Thursday, December 29, 2011


The cat head mix of  The Dark Knight Rises trailer is "meh"
So we come to the end of the year, and a little wrapup. It's a nice, if cheesy, moment, especially since 2011 was great for this blog.

I'm very proud of the pace I kept from January to September. I've never sustained an effort like that, and I'm glad I didn't sacrifice quality for it. I streamlined my reviews a little (i.e., used fewer words). I kept up with news about my pet topics - online video options and the "streaming wars," unneccessary remakes/sequels...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Die Hard, My 2011 Holiday Movie

Everyone knows that Die Hard is set at Christmas, and, like Jaws 4 last year, it seemed a perfect choice for my holiday reviewing. Die Hard is one of the best action films ever, the picture that elevated Bruce Willis from rising popularity on a hit TV show to one of America's most successful movie stars. In short, being Die Hard means never disappointing anyone in the audience.

Simple enough premise: John McClane, an everyday-joe NYC cop, flies out to LA. Arriving at the skyscraper his estranged wife works in, he's surprised by her company's holiday party. He's hoping to reconcile and see their children, but blunders into a tense fight instead. Alone, cooling his heels, McClane hears gunshots from the hallway. Everyone else is now a hostage, so John hides and does whatever he can: contact the police, stop the well-armed invaders, and protect his wife.

The appeal of DH is pretty obvious: the action is tense, visceral, and inventive. The cast is, from the 10-second roles to the main players, full of vivid characters that have a real impact on the viewer. The dialogue is smart, playing the situations with appropriate gravity and successful humor. The music and acting and camerawork are all great. The word "success" might have a picture of the Die Hard poster next to it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Some End of Year Videos

I (should) have one post left before 2012. I've got a lot to do before the year ends, and I can't be certain I'll find time for more. So, like yesterday's post on news and links, I'm closing out 2011 by putting up some videos that I've found during my 2-month blogging break. Enjoy, please.

RedLetterMedia announced that they're adding a new Plinkett review soon. They've just finished a live-stream marathon of all the earlier Plinkett works, and I'm looking forward to a break from their cool Half in the Bag series. Their funny, thorough take on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull went up today. Below is the trailer for the review. I'm sure it'll be a fun ride for all of us.

Great "Emperor" voice, right?

Dangerous Minds was good enough to introduce me to a Pulp Fiction fan-cut. This one's edited into the chronological order of the film's events. It's a brand-new way of looking at a picture that all of us saw and most of us love.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Some End of Year News and Links

This post contains 7 links. The first set has some handy and funny sites or posts that any film fan should want to check out. The second set contains some news articles that came out during my break; I consider these special enough to point out, even if they're no longer timely. I can be fickle that way. I have one more post set to come out this month, doing a similar catch-up on videos that I would've put up if I had not been on a break.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Netflix App Experience

I said I'd only have one more post for the rest of 2011, but I want to wrap some things up before January. I've written about what it's like to use certain services, like Youtube's free movies and Hulu Plus. Here, I'll cover the Netflix app for a tablet running the latest Android. Overall, it's a nifty system with some flaws that I hope get smoothed out soon.

I almost wrote this as a news entry when the revised app appeared in mid-November. Downloading and installation are easy. The application doesn't require too many permissions, all things considered. It's been updated once in the last 2 months, with noticeable improvements, and has frozen or crashed about a dozen times; since I decided to put the system to heavy use for a spell, that's not so often as to be an issue.

UPDATE 12/17/11 - the app has a new update available as of last night, and the permissions it's asking for are completely insane. "Full Network Access," meaning it can "create network sockets," is a little creepy, but I'm more worried that it asks for permission to "Read sensitive log data." The latter options means it can "read from the system's various log files. This allows it to discover general information about what you are doing with the tablet, potentially including personal or private information." My suggestion is that you DON'T take the update. My other suggestion is that Netflix go screw itself and stop trying to spy on people.

