Saturday, November 29, 2014

Star Wars The Force Awakens Trailer Insanity

Am I really writing a post about a movie trailer???  Yes, it seems I am, and sadly, it seems I'm not the only one.  I write when I have something to say and I'm tired of repeating myself.  And I most definitely have something to say about this.

For over a month now, people have been eagerly anticipating the release of this trailer.  And after all the hype and repeatedly being rickrolled, and forced (no pun intended) to watch some nice (and some not so nice) fan trailers, here is the moment you've all been waiting for:

Looks kind of cool, right?  Of course it looks cool!  It's a Star Wars trailer!  Nothing about that should ever suck!

Now, let's put things in perspective.

Good or bad, people love Star Wars.  It has embedded itself so deeply into our culture and we all feel it is an invaluable part of our lives.  We want it to be fun, and expect great things, but often we are disappointed.  We all have this collective vision of what Star Wars should be.  And on some rare occasions, we get our wish.

But seriously, movie trailers are designed to be freakin' awesome!!  Have you ever watched a trailer that sucked?  I doubt any director is going to create a teaser with the worst parts of their movie to showcase.  And how often have you eagerly anticipated a movie based on an amazing trailer, and the movie was the biggest waste of time and money ever made?  So this teaser truly is a teaser.  It shows you one minute of footage from a movie that will most likely have 120 minutes total running time.  It's like hearing one note from a song and making the blind assumption that it will be the worlds greatest song ever.  It doesn't say much of anything really.

And now, let's explore the dark side...  J.J. Abrams.

A while back, I wrote this whole rant (here) on how I dislike Christopher Nolan's style of directing and can't understand his success.  I should write a similar rant on Abrams.  Maybe I sort of did here when I complained about him ruling two equally important nerd universes.

Abrams has admitted himself, he uses too much lens flare.  It's his signature style.  He's also proven he loves his shaky cam during fight sequences, preventing us from actually seeing any of the action.  And he's shown he prefers dark drab lifeless colors in his movies, (as he took every chance he could to get the Star Trek cast out of their traditional red, blue, and yellow uniforms), filming dull dark colorless scenes.  Will he suddenly change his methods for the Star Wars franchise?  I can't imagine he will, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

It's also important to note, there is a huge difference between a director and a screenplay.  Alfred Hitchcock said "To make a great film you need three things - the script, the script and the script".  It's the directors job to film the story, and as long as the director has half a brain, and isn't trying to be too artsy, they usually can't screw that up.  But for a movie to be memorable, I look for something more.  A film should be like a moving painting for my eyes.  I'm not expecting EVERY shot to be a work of art, but I look for something visually entertaining.  

And in the interest of credit where credit is due... Abrams proved from Star Trek that he knows how to film ships in space.  He made that cool, and by showing X-Wing fighters, and of course, the Millennium Falcon here, he definitely proved he can still do that (so far).

So for me, this trailer only showed the movie is still being made and will be released next December 2015 (which I already knew).  If it's a good script, and Abrams lets me see the action, without any lens flare and shows me a decent color palette, it could be a good movie.  I can't be as 'pee my pants excited' as many people are, because Abrams is still the director, because I don't think he's that good.  But I will admit to being apprehensively curious.  I sincerely hope I can enjoy it, otherwise The Force Awakens might as well go back to bed (I doubt I'll be the first or last person to use this phrase).


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Injustice and Riots - A Nerdy White Guys Perspective

If you didn't already guess, I'm a white guy.  Maybe in some ways, I am overly white, or cliche white.  I really don't mind if someone says that and I joke about it myself sometimes.  It's easy to do.  But it's never been so easy or natural for me to joke about other races, because I respect other people, until they give me a reason not to respect them.  I work with white people, and Spanish people, and "black people" (I wouldn't call them "African American", because I really hate that label, and I don't think they're from Africa, any more than I'm from Germany or Ireland).  Each of them have their own traits and personality.  If I have a problem with someone, it has NOTHING to do with their heritage or their job, and in my mind, it never will.  If you're a jerk, you could be from anywhere and have any job.

Maybe some will say I look at the world through "nerd colored glasses", and I'm too optimistic at times.  Because unfortunately, the real world can be a frustrating place sometimes.  That's why I focus on nerdy things.  I prefer imagination and creativity over the harsh reality of disgusting things that I have no control over.

I don't think I'm delusional and I never just stick my head in the sand.  In fact, sometimes maybe I am too aware of what's happening.  I often research in depth from different sources so I can try to understand the truth. Especially when it seems we live in a world of misinformation and outright hatred.

But will any of my research help resolve anything?  Maybe not, and it causes me more pain seeing how people handle things, knowing in my heart, they're only making things worse.

