Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Latest Targ is Here!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

I've got a new episode of U62: The Targ!

This week, we're chatting about movie advertising, I share some really neat news about Iron Man 2, and I give an update on the voting in that Monopoly: Canadian Here and Now edition.

Click here to go download it!

Head here to subscribe in iTunes!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Weird Al: Movie Director


My hero, "Weird Al" Yankovic, just announced his next project! He's directing a movie!

Well, it's a TV movie for the Cartoon Network, but still...a movie!

Weird Al says that he just signed a big production deal with the Cartoon Network to produce stuff...TV shows, cartoons, movies, and such forth. And figured that a TV movie would be the best place to start.

Weird Al is writing and directing it, and will give himself a small role. Weird Al mentions that the Cartoon Network wanted a young protagonist, so the main character is a teenager.

No word yet on a plot or what it's about, but Weird Al says that it's not a sequel to UHF and it's not a documentary about Winston Churchill.

Weird Al says that he goes on tour this summer, and the earliest he could probably start filming it is this fall.

No word yet on when it'll air on the Cartoon Network.

Here's Weird Al's official blog, where he shares what little details he can.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Latest Targ is Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Time to kick off a new week with a new episode of U62: The Targ!

I'm firing up Episode 3.17: The 4 Railroads. I chat about the politics of DVD special editions, I discuss the Spider-Man reboot, and I obsess over this Monopoly Canadian edition.

Click here to go download it!

Head here to subscribe in iTunes!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Spider-Man Reloaded

There's been so much going on in the world of the Spider-Man movies, I can't believe that haven't taken a moment to blog about it yet.

For those who haven't heard yet, production on Spider-Man 4 was shut down a few weeks ago. Sam Raimi, the director of the first three films, and Sony Studios, the movie company making the film, couldn't agree on a direction for the fourth film. Apparently, Raimi had has heart set on veteran Spider-Man villain the Vulture as being the film's villain, and Sony wanted to use, "Whoever's popular in the comics right now."

So, they shut down Spider-Man 4, gave Raimi the boot, and have decided to reboot the frachise! That's right, it's going to be a whole new Spider-Man trilogy, with a whole new cast of actors and a whole new direction.

It was announced earlier this week that Marc Webb, director of the critically acclaimed romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer, will be in charge of this reboot.

According to a statement from Sony, they want to have a cast of unknowns, aim for a budget of around $80 million, and use Ultimate Spider-Man as their main source to draw from.

Sony still hopes to have this in theatres for Summer 2012. I agree with a lot of other Internet comments. As long as they don't make us sit through the origin story again, I'll be happy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Canadian Monopoly: The Vote is On!

I've been following this for a bit, and it's kind of fun, so do your part and vote!

So, those darn Parker Brothers are working on an all-new Canadian version of Monopoly. And, in order to determine which cities make the cut, they're running an online poll.

Here's where you go to vote

This whole thing just caused minor headlines in Edmonton because Edmonton has yet to break the top 20. Only the top 20 are going to make it to the game board, you see. When last I checked, Edmonton is hovering just outside at number 23.

I say we've got to do our part to get Edmonton on the list. So go vote for Edmonton!

This could be fun. And hopefully, by doing it democratically like this, there'll be a lot less grief. Last time Parker Brothers did this around three or four years ago, the cities were determined by their marketing folks, and there were absolutely no Newfoundland cities on the board, raising the ire of Newfoundlanders.

It's been ages since I've played a good game of Monopoly. Back when I was a kid, my brother and sister and I would have marathon games of Monopoly...the kind that start at 2 in the afternoon and end at 2 in the morning. And usually, they'd end because we got Mom out of our bed with our fighting and she'd come bring an end to the game. Good times...good times.

I just learned that, in official Monopoly tournament rules, games have a time limit of 90 minutes. Have to remember that for next time.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Latest Targ is Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

I seem to have been gifted with a creative burst at the start of this year, and it's all spilling over into my podcast, U62: The Targ!

This week, we've got Episode 3.16: Crafty Arts. I tell you what I'm doing with all my old glass pop bottles that I told you about in last week's episode, I speak of my love for mall food courts, and I offer my in-depth analysis of Family Guy: Something Something Something Dark Side.

