Author Archives: Scott

Inception in Lego

Scenes from the movie Inception recreated in Lego!

Original link: http://www.bitrebels.com/geek/inception-movie-legolized/

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Mortal Kombat Rebirth video

No word yet on if this is real or not, but it looks pretty badass. The fight sequence choreographed below is better that ones I’ve seen in so-called action movies. I enjoyed the first Mortal Kombat movie when I saw it in theaters, but I can excuse that as a teenager’s indiscretion.  An MK film based in reality (and not the Outlands or whatever) could be the coolest festival of fisticuffs all year.

Check out ScreenRant for more information!

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Of Splice and Men

Caution: Some spoilers ahead!

It’s been a while since my last science fiction movie, so in preparation for this one I decided to conduct my own scientific experiment.

Step 1 – Ask a question:
“Is this movie any good?”

Step 2 – Do background research:
June 4, 2010. Visited Rotten Tomatoes. Movie is standing at around 70%. Chances are likely that it won’t be terrible.

Step 3 – Construct a Hypothesis:
If I watch this movie, having little or no foreknowledge of it, I may be pleasantly surprised.

Step 4 – Test Hypothesis by Conducting Experiment:
View movie. Materials required: popcorn, carbonated beverage, and sugary snacks.

Step 5 – Analyze Data and Draw a Conclusion:

Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) are brilliant, romantically involved geneticists who have gene-spliced together a completely new life-form, one that creates proteins useful for [lucrative venture] making someone an obscene amount of money. Clive and Elsa hope to continue the research that would eventually allow them to completely eradicate certain genetic defects among humans, but their parent company is more interested in creating [some lucrative product]. When faced with the imminent corporate restructuring of their lab, they decide to push their scientific and ethical envelopes one last time by creating an embryo spliced from the combination of human DNA and the DNA of their other creations. When the embryo comes to term after an extremely accelerated gestation, Clive and Elsa find themselves taking divergent paths of scientific study and personal gain.

The little creature still exhibits an accelerated growth pattern and quickly grows from something that looks like a baby sea lion with chicken legs into an adorable little girl with chicken legs. Dren, as she is named, fulfills Elsa’s latent desire to be a mother, and Elsa is unable to remain scientifically dispassionate toward the little girl; however, Clive is still unsure what to do about the “specimen”. Locked away in the basement of the lab, child-Dren grows up into a beautiful young woman (Delphine Chanéac), whose only interactions are with her creators/parents. When her discovery by the laboratory’s manager seems unavoidable, Clive and Elsa sneak Dren out of the facility to Elsa’s childhood home, a remote farm tucked away on an X-files locale, complete with deserted house, creepy woods and all.

I'm not Dren, but I am an attractive, bald, human/alien hybrid.

Here on the farm, the relationship between Clive, Elsa, and Dren changes and the movie shifts direction, from science fiction to psychological thriller/horror. If there are right and wrong actions to every situation, Clive and Elsa choose the wrong action virtually every time, with increasingly horrific results. Dren is caught between the two scientists and their malfunctioning moral compasses, locked away, and at the mercy of her own under-developed, human emotions and animal nature. The latter half of the movie expands its topics from science and ethics to those of cruelty, abuse, sex, violence, and murder. The question “What’s the worst that could happen?” is answered in graphic detail.

Step 6 – Communicate Your Results:

Like Dren, Splice is a hybrid creation. It’s not entirely horror, or completely science fiction, or even entirely original. It doesn’t have a clear cut protagonist, so there are no heroes here – every character in this movie has some serious issues. Where it stands up is in the character interaction between a weak-willed Clive, an increasingly unpredictable Elsa, and a mostly innocent Dren. Characters aren’t developed as much as they are revealed (in Clive’s and Elsa’s characters) or deliberately inhibited (in Dren’s character). It creates tension and builds momentum in the first act, stalls a little in the second, and builds to a climax in the third, but regrettably falls apart in the last few moments.

Despite all of that, I enjoyed it. I went it knowing little about the plot and I managed to avoid even a single trailer, so the visual effects were compelling and fresh. The subject matter is mature, and not for everyone. It’s certainly not with flaws (lack of focus, moments of disbelief, unnecessary violence), but at the end of the day it was worth seeing.

Hypothesis: confirmed.  It wasn’t pleasant, but I was surprised. I give it 3 out of 5 Babbles.