Back in 1992, while going to school to study audio recording, I spent time as a security guard (stop laughing!).  Most of the time, all I had to do was stay awake.  It wasn't an overly complicated position, and I could study for school while staying vigilant over whatever it was I was supposed to be watching.

It was great... until Rodney King.

A black man pulled over by police, and they all beat the crap out of him while someone recorded it.  Common sense says this was wrong and the cops should have been locked up for abuse of power on an unarmed man.

But after a long court case, nothing happened to the police.... And many people in LA rioted.

I lived in Florida, but you can imagine how I felt, looking like a cop.  And maybe you can also understand, why I quit that job two weeks later.

Now here we are twenty years later.  Michael Brown, a black man, unarmed, was shot dead by police.  Just writing those words make my stomach turn, because after a Grand Jury examined the case, nothing will happen to the cop who fired the gun.  
But equally frustrating, many people in Ferguson, Missouri, where the shooting took place, decide to riot over this decision.

I read many posts from others on social media that said "This is crazy!".  I think the proper word is STUPID!!
So taunting police, smashing windows, burning down businesses, and flipping cars is your solution???  None of these businesses or cars or people had anything to do with this shooting!  Now you look like a child throwing a tantrum.  This makes you no better than the idiots with a badge abusing their power. 

Everyone needs to realize, there are a LOT of good people in the world.  Some of them are cops.  Some are white.  Some are black.  Some are Muslim.  The list goes on and on.

Maybe some of these businesses are on your side!  Maybe they agree with you!  Maybe some cops are on your side!  Nobody can say ALL cops are evil.

So what is the solution?  
I wish I knew.  But violence and blind hatred will never work in your favor.  I'm realistic to know the idea of "one man can make a difference" isn't so easy in 2014.  But I still try.  And all I can do is write.  I couldn't be more removed from this situation unless I was actually a space alien.  Maybe nobody involved in this situation will ever read my words.  But I made the effort intelligently and responsibly.  So if everyone makes an effort, maybe we can all make some change for the better?

At the risk of making this a nerdy post, (always go with your strengths), there are people that grew up watching Star Trek from the 1960's that were inspired to create a lot of the technology we use today.  And maybe their inspiration was innocent curiosity, but can't we also be inspired to create new laws and a better society through things that frustrate us? 

Stop thinking about revenge and start acting smart and maybe we can prevent this type of stupidity from repeating itself in another twenty years.  The world can be a beautiful place, with a lot of good people who want to help.  But burning it to the ground because you're angry, is never the solution.

One important thing to notice...
Millions of people care about what happened to Michael Brown, when nobody heard of him before this shooting. That alone makes a very powerful statement.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor Who - Now With More Peter Capaldi

At some point in the next month or two, someone will say to me, "Hey Deesher, what do you think of the new Doctor?".  At which point, I could try to rant about my feelings, only to have someone interrupting me with their own running commentary as I speak, followed by me forgetting my train of thought because my train never runs on a schedule and makes way too many stops.  Or, I could just write a quicky blog and just give you the link to read... or at the very least, I could memorize everything here and repeat it verbatim. 

To be clear, when I say 'New Doctor', I am not talking about my new personal physician (although for the record, he does seem good and fairly competent, which is a wonderful change from my last doctor before he regenerated.  And by regenerated, I mean I looked through the list of other doctors available in my area who will take my insurance).  No, I am talking about the longest running series on television, Doctor Who, and the first appearance of Peter Capaldi as the newly regenerated Doctor.

Doctor Who began in 1963, and for the most part, kept a certain continuity since it began.  There have been some great episodes, and some not so great episodes over the years.  I have a lot of respect for the wonderful original sci-fi elements and some powerful acting contained in many episodes.  I wrote a whole thingy on how much I love this show, and you can read all about it here.

Last December 2013, we said farewell to Matt Smith's Doctor when he regenerated at the end of the episode The Time of the Doctor, (is that still considered a spoiler at this point?).  And after what felt like an overly extended hiatus, we finally get to see Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, in the first episode of the new season, Deep Breath.

So, the first thing you might notice... he's old.  For the record, I have no problem with an older Doctor, but after his appearance continued to get younger and more energetic in the last few Doctors, it does feel like there is a certain amount of grinding to a halt.  And for the record part deux, of course there have been older Doctors in the history of the show, starting with William Hartnell who was the very first Doctor in 1963.  But it is most definitely a different sort of dynamic having someone in their late 50's playing the lead in any series.

During the course of Deep Breath, The Doctor asked himself, why he would be older.  It seemed a big concern and it's possible there is a deeper purpose yet to be determined.  It also seems to indicate that his body knows more about his future than his mind.  Or maybe it was writer Steven Moffat making notes on the corner of the script that Capaldi read during filming, not knowing they were only notations. 

