Monday, December 21, 2009

Movie Review - Avatar

James Cameron has become somewhat of a legend within the Malone compound.  My wife commented last night that we have an obsession with over-the-top action movies in my family.  It wasn't until I started formulating my movie review in my head that I came to agree with her.  James Cameron was a major part of that upbringing.  Aliens, The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and True Lies were the things my 10-year old mind embraced and marveled in (all edited on television, of course). The explosions, the guns, the fighting/action, the details were all things that I associate with him.  So I've come to expect big things out of Cameron, and all the hype around Avatar had me...wary.

In the last decade (since everyone is coming out with their END OF THE DECADE lists), there's really only a handful of movies that have lived up to the expectations, most recently The Dark Knight.  Movies lately have fallen into three different categories - Overhyped flops, average flicks, or under-the-radar successes.  The biggest hype around Avatar was the cinematics, and the stories that I had heard revolved around Cameron not wanting to make this film unless the technology could show what he had in his mind.  Cameron has had this idea floating around in his head since 1994, and was budgeted $195 million from Fox for the movie.

The question that I've been asked by everyone is "Was it worth it?"  Ashely and I bought tickets a week ago for the IMAX 3D viewing experience, and at $14.00 per ticket, I was tentative.  We'd seen 3D movies before, the last one being Coraline.  While the movie was good, the 3D was just...there.  As if the moviemakers wanted to create a 3D movie just to make it, but instead of immersing the movie in 3D, they had some things pop out at you.

"Avatar" does more than just make images pop out.  The 3D in Avatar gives so much depth to the movie, it creates an entirely new viewing experience.  The opening scene with Jake Sully (the protagonist) coming out of a cryogenic slumber sets the stage for what you will view.  Imagine what viewing DVDs did to the VHS market.  Many VHS defenders clamored "But the movie is still the same!"  Now that DVD's have overtaken VHS, go back and try to watch a video.  You have to REWIND the video, everything looks kind of hazy, the colors not as crisp, the actors not as clear.  You will have this same experience watching Avatar in 3D.  The depth completely changes your view.

The movie synopsis is predictable and formulaic.  The actors are stereotypical.  My personal favorite scene was Colonel Miles Quaritch, the gruff, hardnose, unrelenting and unemotional military colonel who just wants to fight, doing bench presses with about 300-350 pounds and being able to hold a normal conversation (not straining at all).  There's corny dialogue (not Titanic cheesy, but more True Lies corny), a goofy love story, and a predictable ending.  However, this isn't a movie made to change the world or cause the movie critics to explode with inner delight.  This is a good movie, with a decent story, lots of action, that will make you feel good at the end.  This is a movie that would blow everyone away in the summer blockbuster months.  This is a "James Cameron Blockbuster" in the truest sense of the word.  Grab your popcorn, embrace the 3D, sit in the top of the theater (especially if you see IMAX), and have a good time.

If the movie wasn't 3D and the technology wasn't as good, this would be your average holiday movie in almost every sense of the word.  Average actors. Average story.  Above average music.  Average message.  However, it should be a testament to the technology that it could sway my rating as much as it has.  Remember this: James Cameron has changed the way movies will be made with this technology, and this movie will change the way you view others from here on out.

IMDB Rating (out of 10) - 8.9/10 with 23,174 votes
Rotten Tomatoes rating (out of 100) - 83% with 204 reviews
Metacritic Review (out of 100) - 8.6/10 from users with 421 votes

MY REVIEW (out of 100) - 84%

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jon and Kate + Hate, or, The Canadians Get It!*

Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cage.

Cast in this unlikely role
Ill-equipped to act
With insufficient tact
One must put up barriers
To keep oneself intact.

Rush, Limelight

Jon and Kate have a set of twins, and a set of sextuplets. The production company, Figure 8 Films, records their life as a reality. Recently controversy has erupted over Jon and a woman, and now continue like a cloud over the entire premise of the show.

I'm not surprised.

I don't care for reality TV. The biggest misnomer the TV outlets portray is reality TV. Nothing on reality television shows is real. Reality is BORING. You want to know reality? Brandt wakes up very groggy. He showers while catching up on the radio he missed yesterday. He eats Frosted Shredded Wheat with 1/2% milk and a hot cup of Choffy, and reads Nobody wants to see that. I am even boring myself writing that. We should change the genre of this phenomenon to voyeuristic drama. Nobody on Survivor, the Hills, Big Brother, I Love New York, Rock of Love, or even Jon and Kate Plus 8 are showing their true colors.

That being said, here's where things went horribly wrong for the show.

