We're here to evict you, fookin prawn

fookin prawns

Fred’s take:

District 9 is brilliant. Luminary. A fucking torch in the desolate landscape that is this thing called culture. And this is true on all levels. Yes, it is an exciting and well-paced action movie. The alien tech in here is just ridiculous. More people explode than you could ever possibly expect, and that is awesome.

But you can go see poorly directed and confusing action with way more explosions in GI Joe and Transformers 2. So why should you care about District 9? Because it has the thing that those movies forgot about – characters. Neill Blomkamp does a masterful job of creating characters that you actually care about. The main character starts off as an asshole but becomes the hero you’d hope him to be in a believable fashion, while the other major character you follow is an alien that is incredibly expressive without ever saying a word that you would understand.

And District 9 is smart. It is a story that you have not seen before (unless you watched Blomkamp’s short film that he expanded for this). None of the usual cliches from sci-fi are present here. I don’t even have the words to express my sheer joy and wonder at having seen this movie. Go watch it if you like an action movie that also has brains and (dare I say it?) heart.

Back up, BAMF coming through

Back up, BAMF coming through

Matt’s take:

District 9 is the sci-fi movie I’ve been waiting for. It proves you can marry the explosions of The Transformers and the brains of Moon and come out the other side with one of the best movies of the year. And these explosions have purple electricity arcing through their smoke clouds. Take that Michael Bay.

District 9 is all about the alien Prawns (a derogatory name given to them by humans) and their oppression at the hands of MNU. Wikus van der Merwe (played by newcomer Sharlto Copley) comes into the scene as the leader of an MNU initiative to relocate all of the Prawns to District 10. He starts the movie as an ignorant, bumbling racist, but he’s not unlikable. He almost comes across as childlike with his sweater vest and parted hair and the way he gets excited when he talks about his wife. He’s a very human character that I could relate to and his evolution over the film is believable and even heart wrenching at parts.

Blomkamp should also be lauded for giving the aliens emotion and making me care about them. Here are these hideous bug creatures that would terrify me if I bumped into one in a dark alley, but by the end of the movie I found myself completely sympathizing with them (it doesn’t help that there is an alien child that’s really cute).

This might not just be one of the best sci-fi films I’ve seen, but one of my favorite movies period. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I am very much looking forward to the next movie Neill Blomkamp has up his imaginitive sleeves.

The Prisoner redux

August 12, 2009

So not only is AMC doing Walking Dead, but they’re also doing a new version of The Prisoner, a classic 17 episode miniseries about the community where they retire spies.

RESIST BAMF

RESIST BAMF

And so one man must try to escape. They also use these big white floating bubbles to capture those who try to get away.

omnomnom no escape

omnomnom no escape

The original was an awesome show, AMC is a kickass cable channel (see: all their recent original programming) and they got Ian McKellan for the remake. Loving it.

signing off//

You will not often see me writing up reviews of video games for the simple fact that I am of that breed of casual gamers whose last video game related purchase was the second super smash brothers (brawl? royale? gangbang? mosh pit? the game cube one.) I generally just play video games when with other people in a social setting. So I leave such opinions to my far more qualified colleague.

But at Comic Con I was able to play video games that have not yet been released and as such I will offer up what thoughts I have based on the less than five minutes of game play I was afforded by the sweaty, throbbing mass of body parts that is San Diego once a year.

Dante’s Inferno

Okay, so this was the game that I had the most fun playing. I was a fan of the original Devil May Cry back in the day, and this game reminded me of DMC on acid. In the tiny part that I played, I used a giant scythe to cut down skeletons, then performed a combo on a dude riding a three-story minotaur so I could use the minotaur to rip the head off of the skeleton barge that I was using to fly through whatever God-forsaken part of hell that I was in (yeah, at no given point did I really understand why I was doing what I was doing, not that it mattered). The action was crisp and the attacks, thanks to the scythe, were new and interesting. It was easily accessible and, if I still bought video games, I would probably be waiting for this one to come out.

Dead Space: Extraction

I have never been a fan of rail shooters, whether it was Time Cops 2 at Chucky Cheese’s or this Wii bullshit they’re pulling out now. We have the technology, allow me to move on my own accord. The fact that there is a co-op for DS:E at least means that I could see myself having fun playing this with somebody else. But that’s the only context.

Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves

Man, I don’t even know the last time I tried shooting something with a playstation controller that didn’t involve materia and at least one talking animal. While it had smooth gameplay when watching other people play, I was sort of spastic with the whole thing. Still, there seemed to be smooth transition from shooting to hand-to-hand combat when in close with the enemies, including from-behind spine breaks, always a crowd pleaser. Got to play this alongside a guy dressed like Francis from Left 4 Dead who couldn’t figure out until the round was over that he was on the same side as the other players and supposed to be shooting the NPCs.

Left 4 Dead: 2

Really, what else do you need to know about this besides the title? The only new hand weapon I got to play with was what looked like a cricket paddle (?) in a Louisiana swamp, and it had the same sort of awkwardness as when you’re carrying around fire-extinguisher or gas cannister in preperation for when you might need it. But the new guns were fun, and it was nice to have a completely fresh map where you have no clue where you need to go or what the fuck might jump at you when. And we were either playing very easy or else both the tank and the witch have been made much easier to kill.

And that is a summation of my VG experience. There will probably a recap of the webcomics people I hit up soon, and another two-man wolfpack review in honor of Mystery Team, which we also got to see at Comic-Con (Spoiler: It’s goddamn hilarious).

signing off//

So I was going to review Bruno, and probably will later but right now I feel like giving further support to Patrick Stewart being in Harry Potter. The man’s a goddamn institution of geekdom. Bring him to Harry Potter and I don’t know what franchise there is left for him to conquer, except the ones that Christian Bale’s done.

Now, we all have seen his dramatic side (see: all of Star Trek TNG), but he’s a versatile actor. He’s capable of humor (an apparent prerequisite of Harry Potter based on this last movie) :

Educational work (ideal for a professor):

And he’s a song and dance man (not really sure how this helps but what the hey):

So clearly, clearly, Patrick Stewart is your man. Ain’t no two ways about it.

signing off//

ha books! am I right folks?

ha books! am I right folks?

The 6th Harry Potter, here at last. I braved the hordes of dressed up preteens last night to witness this, the near zenith of the cultural phenomenon produced when J.K. Rowling tapped into a worldwide blah blah blah. At this point, you probably know the drill. Lots of books sold. Lots of money made.

But what about the movie? I’m going to skip the plot stuff, because either you’ve already read the book and know what’s going to happen, you haven’t read the book and so don’t want anything runined, or else you purposefully avoid all things Harry Potter. If it’s that last one I feel sorry for you.

this is the entire movie. right here.

this is the entire movie. right here.

The movie itself is alright. While I haven’t read the books recently, I’ve been told by those in the know that several plot elements were dropped. In general, yes, things must be cut from a book (especially books of HP’s girth) in order to be shaped into a movie.  But so much damn time was spent on the relationships and the comedy that they clearly could have fit more important plot into the story. Although judging by the squeals, ahs, and catcalls of the audience around me, they made a smart demographics call. (Seriously, if you wanted to get arrested as a pedophile your best bet was to go to a midnight screening by yourself. 90% children barely in high school.) Any kind of thrill I got from watching it seemed to come from my emotion memory dredging up what I felt when I first read the book and then saying yes, this goes with this part.

On a visual level it was a great movie. They apparently had to tone down the original color scheme, and it was the right move. Everything is bleached all the time, and is one of the few elements that really lends to the sense of foreboding that the movie needs, seeing as how it’s all leading up to the big finale of the 7th book (i.e. people die). Again this comes back to the problem of the focus on relationships, which means less focus on the increasing threat of death eaters. The few wizarding fight sequences were awesome and made me wish that there’d been more.

this is the entire movie. right here.

this is the rest of the movie.

And the acting! As one reviewer said, Hogwarts is a school blessed with a staff made up of the great names of English acting (except for Patrick Stewart, who is once more shafted for any part. What’s a Shakespearean starship captain got to do, Hollywood? When you going to respect?). They all do a wonderful job, but the kids come up short in such exalted company. The worst of the four is Bonnie Wright, playing Ginny Weasly. She really seems to be sort of operating in the “go and do what the director tells me exactly” school of acting. Radcliffe and Gint are both serviceable, and Emma Watson is the one that does the best. I will admit, it doesn’t help them to have  a script with some clunker or cliched lines in the teenage drama vein of “been there, done that”. And how many times must we have a close-up of moodily Radcliffe staring at something?