Whatever the reason for his older appearance, it seems our lovable goofy style of Doctor is gone for now, replaced by someone who is much more serious and dark.  The show still had moments of humor, but the overall tone of the new Doctor seems like he isn't here to sonic screw around much.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however traditionally, the more successful Doctors have been more fun to watch, (i.e. Tom Baker and my fav, David Tennant). 

Of course my initial feelings could be completely wrong, because he is still finding his place in the Who-niverse.  And, as with every regeneration, it takes a while for each Doctor to find their specific niche. 

The episode itself, (Deep Breath) was a good solid Steven Moffat written kick-off for the new season.  There was nothing that really overly wowed me, but it was a decent premiere after waiting... 8 PAINFUL MONTHS!!  We got to see the team of Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax, and I always love them.  I'm seriously very eager to see them in a spin-off series, but for now, it's fun to watch them do their thing with the Doctor... whoever he may be.

As an actor, Peter Capaldi was good and he'll definitely add something new to a long line of unique versions of the Doctor.  So of course I'll keep watching, because the BBC and Steven Moffat know how to write a decent sci-fi series.  But I do feel like we are in for a more serious version of the Doctor.  Which is too bad, because I love to laugh too.

And for now at least, we still have the sweet sexy Clara (Jenna Coleman) to help ease us through this transition period.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Oculus Review

Mirror mirror on the... no, I'm not doing that for sooooo many reasons, even though I'm reviewing a movie about a haunted mirror.   Horror films are one area that Disney has not taken over... yet. 

Oculus was released in 2014, and many were eager to see it in the theater.  I don't normally watch horror movies in the theater, because there is too much room for failure in horror, and because the last thing I need is giggly 14 year old girls suddenly screaming directly through my skull.

So now that it's released on video, was it any good?

To answer your first question, according to dictionaries, the definition of oculus is:
oc·u·lus - ˈäkyələs 

noun: oculus; plural noun: oculi 

  1. a round or eyelike opening or design, in particular.
  2. a circular window.
  3. the central boss of a volute
And, no I am not looking up volute for you.  And secondly, I have no idea what this has to do with a haunted mirror.  Maybe you can watch the movie and educate me?  

The story is about happy family moving into a new house, until suddenly their parents seem to go batshit insane (in medical terminology).  And, as in most cases of insanity, it's obviously the mirror's fault.  Eleven years later, the kids are all growed up (adult versions played by Brenton Thwaites and yummy ex-Doctor Who companion/Nebula, Karen Gillan) and they want to study and hopefully destroy the mirror. 

Okay kids, blaming the mirror seems a very sudden huuuuuge leap of faith.  I'm not saying the mirror is completely innocent, and there is a great moment where we discover the history of deaths surrounding the mirror.  But, other than the father standing in front of it, there seems to be zero evidence to convict this old mirror.  So, is the mirror really evil, or just misunderstood? 

Other than wrapping my tiny brain around that, it was enjoyable.  In terms of a horror movie, I didn't find it scary, and there are many predictable jumps, but it was still fun to watch.  Director Mike Flanagan really helped make this interesting psychologically as the mirror (allegedly) plays tricks on them.  I can see this as the beginning of an interesting franchise, but unfortunately I think another director might just make it into a silly goof horror film, instead of giving you something to think about.  

Most people don't want to think so hard when watching a horror film, so maybe that's why it wasn't so successful.  But I do think it has a future because it is an interesting concept.  

If nothing else, even without an accent... it's still Karen Gillan....


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

The year was 1968.  The first ATM machine was installed in the US, the first Big Mac was sold, and 911 was invented (all totally unrelated... probably). And Marvel Comics, who had only recently brought you The Incredible Hulk, Spider-man, Fantastic Four and X-Men, decided to create a sci-fi story set in the year 3007.  It revolved around a group of unusual heroes from different planets, gathering together to battle the evil race of lizard creatures who had taken over their home worlds.  It was called, Guardians of the Galaxy!

And it has very little to do with the 2014 Marvel movie release of the same name!

I know what you're saying, "WTF, Deeesher?!?"  First, watch your language.  And second, Marvel created a huge universe of characters, and sometimes over the years... things change.  The movie is more closely related to the 2008 Marvel comic, called Guardians of the Galaxy (vol. 2).

If you're into "reading", like some of the kids do today, this book really is a lot of fun, with great unique characters and interesting storylines.  And in the tradition of Marvel comic book movies, (not to be confused with Sony, Fox, OR especially Warner Bros. comic book movies), they nailed it again! 

Imagine being eight years old, and your life on modern day planet earth sucks.  Then suddenly aliens kidnap you, take you to space, and you get to grow up and essentially become Han Solo.  You get to fly around in spaceships, meet strange aliens and visit different planets.  That's the life of Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord.  Cast perfectly by the actor who was born to play him, Chris Pratt.