3/5 Babbles

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Dr Strangelove reviewed, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

As we enter the blockbuster season and begin pre-ordering our tickets for the Next Big Bovie (NBM of the week:  Iron Man 2), we are all going to feel the pinch at the box office. Before you buy any more tickets, or hit your local Red Box vending machine, put your wallet down and step away from your credit card. It’s time to see what’s playing your favorite free online movie theater, Cinema Huludiso (aka Hulu.com).

This week’s offering is the classic Cold War satire/comedy Dr. Strangelove, a film by Stanley Kubrick. Release in 1964, this movie (full title: Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) has been around long enough to be thoroughly analyzed by persons far more knowledgeable than I. I highly recommended reading its Wikipedia entry if you are inclined to learn more about the context and subtext of the film. I’m just going to share what I enjoyed about it.

First things first: the casting is simply amazing. The movie is worth seeing just for the performances, most notable those performances (yes, plural) by Peter Sellers. He was simply amazing as three different and completely unique characters:  British Group Commander Lionel Mandrake, US President Merkin Muffley, and the titular Dr. Strangelove. Each character is as different as could be from the others in voice, tone, temperament, and physical presence. Sellers was simply amazing.

George C. Scott , who won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of General George S. Patton in in 1970, portays Army general Buck Turgidson (great name!), but this time he’s a paranoid, über-patriotic jingo. Keenan Wynn, whom I always knew as the bellowing Uncle Alonzo from Herbie Rides Again, appears briefly as “Bat” Guano, a general overly concerned with private property and the assumed “preversions” of Commander Mandrake. James Earl Jones (Flight of Dragons, Coming to America) makes his film debut as Lt Lothar Zogg, an officer attached to the B-52 bomber around which the movie revolves, and Slim Pickens (Blazing Saddles) is Major “King” Kong, the B-52’s redneck pilot who is hell-bent on completing his mission.

His mission? To drop his nuclear payload on Soviet Russia at the command of a his commanding officer, Jack D. Ripper (yep, a play on Jack the Ripper), a general obsessed with defending his precious bodily fluids from the Russians. Sound a little crazy? It is, and so is General Ripper. Without any enemy provocation and under his own authority, he has sent an entire wing of B-52s, all armed with nuclear bombs, into Soviet Russia with orders to destroy military targets. The bombers have locked their communications to a code that only Ripper knows, and the President and his advisory cabinet are unable to rescind the orders without it. Commander Mandrake (Peter Sellers), aware of the general’s instability/insanity, is attempting to discover the communications code so that he can give it to President Muffley (Peter Sellers), who is being advised by the former-Nazi scientist Dr Strangelove (Peter Sellers) to take the best and brightest of the American people underground in case of nuclear retaliation by the Soviets.

Sound a little crazy? It is, but it’s all part of the fun in this “could it really happen?” farcical, commentary on Cold War politics and international relations. You don’t want to miss out on the fun, and since Dr. Strangelove is currently featured on Hulu (with limited commercial interruptions, of course), you don’t have to! I give it 4 out of 5 Babbles, but I want to know what you think, so go watch the movie and come back here to post your thoughts!


4/5 Babbles

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Cleanup on aisle 3D!

This reviewer has just returned from purchasing two tickets to Dreamworks’ new release How to Train Your Dragon. Fresh on the tails of the popular (though loathed) Alice in Wonderland and hyper-mega-blockbuster Avatar, HTTYD is also being released in multiple flavors of 3D, and this time, it’s going to cost you.

For the record, I rarely see a movie without using Regal/Edwards discount tickets (available from Costco and AAA fo $15/pair). For quite a while, these tickets would get me into any movie at my local Edwards cinema, be it a normal screen or an IMAX, 2D or 3D. It was an oversight on their part not to charge more for the IMAX movies, but they corrected that oversight when they added a $5 surcharge for IMAX films when The Dark Knight was released. Fair enough.

However, my recent purchase for HTTYD in IMAX 3D required an additional $1.50 per ticket for the privilege of 3D viewing. I inquired as to the new surcharge and the ticketing attendant informed me that price increase went into effect yesterday. Even with my discounted Costco ticket, this movie cost me $14.00. Babbler Johnny just watched Alice in Wonderland in non-IMAX 3D and paid an additional $3 on top of his discount ticket. Theater prices are going up from coast to coast as evidenced by this story from Fresno, California and this story from New York, NY.

Avatar was a fantastic movie-going event, but it was a double-edged sword. It proved to the industry that 3D works as a medium and that it sells tickets by the ton (by the metric ton, internationally). It broke new ground and now it’s going to start breaking our wallets. 3D is the cash cow that’s going to allow theaters to start making money on tickets, and not just on concessions (which, as a matter of personal thriftiness, I almost never buy.) I think I’m going to have to find a niche post somewhere reviewing only those movies that have hit the $1,$2, and $3 theaters.

