Saturday, March 31, 2007

Blades of Glory: Mind-Bottling

Blades of Glory had the potential to be a one-note joke. Skating rivals banned from singles competition decide to compete as the first male figure-skating team. Shenanigans ensue. Luckily, this movie was anything but that, thanks to a surprising supporting cast and its utilization of Will Ferrell and Jon Heder's respective talents.

As Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy, Ferrell and Heder work. Chazz is an obnoxious, egocentric sex addict, while Jimmy is an effeminate skating prodigy. Jimmy is basically the straight man here, which magnifies Ferrell's now-trademark "narcissistic manchild" schtick.

Don't get me wrong, I think Ferrell is fantastic at playing roles such as these...when it's done right. Anchorman, for example. However we all saw Talladega Nights last summer, in which Ferrell came dangerously close to stale and irritating when his character is given nothing to do after the first 15 minutes of the movie.

In this film, Ferrell does what he does best consistently throughout. There's just something about his delivery of lines such as "I'm the FACE of figure skating!" that people can't help but love. Maybe it's because of his earnest, deadpan way of playing these characters. We buy that these guys actually take what they're saying seriously.

It doesn't hurt that just about everyone in the film pulls their weight. Amy Poehler and Will Arnett were great as Fairchild and Stranz Van Waldenberg, Jimmy and Chazz's skating rivals. They didn't fall into the "unfunny comedy villain that tries to steal scenes but fails miserably" that plagues a lot of movies like this. The movie also has Jenna Fischer (Pam from The Office) as their little sister Katie. By the way, there's a scene of Jenna in lingerie, and I think I seriously have a crush on her now. Ahem.

If you've seen the commercials and thought "well that looks stupid," you're pretty much right. And that's why you should see it. It's not a "smart" comedy by any means, but it's absurd and quirky enough to deserve your ten bucks.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Someone Snuck a Snuke in Her Snizz!

Bravo, Matt and Trey. The latest episode of South Park was easily the best since the boys took on World of Warcraft last fall. This week, the show spoofed Fox's 24 to a tee, complete with Cartman whispering urgently into a cell phone "for dramatic effect," real-time (well, half-real time) storytelling, and a send-up of one of 24's staples: the torture scene. Heck, they even included the camera zooms and the trademark clock sound effects before and after commercial breaks. Oh, and did I mention it centered around a bomb planted in Hillary Clinton' parts? There's plenty of that in there too.

A lot of episodes recently have really emphasized this show's ability to juggle the absurd with the topical. Sure, the episodes aren't always gems (understandably, since the show's on an extremely tight production schedule). And to think, most people dismissed South Park as a fad when it came on the scene in 1997. Happy 10th, guys.

Thank you, come again!

In a staggering display of marketing genius, 7-Eleven plans to convert 11 of its stores to real-life Kwik-E-Marts for the release of The Simpsons Movie this summer.

According to The Richmond Times Dispatch, the chain will also be selling Simpsons-themed products such as Krusty-O's, Squishees and Buzz Cola. I'd ask if they were selling that beer with the candy floating inside, you know, Skittlebrau, but much to Homer Simpson's dismay, no such product exists. He'll just have to go with a six-pack and a bag of Skittles.

This brings me to an interesting point. Marketing for movies has become overwhelmingly crass, yet at the same time it's made all the more entertaining by stunts such as this. Remember Snakes on a Plane? Well, you probably didn't see the movie, but I bet the Internet marketing of that flick still sticks with you to this day. We're just not tired of motherf*ckin' marketing in our motherf*ckin' faces. Oh yes, I went there.

I welcome this promotional tactic, although with only 11 planned conversions to Kwik-E-Marts taking place, there probably won't be a location near me participating in the craziness. Until then, I'll just have to sit and dream of chutney Squishees (you can really taste the chutney!), after-dinner burritos (Strawburritos) and delicious creamed eels.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Maybe it just doesn't take that much for me, but I find this picture hilarious. And appropriate! In the tradition grand tradition of "spring cleaning," I am currently updating my iTunes for the new season. In the past year, I've realized how sick I've gotten of hip hop and have ditched all but my essentials, including Jurassic 5, "good" Jay-Z (take a hike, Kingdom Come!), Eminem, Dre, and Snoop.
I wasn't sure of it, but I'm adding The Dark Side of the Moon to my Nano. It's not music that I'd listen to in the car (unless I was going on a psychadelic road trip of some kind) but for the train ride home from Manhattan? Rock on, Floyd.
New additions also include the most recent Weezer album (I don't know what all the fuss is about, it's great) and a Who greatest hits album.
Times like this make me wish I still had my massive G4 iPod, but defective hardware ended that relationship real quick. Luckily, she had a younger, slimmer and hotter sister (the Nano if you don't get where I'm going with this). Holds less songs, but the price was right and it's far more portable. The video iPods however give me massive 'Pod envy, and I might have to splurge one of these days.
Happy Wednesday, Interweb!

