Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Cowboys & Aliens" trailer brings me out of blog-oblivion

It's been a long time since we've seen Harrison Ford in a non-Indiana Jones big-budget adventure. Even watching this trailer, I can't quite tell what his role is going to be, but that's one of the things I loved about it. Daniel Craig heads the cast (in the production that I think replaced the postponed James Bond film), and this early look of the movie is slick and just mysterious enough to make me really excited. As I have said before, it's not very often that studios these days give big budgets for scripts that don't come with a built-in fanbase; let's hope Cowboys & Aliens doesn't disappoint.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shiny new "Harry Potter" trailer

We're less than two months away from the first part of the epic-looking Harry Potter finale. I just dare you to watch this trailer without getting goosebumps:

Part I of The Deathly Hallows opens on my birthday, November 19. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Fall TV premiere dates

The summer TV drought is almost over. The hilarious Herc from Ain't It Cool News recently posted the fall premiere dates for all your favorite TV shows. You can view them alphabetically or by date by clicking here.

The ones that are of interest to me, for those of you who are dying to know, are as follows:
  • Survivor (CBS) Sept. 15 (now on Wednesdays)

  • The Middle (ABC) Sept. 22

  • Modern Family (ABC) Sept. 22

  • The Office (NBC) Sept. 23

  • 30 Rock (NBC) Sept. 23

  • The Amazing Race (CBS) Sept. 26

  • The Good Wife (CBS) Sept. 28

  • Friday Night Lights (DirecTV) Oct. 27 (this won't show up on NBC until the spring...)

Of the new shows that are premiering, I can't say I'm overly interested in any of them. I'll watch the reviews and see if anything noteworthy emerges from the pack.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Terrorists vs. vampires

The Onion has a funny (and fabricated) feature today about the terrorists alleged admiration of Stephanie Meyer and her vampire/werewolf saga. Unlike Ms. Meyer's Twilight novels, this video is intentionally funny.

Al-Qaeda Calls Off Attack On Nation's Capitol To Spare Life Of 'Twilight' Author

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ranking Pixar from "worst" to best

I really can't wait to see Toy Story 3, hopefully soon. The reviews have been unanimously positive, and what else has there been this summer? Anyway, the critics at did an interesting exercise today, ranking Pixar's first ten movies from "worst" (it's all relative here) to best. The list was interesting, but had some definite head scratchers, such as Monsters, Inc. in the bottom two. Really?

So, keeping in mind that I really love all of these movies, here is my top 10 list (number one being the best):

10. Cars: A fun movie, and beautiful to look at (especially if you're into cars), but still my least favorite because it is a little predictable. I might feel differently if I had a little boy, though.
9. A Bug's Life: A creative look at the grasshopper/ant hierarchy with some terrific moments (I still giggle about Flik's failed "this rock is a seed" metaphor), but really just the tip of the Pixar iceberg of greatness. Plus, the plot feels lifted from Three Amigos.
8: Wall-E: I liked this movie more than most of my family/friends, and Lily loves it, but it is a bit preachy in tone, and the humans-are-lazy subplot is mildly grating. Still, the dialogue-free interactions between Wall-E and Eve are fantastic; pure visual poetry. (Lily occasionally puts her fingers together "like Wall-E" when she's trying to fall asleep.)
7: Up: I've only seen this once, and I really loved the interaction between Karl and the kid, plus the themes of adventure and age, told lovingly and humorously. The talking dogs, while funny, are probably the only reason this doesn't rank higher for me.
6: Finding Nemo: This movie has gotten better with repeat viewings, and it was great movie to begin with. The voice work is stellar, especially from Ellen DeGeneres, and the touching father/son dynamic is powerful. My only minor complaint is that I dislike the plot device where two people who are looking for each other (father/son, boy/girl, etc.) keep crossing paths and missing each other for one reason or another.
5: Toy Story 2: It really is a great sequel, and pays homage to the groundbreaking original without rehashing it. I love how the toys explore such meaningful themes as age, abandonment, and friendship with such good-spirited wit and warmth.
4: Monsters, Inc.: Probably Pixar's warmest; a comedic love letter about the spell that kids can cast on you and the crazy things that you will do for them. If you don't get goosebumps when Sully opens Boo's door in the final frame of the movie, you just don't have a soul. (A sequel is in the works.)
3: Ratatouille: I'm sure I'm in the minority here, as this is probably Pixar's most random film (a rat...who loves to Paris), but this is one of my favorites. Maybe it's the theme of food, maybe it's the music (one of my all-time favorite soundtracks), or maybe it's because Lily would watch this on a continuous loop...something about it just clicks for me. I love the messages of tolerance, nurturing your imagination, and pursuing your passion. I just love this movie from beginning to end; it never fails to make me smile.
2: The Incredibles: The best action movie to come around in years. Fast-paced, hysterically witty, and emotionally complex. It works equally as satire or homage to comic-book/superhero movies, while deftly tackling the complicated dynamics of family relationships and reigniting the romantic spark in marriage. My favorite Incredibles memory to this day was watching it for the first time with my Eddy nieces/nephews and watching them run alongside Dash as he raced through the jungle from the bad guys. They were CAPTIVATED by the adventure; it was a joy to observe.
1: Toy Story: This is an easy pick, but for me, it's still the benchmark that Pixar will likely forever be trying to recapture. I don't remember another movie being able to so quickly transport me back to a time when I believed that my He-Man action figures would go on battling well after I had gone to bed. This was the first time we'd seen a full movie that was completely rendered in a computer, but it never once feels manufactured or cold (George Lucas could have learned a thing or two). This film remains one of my all-time favorites, and hasn't lost a bit of its relevance or wit even 15 years later.