Click here to go download it!

Head here to subscribe in iTunes!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Animated Film Catch-Up: Monsters vs Aliens

For those just joining us, every couple of years I rent every animated movie that I missed in the theatre that I had a mild interest in seeing, and watch them all in an insane lost weekend. I call this my "Animated Film Catch-Up".

Alright, my lost weekend is almost at and end! And to cap it off, we're going back to DreamWorks...

Monsters vs Aliens

Animation Studio and Best Known Franchise: DreamWorks Animation; Shrek and Madagascar. You might remember them from this weekend's other offerings, Bee Movie and Kung Fu Panda.

Directed by Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon

Starring the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogan, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, and Stephen Colbert as the President.

The Source of my Mild Interest: So when I first heard the title Monsters vs Aliens it had Snakes on a Plane-like attraction for me. What would the aliens be? What would the monsters be? But then it was announced that it was going to be DreamWorks first film completely designed and filmed in 3D. The 3D effects became the core of its marketing. The couple of people I talked to who actually saw it in the theatre only talked about the 3D effects. But, reading some reviews online, they said that, once you got past those 3D effects, what remains is a loving homage to the sci-fi B-movies of the 1950s. It had a lot going for it.

Plot: Susan Murphy seems to be leading the perfect life. She's about to marry a TV weatherman and live happily ever after as a kept woman. But then, on her wedding day, she's clobbered by a meteorite and turns into a giantess. Susan is promptly branded a monster and captured by the military, where she's locked away with other monsters: BOB, a blue blob, Dr. Cockroach, a mad scientist turned into a cockroach, and the Missing Link. Soon, alien invaders arrive on Earth, because the element that causes Susan's mutation is the key to alien warlord Gallaxar's WMD. The military decides to turn the monsters loose to defeat the aliens, and in the process, Susan learns to be an ass-kicking independent woman.

What I Liked: OK, now I've known that one thing I've complained about in animated films is getting celebrities to do little more than voice themselves. But in this case, where you've got such talented comics as Rogan, Arnett, and Colbert, I really don't mind. This movie was funny as hell. In something like this, choosing appropriate pop culture references really helps, as all the gags were about sci-fi B-movies from the 1950s. I was shocked at how funny this movie is. And props to Amy Poehler for doing that sexy sexy computer voice.

What I Didn't Like: You could tell this was DreamWorks' first film in 3D. Every 10 minutes something is being thrown at the screen to do that "jumping out at you" thing. I half-expected Count Floyd to show up and offer someone a piece of cake. And that plot was rather formulaic.

Final Verdict: Much funnier than I expected. Highly enjoyable.

3 Nibs

And that brings us to the end of my latest Animated Film Catch-Up! Most of the films were pretty much what I expected. Kung Fu Panda, Monsters vs Aliens, and Horton Hears a Who were the surprises of the weekend. I'm even half-tempted to fish Kung Fu Panda and Monsters vs Aliens out of a discount bin someday.

I might be doing this again sooner rather than later...I'm still kind of upset I missed 9 and Fantastic Mr. Fox in their theatrical runs.

Anyway, I'm going to go outside and play now!

Animated Film Catch-Up: Bolt

For those just joining us, every couple of years I rent every animated movie that I missed in the theatre that I had a mild interest in seeing, and watch them all in an insane lost weekend. I call this my "Animated Film Catch-Up".

Now, on this weekend, we come to Disney. Disney's still trying to find their legs in this computer animated film game. Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons never quite met the same level as The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. Would their most recent attempt make the grade?


Animation Studio and Best Known Franchise: Walt Disney Feature Animation; traditional 2D animation.

Directed by Byron Howard and Chris Williams

Starring the voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell, James Lipton, and Greg Germann.

The Source of My Mild Interest: Bolt had some quite well-publicized production difficulties. The project was originally known as American Dog, and was conceived by Lilo and Stitch director Chris Sanders. Then, there was a management change at Disney. John Lasseter, the head of Pixar, became the head of Disney animation. Lasseter and Sanders butted heads over the direction of American Dog, which ultimately ended with Sanders' dismissal from Disney. Many Lasseter-supervised revisions later, and American Dog became Bolt. Would Lasseter's touch bring about some of that magic that has made Pixar's films the ones to beat?

