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.