As cheesy as it sounds, I'm just grateful that the passionate grown-up kids who work at Pixar have so successfully and willingly shared their significant talents with the world. Wouldn't it be amazing if we were all paid to do something we love?

Monday, May 24, 2010

"24" and "Lost" finales

I'm traveling and thus haven't seen the much-ballyhooed finale of Lost. I'm very interested in seeing how it all turns out, of course, but to be honest, my expectations are a thousand times lower than they were after the first 2-3 seasons. I'll surely be sad to see it go, but honestly the weekly delay of the big answers has taken its toll: I think I'm ready for the end.

Not so for 24, which still manages to pack a wallop when you least expect it. This final season has been uneven, to be sure. The Dana Walsh storyline was never more than dreadful, and President Taylor's late season change-of-personality made no sense. That said, much of the Renee Walker drama was compelling, Chloe continues to be a shining--and grumpy-- star throughout, and Jack's recent death-wish vendetta has been ridiculous, over-the-top, and disturbingly entertaining. But after eight long years of watching this guy have the worst days of his life, I think he finally deserves a break.

24 really was a revolutionary show for its time. It was lucky to survive beyond it's ratings-challenged first couple of years, but once it settled into the January-start-with-no-breaks schedule (later copied by Lost), viewers grew and remained surprisingly loyal for a serialized show in its eighth season. There probably isn't another show on the air that has been as consistently exciting as 24, and I fear that there never will be. It was never a perfect show; it always expected a certain degree of disbelief from its viewers. But then, who wants to watch their hero take potty breaks or sit in LA traffic for minutes at a time?

Together, 24 and Lost made my late winter doldrums just a little brighter. They both changed the way networks produce and program their shows, and the way viewers expected a little more from them. To all of the talented folks who devoted years of their lives to producing these joyfully glossy shows, thank you!

And let me know when you're hiring for TVs next big phenomenon...

Saturday, May 08, 2010

"Iron Man 2" mini-review

Maybe if I make my posts shorter, I'll do them more it the Twitter-method. (Incidentally, if anyone would like to follow me on Twitter, I'm @jaytay96).

Anyhoo, I saw Iron Man 2 yesterday and enjoyed it a lot. Most of it has to do with Robert Downey, Jr.'s cheeky-but-layered take on Tony Stark; he's really creating something memorable with this character. I also enjoyed Sam Rockwell (so great as "Guy" in Galaxy Quest) as Tony's slimy weapons-manufacturing nemesis. The first 2/3 of the movie borders on comic-book greatness, setting the stage for several very interesting and complicated character-driven conflicts. Only some of those stories really bear fruit by the end, but none of them are truly botched amazing feat for a movie that is trying to do so much (anyone remember Spider-man 3?).