Wrapping up: it was okay, and surprisingly funny. But the movie also just sort of rolls along its path to the two-parter awaiting us at the end of this crazy train. As an ‘experience’, a part of the mythos, it’s worth seeing. Mostly, though, the movie just made me want to read the books again. Which I suppose isn’t such a bad thing, all in all.

signing off//

Most of what my associate posted goes for myself as well. As a blogger, I work in the same rarified air as a handful of other individuals (Seriously, I haven’t looked at the statistics. How many bloggers are there? 20? And what is the metric measurement for a handful?). With this in mind we must strive to set a sterling example with regards to our standards in reporting on the latest, whether it’s a movie or the newest sex scandal from the bible beltway.

I have a bit more leeway when it comes to reviewing bad things because I receive all products from Alistair, the guy who lives under the lamp post at the end of my block. I slip him a fiver and then he leaves me a flashdrive with all the latest everythings in a Starbucks coffee cup two and a half miles further up the street. It’s a handy system. I also can be stupid about money, which is true about some people (read: most people). So the occassional dud book/movie/band/toddler’s toy wind up in my possession. Which is fine, because my pain services your enlightement, you sado-masochist bastards.

But if I said I enjoyed something and give a glowing recommendation, then yes, I really thought it was good. And that’s a promise. Another promise: in the next 24 hours, I will take a shower. And take a poo. And those are promises you can take to the bank.

Having said all of that from my nifty little soapbox, I will not turn down free handouts. So if anybody out there is reading this and wants to start shipping something my way, drop me a line. #sly wink#

signing off//

Time Wasters

July 10, 2009

So I have a 9 to 5 job that involves sitting in front of a computer – who doesn’t these days. And like many office dwellers, I have found ways to pass the time; a little Facebook Scrabble here, some textsfromlastnight there, a Cracked or Pitchfork article in between. And God help me when it comes to twitter.

But one of the most entertaining of these sites is FML, whose last two initials stand for “my life” and hopefully the first one you can guess. This is pure schadenfreude, the horrible auditions of American Idol combined with the ball smacks of America’s Funniest Home Videos with a tiny dash of To Catch a Predator thrown in. If I feel bad laughing at these stories I only read the “most deserved” entries – there at least I seem to be part of some Karmic wheel of retribution. Besides, I suspect those people just want the attention, no matter the cost of public embarrassment.

So when I was recently linked to the website MyLifeIsAverage, I couldn’t imagine that it would be interesting. It sort of says as much in the title. I mean, I don’t waste my time playing the Sims, you know? Why would I want to read about these people doing what I’m doing.

But it is fascinating, in a sort of meta take on the social media that is the internet. By itself the website would not work. It requires the reader to understand the structure and terrain it exists in, its relation to other major milestones like FML.

Once you have that understanding, MLIA has its own sort of brilliance. Some of the posts are clear responses to items on FML, where the twist at the end of the vignette is that there is no twist. But the more sophisticated posts are the ones with the least subterfuge. They unfold with reassuring ease into a life that you already know:

Today I decided to clean up and organize my room. In the first drawer I cleaned out, I found my old gameboy with my favorite game in it. Instead of finishing my room, I played gameboy all day. MLIA “

MLIA is a mantra, whereas FML is a curse or a bemoanment. FML requires that everyone else either commiserate or say you deserved that one. MLIA is acceptance. It is the lotus path. It isn’t somebody shouting at you through the highspeed DSL “LOOK AT ME!” It simply is.

Today, I will post this article. And some people will read it. MLIA.

The Lost City of BAMF

July 8, 2009

attack of the vines! (seriously, something else that will try to kill your ass)

attack of the vines! (seriously, something else that will try to kill your ass)

I recently finished The Lost City of Z and it’s kind of kick ass if you like Victorian explorers being killed in the Amazon. We’re talking back in the day, 1900s. At that time any kind of expedition was doomed to die, so going into the Amazon, one of the places most likely to actively try and kill you, wasn’t the best way to get low life insurance. And based on my extensive research of steampunk websites, the major means of transportation were zeppelins, sometimes powered by the magic of an evil or neutral wizard, which is a pretty slow way of getting to where you need to go.

aw yeah emmer effer

aw yeah BAMF

The main thrust of this story is Colonel PH Fawcett, who was the kind of guy with a lot of thrust of his own, if you catch my drift (penis). The man was such a BAMF that he wasn’t even a Colonel, only a Lt. Colonel, but convinced everybody to call him Colonel anyway. He went into the Amazon on at least 7 separate occasions. This is a place that really does have those parasites that swim up your penis and require it to be cut off lest you lose everything. Specifically the book is about his last trip, in search of the fabled city of Z, a lost Amazonian city buried under the trees. If only he’d waited ninety years, everything would have been clearcut for him and the problem would be solved. Haha but seriously, we’re killing the environment. Didn’t you see FernGully and feel bad for all the little pixies?