First, the show was intriguing to people for a number of reasons, most notably, coping with not just twins, but sextuplets that are relatively close in age. For someone coming from a small family (such as I), this was an interesting look into how big families operate. For someone coming from a large family (such as Ashley), it was a walk down memory lane. When we first found the show, we would watch, and Ashley would comment "I remember dinners like that," or, "I remember coming home from the grocery store with enough food to feed an army," or "I always wanted my own room, but I had to share." I think this is one of the reasons why the show worked. It appealed to a large number of people. Recent parents, people from small families, people from large families, people who struggle to make the bills, people who were wondering if they were the only ones struggling to raise children.

Now it's a brag-fest of all the great things the Gosselin's lives. Free trip to Utah? Great, make a show out of it. Jon wants hair plugs? Make a show out of it. Teeth whitening? Sure! I'm not sure when dental practices became fodder for the prime-time TV spots, but apparently, like I've heard others comment, I didn't know that watching people perform tasks that others perform every day was entertainment. To quote Richard Rife, from his blog, "Another time, Jon cooked breakfast while the kids got in his way. I’ve got my fingers crossed that sometime in the future I’ll get to see Kate vacuum the carpet or Jon mow the lawn, while, of course, the kids cause irritation. "

Here's the thing that people either fail to comprehend or don't want to see: Jon and Kate are driven by ratings. This "controversy" (which I am still skeptical about) of Jon caught with another woman was the perfect thing for them. They were probably losing viewers after season 4, and now they've got the perfect draw for people to watch.

It's deplorable, yes, but it is the honest way in which viewership works. The editing of shots with both Jon and Kate are done so you see their worst sides. They have production meetings where they lay out a game plan of the questions to be asked/answers to be given. This is not "reality," any more than Obama wanting to grab a hamburger could be considered "Reality".

Jon and Kate have both mentioned that they deplore the paparazzi, and they hate the publicity. However, it's the exact opposite. Kate, you don't want the paparazzi following your kids with you into the Dollar Store? First, don't parade your kids. That wasn't safety, that was "look at us." Second, don't coordinate their dress so it's obvious they're multiples. Third, don't go to the Dollar Store in the middle of the day. Go late at night. Be smooth about this stuff. You don't hear about some celebrities because they understand the game. Jon, you don't want the tabloids commenting on your every move? GET OUT OF SHOW BUSINESS! Even I, an amateur culture critic, knows that you sign up for the good AND the bad. That trip to Disneyland was great wasn't it? It was complimentary wasn't it? That's the good. You portray yourself as a good family guy, then walk into a bar, POTENTIALLY make a mistake that is blown out of proportion? That's the bad.

Jon and Kate, you had so much potential. Now you just look like entitled sleazeballs desperate for the media spotlight not aware of the consequences. The stopwatch is ticking, and it shows your 15 minutes of fame at 14 minutes 59 seconds.

* For those of you who don't get the title, Rush was a Canadian band.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Movie Review: "Up"


Over the last 5 years, many people, after seeing the trailers for the summer blockbusters, say "Where is the originality?" It is easy for people to criticize a director or producer for not wanting to experiment with a new topic. Instead, many rehash books, remake movies, and create sequels/prequels for an original story. While I'm not going to delve into why this isn't a bad thing, I do want to praise Pixar for an achievement that continues their 10 movie run, going all the way back to Toy Story in 1995. The success is the thing that movie makers should study, namely (in my opinion), only putting out quality movies, instead of making a quick buck (see "The Hottie and the Nottie"). "Up" continues that tradition of breathtaking visuals, masterful storytelling, and touching your heart in places you didn't think could be touched (and I mean that sincerely).

"Up" could be viewed as a 3-part play, plus an epilogue. We start by meeting the young Carl Fredricksen, watching the old newsreels movie houses used to show before the film. He idolizes Charles Muntz, the famed adventurer and explorer who has traveled all over the world, yet was shamed through an apparent falsification in one of his discoveries. Carl seems just as scandalized as Muntz does, and as he walks home from the movie, he fantasizes about his own adventure, vowing someday to travel to South America like Muntz.

Carl meets his best friend, the women of his dreams, and she shares the same dream. They plan, and plan, and struggle (after finding out that they won't be able to have children), and plan, and wait, and plan, and finally, when Carl purchases the tickets, tragedy strikes.