Plot: Bolt is a TV star! On TV, he plays a superpowered dog, constantly rescuing his owner, Penny. Thing is, though, Bolt thinks the whole thing is real...the he actually is a superdog. And then, Bolt manages to escape from the movie studio, and winds up all the way on the other side of the USA, in New York City. While there, he meets up with a streetsmart and embittered cat named Mittens. Bolt, thinking Mittens is an evil agent from the TV show, captures Mittens and forces her to help him get back to Hollywood. They also meet up with a hamster named Rhino, who is Bolt's biggest fan. Will Bolt snap free of his delusions? Will he be reunited with Penny? For, in the fake world of Hollywood, the only thing that's real is the love between a girl and her dog.

What I Liked: The animation is stunning. The pure technical quality is easily the match of Pixar. There is a genuine attempt at creating some real characters here...fleshing them out with their own traits and flaws. Most of it comes across really nice.

What I Didn't Like: Let's see here...two friends, making a cross-country trek to get back to their loving owner, one of them exists in a semi-delusional state making him think he's a fictional character. Why does this story seem so famil---IT'S TOY STORY!

Final Verdict: It's good, if a little familiar. You've still got a ways to go, Mr. Lasetter, before the successes at Disney match the successes you've had at Pixar.

3 Nibs

One more to go, and I still have enough weekend left to go outside and play!

Animated Film Catch-Up: Dr Seuss' Horton Hears a Who

For those just joining us, every couple of years I rent every animated movie that I missed in the theatre that I had a mild interest in seeing, and watch them all in an insane lost weekend. I call this my "Animated Film Catch-Up".

Seeing as to how a lot of TV stations really don't have Saturday morning cartoons, no better way to spend a Saturday morning than by watching animated films! So, let's continue with my lost weekend!

Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!

Animation Studio and Best Known-Franchise: Blue Sky Studios; the Ice Age trilogy.

Directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino

Starring the voices of Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett, Will Arnet, Seth Rogan, Isla Fisher, Jonah Hill, Amy Poehler, and Charles Osgood.

The Source of My Mild Interest: When this film was originally being promoted, and I saw Jim Carrey was voicing the lead character, my mind went back to an interview Jim Carrey did way back in 1995 or so...after he'd just become famous. Since he was famous for doing crazy voices and impersonations in his act, Carrey was asked if he'd ever do a voice in an animated film. In that interview, Carrey firmly put his foot down, saying that he'd never do such a thing. "I've had offers," he said, "But they want to pay you nothing for it, citing that it's for the kids." 15 years later, and he's doing a voice in an animated film. Either Carrey's fortunes have really fallen, or things have changed enough in the animated film business that Carrey was finally get paid what he felt he was worth. Either way, I wanted to see if Carrey was as good leading an animated film as he thought he was 15 years ago.

Plot: It's a good chance that most of you read the original Dr. Seuss book when you were a kid, so I won't rehash it much. Horton is a free-thinking, imaginative elephant in the Jungle of Nool. One day, he hears a speck of dust speaking to him. It turns that the speck is home to the Whos, and Horton is able to talk to the Mayor of Whoville. Horton promises to take the speck to a safe place, where the Whos can live in safety. But this raises the ire of the Sour Kangaroo, who doesn't believe Horton's story, and sends various monkeys and vultures off to silence Horton, lest his imaginative story corrupt the children. Meanwhile, the Mayor of Whoville is having his own problems, as the people of Whoville think Horton is equally imaginary. Will Horton and the Mayor be able to convince their respective populaces of each others existence so they can live in safety?

What I Liked: I actually got all goosebumpy in one scene, as the music and animation and voice acting all connected in that magic way to make things work. Great score by John Powell. The animation was really good...I think this is Blue Sky's best looking film to date. A lot of the characters really managed to capture that Dr. Seuss style.

What I Didn't Like: Plot is still kind of cliched when it comes to talking animal animated films. And I'm not really sure the final musical number was appropriate.

Final Verdict: A highly enjoyable film, that felt free to cut loose and be cartoony. I read an article the other day saying that Blue Sky Studios might be on the cusp of becoming a major player, up alongside Pixar and DreamWorks. A couple more like this, and they could pull it off.