One surprise is that the videos load more quickly than through a web browser, both on start and when skipping forward or back. It's really nice to catch a line that you missed and know that you won't have a 15-second wait ahead of you. There are fewer "loading" screens overall, though you're likely to face one if you pause playback or don't use the app for a while. The video quality is sometimes poor at first, but within 5-10 seconds, I guess more data loads and it becomes picture-perfect.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hunter Prey, an indie shames the studios

He looks like Bobba Fett. This may help.
Hunter Prey is the first full-length release by Sandy Collora. I've written about this independent genius before, and I'm happy to cover this picture today. This fun sci-fi/action film has some brains, a little comedy, and tons of beautiful scenery that support a smartly character-driven story. This is what you haven't been getting from Hollywood for the last X years.

We begin in space, with a ship in transit. It breaks apart. Then we're with a group of people in armored suits in some kind of desert. They were transporting a prisoner, who's now loose after the crash. Sorry, "now loose after the crash and stalking his captors." As I wrote in my Year-End post, it's US Marshals meets Predator.

My earlier comments were a nice summary: this story feels like a movie-inspired video game. We follow a small unit of soldiers trying to recapture a bad guy, occasionally tracking the enemy with a pinging hand-held device, like in Aliens. They wear super-suits with a talking artificial intelligence, like in HALO. Hell, given the armor design and the desert terrain, it looks like a great spin-off of Star Wars IV.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

George Lucas in Love: a classic Fan-made Gem

Yet another quality vid I should've pointed out earlier. In 1999, some young genius was inspired by the film Shakespeare in Love. SiL might have annoyed some, but I remember enjoying it in the theater as a good romantic meta-comedy, which, like the modern-day George Lucas, rehashed everything you've seen before, whether you wanted that or not. GLiL, however, was accessible, quick, and funny.

In that way, SiL was like Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, which made the stupid-but-entertaining choice to show Indy getting his whip, hat, chin scar, and fear of snakes all in one freakishly-eventful day (it was fun, if preposterous and reductive). Yet SiL still carried its burden as a comedy with love at its core, while playing through plots and jokes that came straight out of the works of the titular 17th-Century writer.

In much the same way, GLiL shows the story of a young Lucas suffering from writer's block while at film school. Much like Joseph Fiennes' Shakespeare, inspiration is all around him, yet it can't come together yet until he gets some wisdom to balance out his passions. The result is just excellent.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Year-End Roundup 2011

It's time for 2011 to get out of our collective faces and for 2012 to bring it on. We all have parties and Santacon and end-of-year business to get to. But you gotta clear out the old stuff before you bring in something new, so this is my review of the year in movies. I'm going to stick to the 8 categories I used last year, although there are some variations. Enjoy.

Best New Release (that I actually saw) - um... I actually have no memory of any film I saw in the theater this year besides Friends with Benefits. I don't know why... but at least I'm man enough to admit it. Let's move on, shall we?

Best Out-of-the-Blue Release - Friends with Benefits.

An odd way of moving on, right? My favorite reviewers didn't like this at all, and I don't get it. This was not a JLO or Kate Hudson film, where two attractive people smile and face "zany" plots but fail to elicit chemistry. I don't complain about romantic comedies because I need them to be like The Princess Bride, Splash, or When Harry Met Sally. I complain because they're not convincingly funny or romantic.

To that end, Kunis and Timberlake were good in their roles, the sex/romance material was well done, and there were many jokes that made me laugh. Recent "rom-coms" really bomb that last part, so maybe I'm glossing over some flaws - like Timbo not knowing what a "flash mob" is. I still think the cast did a good job of supporting an entertaining movie... Maybe it was my low expectations?

Most Internal-Conflict-Causing Release - Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock's in Azkaban?
I waited until it was on Netflix Instant and,  as seen in the review linked above, felt a bit torn after. The movie looked beautiful, and there were many nice character beats and scenes. Regardless, it felt like Robert Downey Jr. was just doing his Iron Man bit, and so this did not feel like a story about the most famous literary detective ever. I know the Holmes' character pretty well, and he was not it.

SH should've just been a "new property" period-piece mystery, really. BBC's Sherlock is more authentic, and that's a modernized version.