Pineapple Express

In the midst of all the blockbuster insanity, Pineapple Express is a nutty comic desert on the tail end of an incredible summer of movies.

There's not much to say, tho if you enjoy the Apatow brand of humor filtered through Seth Rogan's, um, "Seth Roganness," you'll likely enjoy this flick. There's also action on par with your star-fueled buddy cop movie. So much so that I can't tell if Pineapple Express is a comedy wrapped in an action movie or an action movie wrapped in a comedy. That may not make a lot of sense, but the movie really doesn't either. That's why it's fun, you're just along for the ride. And by the end you'll probably want a joint or a bong hit, that is if you weren't already lit on the way in.

I really have to commend the film's mindbogglingly strong pro-marijuana agenda, it's mildly surprising such a film could be made and offered in such wide release. Add on a strong box office showing and its a wonder how any anti-pot crusaders could still be taken seriously. Obviously Pineapple Express is a caricature, but outside of itself it goes a bit towards highlighting what a ridiculous waste of resources are focused on busting up such a harmless pastime. I doubt it has any political leanings as such, at the end of the day Pineapple Express is a harmless (and very funny) pastime of its own.*

*See also: Weeds, which continues to be one of the best shows on television.



Ug. Wanted is one of those movies that makes you want your money back in return for the time you had to spend sitting through it.

Thing is, I put off seeing it, then I kept hearing how cool it was so I thought I'd check it out. I heard it compared to Fight Club and The Matrix. Hell, no. It is not remotely close to the clever, de-saturated nihilism of Fight Club and leagues behind what made The Matrix the stylized, FX revolution of its time. As a film it can't even be casually grouped into the visually "cool" as far as I'm concerned, I don't think there was one memorable sequence that stands out as unique or inspired. By the end of the movie things devolve into the absurd and any hope of buying into its fantasy universe is long gone. Perhaps viewers who hail Wanted as something enjoyable just haven't seen enough good movies.

Originally all I knew of Wanted was its comic book origins, but as far as I can tell the only thing the movie has in connection to the comics are a few of the names of the main characters. I had thought even the base premise of the comic would bee good fodder for a summer movie, but sorry, no. It's like the produces actually went out of their way to take out the most interesting concepts of the comic and throw together their idea of a "high octane action film," thinking one or two visual gimmicks could see them through. And I hate to break it to you, but mid-air bullet-on-bullet action played it self out in the early 90's via Hong Kong gangster cinema. I'm trying to recall the first time I saw opposing trajectory bullets collide... Was it Gun and Rose? Well it was cool then, and it could no doubt be cool again but Wanted was not able to join the ranks of cinematic gun fu.

Brought into the ring of all that's been offered this summer, Wanted does not play.


Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

I DID catch Hellboy 2 when it opened and enjoyed it alot. It went in some different directions than the comic mega movies that surrounded it, but that's what made it refreshing. The Hellboy movies in my opinion are only loosely based on the comics, pulling the core concepts and characters into the theatrical realm. But how that's done is something we rarely get to see.

Guillermo Del Toro is a cinematic visionary-- but I don't say that in the way of some overused adulation. I mean it literally, where here is a man who has a specific vision for what he wants to put on film and executes it beautifully. By doing so he begins to create his own version of the Hellboy mythos, not that what Mignola has done in book form could ever really be replicated in another medium. There are so many great things to watch on screen, and it comes in a steady stream of the bizarre and fantastic. And what's so great about it all is that it filled me with the thoughts of all the great fantasy movies they don't seem to make anymore. Labyrinth, Legend, Dark Crystal, Hawk the Slayer, Willow, Neverending Story, Baron Munchausen, Time Bandits (all from the 80's coincidentally, I bet there's some sort of scocio-economic connection there). Hellboy 2 is packed solid, with virtually no wasted space. The shots are wide and long when they should be, then close and personal to bring it home. Everything from the costumes to the creatures to the sets is pure eye candy.

Prior to this Del Toro brought us Pan's Labyrinth, which is also an amazing looking film, but it's matched there by dread and bleakness. Hellboy 2 is fun and lively wrapped around moments of thought and pathos, and at times sheer wackiness. Yea... I probably could have done without the Barry Manilow, but in the end that is just part of the oddity of it all. The story behind resurrecting the Golden Army is solid and awesome to watch come to fruition. The action sequences are balls-out, something I wasn't expecting at all. The last fight scene between Prince Nuada and Hellboy is amazing to watch, I hadn't felt that sense of unexpected, wide-eyed awe of a duel probably since Darth Maul's showdown in Phantom Menace.