As a novice to Marvel's wider repertoire, I didn't really appreciate all the Avengers references, since they occasionally took the focus away from the movie at hand to pimp some of Marvel's upcoming releases (Captain America, Thor, etc.). But it's a small complaint for a movie that never feels like anything less than good old-fashioned, big-budget fun. I'm eager to see what Downey & company have in store for Iron Man 3. (***1/2 out of four)

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Monsters, Inc" sequel announced

It took Pixar to pull me out of my recent blog-stupor (if only Wendy's blog were so lucky). This news shouldn't come as a huge surprise, seeing as how Disney/Pixar have already announced sequels to Toy Story and Cars, but it was finally made official that Monsters, Inc., the sweet comedy from 2001, will finally get a sequel in the winter of 2012 (assuming the world hasn't come to an end by then...).

It's funny that this news was released today, as it was just yesterday that I pulled the Monsters, Inc. DVD out of the back of our cabinet so that we could introduce Lily to it for an upcoming movie night. Some might complain that they'd rather see an original Pixar movie rather than another sequel (will be the third Pixar sequel in as many years), but sounds like the plan is for Pixar to produce both in a calendar year, so everyone wins. Can't wait!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Roger Ebert: The Essential Man

Though I often disagree with his reviews and opinions more often than I agree with him, Roger Ebert is still a skilled, entertaining, and thoughtful writer and film critic whom I admire. Esquire recently did an excellent article about the man, who has in recent years lost his voice (and much of his jaw) due to various surgeries and procedures related to jaw cancer. It's really a beautiful article. Print it out and read it on the treadmill.

Roger Ebert: The Essential Man

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"24" update

Seven hours in, and it's still a little early to tell whether or not 24's 8th season will be one of its better ones, although the tormented-Renee subplot has at least given Jack a believable reason to stay engaged in our nation's latest fictional conflict. The blond CTU agent's shady past feels like a time-killer, and the politics with President Taylor feel a little slow right now, but it's early in the season and I'm moderately pleased with where things are headed overall.

Today Variety announced that 20th Century Fox has hired screenwriter/director Billy Ray to write a script for a potential film version of the popular TV show. This excites me because I have been impressed with almost everything that Billy Ray has been involved with in recent years, including last year's superb political thriller, State of Play, as well as the engrossing dramas Breach and Shattered Glass, both of which suck me in every time I catch them on TV.

The immediate likelihood of a film version depends on whether or not Fox (the TV-side of the studio) decides to renew 24 for a ninth season. That decision is expected in the next few weeks so that producers will know whether or not to write the Season 8 finale as a series finale or simply another season finale. The number of viewers for Season 8 are down a little from last year, and have never reached the highs of Season 5, but are still a far cry from the puny audience that greeted the show through its acclaimed first season (when it was lucky to get a renewal). It's an expensive show to produce, and doesn't repeat well due to its serial nature. But like Lost, it's always been a profitable show, thanks in part to successful DVD sales (which is how many viewers prefer to watch the show).

In any case, whether on the big screen or small, it sounds like Jack Bauer will live to see another day, which is always welcome news. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Prequel blues

Is it just me, or has all this prequel business gotten out of hand? I mean really, can you think of one single good prequel? Star Wars: Episode III was decent, especially in comparison to its own crappy predecessors, but seriously, name one prequel that was actually worth retelling a story you already know. You can't do it, can you? Neither can I. (Last year's Wolverine being a perfect example of boring redundance.)

So it's with great disdain that I relate the latest Bourne rumors from Matt Damon. Specifically, he says that the studio will likely make a Bourne prequel with a different actor prior to finally getting around to a new Bourne sequel (which he says may be five years away!). After all, Jason Bourne only became interesting and relatable once he forgot who he was. I mean seriously, who wants to see him become a cold-blooded killer? Anyone else think this is a terrible idea?

This news, coupled with the recent Spider-man franchise reboot (seriously, a reboot already?), really makes me irritated at the lack of original thought coming out of Hollywood these days. Your thoughts?

Friday, January 22, 2010

"Survivor" and "The Amazing Race" premieres

The next editions of my two favorite reality shows (sorry American Idol) have been announced by CBS. Survivor's 20th season (they do two a year) starts on Thursday, Feb. 11, and is another "all-star" edition with "heroes" and "villains" from the show's first 19 seasons (including the cunning but ultimately-shafted Russell from last season). To take a peek at the entire cast, click here.

