Wednesday, July 30, 2008

First look at "Half-Blood Prince"

After a week of little to no movie news of interest to me, today we get the first trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, one of my favorite books from the series. The look of the movie is sufficiently creepy, and just enough of a tease to make me eager for November 21. The trailer is embedded below, but you can see a prettier version here.

I love that the trailer uses some of John Williams' classic Harry Potter score, which we haven't heard officially since Prisoner of Azkaban. I'm not sure why he isn't still scoring these movies, but his absence has been felt over the past couple of movies. Wouldn't it be a great bookend to this series if he returned to do the music for The Deathly Hallows? If this great saga has taught us nothing, it's that we can always dream...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Because I couldn't find anything else to blog about...

Here's a classic clip from one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons featuring the late, great Phil Hartman.

Whether you're a fan of the show or not, you've got to admit that they can do a pretty great parody from time to time...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"The Dark Knight" review

I'm having a hard time putting into words exactly how I feel about The Dark Knight. So for a change, I'm going to try and describe it in Q&A format. I'll do my very best to avoid spoiling any plot points:

Question: Have you seen The Dark Knight yet?
Answer: Yes, Wendy and I saw it on the IMAX in Sandy last Saturday.

Q: How was the IMAX? Worth the extra money?
A: The IMAX experience was great...almost all the action scenes were filmed with the special IMAX cameras, making them more immersive and intense. When Batman jumps off the top of a skyscraper, you almost feel like you're flying with him. Definitely worth an extra buck or two.

Q: What about the movie? Was it better than Batman Begins?
A: Uncategorically, YES. Everything was a notch or two above the last big-screen Batman, including the acting, suspense, story, and action scenes. And just wait until you see the introduction of the Batpod...very fun stuff.

Q: I'm hearing that it's very dark. Is it too dark?
A: It's a dark movie, for sure, but I wouldn't say that it is unbearably dark. It's not a movie for young kids (despite the deplorable marketing), but I think most adults will find it to be thrilling, moving, and even a little thought-provoking. It's not a movie for everyone--while largely bloodless, there is quite a lot of violence--but I would say that it ends in a place that helps make up for some of the preceding darkness.

Q: What about Heath Ledger? Will the actor's death take me out of the movie?
A: All the Oscar talk is completely warranted; Ledger's Joker is one of the most memorable performances of the past several years. The only thing I can compare the uniqueness of his performance to is Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow when we first saw him back in 2003. The Joker here is so individual, so convincing, and so unnerving that you will be thinking about him long after you have left the theater. There is probably no greater compliment we could pay Ledger than to say that his last complete performance successfully terrified every person in that theater; it reconfirms that he was a great talent that will be missed.

Q: Who else stands out from The Dark Knight?
A: The acting all around is superb, with special mention to BYU-grad Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, whose performance was almost perfect for a very challenging storyline. Christian Bale is always terrific, and his team of supporters (played by Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhal, and Morgan Freeman) are all fantastic.

Q: Why are people calling it the "best comic book movie ever"?
A: Calling this a "comic book movie" is probably doing the film an injustice. The Dark Knight is as layered, rich, and challenging (on every level) as any of the great films in any genre. When was the last time you saw a popcorn movie tackle such a diverse and complex group of issues, from the threat of anarchy to the ethics of illegal wire-tapping? (In one of the most chilling sequences, the film forces us to think about the darkness of human nature in ways that Spider-man 3 only dreamed of.) While your stomach will be in knots for most of the movie, your brain will be working for the rest of the night. Director Christopher Nolan has created a stunning and hypnotic film that deserves attention when the awards season ramps up again.

Q: How many stars would you give this movie?
A: The Dark Knight gets four stars out of four from me (the first time this year I have given four stars). It's a nearly perfect piece of art, and one that both Wendy and I are eager to go see again. Judging from the applause at the screening I attended (and the box office records the movie is breaking), I'm pretty sure we weren't alone.