Not enough fun for you?  I could go on about how awesome and unique the entire cast of characters are, but I would just be rambling (more than I normally do).  Maybe I should talk about what a great sense of humor the movie has, but still knows when to be serious.  Maybe I should say something about how solid the story is, and how well it connects with everything else in the Marvel universe, both movies and comics.  And yes, it does have connections to other Marvel movies as well as hidden easter eggs from the comics and movies that I am eager to freeze frame.  And to be clear, some things are a bit different from the comic, but I have always said, if you are going to change something from the source material, make it a good change... and it is.

I could also talk about what a great job director James Gunn did, creating a beautiful galaxy you want to explore and live in.  I could say things about how the action scenes are well shot and you can see what's happening *gasp*!

If I wanted to say anything bad about this movie, I don't think I could.  BUT... if I want to be nitpicky, as beautifully as it was created, there were no visually over the top moments.  For example, in a movie like Avengers, we have a few great scenes that Joss Whedon created that felt epic.  James Gunn did a fantastic job, and Knowhere, for example, looked amazing!  But... I don't know.  Maybe I should just shut up now.

Many people have compared this movie to the feelings they had seeing the original Star Wars: A New Hope.  I can easily agree with this comparison, especially since I don't see JJ Abrams doing anything with that franchise to impress me!  This is the type of movie that can be made when they have respect for the fans and source material.  So please, promote good things, (since it seems too rare these days), and go see Guardians of the Galaxy!

Then we can have conversations about who is hotter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) or  Nebula (Karen Gillan)


Monday, July 28, 2014

Pacific Rim Review

I don't always see movies in the theater.  I've been emotionally scarred too many times, plus I am paranoid and skeptical.  So I try to choose theatrical movies carefully, because I never want to give money to support something that sucks.  Of course there are no guarantees and my opinions are sometimes slightly askew of friends and critics.  So whether good or bad, my life is still often times filled with regret.

One such movie I did not see in the theater, was Guillermo del Toro's 2013 giant monster movie, Pacific Rim... but should I have?

Have you ever been a fan of Godzilla movies, or King Kong where ginormous monsters destroy your favorite major city... mostly  Tokyo or New York?  Have you ever been a fan of Gundam/Voltron/Transformers/giant mech suits?  Well, Guillermo apparently was, and he made this movie for fans of that genre.  I never have been, so I was not one of those eagerly leaping into the theater.  Sorry!  My nerdly tastes are more about spaceships, aliens, time travel or freakin' laser beams. 

Having said that, I can honestly say, Guillermo made a really fun movie!  I sort of wish I had seen this in the theater, because I think it's important we promote quality programming so maybe Hollowood would stop making so much crap (that is not a typo, as there are plenty of soulless hollow beings making our movies today).

The plot is not overly complicated, which is fine.  It just needed to tell the story, and be better written than most other crap in theaters today (i.e. every Transformers movie or anything written by David S. Goyer).  Pacific Rim drifts from being fun and silly, to unnecessarily sappy at times.  But don't worry too much about the sappy parts.  It isn't enough to take away from the ass kicking parts. 

The best thing this movie has going for it, is Guillermo del Toro.  This man knows how to make a good movie!  The action moves along nicely, with fight choreography you can see *gasp* what a concept! The creatures (aka Kaiju) and giant mech (aka Jaeger) were all unique and interesting enough, that merchandising alone should promote this movie for many years to come.

The acting by our likeable hero (Charlie Hunnam) was decent enough.  And you know I like Asian girls as much as the next American guy, but I felt the female lead, (played by Rinko Kikuchi) was just okay.  Maybe it was her hair that bothered me... but of course now I am being nitpicky.  

And all hail Charlie Day for playing the great nerdy scientist!  I was concerned that he would take me out of the movie and suddenly remind me that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  But somehow, he made it work!  His scientist partner (played by Burn Gorman) helped make them a fun team to watch. 

I was also concerned the computer AI, voiced by Ellen McLain would remind me too much of GlaDOS from the extra awesome game Portal.  But with everything happening around those scenes, it was easy to think of her as a giant mech AI and not the type of AI eager to offer you cake, or kill you.

So if this is a genre you love, then shut off your brain for a couple hours and enjoy.  And maybe this time I should have listened to my friends and seen it in theaters.  ...HA!


Saturday, July 26, 2014

300 Rise of an Empire Review

I love pretty movies.  To me, one of the most important aspects about a movie is, it should be visually artistic.  If a movie doesn't look good, I might as well read a book... and who has time for that??  (But seriously kids, read a book!  You won't regret it!).  Unfortunately, these days, most movies (and television shows) are more eager to look gritty and dark with all their bland muted colors and shaky cameras.  They try to justify it saying things look more 'realistic'.  Well, my life is filled with the big box of 64 crayons, not just the dark 8 pack many directors use today *COUGH*christophernolan*COUGH* 

So you can imagine my excitement seeing the 2006 movie 300, staring Gerard Butler and directed by Zack Snyder.  I wrote an awesome review (that I will re-post one day) saying how visually amazing it was for me, with all the pretty colors and airbrush looking art style.  Filled with great characters, and an interesting story, it is still one of my top ten favorite movies of all time for many reasons.

And now in 2014, we finally get a sequel, with a mostly different cast and different director.  So how does 300: Rise of an Empire compare to the original?

300 was a graphic novel by Frank Miller, released in 1998, creatively based on real events that took place a long time ago in a country far, far away (well, far away from where I live anyway).  Shortly after the success of the first movie, Frank began writing a sequel entitled Xerxes.  Seven years later, he still hasn't completed it.  However, they released the movie based on that unfinished story anyway.  Take a moment and let your brain wrap around that.

For the sequel, we spend our time with the Greeks (although for the record, I don't think there were 300 of them), as their events run parallel to everything that was happening in the first movie (think Back to the Future 2, although not as covert... or silly).  Their leader, Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) has a particularly freaky relationship with Xerxes second-in-command, Artemisia (Eva Green).  We also get a few moments here and there with great characters from the first movie, Xerxes (still ultra cool Rodrigo Santoro), Queen Gorgo (yes Lena Headey just as awesome as she always is, from Game of Thrones), and even Ephialtes (hunching better than ever by Andrew Tiernan)... but we don't see nearly enough of any of them.

Most of this movie took place at sea, and maybe that's why it felt... watered down (sorry, I couldn't resist).  None of the characters or visuals were quite as interesting as they were in the original movie.  And every time the Greeks cheered, it really made me miss the Spartan "AH-HOO!  AH-HOO!".  We do get moments of pretty airbrushing visuals, but overall, nothing stood out quite as much as the original.  Even Queen Gorgo, who looked beautiful and regal from the first movie, looks a bit harsh here.  It was like director Noam Murro saw the original, and jumped up and down and said, "I can do that too!".  No... no Noam, you really can't.  Now go to your room.

In all fairness, I shouldn't be too harsh to this movie.  It's not bad... it's just drawn that way.  If the original 300 was never made, Rise of an Empire would be a decent movie on it's own.  But if you have to watch a movie with lots of shirtless men with rock hard abs, grunting and sweating, the original Spartan story is still much more arousing... err, I mean exciting to watch.

Speaking of shirtless, maybe it would have helped a bit more if they showed an Oracle or two... or three.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

X-Men Days of Future Past Review

I think we can all agree, X-Men: The Last Stand (X-Men 3, 2006) wasn't that great.  I might even go so far to say it sucked.  I think we can also agree, Wolverine: Origins (2009) sucked.  Of course you can disagree, and everyone is welcome to an opinion.  And my opinion is, if you enjoyed those movies, you are way too easily impressed by superhero movies... or maybe you just hate me. 

But not every X-related movie is horrible!  The original X-Men and X2, released by Twentieth Century Fox, were two of the more impressive superhero movies ever released... until Marvel Studios started producing their own comic book based movies.  So check your scorecard kids:

Marvel Studios  
Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk 

Twentieth Century Fox 
X-Men, Wolverine, Fantastic Four 
Anywhere from cool, to meh, to sucks.

Sony Pictures 
 ....don't get me started.

Now that we're on the same page in our comic books, where does this put X-Men Days of Future Past?

Starting in the future, we have giant creepy mechanical Sentinels pretty much destroying the world and wiping out everything they hate... and it seems they hate a lot of things, but mostly mutants.  So our heroes figure out a way to send Wolverine back to 1973 to convince younger versions of Professor X and Magneto to work together to stop all this from ever starting, even though they hate each other.

I used to read a lot of comic books, and I know someone talked me into collecting this particular storyline way back then.  At the time, I remember liking the idea, but was a bit confused by the details.  Maybe I didn't get it, because I wasn't a regular reader of X titles... or maybe because I'm not one of those 'smart' people.  So as confusing as the original concept may have been, DOFP made it all very cohesive and easy to follow for a simple guy like me.

As much as I appreciated this, I think many comic book purists might be offended by some of the changes... which is too bad, because it was presented very well.  And isn't putting out the best version of the story the most important aspect?