The cast brings the characters alive, clearly much more at ease in their roles since the first film. As Hellboy, Pearlman keeps his wit and aplomb balanced keenly with an outsider's self consciousness and need to be accepted. I was also happy to see much more of Abe Sapien, well 'cause he's just awesome. Doug Jones even wins his own voice back this time around. Selma Blair is always someone I like to see show up, tho her character Liz definitely seemed to be short changed, waffling between shrill crow and all-around second banana. The biggest treat for me was Luke Goss' Prince Nuada, who's character I just wanted more and more of. Tho the title says otherwise, I say he was the real star of the movie.

Hellboy 2 is way better than the first in all these respects, both in story and how we see it told. I hope its success is an opening for more great fantasy movies to come.


The Dark Knight

Here are some thoughts that have been with me since seeing The Dark Knight. They are not particularly organized because I'm still kind of speechless.

See it in IMAX if your city has one. Driving a reasonable distance would be well worth it.

The Dark Knight makes Batman Begins seem like a light, simply constructed prologue.

Commercials and trailers thankfully have no bearing on experiencing this film. There was at least a full third of the movie that has had nothing promoted or hinted at in any way.

There have been some pretty cool comics movies lately but they are looking a bit quaint in hindsight. The level of complexity and climactic tension that the story builds to rivals any film since I can't recall when, superheroes or no.

You are probably aware the movie features Harvey Dent. I won't be spoilerish, but Holy. Fucking. Shit.

Speculation: The Joker will return. He will be recast and likely recast well. But it will be no Heath Ledger. That guy is getting an Oscar for what sadly was the performance of his life. That sounds kind of gushy, tho judge for yourself.

If a movie could have sex with you, The Dark Knight would ruin you for other movies. Okay maybe that's a bit much. I recommend seeing this movie.


Wall-E makes me happy

Pixar, Pixar, Pixar.

Make no mistake about it, it is all Pixar and whatever magical aqua vitae they brew throughout their production process. And I know it's not all perfection in moviemaking with no cracks or flaws, but it is a hell of a diamond they crank out, leagues beyond the competition. This was made overwhelmingly apparent by the dreck I was forced to sit through for the preview trailers, each a sad offering in the 3D animated genre that Pixar itself created.

For Wall-E, it's just another reason to gush and laud over an unequalled level of art and creativity that never seems to stop coming from the parties involved. Some people like to talk about the solidarity of the story, others the characters, and others the technical proficiency of the animation and environments. Me, I tend to lean towards the art itself, and the design therein. Wall-E is a gorgeous film, finding an abstract beauty in the opening of Earth's sad legacy and evolving into a razor sharp Asimovian futurist paradise. The forced warmth of Wall-E's existence on a bleak Earth is told not only by character but by color, flawless in execution and full of endless lessons in mood and emotion told through palettes, lighting, and composition. Transitioning to the stark setting of deep space among the falsely active dormancy of the human society we are shown the cold but cool precision of an automated lifestyle; a design sense as detailed and coordinated as the robots that run it. God damn is it pretty.

The story is one that moves along at a steady pace and grows on you stronger and stronger, eventually moving into the trademark, frantic energy of a Pixar finale. The story is completely character driven, focused solely on the titular Wall-E and his appeal. This despite that fact that there is no dialogue for what might be the first hour of the film, such is the strength of Wall-E's personality, which I would think in the hands of lesser men would have come across as schmaltzy and cliché. Yet, man if that Wall-E isn't a cute little bugger.

Lastly I would hope-- hope with all my heart-- that the real message of the film sinks its teeth into the younger generations that watch it, keeping a death grip on their precious little psyches long enough to change The Way We Do Things. If that can be achieved, I will gladly accept the world of Wall-E as fanciful fiction instead of distinct probability.


On a supplementary note to Wall-E, the opening short, Presto, may be one of the flat-out best cartoon shorts I've seen in my adult life. While drinking in the pure fun and comedy that is Presto, it really is a shame to think of what passes as children's entertainment these days. What with executive and marketing driven network fare that has sucked all the awe and joy out of the average, contemporary cartoon. Presto calls back to the days of Warner Bros. gold, where we must remember that cartoons were made for the primarily adult movie going audience, it's just that they were so good it was impossible for children not to enjoy them, too. Sadly it was all downhill from there (as John K. likes to say, "the hippies ruined everything"). Thankfully with Presto we see that the true cartoon is alive and well, and in very good hands. I can only look forward to more.