Let me know what you thought of The Dark Knight!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pop culture potpourri

It's Thursday, a potentially slow day for me at work, and there's a lot on my non-software centered mind, so here are a few things to consider today:
  1. Emmy nominations were announced today, honoring the "best" TV out there. I was disappointed to see that Pushing Daisies was not included in the list of Best Comedies, although actor Lee Pace (Ned) and Kristin Chenoweth (Olive) were. Still, I was glad to see Lost back on the list of Best Drama nominees (for the first time since it won the category in its first season). And though I'm happy to see The Office, Steve Carell, and Rainn Wilson (Dwight) recognized, I'm wondering what it's going to take to get Emmy voters to recognize the heart & soul of the show: Jim & Pam (neither was nominated this year). Read the whole list of nominees here.
  2. I finally finished reading Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, and I enjoyed it. It wasn't as fascinating to me as his Into Thin Air (that we read in the book club years ago on Devry's suggestion), but it still raised some interesting existential questions that had me considering my own life search for truth and happiness. The story of Chris McCandless is ultimately a sad one, but I wonder if he would be happy to know that Krakauer's book has caused millions of people to think more deeply about how they live their own lives.
  3. The Dark Knight is getting crazy good reviews. Rotten Tomatoes currently reports that 91% of the nation's critics are recommending this movie. Of course there is nothing but praise for Heath Ledger's performance, which I can't wait to see. Critics are, however, noting that this is a very dark and complex tale, and not one that is necessarily appropriate for the little ones. Some have even gone as far to say that the tone and themes push the PG-13 rating to the very limits, so be warned. Wendy and I go to see it on Saturday; I'll let you know what I think of the movie after that.
Anything else I need to be thinking about today?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Trailer for new "Terminator"

I know, I know...I was thinking the same thing. Another Terminator??? Let's consider what we know about this "franchise reboot" (a very popular term these days): the Governator is nowhere to be found, the studio is aiming for a more family-friendly PG-13 rating, and have conceived this as--what else?--a trilogy. This on top of a bleak franchise that should have died after the disappointing Terminator 3, and is already currently represented on TV with Fox's The Sarah Connor Chronicles. But here's one thing that makes me the tiniest bit interested in next summer's Terminator Salvation: actor Christian Bale.

The very selective Bale apparently saw something of interest in the film, as he doesn't seem to be the type that just cashes in on any role he can find. Besides, with the Batman franchise, he doesn't seem to be hurting for money. He is currently one of my favorite actors. Though there are a lot of his artsier movies I haven't seen, there are several he's been in lately that rank among some of my favorites (Batman Begins, The Prestige, 3:10 to Yuma). Right now, he is the only reason I am interested in this movie.

Watch the teaser trailer here, and let me know what you think of Bale in a new Terminator movie.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"SYTYCD" injury sends Jessica home early

As you may have heard, the much maligned (by judges, at least) redhead, Jessica King from So You Think You Can Dance, was injured during rehearsals, and has been asked by her doctor to leave the competition. Producers apparently asked the recently-eliminated Comfort to take Jessica's place both on the show, and on the upcoming multi-city Top 10 tour. Read the whole story here.

I haven't been the most loyal follower of SYTYCD this year, as none of the dancers has particularly caught my interest, but I have found it interesting that judges have been as hard on Jessica as they have been. I'm no dancer, but she looked pretty good to me. Sorta makes you wonder if there is some controversy behind the whole thing...similar to Jessie's strange and sudden departure a few seasons back.

I don't care either way, and can't imagine that this transition will make me watch the show any more or less. But I know there are a few Jessica fans out there...what do you think?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Something scandalous this way comes...

EW apparently has a feature on Twilight in this week's issue (I haven't gotten mine yet), but I thought I'd post their cover photo below and then just watch the angry feedback roar. Take that, Edward the Vampire!

Please note: this picture is from a photo shoot done by Entertainment Weekly, and doesn't necessarily feature the actors as they appear in the movie. Regardless, the funniest reaction to the photo that I have read so far is that the actor playing Edward "looks like a hairy powdered donut." Hilarious.