In the comics, I would expect them to follow every nuance of history they created, and stay loyal to the people who have collected this title for many years.  But in theaters, they are trying to reach a wider audience, and at the end of the day, they want to make money.  So taking a comic book frame by frame and making it into a movie is a great concept, but generally I don't think it works so well.  Why?  Because these might be new characters to some viewers.  Or maybe like me, they get easily confused.  Movies like Sin City and 300 are rare exceptions, partly because they don't have years of history and backstory to cover.  But even 300 needed to add a subplot with Leonidas's wife to give it more substance.  

In the end it's a simple equation:
Is your movie written well?  
If you answer yes, then those changes are acceptable and maybe even enjoyable.
If you answered no, then your movie really sucks AND you've made a lot of fans very angry. 

So thumbs up to Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn for making a pretty good story.  Not great... but pretty good.

Bryan Singer also did a pretty good job as director.  He directed the original X-Men movies, and it shows how much he appreciates working in this world.  He made action sequences I could see!  Which is always nice and appreciated in a world of shaky cameras and split second editing.  I loved the future Sentinels, as well as their 70's versions too.  There was nothing overly artistic about his style, but he did the job well enough and told a decent story visually. 

The entire cast did a great job too, from Hugh Jackman (Huge Assman?), to SIR Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and the mostly naked Jennifer Lawrence.  As much as I dislike Halle Berry being in this franchise, I'll even accept her here... barely.  EXTRA huge awesomeness to Evan Peters as Quicksilver I wanted more!

But I do have one small problem (no pun intended)...  Peter Dinklage.

Before everyone starts booing me and calling me a racist (or whatever I would be for not liking little people), I LOVE Peter Dinklage!  I think he is one of the best actors today, big or small.  I've loved him since the first episode of Game of Thrones and I really hope they don't kill him off any time soon.  I sincerely think his acting in DOFP was fantastic!  But... my problem is casting him as Trask.  The character from the comic is not 'height challenged'.  And the sad reality is, in 1973, I don't think someone with his height would have risen to such a powerful position.  In 2014, we are just beginning to accept people no matter their race, color, religion or physical appearance (and even today it seems like some still can't overlook those things).  So seeing him in this role, I needed more.  Maybe the writers dropped the ball here and needed to give us some background story.  Maybe more was written, but was unfortunately edited out for time.  I would have accepted him easier if we knew how and why he got to this position in the close-minded world of the 70's.

So after doing some fancy calculations and new math, I would put X-Men: Days of Future Past as pretty good.  In the ever increasing list of superhero movies, this goes above Thor 1, and Iron Man 3. Dare I say above Iron Man 2?  Although Iron Man 2 had Scarlett Johansson... DOFP had a mostly naked Jennifer Lawrence.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Captain America 2 Review

I used to read a lot of comic books.  Maybe too many.  Eventually, with the pesky responsibilities of work and 'life', I couldn't keep up and stopped reading altogether.  Which is really a shame, since the stories and visuals in comics are way better than many things on TV or in theaters (the secret is creativity).  But with everything I read, I never cared about Captain America.  I knew very little about him, except he was maybe overly patriotic, and something about being frozen from World War II, and he had a shield.  Whatever.  He showed up everywhere but I never gave a crap about Cap (you can use that if you want).

Then in 2011, Marvel Comics released Captain America: The First Avenger, as part of their ginormous Phase One story arc of epic superheroes movies.  At the time, all I could think is whyyyyyyyy???, when there were so many other interesting characters they could have translated to movies.  But because I am a slut for superheroes, I saw it anyway, and then I suddenly decided Captain America is one of the most awesome characters eva!  See me rant about how great that movie was here.

Cap continued to be extra awesome in Avengers (and here is that rant).  And finally, after all the Shawarma dust settled, Marvel is ready to move into Phase Two of their epic superhero lineup, which includes Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Taking place after events in Avengers, we see Cap (heroically played by Chris Evans once again), working with SHIELD, and kicking ass.  Until things go horribly wrong, and then he has to kick more ass.  

Okay, in my efforts to keep my reviews spoiler free, I've overly simplified the plot.  But this movie was anything but simple!  Huge thumbs up to writers Stephen McFeely, and Christopher Markus for creating a complex storyline that actually worked!  Generally, simpler is better.  But this was a successful rare exception of combining action with a well thought out storyline.

One story element I can tell you about (sort of), is the Winter Soldier (played by Sebastian Stan).  If you've been paying attention, writing has taught us:  With great writing, comes a great bad guy.  So without giving anything away, I will tell you, OMG this guy is soooo awesome!  He is the perfect ass-kicking counterpart to Cap, with a well developed origin.  And he seriously made me question my own sexuality because he is quite dreamy.

But successfully reminding me that I am in fact still heterosexual, we get Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson.... mmmm....), who seems to get hotter with every movie.  We also get a bonus with Sam Wilson aka Falcon (played by Anthony Mackie), who has his own share of kick ass moments.  And lest we not forget plenty of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, kicking his own share of ass.