Look for my review of How to Train Your Dragon soon; it might be last review of an opening-weekend movie for a while!

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Alice in Wonderland

The Academy Awards have been handed out, The Kodak Theater has emptied, and the red carpet rolled back up for next year. What’s left to talk about? Last weekend’s movie releases, of course! Specifically, Disney’s latest venture, Alice in Wonderland.

At the close of its opening weekend, Alice grossed an estimated $116 million, replacing Avatar as the highest grossing winter release yet. Alice and Avatar have a few things in common, other than their initials. Both of these films rely heavily (or almost entirely) on CGI effects to create their environments. Both are from renowned directors (Tim Burton and James Cameron, respectively) who are known for their visual styles and their ability to tell a story through them. Burton is known for his quirkiness and whimsy, Cameron for his action and drama.

But where Cameron is clearly still creating groundbreaking, phenomenally successful movies, Burton seems to be flagging. His last few films are all indicative of his various styles: dark and morose (9, Sweeney Todd), fantastic and whimsical (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), or dark and whimsical (The Corpse Bride). Alice in Wonderland seems to be in the dark and fantastic, slightly whimsical camp. The creatures are all vividly imagined and rendered on screen, the environments either bright and vibrant, or dark and forbidding. The problem I have with Alice is that neither the environments nor the characters are engaging. I didn’t care about anyone or anything in the film.

Alice, looking almost as bored as the audience.

Meet Alice (Mia Wasikowska). She’s 19, plagued by nightmares of falling down holes, strong-willed, and fiercely anti-establishment. Sounds like a good formula for a leading lady, right? Unfortunately, Ms. Wasikowska fails to be anything more than a blonde mannequin delivering a dull, wooden performance. I have not seen this young actress in anything else, so I do not know how good/bad an actress she really is, but based on this performance alone, she is close to bumping Kristen Stewart (Twilight, New Moon, Adventureland) from the top of my Least-Liked Actresses list. Close, but not quite. (Kristen, you’re still the best of the worst in my book!) Still, I found nothing to like about Alice. She spends most of her time in Wonderland convinced she is in a dream, so Mia Wasikowska sleepwalks through the majority of the movie. When the heroine doesn’t care where she is or what she’s doing, neither do I.

Oh, but there are so many quirky and whimsical characters in the land of Wonder! (Or Underland, as we learn.) The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), The Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover, playing an even thinner man*), Red Queen (Helena “I’m here because I’m sleeping with the director” Bone-him Carter), White Queen (Anne “Because I’m tired of being the princess” Hathaway), and Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), to name the more important characters. Jabberwocky has a speaking role, as well, but I’m not going to say who it is. Hearing that performer’s voice was one of the few pleasant surprises in the film, and one I’ll not spoil for you.

Crispin Glover as Stayne. Used in a sentence: "This role is a stayne on his career."

More often than not, the madness, courtesy of Johnny Depp (who has an inexplicable habit of bursting into Scottish accent), is just confusion/confusing, and the capriciousness is simple petulance. The Red Queen isn’t unstable and terrifying, she’s childish and annoying. Stayne, the Knave of Hearts isn’t intimidating, he’s silly and awkward. The White Queen dances from one pose to the next, tra la la, and speaks of her vows to never hurt a living creature, and then asks Alice to hurt a living creature. Hypocrite.

I was excited to hear Alan Rickman voicing Caterpillar, but realized after a few lines of dialogue that he was asleep, not unlike the movie-goer two seats down from me. Picture Alan Rickman in your mind. Not young, vibrant “I’ll cut his heart out with a spoon” Sheriff-of-Nottingham Rickman. Old, tired, Severus-Snape Rickman. Now slow him down to half that speed, and you’ll have an idea of how Caterpillar sounds. Bored, and rather annoyed that he’s in this movie.

Cheshire is…actually, he’s pretty good. Stephen Fry is one of the bright spots in the movie, and he plays Cheshire Cat well. The languorous lynx stretches, evaporates, and drifts from scene to scene, and it is slightly ironic that the most insubstantial character in the movie is the one feels the most real.

Alice’s visuals are good, but not great. The pictures painted are of madness, bleakness, whimsy, quirkiness, blah blah blah. Alice seems like it was tailor-made for Tim Burton to one day bring to life, but he fails. It doesn’t feel like Alice in Wonderland, it feels like Alice in Burtonland. That’s not to say that the set and character designs aren’t the least bit creative, but they just don’t feel real. Additionally, the CGI rendering (which is considerable) felt rough and unfinished.