End Act 1

We then meet Carl, an old curmudgeon if there ever was one. He wakes up early. He eats bran. He doesn't like the slick developer, with his fancy cell phone (I think Carl was jealous that he didn't have a Jitterbug). He has an altercation, and realizes that the big city isn't the place for him, and loads up his house with balloons and heads for South America, to Paradise Falls, to be like his hero. Yet Carl has a visitor. After struggling to make it to the place that he and his beloved had desired to plant their house, he makes it, and realizes he's spent his entire life wishing, and not enough doing.

End Act 2

I'm not one for superlatives, or over-praising a trendy movie, but "Up" was one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. And I loved "Ratatouille," I loved "Wall-E," "The Incredibles," and all the other 5 movies (in my opinion, "Cars" wasn't that good and it was too much of a product-selling ploy). The visuals make you forget its animated, yet want more. The humor is subtle and glaringly obvious, but not overdone. The story is one that will have an old, crotchety amateur movie reviewer giggle and smile like a little kid. And for some reason, that takes a lot. I like to get emotionally wrapped in my movies, as long as I can have a critical eye and examine the flaws. Yet "Up" forces you afterward to wonder about Carl, and yourself, and wonder if you're letting life pass you by because you're waiting for your "moment." It shows that everyone needs a friend, and everyone wants to be wanted.

I hope that the current trends on both and Rotten Tomatoes continue to give credit to this beautiful movie.

My Score - 94% - 9.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes - 98%
Eric D. Snider - A-

Friday, January 16, 2009

Exciting News

As of today, I am now a writer at Rexburbia. It's a great site, with a great owner, and I'm honored to be asked to write there.

That being said, I'll be updating this 3 days a week, and over there three days a week. While you're over there, take a look at the podcast as well, because I'll probably be involved with that as well.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back in Black

I'm back...

Just letting everyone know...

Last semester I was taking all my finance classes, and after many all-nighters, many near-misses in throwing my laptop against the wall, and waay too much time playing around with Microsoft Excel, I made it through. I'm now entering my last semester, and I'm grouchier than ever. I'm interning at my job on campus, taking a business capstone class along with my last 2 advertising classes.

Because I've time now, in between complaining about all the students in Rexburg, chopping, slicing, and speeding up radio shows that I've gotten online, and watching every movie I can get my hands on (for some reason I think I'm a movie reviewer), I'm going to be back here, updating 4x per week on sports, politics, religion, Rexburg, movies, books, TV, and whatever else interests me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is America the Best?

Now that the Olympics are over, and the medal count has been counted up, we see that order is restored in the universe. Kobe, Lebron, CP3, and D-Wayne have brought back gold for USA basketball. Micheal Phelps consumed more calories in a day than a Chinese household does in a week. And the United States won the medal count by 10 medals (110 to China's 100). But wait!!

China won more gold medals than the United States! How can this be? Wait, aren't we supposed to be the gold-medal winning medal-count winning powerhouse? Next thing you know, McDonalds is going to serve healthy food!


In my mind though, this begs a much larger question. Is America the "best?" Are we truly the greatest nation? And what does that all mean?

With our economy being crippled from rising gas prices (I'm trying not to think about the winter, with natural gas prices), and the dollar weakening worse than my willpower when I get a whiff of McDonald's fries, are we really the "greatest," or the "best?"

I'm no scholar or expert...I call it like I see it...and it seems as though this sentiment began after WWII. We entered the 1950's, we were secure, the GI's were beginning their families, and life was happy. As we began a cold war with the USSR, we pushed to be "the best"...the first man on the moon, we were in huge competitions with the Ruskies as to who had the most medal counts, thus giving us bragging rights as the "best" for the next 4 years.

Yet now, there is no more USSR. Russia is still just as scary as it was 25 years ago (even more scary, in my not-so-humble opinion, because I don't think we're paying as close attention to them as we should). We have China, which got a huge love fest from NBC and all the news stations that were invited. India, who are continuing to grow and grow. Korea is becoming more and more of a global player. And there's the United States.

I don't know if we're the best. I do know 3 things (for frequent readers, if you haven't noticed, my mind has to work in threes. If I don't have three reasons for something, I can't write about it...just a heads-up):

1. Without an operational definition of what "The Best" is, we'll never know. Do we have the best education? In grade school, I don't think so, but post-secondary education we are the best.

2. Don't think I'm downplaying the United States. We have the opportunities that might not be afforded in other countries. While living in Korea I ignorantly asked a Korean man, who was complaining about his job, "Why don't you switch jobs?" He told me that Korea isn't like America. You work at one job your entire life. You don't "switch." That's just not the way that careers are. But in America, it's commonplace to switch from job to job (notice the absence of pensions at many jobs as evidence of this).