Incredible Hulk: Smashy, Smashy

What is weird about The Incredible Hulk is that it's not a relaunch, reboot, or a "requel" as it's been called, in suspect to "make up for" Ang Lee's 2003 version (which has its own batch of weirdness). What we got here is just another in a long line of Hollywood trends: turning and old TV show into a movie. This latest version of the Hulk doesn't even try to hide its roots in the Bixby series of days past, it's a flat out continuation. In some ways it's disappointing, namely the origin. I always thought the Hulk had a great origin for film, but that's yet to be adapted at all. As has been noted in other reviews such as The Beat's, the Hulk's origin is told in an opening montage that likens to a flashback, for a movie that never existed.

But going in with low expectations, as I did, has its advantages. The movie isn't that bad-- I was fairly entertained. I don't think it has the impact of Iron Man, but there is plenty for any action film aficionado or comics reader to like. Almost too much, I can't imagine someone who knows nothing of the Hulk following more than the broadness of the story. What I felt was that the fanboys finally got everything they could want from a comic book movie, but at the expense of having it be anything more than a by-the-numbers adaptation.

There is tons of "Hulk Smash." It's close to Transformers in the wanton destruction of property department. And you know, it's fun to watch the Hulk go all aggro and rip cars in half and throw tanks around. A nitpick of mine is that this movie had the Hulk use shrapnel as weapons more often than not, which to me is a transparent translation of things to make into toys, but whatever. Hulk doesn't need accessories, Hulk has fists!

So while it's neat to watch the ridiculous CG money pit Hulk against Abomination, what I missed was any attempt to actually define what the Hulk is and its relation to Banner. A huge part of the comics, when it was at its best, was the turmoil of Banner dealing with the Hulk actually being a part of himself, a gamma-born psyche that fights to be set free without limits. The movie treats the Hulk more as an unwanted super power that Banner is afraid to unleash not because of what it represents, but for the superficial damage it does. Maybe I am asking too much from the new wave of comic book films.

As for the Hulk itself, he's just a big, nice, expensive CG animation that bounces around and hits things. He doesn't have the pathos of Gollum nor the subtlety of Yoda. Sure they try to hit you over the head with their attempt at that in a couple of scenes, but it's lacking. Strangely Abomination has more personality, due likely to his extra non-human deformities. Though I must say I am extra critical in this department, and for all intents and purposes 'ol Jadejaws is a commanding presence when roaring in full theater surround sound.

Clearly after Iron Man and now The Hulk, movies are the new Marvel. Which makes me wonder why the Fantastic Four movies are so awful. Talk about needing a reboot!

BONUS! Hop over to io9 for a look at some concept art of Hulk and Abomination. "Frankenstein Hulk" would have been awesome!

The Hulks that Almost Were


Stan Winston

I read that Stan Winston passed away over the weekend (Tim Russert's passing did not go unnoticed, either). Because of Star Wars, I grew up devouring everything I could about film special effects, from the classics into the digital age. Winston's name was ever-present with the likes of Harryhausen, Dykstra, and Tippet. The list of groundbreaking and just plain awesome films under Winston's magical touch is simply amazing. Terminator 2 may be my favorite of his, but right up to Iron Man he went out with a hell of a bang. Film and how films are made is due in no small part to much of his work.

Stan Winston was the man. And if he wasn't, he just built one.

Special-Effects Pioneer Stan Winston Dies at 62


Speed Racer has blown my fragile, little mind

Really, nothing I write here could explain what it is like to see this movie. I believe most will either hate it or love it, I don't see alot of grey area. Personally, I loved it. I am a big Speed Racer fan and this movie has Speed Racer all over it, and in all the best ways. I told one of my friends it was like a love letter. And not like a touchy-feely Superman Returns Hallmark Channel jerk-off letter, but more of a baby you're the hottest thing on the planet so ditch your boyfriend and lets get it on kind of letter.

I have seen some crazy ass shit, but man, this movie is some crazy ass shit. Yup, story good (really good). Cast, great (really great). Music, sweet (really, really sweet). But the visuals are out of freakin' control and it truly has to be seen to be believed. It doesn't matter if this movie was live action or animated, because within the first five minutes it's clear that they are one in the same and it doesn't stop. Cause, see, first they throw you some crazy ass shit. Then you're thinking, man, that was some crazy ass shit but then some even CRAZIER ass shit starts going on. And you're like whoa, that was some seriously crazy ass shit, etc., etc., for the next two hours. So you are either going to totally dig this or pass out in an epileptic seizure.