3 Nibs

Early lunch, and then back at 'er.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Animated Film Catch-Up: Kung Fu Panda

For those just joining us, every couple of years I rent every animated movie that I missed in the theatre that I had a mild interest in seeing, and watch them all in an insane lost weekend. I call this my "Animated Film Catch-Up".

OK, so next up on my list of animated films I was mildly interested in was one that I became increasingly curious about, and soon got kind of sad that I missed it in the theatre.

Kung Fu Panda

Animation Studio and Best Known Franchise: DreamWorks Animation; Shrek and Madagascar.

Directed by Mark Osborne and John Stevenson

Starring the voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Seth Rogan, Jackie Chan, Ian McShane, Randall Duk Kim and James Hong.

The Source of My Mild Interest: There are two studios that currently dominate computer animated films: Pixar and DreamWorks. It's no secret that I prefer Pixar. So, when I saw the first trailers for Kung Fu Panda, I rolled my eyes. "More of the same from DreamWorks. Talking animals voiced by celebrities making pop culture references." But then, some weird things started happening. The reviews were good. Even my fellow Pixar junkies were going, "Wow. This movie is good." Then, it went on to sweep the Annies, which is the animation industry's top awards. It completely shut out Pixar's Wall-E. With all this critical acclaim, I figured it was worth checking out. And hey! Co-director Mark Osborne directed the music video for "Weird Al" Yankovic's Jurassic Park.

Plot: A peaceful valley in China is protected by five kung fu masters known as the Furious Five. But then, horror. The warlord Tai Lung has escaped from prison, and is carving a swath of destruction to the valley. The only choice: find the legendary Dragon Warrior to do battle with Tai Lung. But do the kung fu masters choose one of the Furious Five to be the Dragon Warrior? No! They chose...Po, a lowly noodle chef...our titular panda. The race is on for Po to conquer his self-doubts, the Furious Five to conquer their doubts in Po, and to get ready for battle with Tai Lung.

What I Liked: The characters aren't just celebrities playing themselves. It seems like they're actually trying to create some characters...they're actually acting. Each of the Furious Five has their own character traits to make them unique. There's some amazing action sequences...a spectacular score...and the animation is above average for DreamWorks.

What I Didn't Like: The plot is still formulaic, and yeah, the celebrities try, but they do get lazy in some scenes and it becomes celebrities playing themselves.

Final Verdict: This is NOT talking animals making pop culture references...this is actually a highly entertaining action film with a comedic bent. I recommend it.

3.5 Nibs

Alright, it's getting late. Off to bed...we'll pick this up in the morning.

Animated Film Catch-Up: Bee Movie

For those just joining us, every couple of years I rent every animated movie that I missed in the theatre that I had a mild interest in seeing, and watch them all in an insane lost weekend. I call this my "Animated Film Catch-Up".

Alright, the first in this latest animated film catch-up....

Bee Movie

Animation Studio and Best Known Franchise: DreamWorks Animation, Shrek and Madagascar

Directed by Steve Hickner and Simon J. Smith

Starring the voices of Jerry Seinfeld, Renee Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Kathy Bates, and Ray Liotta

The Source of My Mild Interest: Bee Movie. An animated film written by, produced by, and starring Jerry Seinfeld. Having been a college kid in the 1990s who watched a lot of Seinfeld in the dorms, this just seemed like an interesting proposition. However, my interest was mild as it was another talking animal animated epic. Besides, insects trying to break out of the mold and be an individual? Didn't we see this in Antz and A Bug's Life? So let's see what we've got going on here.

Plot: Our hero is Barry B. Benson, a young honeybee just graduated from college and ready to take on the world. But, he seems somewhat wary of the bee philosophy of choosing one job and being stuck with it for the rest of your life. So, before he chooses his one job, he manages to go along on an expedition outside of the hive to gather nectar. While out there, he soon becomes enamored with Vanessa, a human, and a florist. But soon, Barry discovers that humans actually enslave bees and harvest the honey from them! Barry then decides to sue all of humanity so bees can regain their freedom and earn back all their hard-made honey! But the trial has some unexpected consequences....

