippets over the next few weeks. I wasn't even aware that these weekly interstitials were coming out. After watching this one I have to say, I'm not impressed. First off, the production value is pretty damn low. It looks like it was shot on the fly with a digital camera. And the music was definitely just pulled from the generic "Lost" soundtrack, which smacks of fan film. I spent the whole 3 minutes waiting for a punchline, because it looks like an SNL digital short that would be making fun of Lost. Hopefully this isn't what they are all going to be like, because if so that would be a letdown.

Here is where I would normally tell you to check it out for yourself below, but Disney pulled all of the YouTube versions of the clip so I can't host the actual video here. What a pain in the ass. However, you can go here to see it at the official site.

DVD Review: "Severance"

Sometimes advertising can taint the expectations of moviegoers before they've even seen a film. The tagline for "Severance" is as follows: "It's The Office meets Deliverance." Not only does that set the bar awfully high for the film, but what about those people who don't particularly like "The Office" or have never even heard of "Deliverance?" Such is the case with the marketing of "Severance", which is an original, well written thriller.

The film follows a group of office workers who embark on a team building retreat in the mountains of Eastern Europe. However, these people don't work in just any old office, they're employees of Palisade Defence, one of the biggest weapons manufacturers in the world (think Halliburton). Without giving away any major plot points, the idea behind the story is that someone or something wants these employees to pay for the sins of their company, and they must try to survive on their own in the middle of nowhere, with no means of calling for help.

Marketing "Severance" by likening it to other films/TV shows does it a disservice, especially in terms of it's originality. The script is intelligent and funny, yet the levity never undermines the elements of horror and suspense that make this a pretty thrilling film. My suggestion is to watch this film with no preconceived notions and you'll find it's a quality horror film that got somewhat lost in a market flooded with mediocre films.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Here is the trailer--

Sunday, November 11, 2007

DVD Review: "Sicko"

The following is taken directly from the text of one of the greatest speeches in American history, Dr.Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech:

"White men refuse to believe negroes have come to this hallowed spot to engage in the luxury of police brutality" *

What's the matter? That doesn't sound like something Dr. King would have said? Hmm. Well he did, in fact, say every one of those words in that speech-- he just didn't say them in exactly that order. But, according to the Michael Moore logic of picking and choosing contexts, this is fair. So should I set off to make a documentary claiming that Martin Luther King viewed police brutality as a luxury? The answer is no. The same is true for Moore's making a documentary about the American healthcare system.

Moore has always been very selective in choosing only statistics and "evidence" that support his claims. With no regard for presenting truth, he bends and shapes whatever research makes it look as if his point is valid. Problem with that is, the film that results from such discriminatory practices is tantamount to a propaganda film. Propaganda or not, at least his other films were somewhat entertaining to watch. The same cannot be said for this one.

"Sicko" is yet another in Moore's ever growing oeuvre of films that are a patchwork of cheap, sensationalistic, and often patronizing editing tricks. At this point I feel like I don't I need to highlight the hypocritical aspect of Moore's films and persona. Instead I'll use a visual aid to illustrate one of his editing tricks that may slip by someone who doesn't know what to look for.

In this scene, notice how whenever Moore has the bullhorn to his mouth, the scene is cut away. He is never shown on camera talking into it, and the voice that is supposed to be coming out of it is obviously dubbed from a studio recording. Just one of the many tricks he uses.

Score: 1 out of 5

*(I pulled the text of Dr. King's speech from this page.)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Withersin Magazine

As of today my movie reviews are being published on the website of the literary magazine Withersin. The magazine is described as "a fresh and intelligent change of pace. A new genre in literature; exploring an unconventional side of the human condition." They have a lot of fiction, non-fiction and reviews--most leaning toward the horror genre. Check out the site, it's pretty cool. And while you're there don't forget to checkout my reviews here.

Monday, November 5, 2007


As of Monday November 5th I will be entering into a one week long fast of mostly every kind of media I am accustomed to. That's right-- no movies, no television and no internet. I will, however, access the internet for Grad school purposes only. I'm doing for several reasons, not the least of which is that I need to devote more time to my own career-related writing. Also, I do have a Wedding coming up, I think... I'll have to check on that.

Anyway, starting today, I will be out of commission from popular media for exactly one week. I'm not saying it will be easy, I'm not saying I'll come out alive... I'm not saying you care, but I'm going to try. See you in a week.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Trailer: "Wanted"

I was a fan of Timur Bekmambetov's Russian mega-hit "Nightwatch." I've yet to see the sequel, "Daywatch", which was just released to DVD this week. Now he is back with his American debut in the form of "Wanted." He was able to attract some heavy-hitters, in terms of Hollywood stars. Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman-- not too shabby. However, with very similar films such as "Shoot 'Em Up" not exactly lighting up the box office of late, one wonders whether there is an audience for this type of over stylized action film right now.

Don't get me wrong, I love these films, but everyone knows that the genres come in waves that ebb and flow. Just look at horror-- not too long ago nobody was making horror films; Now they are the hot ticket. Regardless, it looks pretty fun, and James McAvoy was great in "The Last King of Scotland", though this isn't exactly the role I saw him in following that film.

Anyway, I'll have 2 tickets to "Wanted", a large popcorn and a soda, and that's all I'll expect to get out of this one, which is fine by me.