A little Kevin for your Friday

Here's a new webisode from "The Office" to make you smile on a Friday. Not as brilliant as the "Kevin is retarded" storyline from the season finale, but still funny...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

As if we needed one more reason to love Pixar...

Today I read this bizarre but touching story about the good folks at Pixar on USA Today:

WalleBack in October, a grown-up Pixar fan named Courtney saw the WALL·E trailer and burst into tears. She then recorded her emotional reaction and posted it on her blog.

Weirdly enough, the video caught on, and folks at Pixar heard about it. They contacted Courtney and said they were glad she was excited about the movie. Pretty soon, she received the invitation of a lifetime: to attend WALL·E's official wrap party.

Go here to read all about Courtney's "Pixar adventure," and check out her photos of Flickr.

Now granted, Courtney's emotional response to the movie's trailer is a little strange, but how great was it for Pixar to recognize and celebrate a kindred spirit like they did here?

Why can't we all work for Pixar?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Box office update 2008

Although it's something that I check almost as religiously as my email, I haven't formally given a box office update for the year so far. And since Will Smith's Hancock recently had a subjectively successful holiday weekend, I thought it would be a good time to mention some of the winners and losers of the year so far. As of today, the top-grossing movies for 2008 domestically are as follows (courtesy of Box Office Mojo):
  1. Iron Man ($312 million)
  2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($306 million)
  3. Kung Fu Panda ($193 million)
  4. Dr. Suess' Horton Hears a Who! ($154 million)
  5. Sex and the City: The Movie ($145 million)
  6. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ($139 million)
  7. Wall-E ($127 million)
  8. The Incredible Hulk ($125 million)
  9. Hancock ($104 million)
  10. Get Smart ($98 million)
We're over halfway through the big summer movie season, and it looks like Indiana Jones is poised to be the big winner for the summer (as expected), if not the year. Still, we've got The Dark Knight coming up in a couple of weeks, plus a new Mummy movie in early August, both of which will likely shake up this list a bit.

The surprise winners of the year so far are Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda, and Sex and the City, all of which have exceeded expectations. Disappointments so far have included Disney's Prince Caspian, which is poised to make less than half of its predecessor (though costing far more), and Speed Racer, which was a huge bomb for the creators of The Matrix. Will Ferrell's Semi-Pro was a big bust, and Mike Myers' The Love Guru got no love from moviegoers.

The jury is still out on some of the others. While Hancock made a bunch of money over the weekend, its take was less than expected, and word of mouth has not been very complimentary, likely indicating a huge drop-off in coming weeks. Wall-E will likely out-gross last year's Ratatouille, but will probably fall short of the gross of other recent Pixar movies like Cars and The Incredibles (good thing Oscar-talk is already generating for the little guy...). And The Incredible Hulk will likely end up earning just about as much as its disappointing predecessor (2003's Hulk), which would seem to be a stake through the cinematic heart of the angry green giant.

Ron Weasley finally gets his shot at quidditch in November's HP6

Some of the upcoming releases for the year that are expected to do well are High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Oct. 24), James Bond in Quantum of Solace (Nov. 7), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Nov. 21), and Twilight (Dec. 12). Is there anything out there that isn't a sequel, remake, or literary adaptation?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

New Bond trailer; poster for "The Dark Knight"

I hate to take attention away from my review of Wall-E (below) because I'm really interested to know what you think, but I couldn't help but post the following two items:
  1. Warner Bros. has released what will likely be one of the final posters for the upcoming The Dark Knight. The more I see of this movie, the darker it looks like it's going to be. Wendy and I got our tickets to see it on the IMAX on July 19, which I can't wait for. Click here for a bigger, creepier version.
  2. Yesterday the first trailer for the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, was released. When I watched the trailer for the first time, it gave me the chills. Although time will tell how the movie itself turns out, the trailer itself is a perfect mix of the revenge-centric plot, the ongoing evolution of Bond's personna, and the Bourne-inspired action. Casino Royale was the best thing to happen to the Bond franchise since Sean Connery; Solace looks like it will continue the franchise's reinvention. November 7 can't come soon enough.