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Summer of Geek

It's just occurred to me how damned lucky geeks have been for the past few summers. Rewind to 2005. We were all prepped for the penultimate Star Wars film to grace movie screens everywhere. It was bittersweet, as "I can't believe this is the last one" intermingled with "I can't wait to see the Anakin/Obi-Wan" duel, with just a smidge of "I hope Lucas gets this one right." In the end, it was the last one, the duel was great and as for getting it right...well, it was pretty close...Well, much closer than the last two.

Shortly following Revenge of the Sith came Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, a film that was ten times better than it had any right to be. The casting was great, the story was great, and there were absolutely no nipples on the bat-suit (for the uninitiated, Joel Schumacher thought it'd be a great idea to make Batman a little bit more...flamboyant in the final two films of the original series). Thankfully, with a competent director behind the wheel of the project (and a kick-ass Batman behind the wheel of the Batmobile), Batman Begins turned out to be the surprise hit of the summer. Of course, not all of the summer blockbusters blew our collective minds that fateful summer. Fantastic Four was average at best and War of the Worlds was Spielberg's lamest film since AI. They might not have been great, but they were there. We had Jedi, Human Torches and tormented costumed billionaires all in the same summer. Could have done without Tom Cruise and his foreboding Thetan levels, but what are you gonna do?

Move ahead to 2006. X-Men: The Last Stand kicked things off early and, while infuriating the purists out there, turned out to be some entertaining popcorn fare. Juggernaut, bitch indeed. It was followed closely by Superman Returns which, while disappointing a large contingent of the comic book community (that seems to be growing larger on the Internet with each passing day), was the first time The Man of Steel had been on-screen in decades. I'll admit, it hasn't aged well in the last year and it's pacing is downright painful at times, but it got people talking about Superman again.

Then came Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. The first Pirates film, released three years prior, was a pleasant surprise but this...this thing was an EVENT. And I honestly think it delivered. In a post-Star Wars and Lord of the Rings world, it gave movie nerds another trilogy to dissect while we all wait for the final installment this summer.

Ah yes, this summer. Already, we've been spoiled with 300 and TMNT (no, I haven't seen it yet. But I hear nothing but good things from the old-school fans), and with Grindhouse right around the corner, followed by Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Transformers, Fantastic Four 2 and The Simpsons Movie, there will be many a geekgasm in the next few months.

But James, what's your point? My point is this: for better or worse, this stuff's getting made. Did you ever think we'd ever see an idea like Grindhouse fully realized? Or that Spider-Man would actually be done right? Hell, did we expect them to start work on another Indiana Jones flick? The niche film has become the event picture, and in a post-Star Wars landscape, movie geeks have plenty to look forward to each and every summer. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go analyze the Spider-Man 3 trailer for the 149th time...

Pirates of the Caribbean At World's End Trailer

Released last week, this is the theatrical trailer for the third and final "Pirates of the Caribbean" film, "At World's End." This movie looks packed, with plenty of swordplay and even a ship battle within a whirlpool.

"Dead Man's Chest" got a lot of criticism for having a convoluted plot and making just about all of the characters unlikeable by the end. When I first saw it I was floored, but having seen it a few times on DVD, it does have its flaws. The entire cannibal island sequence is an unnecessary diversion and nothing is really accomplished by the movie's end. Besides Jack Sparrow "dying" of course.

In the trailer we see that Davy Jones and the crew of The Flying Dutchman is now under the command of the East India Trading Company and the pirate lords from the four corners of the Earth have united. Works for me as far as plot goes. As long as the film isn't needlessly complicated like the last one, people are going to eat this up.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" opens on May 25.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Final Spider-Man 3 Trailer

Since movie studios aren't content until they show us the entire movie before it's released, here's the final "Spider-Man 3" trailer that just hit the 'net a few days ago.

We see a lot more Venom, a lot more of the relationship between Peter and MJ and some MAJOR spoilers that they probably shouldn't have included here. There's one shot of Peter, MJ and Harry that's way too revealing.

Nevertheless, May 4th can't come fast enough.

Go Ninja, Go Ninja Go!

Like just about every child of the 80s, I'm currently in the midst of a wave of nostalgia this weekend, all because four anthropomorphic amphibians named after Renaissance painters decided to make their return to the silver screen.

If you're completely lost right now, I'm referring to the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, TMNT. While the abbreviation may just be a reflection to our acronym-saddled vocabulary (for example, hit me up on AIM so we can LOL at some NSFW PDFs. I'll ttyl), the name of the film may be attributed to the fact that the turtles in question are no longer teenagers, and Twentysomething Mutant Ninja Turtles just doesn't have the same ring and might be difficult to fit on action figure packaging.