Still, the book itself is interesting, outside of the subject material (There’s a guy in here whose middle name is literally SAVAGE. I mean come on!). We follow the author in his search to solve the mystery of what happened to the Colonel on that last expedition, where he disappeared along with his son and his son’s best friend.  Since this part is sort of a whodunit, I’m not going to say much else except that this nonfiction book reads as well as most mystery novels in your desire to find out how it all ends.

So if you want to learn about the true life person who inspired people like Professor Challenger from the Lost World and Charles Muntz from Up (seriously, they both have a love of dogs and go missing while trying to prove the playahaters wrong in South America), then read The Lost City of Z. I don’t usually do much in the way of non-fiction but this is worth every minute you invest in it. And you get to learn about the many, many ways that the Amazon will try to kill you.

that’s it. signing off//

Folds a la capella

July 7, 2009

benfoldsacapella

this is exactly what college is like

Not the Same, the first track off of the Ben Folds Greatest Hits/Cover album University A Cappella!, is the exact reason why this is such a good idea. The lead singer is in the right range but he sings with different intent than Folds, and there are plenty of minor rearrangements that demonstrate the wonder that is the human voice.

benfolds66

what an adorable scamp!

Unfortunately, this level of ability is not consistent throughout. Now, this is being advertised as a greatest hits album which I have to disagree with. I give you that you ask the fans of any artist with a large enough discography (especially Folds fans and the Folds discography) you’ll get a wide array of what should be included. But “Magic”? Really? “Boxing”? Even with Folds in the performance it really is not great, though it doesn’t help that I didn’t like the original. And where’s “You To Thank,” or “The Last Polka,” or “Underground”? (Or even better, “Rock this Bitch”?)

Still, it’s a mix of good and bad throughout the album. While the groups chosen are clearly talented, they sometimes take the songs in the wrong direction. Fred Jones Pt. 2 has the wrong person singing the lyrics, for instance, and Selfless, Cold and Composed just feels slow, though it’s saved by a few scatting breakdowns that are awesome.

But as with the opener, there are plenty of great versions as well, often on the virtue of the lead singer. In reality that’s the sell for these songs – like seeing the same performance by two different actors, you get to watch all the possible interpretations inherent to Folds’ superior craftsmanship in lyrical and musical construction. When the student groups took risks is when they succeeded. “Still Fighting It” is majestic when rendered solely in human vocal cords. And “Fair” demonstrates the best parts of a cappella: rearrangements, responses to the lyrics in the ‘musical’ accompaniment, and a brief mash-up with Zak and Sara.

As a concept, the album is a great idea. I feel like all artists should do their greatest hits this way, if not with a cappella versions than someone covering. New fans get introduced to the highlights and old fans are given a reason to invest in songs they otherwise already have. But in practice it comes through uneven. Worth it for the avid Ben Folds fan or a cappella afficianado, but otherwise I’d suggest buying on a track by track basis.

Picks: Not the Same, Still Fighting It, Landed, Evaporated, Fair,

So, based on the new trailer for Pandorum, it looks to be the movie version of Dead Space (which, in turn, was the name for a novel idea I had at the age of thirteen which was itself ripped off from Star Trek: Voyager). People are turning into uglies, kill the uglies, try and survive. And grow a beard like Dennis Quaid.

And the Star Wars tv show trundles on in the land of Oz, where they are apparently aiming for a more emotionally true story. Which means that George Lucas isn’t writing lines about how much everything sucks and how he only wants to be the best but nobody lets him do what he wants and wah wah wah.

I haven’t heard anything recently about the new new remake of Battlestar Galactica, though maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t really need to see the same twenty seconds of space fighter dog fighting used twenty times on the big screen, or anything else along the lines the original campy show. The original Knight Rider was written by the same guy, and we all saw how successfully that was resurrected while staying true to its origins. Although that Cylon Helix was death for any Colonial pilot that tried to take it on.

And the next project from Rian Johnson, the man who wrote and directed the brilliant Brick, will be called Looper and is about assassins from the future sent back in time to kill somebody. With someone this capable at the helm, I have full faith that an actually useful movie about time travel will be produced. And if Rian Johnson isn’t enough, know that my future self is telling me to give it two thumbs up now and save myself from the future strain.

That’s it. Signing off //