What I Liked: There are some spectacular animated flying sequences as we watch the bees flying over New York city. There's a few clever gags going on, and it does get quite self-referential, such as Barry pointing out to Bee Larry King that the humans have a Larry King too.

What I Didn't Like: OK, you're really scraping the bottom of the barrel for pop culture references when you're cracking wise about Ray Liotta winning an Emmy for a guest shot on ER. And the whole "celebrities doing little more than playing themselves" thing that plagues a lot of animated films really goes overboard here.

Final Verdict: It's Jerry Seinfeld, doing one long bit about bees. Just a little too hip for the room.

2.5 Nibs

One down, four to go. Kung Fu Panda is getting tossed in next.

It's That Time Again: Animated Film Catch-Up!

Hey, it's that time again! It's time for bi-annual tradition, animated film catch-up!

Here's the story. I love animated films. Love love love them! There was once a time when I would run out to the theatre and see every animated film that came out. But then, something odd happened. The more I watched, the more I realized that...most of them are all the same. They all tend to be talking animals making pop culture references voiced by celebrities. So I started thinking that I didn't have to go out and see every animated film that hits the theatres.

Now, I do something I've dubbed animated film catch-up. I head down to the video store, and I rent every animated film from the past couple of years that I've had a mild interest in. And then, I go home, and watch them all in one Dr Pepper and Doritos fueled lost weekend!

I call it a bi-annual tradition, but the truth is, I do it whenever I'm browsing in the video store, and I've noticed that the vast majority of animated films I have a mild interest in have drifted from the "new releases" section to the "regular films" section. Every 2 or 3 years seems to be when it happens.

Here's what's on the menu for this edition of Animated Film Catch-Up:
  • Bee Movie
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who
  • Bolt
  • Monsters vs Aliens

I'll be posting capsule reviews here on the blog at the end of each film...when I have my intermission to refill the Dr Pepper.

We'll start things with Bee Movie after supper.

Green Lantern Villains

Well, the movie version of Green Lantern keeps trucking along. This week, it was announced who the villains will be...and the actors who'll be playing them!

First, it was announced that Peter Sarsgaard will be playing Hector Hammond. Hector Hammond is a B-lister in Green Lantern's rogues gallery...a scientist who becomes an all-powerful telepath after exposure to a mysterious meteorite. He then uses his newfound powers to try to steal Green Lantern's power ring and take over the world.

Now, when this was announced, the fanboys were pretty upset that the villain in the film would not be Green Lantern's arch-enemy, Sinestro. Those fears were laid aside when it was revealed that the studio was pursuing Jackie Earle Haley to play Sinestro.

For those too lazy to click on the link, Sinestro was once a member of the Green Lantern Corps, and was given the task of training Hal Jordan when Jordan first joined. But when Sinestro's version of a just and ordered galaxy was one with him as absolute ruler, Hal Jordan turned him in, and Sinestro went all supervillain. Now wielding a yellow power ring (in contrast to the green ring of Green Lantern), he seeks revenge upon Hal Jordan while still trying to bring totalitarian order to the galaxy.

Jackie Earle Haley was a child star in the 1970s, who's been having a phenomenal comeback in the past few years. Haley was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Little Children. For his superhero cred, he was recently Rorschach in the film version of Watchmen. And for his supervillain cred, he'll soon be seen as the new Freddy Kruger in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Sarsgaard and Haley join Ryan Reynolds, who was previously announced as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, and Blake Lively, who was announced earlier this week as playing Jordan's main squeeze, aircraft magnate Carol Ferris. They start filming in March for a Summer 2011 release!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yellow Submarine Cast

So, Robert Zemeckis, the legendary film director who gave us the Back to the Future trilogy, and who is now a pioneer of the medium of performance capture thanks to The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol, is hard at work on his next performance capture epic, a remake of the Beatles animated film, Yellow Submarine.

Zemeckis announced the cast the other day, so these lucky actors have the daunting task of playing the Beatles:

- Dean Lennox Kelly, a veteran British TV actor, will be playing John Lennon. My fellow nerds will recognize him as William Shakespeare from that episode of Doctor Who where the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones met Shakespeare.

- Peter Serafinowciz, a veteran British commedian, TV actor, and voice actor, will be playing Paul McCartney. My fellow nerds will recognize him as the voice of Darth Maul in Phantom Menace.