Oh, also Robert Redford has an important role and does some stuff... meh.

Now before you think this is the most awesome epic movie ever made... there was a problem.  Most of the directing by Anthony Russo, and Joe Russo was well done and kept me engaged visually.  But... PLEEEEEASE pull your camera back and show us your fight choreography!!  This wasn't as bad as some movies in the past *COUGH*jj.abrams*COUGH*michael.bay*COUGH*, I could mostly see what was going on, but it would have been nice to not make us feel like the cameraman was trying to break them up the whole time. With two directors, I am curious if maybe one of them filmed the story elements, and the other directed action sequences.  In which case, I'm only angry at one of them.  But which one.....

And finally, bonus points for ABC's series Agents of SHIELD for successfully writing episodes around the events from Cap 2!  I was not originally a big fan of this show, and felt the stories were a bit predictable, the characters were bland, and visually it was dark and had no life.  The last few weeks have revitalized a lot of the characters, and they started to finally add more colors and light into the show.  And recently, incorporating events from Cap 2, they suddenly have my attention.

There was a lot of hype surrounding this movie, and going in, I was very apprehensive.  But yes, believe the hype.  It was VERY well done!  Now, once again, I need to re-evaluate my top list of best Marvel movies.

In the meantime, did I mention Scarlett Johansson was in this?


Saturday, March 8, 2014

For Eddie

Whether you realize it or not, you know Eddie Mashal very well.  Maybe you didn't meet him in person, but you are very familiar with his work, and maybe never realized it.  With his producer, Bill Szymczyk, Eddie was the primary recording engineer on many great classic rock albums, including Hotel California, and The Long Run by The Eagles, and recorded songs by The Bee Gees, Joe Walsh and Bob Seger, just to name a few.  He was fortunate to win a Grammy Award for his work on Hotel California.  And if you saw The Eagles live in the late 70's or early 80's, Eddie was most likely doing their sound.

But none of that mattered much to him.  He loved teaching most of all, and I'm proud to say, I was one of his students.  I was also fortunate to become friends with him for many years and I was (and still am) very saddened when he suddenly passed away in 2013.  He was one of the most important influences in my life, and other of his students as well, and he was one of my very best friends.

For some reason, the music industry had all but forgotten Eddie, but after all his hard work and efforts over the years, I was eager to see his name on this years Grammy Awards during their In Memoriam segment.  You can imagine how disheartened I was to see, Eddie was again forgotten.  NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) truly dropped the ball by overlooking his talent and contribution to the music industry. 

I wonder, should I have tried to contact them maybe?

Obviously it's too late now, but if I post this, maybe others can discover who he was and how important his work in the music industry was.  Not only for classic rock, but by helping so many young people discover the tricks of the trade and making studio recording so easy to understand from his tutelage.

I posted the following eulogy after his passing, and now I am re-posting on his birthday.  Not a day goes by that I don't think of him, and I still miss him deeply.


I first met Eddie Mashal in 1989 when I moved to Ft. Lauderdale to go to The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale to study audio recording. There were a lot of very good instructors at AIFL, but when I heard Eddie recorded Hotel California, I was very eager to learn from him and discover all his secrets. Students would often walk by his classes and point and whisper, “That's the guy! He's got Grammy Awards and everything!” Unfortunately, he only taught the advanced audio courses, so I had to wait a few months, till I could officially meet him.

Or so I thought...

My first job in Ft. Lauderdale was at a movie theater. And in 1989, the Michael Keaton / Jack Nicholson Batman movie was released. And there was Eddie on opening night! I was a simple ticket taker, but when I saw him, I very eagerly shook his hand and told him how I couldn't wait to take his class. He smiled really big, the way Eddie always smiled, and I could see the pride he had about meeting another of his students.

He loved teaching! And he always made it so simple. If you asked him a question, he explained audio in such a way, that you felt foolish for not understanding in the first place. He made learning audio fun and interesting. But he was never “Mr. Mashal”. He was Eddie... a guy you got to hang out with and learn things from. He was a friend to all his students, and all his students loved him. And whenever any of his students became successful, he was filled with even more pride that he helped in some way.

But fortunately for me, we had other common ground. Eddie showed me, it's cool to love comic books! I was always collecting comics, but when I moved to Ft Lauderdale, I had no idea where to get them. Eddie showed me his favorite place to go. So every Thursday, Eddie, Brad Button and I, went on a comic book run. Eddie would tell me about some current storyline in Superman or Batman, and convince me to start collecting those issues. We collected comics, cards, and Eddie collected some very impressive comic figures that I could never afford. Those Thursdays were rarely about music or recording. This was all about hanging out, having fun and being friends.