Though Alice and Avatar have a few things in common, there is one huge difference. Everyone who loved Avatar unflinchingly agrees that the story is pretty awful, but they don’t care. It stands as an exception to the rule that special effects do not make the movie. Alice in Wonderland is the example of that rule.

Alice is armed and determined to put this movie out of its misery.

If it seems as though I’m spending a lot of time describing the acting and the visuals, it’s because the story isn’t worth spending a lot of time on. The writers probably didn’t. Let me sum up: Alice is bored in England. Alice is bored in Wonderland. Alice is on a chess board. Alice boards a slow boat to China. The end. And in a venue perfect for a post-credits Easter egg, we got a goose egg. Really, Tim? You couldn’t give us one little last glimpse of Wonderland and some promise of a future visit? Not that I really wanted an extra scene, but there should have been one.

The story is weak. The movie is bland. The characters are odd or eccentric, without the necessary trait of being interesting. Alice was bored, and so was I. I give Alice in Wonderland only 1 Babble.


1 / 5 Babbles

*In Charlie’s Angels (2000), Crispin Glover played a character called Thin Man.

Addendum: I feel the need to point out that my fellow screener LOVED this movie. It is currently sitting at 52% on Rotten Tomatoes, so I guess the two of us make that statistic accurate.

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Wes Anderson reboots Spiderman?!?

Well, not quite. If he, though, it might look something like this.

Mad kudos to the group that put this together. Creative, clever, and classically Anderson-esque. I give it an unofficial three out of Five Babbles (Points deducted for the Owen Wilson impression being too good.)


3/5 Babbles

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The Fantastic Mr Fox – For the Win!

Congratulations to Wes Anderson for winning the National Board of Review’s “Special Filmmaking Achievement” award for 2009!

Check out our own Jeff Jordan’s review on The Fantastic Mr Fox here, and check out Wes’s acceptance speech below.

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Golden Globes 2010 – an incomplete summary

Not too much to say about the Golden Globes except “Oh, was that tonight?”

Honestly, I wasn’t watching them; I prefer to see all of the winners in a handy list at the end of the evening and to watch the highlights that are put online. That said, the list is in and I am delighted to see Avatar win Best Picture! Despite my love for the movie, I am a little surprised. I would have guessed Inglourious Basterds would win. Of course, I didn’t see Precious, Up in the Air, or The Hurt Locker, either. Love at the box office does not necessarily translate into love at the awards shows. So kudos to James Cameron, and may the Academy Award considerations abound!

The Dude and Mrs The Dude.

Jeff Bridges won Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama)! I haven’t seen Crazy Heart yet , or Up in the Air (George Clooney), A Single Man (Colin Firth), Invictus (Morgan Freeman), or Brothers (Tobey Maguire), from which his fellow actors were nominated, but I’d give it to Jeff just because he’s The Dude. And he runs Flynn’s Arcade. Seriously, Jeff Bridges has built up decades of instant good will with me for his performances in The Big Lebowski and Tron. The Dude can do no wrong. And he abides.

Sandra Bullock won Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) for her role in The Blind Side. Hers was the only movie in her category that I had seen, but she deserved it nonetheless. Wait, drama? But you didn’t win for the Comedy category? I don’t understand! Sandra, I loved your wisecracking, sassy bad self as a Memphis super-mom! Really, she definitely deserved to be in both categories (Drama and Comedy-or-Musical), and I am glad she won in one of them.

Christoph Waltz won Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. Heil, yes! His portrayal of Hans Landa was spectacular. How could you not see (Nazi?) this movie without giving him an award? Please forgive the puns.
Best Animated Feature Film went to Pixar’s Up. No surprise there, but good on ya’, Pixar, for making a great movie and getting into the 3D game right before Avatar changed the rules on you.
Michael C Hall killed his competition with his performance as Dexter in Dexter, taking home Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series (Drama) to, no doubt, place it inside his air conditioner. Mr Hall recently revealed that he has been fighting cancer, and that it is currently in remission. Congratulations on both victories, Michael! We wish you the best!
Glee beat 30 Rock and The Office for Best Television Series (Comedy or Musical)?!? I can’t believe it! Maybe it’s time to sit down and watch an episode.
But… Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series (Comedy Or Musical) went to Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock. Now that’s more like it. As Liz Lemon would say, “<something witty>”. Or as Tracy Jordan would say, “Liz Lemon!” And that’s why I don’t have a Golden Globe for Best Entry on a Movie Review Blog.
Anyway, there were other winners in other categories, but I don’t have any comments for them.