As for The Amazing Race, it comes back on Feb. 14 (Happy Valentine's Day!) and includes a wide variety of teams, as usual (click here). This remains one of my all-time favorite shows, but I can't for the life of me understand why CBS still hasn't chosen to film it in glorious HD (which reinvigorated my interest in Survivor).

It would be a dream to be on the The Amazing Race, so if any of my legion of fans has any connections, I'd be willing to give you a shout out here on my enormously popular blog...

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Avatar" review

Wendy and I snuck away the other day for a late afternoon 3D viewing of Avatar. I know most of you have already seen it and formed your own opinions, so my thoughts here won't necessarily be fresh or unique, but then neither was the movie itself, so I'm in good company.

Don't get me wrong: James Cameron has done a very, very good job of creating a visually convincing world for his epic. If I had to guess, I'd say that 90% of this movie is computer generated (including more than half of the characters), and yet you seldom think to yourself that you are watching an "animated" movie. Initially I resisted the movie because I just didn't think I could identify with lanky weird blue people with tails (or "cat people" as my friend Dan calls them). And I still feel like their characters are relatively underdeveloped, but then so are the human characters. But as for whether or not you believe in the world of Pandora and the tactile existence of the Na'vi peoples, Cameron scores big time.

My biggest problem is with the story itself, which we've seen told a dozen times before. The story takes very few unexpected turns, which is disappointing for a movie that takes so many technological leaps forward. Some have compared it to Dances with Wolves, which is a very accurate comparison. I also found similarities with The Last Samurai, and to a smaller extent, The Lion King and Cameron's own Aliens and Titanic. (My friend John shared with me a funny story from the Huffington Post that humorously compares Avatar to Disney's Pocahontas.)

Some people (especially conservatives) have complained of the "overtly political" message. I thought about that while I was watching the movie, and can't say that I necessarily agree with that criticism. Yes, there is a natural-resource hungry, very militant group that becomes the antagonist in the film. Some have assumed that Cameron was making a not-so-veiled dig at the United States' invasion of Iraq. But my question is this: why would that offend conservatives? If we really believed that the U.S. had invaded Iraq simply to capitalize on its oil supplies and displace the locals, we'd be offended too. But we don't believe that, right? We believe that there is a higher, more noble purpose for our presence there (national security, liberation of an oppressed people, etc.). So either we're offended because we have a guilty conscience, or we should just let it slide because clearly there are no similarities between our military ideologies and those of the movie's villains. I choose the latter.

As for environmentalism, yes, the film regularly praises the reverence and almost-psychic connection that the Na'vi people have with their version of Mother Earth. But again, I don't see the harm here. I know very few people (if any) who truly hate the environment and go out of their way to uselessly contribute to the destruction of our planet. I think that when given a reasonable chance, most normal people will recycle, use energy-efficient bulbs, and plant a tree. And I think that most people locally would pop a proverbial gasket (as the Na'vi people do) if a violent foreign entity arrived and tried to bulldoze, say, Mt. Timpanogos. So again, I don't think a message of respect for the environment is really such a bad thing, is it?

In any case, even people who haven't been able to forgive the movie's message or recycled plot have admitted that it is a visual treat. The scale and spectacle of Avatar is seldom rivaled on film; it's big, lush escapism that is the main reason we go to the movies anyway. So turn off your brain, lower your defenses, and enjoy movie-making at its loudest and splashiest. Judging by the way the movie has been received by worldwide audiences (fast approaching Titanic's record worldwide grosses), you're in good company if you do.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A few "Indy 5" thoughts from Harrison Ford

I'm an unabashed Indiana Jones fan, as you know. I won't apologize for it. But it's with a bit of embarrassment that it has taken a tiny little bit of news about a yet-to-be-announced Indiana Jones sequel to pull me out of my blog-hibernation. After all, there has been big movie news as of late, including updates on Pirates, Star Trek and Spider-man sequels, plus my thoughts on recent movies such as Invictus (very good), The Princess and the Frog (Lily loved it) and Sherlock Holmes (a lot of fun). So while I won't apologize for my love of all things Indiana Jones, I do apologize that I've been such a sorry blogger in the recent weeks. (Side note: Is it just me, or are blogs going the way of the dinosaur?)

With that caveat, here is a very brief interview with Harrison Ford about the latest Indy 5 rumors. You may complain that the last Indy film was sub-par, but it still put a smile on my face more than 95% of the other movies I saw that year. So bring it on, Misters Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford.