Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Phil Phillips: Home - reviewed.

I’m behind the times on this one, but it was just a couple of weeks ago that I was listening to the radio and I had to do a double take.

I heard a song that sounded eerily similar to the song that played on the trailer for Where The Wild Things Are.

Logic told me this wasn’t possible. The song used in the trailer wasn’t one that got radio play when the movie was actually out in the theatres, so why would it be on the radio now?

The song was called “Home.”

Upon listening to it a few more times it doesn’t sound all that much like the Where The Wild Things Are them. It also doesn’t sound like anything else that is on the radio right now, so it was easy to take notice of.

It turns out the song was by a guy named Phil Phillips. Thankfully the radio personality clued me in to who he was because I had no idea. He’s the latest winner of American Idol. I caught bits and pieces of the season that Scotty McCreery won, but I didn’t see any of last season.

I guess "Home" was originally played during the Olympics, but I didn’t catch it.

It’s a calming, upbeat tune, but, unlike some slower songs that don’t have club beats, the instrumentals in “Home” keep it lively and interesting.

Apparently Phil Phillips broke an American Idol record with the single, selling more digital copies of this song than any of the other previous American Idol winners did with their debut singles.

Not a bad start. I guess we’ll see if he’s a one-hit-wonder or if he’ll keep that momentum going when he releases a full-length album.

Related Content:
Christina Aguilera: Lotus - reviewed.
P!nk: The Truth About Love - reviewed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Planet of the Apes - reviewed.

They say not to judge a book by its cover. To that, I say: hogwash. Fair or not, if a book doesn’t have some interesting cover art, I usually pass on picking it up for a read. I gotta’ say, from my experience, it usually works.

I recently learned the hard way, however, that the same can’t be said for DVD covers.

While going through the $5 bin at Best Buy, I saw the Planet of the Apes (the Mark Wahlberg version). The cover art looks pretty epic.

A few days and a Netflix DVD later, it was in my mailbox.

My initial reaction was surprise. I was kind of surprised at how limited the special effects seemed. Since the movie was made in 2001, I was expecting more. Anything that’s post-2000, I kind of automatically assume it will have some realistic special effects.

Then again, it’s a story that is about talking apes. I suppose no amount of special effects will make that look completely convincing.

Still, based on the picture quality, it seemed like it was filmed in the 1970s. The backdrops and outfits seemed retro. I had to double check and make sure the movie was actually released in 2001.

Overall the story wasn’t bad. It didn’t keep me guessing, but it did keep me entertained.

I was kind of wondering how a small, outnumbered group of humans would be able to convincingly do battle against apes, gorillas and monkeys.

The humans used a little bit of technology to tip the scale in their favor. Outsmarting the apes didn’t hurt them either.

I’ve never seen the original, so I can’t compare this movie to that one. In the 2001 version Captain Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg), a human astronaut, gets sucked into a wormhole and ends up crash-landing on a planet ruled by apes.

This movie focused on societal status. That's typically a topic reserved for humans, but, in this instance, it was the societal status between the apes and the humans.

The humans were basically slaves. Apes kept the humans in cages. Children were chosen as pets.

Other than Ari (Helena Bonham Carter), who was a human sympathizer, the apes treated humans as though they were incapable of being anything other than servants, slaves and toys. The very smell of a human upset most of the apes.

It was interesting: I sat there thinking, 'How ridiculous of the apes to treat humans that way,' but obviously there's aspects of that kind of treatment in our own society.

General Thade (Tim Roth) is the biggest bigot in the film.

He comes from a well-respected ape family and he's highly regarded as a general. He's also in love Ari. Since they're so far apart on their views about the treatment of humans, Thade's attraction complicated things.

Meanwhile, Ari and Leo develop an inter-species kind of romance. Yep, there's even an awkward kiss.

This makes General Thade's hatred of humans grow even more, particularly for Leo. Not needing any extra motivation to leave, Leo has to travel across a portion of the planet, trying to find a way back home.

Overall it wasn't a bad film. It had all the elements -- action, a little romance, and some comedy -- to make it worth watching. I wouldn't rush to the store to buy it on DVD, but if I saw it for under $5 on Black Friday, I'd probably pick it up.

Mark Wahlberg announced for Trans4mers

It was recently announced that Mark Wahlberg will take over for Shia LaBeouf as the lead star in the Transformers franchise. Not a bad choice at all. Wahlberg isn't the most amazing actor, but I think he's well suited for a film like Transformers, where the action and special effects are the main focus of the film.

He doesn't need to deliver an Oscar-worthy performance to play his part in the movie.

I'm kind of anxious to see how Wahlberg's character will be written into the film. How will they explain the absence of Sam Witwicky?

The writers had an easy enough time writing Megan Fox's character out of the third film, so I would imagine the transition won't be too hard in this case either.

Related Content:
Prometheus - reviewed.
The Big Bang Theory (seasons 1 - 4) - reviewed.
The Amazing Spider-Man - reviewed.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Christina Aguilera: Lotus - reviewed.

Lotus is Christina Aguilera’s best album to date.

Granted, I never listened to a complete Christina Aguilera album before. In fact, just about the only songs of hers I’ve heard in their entirety are the singles she’s had on the radio. The past few years that hasn’t been too many.

Christina can sing. I’ll give her that. My problem with her has always been that she adds too many unneeded “aahhhs” in most of her performances. She always likes to showcase her vocal abilities by adding extra syllables in places where they don't belong. Sometimes simpler is better.

She always rubbed me the wrong way too. Christina seemed conceited – someone you wouldn’t want to hang out with unless you absolutely had to. Kind of like those girls at school who thought they were too awesome to associate with anyone.

On Lotus Christina seems more mature and more comfortable with herself. She seems less worried about everyone thinking she’s the best. As a result, all of her tracks have an element of fun that I don’t ever remember hearing from her.

Most of the music is fast-tempo and upbeat. The themes on almost all of the tracks have to do with being confident, persistent and proud – flipping off the naysayers in the process (literally on the track 'Circles').

“Spin around in circles on my middle, middle finger,” Aguilera sings.

There’s not much variety in terms of the genre. Almost all the tracks are club stompers with a lot of power. Christina Aguilera’s voice is as strong as ever, but, for a change, it commingles with the music, rather than competing with it.

On 'Just A Fool,' Christina serves up vocals you’d expect to hear from Leona Lewis. Christina gets a little help on the track from The Voice co-star, Blake Shelton. It’s very different than anything Christina has ever done. It’s another example of the growing marriage between pop and country – perhaps most comparable to Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean’s collaboration on 'Don’t You Wanna Stay,' from 2011’s My Kinda Party.

Over the past year, it seems like every time I visit CNN’s Showbiz page, there’s some kind of headline about Christina’s weight gain or bad fashion decisions. Since she was irrelevant in my world, I didn’t pay much attention to those stories, but maybe the negative comments have done her some good, humbling her.

In the end, it made for an interesting new album.

Best Tracks: Let There Be Love, Just A Fool and Blank Page

Related Content:
Prometheus - reviewed.
Pink vs. Christina Aguilera --- time for the next round?
P!nk: The Truth About Love - reviewed.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More Star Wars, Indiana Jones films?

Disney announced a few weeks back, after buying Lucasfilm Ltd. from George Lucas, that there are plans to release new Star Wars movies and Indiana Jones films.

The earliest could apparently come in the form of Star Wars VII in 2015.

I’m sure hardcore fans will turn out for that film. I may even be one of them.

However, I think it’s a bad call.

Sometimes it’s best to just leave an untarnished legacy alone (well, mostly untarnished – let’s not forget Jar Jar Binks).

The film would need the original actors and an innovative new story line to truly live up to the original trilogy. Even with the original actors, what can be done? The actors themselves are all old. Is Harrison Ford really capable of providing an awesome action sequence with a light saber at his age? Does anyone want to see Carrie Fisher in a metal bikini anymore?

Meanwhile, after Indiana Jones 4 atomic-ly bombed (who can forget that horrible refrigerator scene?), they still feel a need to revisit that franchise? They already went the route of having Shia LaBeouf play Indy Jr. After LaBeouf’s comments about the film, I’m not sure he’d be asked back to play that character.

I guess there’s always the possibility of other children – after all Indiana Jones did kind of get around – but how many times can that be repeated before it loses it’s luster?

Unfortunately I think these decisions are being made with the focus on monetary gain.

That’s the goal in any business venture, I know. It makes sense from that standpoint. There’s a certain amount of financial success that’s guaranteed when it comes to franchises.

Star Wars is arguably the biggest franchise there is. Indiana Jones 4, despite being a horrible movie, did quite well at the box office.

According to Box Office Mojo, it totaled over $786 and a half million dollars worldwide. The production budget was $185 million. Not a bad gain. That’s not including the video games, action figures, t-shirts, posters, coloring books, and everything else that comes in conjunction with a major box office movie these days.

My concern is with the legacy of the films. Why create something that’s not able to compare to the originals?

Plus, it would be nice to have a new franchise out there, rather than revisiting one that should be left alone.

All of that being said, I won’t lie: there’s a part of me that’s excited to see the new films. Then again, I was excited to see the fourth installment of Indiana Jones too and afterwards I’d wished I hadn’t seen it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prometheus - reviewed.

All I knew about Prometheus was that it was some kind of space adventure movie – most likely involving alien life forms of some kind.

I didn’t know, until the last scene, that it was a prequel, of sorts, to the Alien movies.

Maybe if I’d known that ahead of time I would have enjoyed Prometheus better than I did. Or, maybe not. I’d put a spoiler alert here, but there’s really nothing worth spoiling, so I won’t bother.

It peaked my interest at the start, when an albino human-like being is shown next to a large waterfall.

While a ship seems to be taking off into the atmosphere, he takes a sip of something out of a canister and it changes his molecular structure. He falls into the waterfall and then decomposes in the water.

All right, so who’s the guy? What did he drink? Why did he decompose? I’m interested in finding out what happened.

We go to a scene in Ireland, as two scientists find a cave marking – the same as what are apparently in several other places on Earth.

Next scene – what we soon learn is an android, David (Michael Fassbender), wakes several people from cryogenic chambers on a ship in space. The name of the ship? Prometheus.

Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) immediately starts doing push ups after her two-year sleep – an indication of her no-nonsense personality throughout the film.

Once everyone is awake, they assemble for a meeting with a hologram of Peter Weyland, who is apparently dead. He introduces the scientists – Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) and Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) – who let the rest of the crew know what they are in search of. I guess they didn’t know before they embarked on this 2+ year journey. The scientists are confident that their makers – the creators of the human race – are on the LV-223, the moon of a distant planet.

Shortly after the presentation, the crew descends onto LV-223. After working their way through a storm in the atmosphere, they get a glimpse at what the moon looks like. It’s very similar to Earth, with mountains and some trees, but based on the readings of their technology, they need to wear their spacesuits because the atmosphere would kill them within 2 minutes.

From the ship’s window, Holloway sees a path that seems to lead to a dome-like structure. Seems like a good place to land, so that’s what they do.

The ship captain advises that with just a few hours of sunlight left, they should wait until morning before exploring, but Holloway explains that it’s “like Christmas morning” to him, so he tells the crew to suit up. They’re off to explore, but not before Holloway throws a diss David's way.

He asks, David why he’s wearing his helmet, since he’s not human. It’s pretty clear that Holloway has some android issues brewing inside him.

The crew arrives to the dome and finds the entrance very quickly. Considering they are on a foreign planet, they don’t seem too worried about running into anything dangerous. They enter the dome quickly and, thanks to some fancy gadgets, they learn that it’s hollow.

David, the android, figures out how to work the machinery on the walls, it seems, but the rest of the crew is too far ahead down the tunnel to notice. Once David touches the walls, several giant, hologram-like men that resemble MTV’s moon man run through the halls.

The Earth crew tries to follow them, but most of the moon men enter a door to safety. One alien moon man doesn’t make it. The door closes and chops its head off.

As a couple of the scientists examine the head, David unlocks and opens the door. Whoah! This is too much for two of the crew members. After all, they didn’t sign up to find aliens – just to go to a foreign planet in a different galaxy. They take off, headed back to the ship.

Everyone else goes inside the room, where they find a giant stone head and a room full of what appears to be metal canisters.

Uh oh! A storm is approaching. The captain advises the crew and Meredith Vickers tells them she’s closing the doors in 15 minutes, so they’d best be on the ship by then!

The crew loads up the head and David loads up a metal canister (unbeknownst to the rest of the crew). I guess it didn’t occur to them to ask him what he had in the large bag he was carrying.

After almost getting caught in the storm, the crew makes it onboard. Although we find out that the two guys who were too scared to go into the room with the giant head never made it back to the ship. They’re wandering around, lost, in the tunnels. I guess nobody radioed them about the oncoming storm. Thanks a lot, huh?

The rest of the scientists examine the head. They realize it’s a helmet and that the actual head is underneath. They inject it with something to make the brain think it’s still alive. The eyes open up and the head seems to be having a seizure. They quickly enclose it so they aren’t infected with anything infectious. The head explodes some green slime all over the clear box it’s enclosed in.

Meanwhile, Holloway is depressed that the maker he traveled all this way to meet is now dead. True, he didn’t see the rest of the aliens running through the tunnels, but you’d think he’d be smart enough to figure out that there may be more than just one of them.

Holloway is drinking and he’s a mean drunk! He starts throwing more jabs at David about being an android. David one-ups him though, as he plants an alien seed into Holloway’s drink without Holloway knowing it.

David, the android, wants to be human, even though he’s not supposed to have any emotion. The rest of the crew is too stupid to realize this, even though David makes it blatantly obvious by his comments and tone of voice.

Holloway gets infected by that seed that David put in his drink, but not before he gives Elizabeth a little Earth loving. Naturally, even though she says she’s not able to have babies, she gets pregnant. David, who seemed to know this would happen, apparently wants to create life the way humans created him.

Round 2 at the alien cave: as the crew searches for the missing scientists (who had both died after being attacked by a snake-like alien life form).

Not David though. He’s busy finding a secret chamber. He figures out that the aliens want to travel to Earth with these tunnels (that are actually a ship) and (I guess?) destroy the humans. David is (apparently?) invisible to these aliens because he’s not human.

Are you as bored right now as I was with this movie?

This review could go on and on, but here’s the gist: Holloway gets torched by Meredith because she’s not about to have any contamination on her ship, dammit! David tells Elizabeth she’s having an alien baby. She gets in this really cool surgery tube, though, and removes the alien from her stomach.

Oh yeah, Holloway didn’t die. His genes just changed him into a big, bad alien.

Shocker: old man Weyland isn’t actually dead. They all go back to the alien cave because the old guy doesn’t want to die. He wants the secret to life! The God/alien doesn’t like humans or androids, as he literally rips David’s head off.

We never find out how or why the aliens are mad at the humans. They don’t like androids either because David literally gets his head ripped off.

Meredith, the captain and a few other crew members are safe on the ship. All of the scientists, but Elizabeth die.

The God/alien starts to fly his tunnel/ship. Elizabeth tells them about the plan to destroy Earth. The captain says the ship isn’t armed with any weapons. Good idea for a ship that explores foreign planets, huh? It's like sending U.S. troops over to Iraq in a city bus instead of a tank. The pilot decides to make the ultimate sacrifice and crash their ship into the other.

Meredith tries to escape in a escape pod, but crash lands. As the two ships crash to the ground they crush Meredith. Elizabeth Shaw is still alive though. She retrieves the android’s head and goes back to the ship – trying to find another escape pod maybe.

The God/alien didn’t die though! He tries to attack Elizabeth, but she unleashes Holloway (who has now transformed into an Octopus-like creature). He attacks the God/alien and the God/alien gets implanted with the alien creature and we have the infamous alien from the Alien movies.

Elizabeth and the android take off in a escape pod unaware of the new creature they’ve created.

Overall the movie lacks originality, leaves too many questions unanswered (and not in an 'I can't wait to find out what happens next' kind of way), and, sadly, it seems like a cheap imitation of Alien.

Ridley Scott did a great job in the original and, as sequels go, things slowly went downhill. Now, with Prometheus, it just seems like someone who is desperately clinging on to something that was once successful.

I guess the film was a financial success, which means there's likely going to be a sequel to this prequel. I'm not going to waste my time on that one though.

Related Content:
The Big Bang Theory (seasons 1 - 4) - reviewed.
The Amazing Spider-Man - reviewed.
John Carter - reviewed.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Big Bang Theory (Seasons 1 - 4) - reviewed.

It’s been a while since I’ve been in the blogosphere.

That’s because I’ve been busy watching the greatest sitcom since Seinfeld. I’m talking about The Big Bang Theory.

Yes, I’m just realizing the awesomeness that is Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, Wallowitz, and Penny (knock-knock, Penny, knock-knock, Penny).

I’m usually a few years behind when it comes to TV shows. When a show hits syndication and starts airing on TBS, FX or some other cable channel is when I start watching it.

With the exception of Lost, I’ve never really watched a television show as it was airing. It was always too much work to remember to watch it each week. Being able to set recordings on VCRs and DVRs made it easier, but, even then, I’d forget to set the VCR or my DVR would be too full to record.

Anyway, I got The Big Bang Theory on DVD. Several people were telling me what a good show it was, so I decided it was time to catch up to speed.

I caught up through the fourth season and now I’m thoroughly addicted. For once, the critics were right.

If you’re going to spend half an hour watching prime time television (or an hour watching syndication), then The Big Bang Theory is definitely the way to go.

Four nerds living in the same apartment building as a hot girl – it’s a realistic enough scenario, but the personalities of each character are also eccentric enough to make the series highly entertaining.

Leonard (Johnny Galecki) could be a normal guy, with a slight nerdy edge. Much of the show is about Leonard’s affections for Penny (Kaley Cuoco), an aspiring actress who is sidelined with a job as a waitress at The Cheesecake Factory.

Raj (Kunal Nayyar) can’t talk to women until he’s drunk and his inhibitions are limited. Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) is just a perverted little man who lives with his nagging Jewish mother.

As a super genius with little-to-no social skills, Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) is the most eccentric of the bunch. I don’t know who came up with his repetitive door-knocking bit, but it’s hilarious! His gasping-for-air-like laugh whenever he finds something funny has me in stitches too.

Admittedly, the nerdiness – the love of super heroes, sci-fi, and gaming – is something I can relate to. These guys take the nerdiness a step further though, which makes for entertaining television.

I went through the four seasons within just a couple of weeks and it didn’t even feel like a marathon. Instead, it was just the continuing adventures of the gang from the Big Bang.

Season four was the first season with Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) and Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik…yep, TV’s “Blossom”) as part of the permanent cast. That’s where I left off.

I’m looking forward to seeing the next few seasons because I can only assume that as the guys get girlfriends, dynamics will change and the group will evolve – just so long as the shenanigans don’t change.

Related content:
The Amazing Spider-Man - reviewed.
John Carter - reviewed.