3. I don't know if I'd say we're the "Best," because I need hard proof and specifics. But I will say we do set up a standard (like it or not, Americans, and like it or not, foreigners). Why do you think Microsoft and Apple are HQ'ed in America? What about Google? WalMart? Why do you think American movies are so popular overseas? Or many international athletes train here? We have an unwritten role to stand up as that standard.

**Random side note - I ALMOST pulled a TAMN and said we aren't the Best, but we are the Blest. Here I am, looking out for your financial well being by not having you smash your face into a computer monitor due to my attempt at being clever**

So no, I don't think we are the best, because we can't define that. But I do think we put forth a standard to the rest of the world. If that makes me a fat American who only thinks about McDonalds and having Chinese labor workers make $0.02 per day while stiching my jeans, so be it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why Can't I Hate You?!?!, or, Finishing Twilight

I did it. I finished Twilight, the international phenomenon by Mrs. Meyer. And in all honesty, it wasn't as bad as I thought.

I can hear your gasps now, and hear all of you falling off your chairs

I know, pick yourself up off the floor. I enjoyed a femmy, mushy, love story. Aside from the fact that she decided to take a different view of vampires, I found myself wrapped up in it.

But I won't tell you about the story, or about Belle as a typical 17-year old, or Charlie as the overprotective father...

I do want to talk about WHY it was enjoyable, and answer a question that was posed to me.

I find that there are 3 reasons why I didn't want to rip my eyeballs out while reading.

1. It was a story written about teenagers in high school. While in my mature 24-year old world I scoff at the "first kiss" and holding hands for the first time and the ever present area of crushes, I found this book to be transporting me back to high school. She wrote in from a girl's perspective, which is filled with the mushy details that girls love (and crave, something that my wife is still working on with getting me to participate), and while I did get bored in the middle of the book, the game of cat-and-mouse that they play brought back reminisces of high school love.

2. Vampires rock. That's all I have to say. I found the scenes where he was threading the line between human and vampire to be quite telling of the feelings we all have, doing the right thing compared to doing what we want to do. Not wanting to get all literary (because Ashley would eat me for lunch), but I did enjoy that

3. Going along with the vampires theme, she tried to do something different. Love or hate the character of Bella or Edward, love or hate the story, or the circumstances, she tried to break out of the box. Not a blatantly Mormon book (unless people know), but also not a book where she relies on the cliches of vampires and teenage love.

From Chelsey:

Let's talk about Twilight after you finish it.... I am betting you will find Bella as annoying as I did.

The annoyance I did find with Bella was the immaturity and wishy-washy-ness that goes with teenagers.



What I did find to be the utmost of annoyance is her constantly wanting to be turned into a vampire. For example, the end of the book when she tells Edward that she was kind of hoping that her getting all dressed up was for him turning her into a vampire, I wanted to scream at her. Again, at the time I was thinking "You are so stupid girl, why would you WANT to be a vampire, if other than to be with Edward?"

I thought about it more, and it really does show the immaturity and impulsiveness of teenagers. She took no thought as to how she would survive, how it took Carlisle decades of self-control and perseverance to practice medicine and be around blood, how she has no comprehension of the intoxicating power than humans can put off (according to Edward and James), and has no clue the struggle that Edward goes through.

But is that not a teenager? I did so much stupid crap when I was a teenager, not looking at the effect that it could have on the future. In all honesty, I should be either dead, in jail, or working at a 7-11 (is that really that bad of a career choice? Slurpees every single day? I SUBMIT IT IS NOT!) So while I did get annoyed with her (and her over-emphasis and over-analyzation of ever nuance), in a sense I appreciate it, because I think she captures what every teenage girl thinks. Which would explain why it's such a huge hit for teenies.


What's next on tap for me?

Reading - Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life - The Authorized Biography of Hugh Nibley by Boyd Jay Peterson (his son-in-law)...very good so far, with many anecdotes into his life and many wonderful stories about the man, myth, and legend

Watching - Now that the Olympics are over, I should probably catch up on TV shows for the upcoming fall season, but I'll probably end up being glued to the tube for the Democratic National Convention this week in Denver

Listening To - The newcomers into Radio and Record's Top 20, which include a debut by Archuletta called "Crush," a great diddy by Saving Able called "Addiction," and a rocker by my boy Daughtry called "What About Now." Ashley just told me that Chris has taste...and I was confused. She said that her and Chris Daughtry were so close that they had a first name, not a last name, basis going. Jim Rome is back from vaycay this week, and also I'm going to overload on Glenn, Rush, and Sean with the DNC happening tomorrow.

Questions, suggestions, or opinions that you want addressed can be emailed to brandt(dot)malone(at)