Quentin didn't win anything, but he did get pretty close to some golden globes.

No review equals no Babbles, so I leave you with this random quote: “Write a wise saying and your name will live forever.” – Anonymous

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When the Last Sword is Drawn


“When the Last Sword is Drawn” is a tale based around actual events of the mid-19th century in Japan, in which the opening of Japan to the western influences began its departure from the time of the samurai. I’m not going to pretend that I know anything more than that about that time period, so let me just say, think of “The Last Samurai”(2003), and you’ve got the era, if not the budget. A lesser budget, however, did not hurt this movie in any way, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Saito Hajime and Yoshimura Kanichiro are members of the Shinsengumi, a group of masterless samurai charged with protecting the shogun and keeping the peace. Saito is a cold, hardened warrior/mercenary and Yoshimura a seeming country bumpkin and buffoon of a samurai. Told by an aged Saito in a series of flashbacks, the story unfolds around Yoshimura to reveal his true character and how he came to leave his family and pursue a career in the Shinsengumi, and to serve as a philosophical counterpoint to Saito’s way of life.

Though a little long at two hours and 17 minutes, When the Last Sword is Drawn is able to give ample time to build and develop its characters. People are not easily pigeon-holed and just when I thought I had a person figured out, he surprised me. This film is a beautiful, tragic story of a man who does whatever he must to provide for his family. While his actions make him the laughingstock of his samurai brothers, he is never stripped of his dignity or the pride that stems from his deep love for his wife and children.

In this current time of global economic recession, when men around the world are struggling to put food on their tables, this movie rings true. It shows a life characterized by joy, if not always by happiness. It is not always hopeful, but it is sincere, and I give it a solid 4 Babbles.


4/5 Babbles

Watch the movie on Hulu today!

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Dexter: Season 1 DVD

Cold.

Calculating.

Emotionless.

Disturbingly likeable.

But enough about me, today I want to talk about Dexter, the star of the original Showtime series of the same name. I realize that the show first aired in 2006, but I have just discovered it, thanks to the Black Friday machinations of my fellow Babbler, Johnny. He, Jeff, and I have been unfolding Season 1 over the last couple of weeks, and I think I can speak for them as well as myself when I say that I like what I see.

Dexter (Michael C. Hall) is a forensics expert, employed by the Miami police department. His specialty is in blood, and his expertise comes not only from his professional work but also from his personal pastime. Dexter, you see, is a serial killer. He kills cleanly, carefully, and conscientiously; only the bad guys who go unnoticed by the law or escape the hands of justice end up on his radar and in his collection. He avoids detection himself by maintaining a façade of caring brother, loving boyfriend, and all-around nice guy.

Therein lies the rub. Dexter is a cold-blooded killer, liar, and probable psychopath. For all of that, you can’t help but like him! Mr. Hall skillfully wields both sides of his character’s personalities such ambidexterity* that you can never forget his true nature, yet you are willing to overlook it. In fact, despite his complete lack of societal ethics, it is hard not to cheer for him as he accomplishes what the police cannot.

Dexter is supported by a cadre of clever characters: Harry, his foster father who (via flashbacks) helps Dex understand his place in society. Deb, his foster sister, a rookie homicide cop who swears like a sailor and has no idea what her brother really is. Rita, his emotionally fragile girlfriend with a dark note in her own past. Sgt. Doakes, a hard-nosed detective who senses something awry with Dex. Masuka, a fellow forensics expert is played to comedic effect by C.S. Lee (whom you might remember as Buy More manager Harry Tang from TV’s Chuck).

I highly recommend Dexter, Season 1, even as I haven’t finished watching it myself. Be advised that the show does contain adult themes, strong language, violence (duh), and occasional sexual situations. That said, Dexter is extremely well-written, acted, and produced, and fully deserves its 3.5 Babbles.


3.5 / 5 Babbles

*Pun fully intended, and no doubt what the writers had in mind when they named the character.

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The Twilight Saga: New Moon Podcast

Our latest podcast is up! In this episode we review New Moon and the overall Twilight phenomenon that is sweeping the nation. In this podcast, we not only discuss our critical review of the movies but it’s impact on pop culture, the next generation, and morality. Since none of the Babblers are big fans, we brought in two experts, or ‘Twi-hards’ to help us understand what all the hype is about. Check it out and leave us your thoughts.

The Twilight podcast can be found here.

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