The Wachowskis, there's some heated debates about those guys and what they do. I've been in many of them on both sides. But what they did here took huge balls. Giant, monster balls. I don't know that they have "pulled off" anything to a greater renown than a wild-looking popcorn flic, but in Speed Racer I fell hook, line, and sinker.

Speed Racer Movie Site


Iron Man: Ten Kinds of Awesome


UPDATE: Okay, now that I'm down off of my Iron Man high, let me break down the awesomeness.

10. Cocktails!
I don't know that the general movie going public is aware of what comics readers have grown up with-- Tony Stark eventually evolves into a raging alcoholic. I can't imagine this not coming into play should more movies make to to screen. That being the case, it is a rare scene in this inaugural outing that Stark is shown without some kind of drink in his hand. Nice.

9. In jokes.
Not unlike the above, plenty of references to Iron Man lore far and wide.

8. Toys. The movie is full of male fantasy power toys, from private jets with stripper poles to sports cars to the armor itself. Who wouldn't want to suit up in an impenetrable, flying, war machine? Aside from the gaping hole in your chest, I mean.

7. Script.
It's very well written. No, it isn't Shakespeare, but in the class of many superhero flics (or even just your average summer blockbusters) it's tight. There's plenty of Star Trekky techno babble, suppressed romantic sub-plot, and tack-sharp one-liners. The funny stuff is funny (it's got more humor than I'd have guessed) and the serious stuff is serious. And while the movie as a whole plays out in Hollywood beats, at least it doesn't insult me.

6. Pepper Potts.
Usually Gweneth Paltrow is a reason not to see a movie. But here as Stark's ever-present Girl Friday she's great to watch. Her and Stark's relationship through the course of the film is a genuine development, and Paltrow is a surprising and pleasant feminine presence in a testosterone dominated story.

5. Quirk.
There is some just plain out weird shit in this movie. Redonkulous. Not just the odd, fumbling "I've got to learn how to be a superhero" kind of thing. The suspension of disbelief has to be, uh, suspended fairly early. The science fiction isn't exactly as grounded as it is thrown at you with flagrant plausibility. This is where I thought the movie would lose me, as I'd have preferred some hard-core science, but instead it takes more of a roller coaster approach with extrapolation of technology we see every day. And honestly, when Iron Man is bringing the thunder, you don't really care.

This movie was directed by Jon Favreau. Really? Elf Favreau? Zathura Favreau? He will always be the swinger we know and love, but I tell you he put together one hell of a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster while keeping a pretty true core of what makes Iron Man so cool. The acting in the movie from all players is fun and tight, and I'm guessing Favreau has alot to do with that. Throw in the management of all the crazy effects sequences and I say "Good show, old man!"

3. Stark.
Robert Downey Jr. owns this role. It doesn't hurt that's he's surrounded by a great cast, either.

2. Kick-Assery.
Dude, Iron Man kicks so much ass in this movie. Actually I take that back. He didn't kick enough ass, there really needed to be more ass kicking. Tony Stark is indeed the billionaire playboy, but in that suit it is all motherfucking business. MOAR!

1. The Armor.
It looks sooooooooo cool! Face it, the armor was what was going to sell this movie. And the prospect of future movies with the built-in gimmick of new armor is like money in the bank.

I know the movie wasn't perfect, not that there could be a perfect movie. There's a few elements that border on cheese and Hollywood screenwriting business-as-usual. But I sure enjoyed it, and it's by far the best representation of a comic to date. Prior to this I only held Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins in such high regard, nowadays (for me) Iron Man is the one to beat. Give me sequels! Screw the Avengers, 'cause I guarantee they're gonna screw that one up, just give me more Iron Man.


Get your stinking paws off me, you damn, dirty ape!

Arguably one of the best lines in movie history. A friend once told me about his experience seeing the actual first run theatrical release of Planet of the Apes back in '68, when all people knew of it was a crazy trailer and its bizarre premise. By the point in the film where Taylor is strung up about to be lynched by the apes, people were kind of freaked out by the striking and fearsome reality of the ape society. But upon delivery of that signature line, the crowd "went fucking nuts." The theater stood up and cheered as if it were a stadium event. In context, to that point in the film's fiction no human had ever spoken to an ape, which makes the line ten times more powerful. To witness that as a moviegoer in the theater for the first time, what an amazing show that must have been.