Alas, I've yet to see the film (and when I do, you'll know). Instead, I'd like to talk about a little gem that I discovered on XBox Live Arcade this past week. The turtles were never just a cartoon or a comic book or a line of toys. They were an all-encompassing part of kid-dom in the early 90s. We wore the shirts, played with the toys, ate the cereal (and the cream pies), read the comics (well, I was one of the only kids I knew who actually read the more "mature" early stuff by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird on which everything was based), went to see the movies, watched the cartoon, and even listened to their album from the Pizza Hut-sponsored live concerts. We did it all. And this certainly included video games, of which there were several. I have fond memories of spending countless quarters on the original Ninja Turtles arcade game, and would flock to it at every bowling alley or game room I could find. There was a home version, which was far more simplified and marketed as the sequel to the "holy crap this game is impossible" Nintendo original.

Today, manchildren like myself can hop on XBox Live and play a complete recreation of the original game, complete with its "Cowabunga" voice clips, pizza power-ups and button-mashing boss battles. It's a fun diversion to play through by yourself, despite the fact that you really can't lose since you basically have infinite "coins." The Xbox Live multiplayer, however, is where it's at. You can pick your turtle (Donatello's easily the best) and play through the game with 3 total strangers. You each have 19 lives, and the game generally takes about 30 minutes to breeze through (Shredder's a pain). What really shines here is the ability to talk to the other players, who generally seem to be enjoying themselves for a change. To see what I mean, fire up Gears of War and listen to the foul-mouthed racist 10 year-olds that yell at you when you "steal their kill."

The game's straight up fun. During my last run-through, we talked about all of the different facets of growing up a Turtle fan, ranging from "how cool was the sewer lair playset" to "how did Vanilla Ice end up in the second movie?" Fun and nostalgic? Count me in.

Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael: Welcome back. Cowabunga indeed.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

THIS!!! IS!!!! WORTA!!!!!

Okay, so that headline sounded a lot better in my head. 300 is here, and those of you who had any intention of seeing it have probably done so already. If not, you might want to consider it. It's a hell of a ride.

Notice that I said "ride" and not "film." For all intents and purposes, 300, directed by Zack Snyder, exists solely to entertain you from beginning to end. Sure, there's a plot in there, expanded significantly from that of Frank Miller's original graphic novel (which was a loose retelling of the real-life Battle of Thermopylae), but it really takes a backseat to the visuals and the action. Basically, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) leads his personal army against the invading Persian Empire despite the criticisms of Sparta's council. As far as a plot, that's pretty much it. In this instance, this is a good thing. 300 promises action and it delivers plenty of it, with some terrific visuals and plenty of cheer-inducing action sequences. The bloodshed, which is presented in a stylized fashion, is less barbaric and more artistic in that it's so otherworldly. It's escapism at its best, and isn't that what movies are all about? Cue film snob "well, actually" diatribe here.

Enough about the film's artistic take on decapitation and dismemberment. This is a guy movie at its base. Sure, the (remarkably few) ladies in the audience will enjoy the fact that all of the guys in the movie are chiseled and basically wearing leather briefs, but this is one movie tailor-made for those with Y-chromosomes. All of the characters speak in testosterone-laden sound bytes, all of the females bare their breasts at least once, and most importantly, as mentioned earlier, the action never lets up.

300 is one of those rare movies that demands viewing on the big-screen, preferably in an IMAX theater if there's one near you. It's got giant battles, the most stylized violence this side of Tarantino, and it even has mutant Persian ninjas. See it, drink a beer, and scratch yourself. Man up.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

When Heroes Fall

As many of you may now know, Marvel Comics superhero Captain America was gunned down by a sniper earlier today at the ripe old age of 66. The eyes of geeks worldwide were misty behind horn-rimmed glasses, but I can honestly say that I was not among them...because I wear contacts.

Following a brutal (and, in many ways anticlimactic) civil war between Marvel heroes, Cap, real name Steve Rogers, was taken out not by a supervillian but by a sniper, who downed the one-time World War II hero in front of a courthouse.

The death of this iconic character has stirred up a frenzy of media attention as fans clamor to get their hands on as many copies of Captain America # 25 as possible, which became available with two variant covers today.

But in the end, what does it really mean? Is Marvel symbolizing the death of the American "dream?" The name of the story arc (of which this issue is just the first part) is even entitled "Death of a Dream." Or is it merely a ploy to boost sales of a hero whose sales have not ascended to the ranks of the Spider-Man and X-Men titles? This remains to be seen.

Undoubtedly, Marvel has big plans following this shocking turn of events and may even be looking for a new character to don the stars and stripes and carry his iconic shield on their back, better reflecting modern times. Or, they could just resurrect him and pretend this never happened, much like Superman's "death" in the early 90s.

Keep reading true believers. 'Til next time, make mine Marvel.