And because we were friends, he would at times, invite me to assist with him on recording sessions. Maybe they were small simple bands, in very basic studios, but the fact that I got to work with THE Eddie Mashal in the studio, was awesome! I was always a bit starstruck with Eddie. I felt like I made it in the business, as I watched him work.

But Eddie was a humble man, and never saw his accomplishments as all that amazing. To Eddie, it was just another day at the office when he recorded Hotel California. It was just another plaque on the wall when he got a Grammy Award. When I met him, he was never too eager to talk about his experiences with The Eagles. This changed a bit later in his life, but in those days, if an Eagles song came on the radio, he would very quickly change the station.

But I do remember one night, he didn't change the station. And he started talking. I felt like he was telling me all the secrets of the universe, as he explained the details that went into the recording of that particular song.

That was one of many wonderful memories I have of Eddie. But there are many more.

Like when he helped me buy a new car. Who better to take car shopping than a Jewish New Yorker? And like how he took me to a Marlins baseball game. I wasn't a sportsfan, but going with Eddie, really made it an enjoyable experience. And how he would tell many of the same stories over and over again, but you would eagerly listen, because Eddie made them fun and like new every time. And the joy he had in his voice when talking about the AESC (Audio Engineers Sushi Club). And how he was eager to tell the tour guide at the Star Trek Exhibit, all the things they didn't know about Star Trek and the actors history. And the pride in his voice when he explained to me a week before his passing, that he and his former producer, Bill Szymczyk, had finally begun talking again after all these years. And of course riding his motorcycle. How many more times could he crash and still be eager to ride again? I felt as if he was invincible, like Superman.

And to me, Eddie will always be Superman. He was my hero, my mentor, my adviser and one of my very best friends.

Click here for a very short list of his studio projects and to see some of his legacy. Not listed are the students he taught and the lives he touched.

We all miss you and love you Eddie! You helped music sound a bit sweeter, and you will live in our hearts forever.

Recently, I had an opportunity to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was extremely happy to see on regular rotation in one of the display cases, a very short clip of Eddie, taken from the beginning of the Long Run video from The Eagles.  I am so happy to see, my friend made it to the Hall of Fame.  And knowing Eddie, I think he would be even happier to know, they didn't use Eagles music in his video clip.
Check it out here:

Monday, March 3, 2014

True Detective Review

I really hate television.  Which is weird, because I watch a lot of it.  So, somewhere between work, 'pr0n' and the occasional video game, I to try to watch several shows, and I am open minded enough to check out new things.  Sometimes I'm impressed (i.e. Sleepy Hollow, Sherlock on BBC, Almost Human and Bates Motel), but most times I'm disappointed.

Normally, I won't watch non sci-fi/horror/supernatural types of shows because I'm easily bored.  But after the Clockwork Orangian urgings of my friend Regis Jack (check him out painfully and regret it later here), I started watching True Detective on HBO.

Created by Nic Pizzolatto, the plot has Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson playing detectives over the course of 17 years searching for a killer.  But are they really true detectives??  They do some very shady things within those 17 years... dare I say illegal things?  And after 17 years looking for someone, are they good detectives?  I call shenanigans at the show title.  Maybe Questionable Detective would be better.  Dangerous DetectiveFlaky Detective.... just throwing it out there.

First, I love me some Woody (and who doesn't??).  Woody Harrelson ('Detective' Marty Hart) does his usual great job being pretty much the same guy he usually is, only more intense (if you can believe that).  But Matthew McConaughey ('Detective' Rust Cohle) gets the wow..!  What an interesting character.  He kept my attention between his performance and the overall way this character was written.  But was it enough?

At first, I wondered if it would be a more serious and less freaky version of Twin Peaks (which I LOVED!).  But every time we got away from the mystery, and started to focus on Marty's family drama, I got bored.  And they spend a LOT of time focusing on his personal life.  Don't get me wrong, because the women that Marty is with are all pretty freakin' hot!  But, it all felt a bit weird because he spends a lot of the time recalling personal events with other detectives.   

Overall, I kept waiting for something to happen.  Each episode felt like it was building up to something, but delivered nothing.  I found myself saying, "That's it??" often.  I went from leaning forward to leaning back too many times (figuratively).  Otherwise, each episode is well put together, often very dark and sometimes very disturbing, and the acting is top notch.  The directing is also well done  Extra kudos going to episode 4 (Who Goes There) when Cohle hooks up with his old biker gang.  The entire ending sequence was shot very well (no pun intended).

Maybe you'll like this kind of thing, but it isn't for me.  There are only 8 episodes total, so it doesn't take too much time out of your busy schedule.  But if I'm going to watch something non sci-fi/horror/supernatural, I need it to really push me over the edge... like Breaking Bad *sniff*