Heston's portrayal of a stalwart astronaut brought to a future never meant to be was one of his many, many roles that left an indelible mark on cinema-- and myself. Chuck had a very good run.

Charlton Heston Dies at 84


Hellboy II

How great are these costumes? I need this image wallpaper size!!

... Selma Blair ZOMG HOT

Hellboy II: The Golden Army



So yeah I bought into the hype machine and saw Cloverfield. It's really not that bad, I mean it's nothing spectacular in the realm of monster movies but it holds up pretty well considering the entire film is from a single point of view.

But you know, really could have used more monster. Lots of glimpses and destruction and stuff blowing up. But even the "good look" at the beast wasn't that good of a look. And after all the hoopla of what it would look like (honestly I can't believe I didn't see it beforehand, and I sure looked for it!), It was just okay. Storywise its very straightforward, by the numbers. Hits all the action movie beats, no switcheroos, no fake-outs, and that was a bit of a letdown considering all of the secrecy involved. The folks I saw it with were generally entertained but we surprisingly came up with the same idea for a way cooler ending. And -no- science whatsoever. No explanation of what, how, why, nothing. Me, I really like the sci in my sci-fi. Can't I get a little sumptin' sumptin'?

I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I felt the movie had a heavy overtone of dread. Not even sure why, maybe because the deaths are both on the mass scale and the up-close and personal. Outside of the plot of random and wanton destruction, I don't know if there was a metaphor involved or if there was I'm not thinking enough to make the connection. The handheld camera viewpoint leads to some intense scenes where the military lets go full bore, as a viewer this is impressive and even jarring. It's so close up and loud, one can only wonder what actual modern warzone life is like, no doubt terrifying outside of the realms of fiction. Coupled with the no-win scenario omnipresent through the course of the film and held to the very end, it's definitely not the feel-good film of the new year. I know that's a strange thing to say about a monster movie, but Cloverfield is not an average movie in many ways. Does that make it better? Not sure... even with the hook of the single camera and personal POV, there are definitely some areas of story that could have been stronger to make a crazy-awesome monster flic instead of just an eyebrow raiser.

In the end I wish the monster really did look like this.


The Sarah Connor Chronicles

I must say I loved the first two episodes of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on Fox. It is a bit like fanfic gone wild, set in an alternate history which takes place directly after Terminator 2: Judgement Day but upsets the introduction of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Now I wasn't expecting much to begin with, so I was pleasingly assuaged when the beats I define as keen to Terminator canon were hit repeatedly. These include:
  • Hard-as-nails Sarah Connor
  • Random, instant violence
  • Heavy ammunition usage
  • Terminators hit by cars
  • Exceptionally high imbalance of body-to-drywall ratio

While she does know how to kick ass and take names, TV's Sarah Connor played by Lena Heady is quite a bit more accessible than her movie counterpart Linda Hamilton. In T2, Hamilton is freaking amazing as a detached, single-minded lioness who will stop at nothing to protect her son. That transformation from the original movie's terrified damsel on the run is a thrill to behold and one of the anchors of what makes T2 so great. Hamilton's Connor outright personifies someone you do not want to fuck with.

Here in television where the titular character must be sustained for presumably much longer storylines, I understand the choice to take a less intense direction. Luckily Headly appears to play the balance well, and still keeps the thick skin and unflinching trigger finger.

Not surprisingly John Connor plays a big role, as well as his new Termanatrix protector (aptly done, if expected, by Summer Glau). Model number as yet unidentified... though there seem to be plenty of T-800's around.

The alternate timeline takes a little getting used to, I really enjoyed T3 and its striking resolution. Judgement Day cannot be stopped, it is inevitable in the Terminator storyline. Chronicles may not stop it but has certainly postponed it, and it will be interesting to see how much they play around with chronology or if the third film is even referenced at all. Not to mention the fourth film in the works! In its first episode the show has brought time travel into play, which I love, but we've yet to see if it will be overdone as paradox piles onto paradox. I hope the series either stays strong or stays brief. Heroes was a big let down by the end of the first season, and I can barely bring myself to mention the dashed hopes of Bionic Woman. I hope Chronicles keeps itself on a tight leash.

UPDATE: My new guilty pleasure, i09, picks up on the "kinder, gentler Sarah Connor," supposing and fearing it may lead to a downhill trend. And I gotta say that original pilot ending is kick ass compared to what aired. Keep your fingers crossed the character won't stray too far into that territory.