- Cary Elwes, a veteran of Zemeckis's performance capture films, will be playing George Harrison. My fellow nerds will remember him as Wesley in The Princess Bride and Robin Hood in Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

- Adam Campbell, who was in Date Movie and Epic Movie, will be playing Ringo Starr.

And, when new recordings of the Beatles classics are called for, the songs will be performed by Beatles tribute band Fab 4.

Disney hopes to have this one in theatres for Summer 2012, and have its premiere in London during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

I'm still on record as thinking this is a bad idea.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The A-Team Trailer

And here's another classic from my childhood given the big-screen treatment. The latest classic TV series turned into a movie, The A-Team:

As I've previously blogged, Liam Neeson [Qui-Gon Jinn] is Hannibal, Bradley Cooper [The Hangover] is Face, Sharlto Copley [District 9] is Murdock, and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson [UFC Superstar] is B.A..

Joe Carnahan [Narc] directs, and the Scott Brothers, Ridley [Gladiator, Blade Runner, Alien, this summer's Robin Hood] and Tony [Top Gun, Crimson Tide, The Taking of Pelham 123] produce.

June 11

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Move News Bits

A few bits of movie news have come my way that I have to pass along.

First up, it's official! JJ Abrams is going to get to do his sequel to Star Trek. Star Trek 2, or, as they're calling it right now, Untitled Star Trek Sequel, has just been given a release date of June 29, 2012.

There's still no word on what will happen in the sequel. When asked about it in interviews, Abrams says that he and his writers are still at the stage where they're just bouncing ideas of each other.

When the film first hit back in May, rampant fan speculation was calling for Jack Black as Harry Mudd. Ramapnt fan speculation right now is that we're going to get a return of Khan.

We'll know for certain come 2012.

Meanwhile, over at Warner Brothers, work is slowly starting to take shape on a movie version of that classic DC Comics character, Green Lantern.

It was announced a few days ago that Gossip Girl star Blake Lively will be playing Carol Ferris. In the comics, Ferris is a high-ranking official (and eventual president) of Ferris Aircraft, the aircraft company that employs Hal Jordan, the most famous Green Lantern of them all. And yes, she becomes Green Lantern's girlfriend.

Ferris also eventually becomes the villainess Star Sapphire, however Warner Brothers was quick to point out that Star Sapphire is NOT the villain in Green Lantern, but maybe in a sequel.

Lively joins the already-announced Ryan Reynolds, who'll be playing Hal Jordan. Martin Campbell, who gave us GoldenEye, Casino Royale and The Mask of Zorro, is directing. They start filming in March for a Summer 2011 release.

And, it was just announced that Spider-Man 4 is officially dead. Sony (the studio) and Sam Raimi (the director, who also did the first 3) just couldn't agree on a direction for the next film in the franchise. Rumor has it Raimi really wanted to have the Vulture as the villain, and the studio wanted "whoever's big in the comics right now."

So, Raimi, and Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker, have been removed from the project. However, they still want another Spider-Man film in theatres for 2012, so...reboot! New director, a new Peter Parker, all still TBA.

But summer 2012 is still the release date.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Finishing the Summer Blockbuster Catch-Up

So, I recently blogged that I spent my weekend watching some rented movies: Terminator Salvation and Land of the Lost. Before the weekend ended, I had the time to sit down and watch the third summer blockbuster I was sad I missed in the theatres, District 9.

I love how District 9 came about. The writer/director, Neill Blomkamp, was originally chosen by producer Peter Jackson to direct a movie version of the video game Halo. But when Halo fell apart, Jackson went to Blomkamp and said, "Dude, I'm sorry it fell apart like that. To make up for it, here's $30 million to make whatever kind of movie you want." Blomkamp chose to make a feature-length expansion of his short film Alive in Joburg, and the end result was District 9.

So, as the story goes, a UFO appears in the skies over Johannesburg, South Africa. After many years of just sitting there, we curious humans finally break into it to find a large group of malnourished alien refugees. The people of South Africa take them in, and set them up in a ghetto known as District 9. There's all kinds of racism apparent in the humans' treatment of the aliens, and District 9 rapidly becomes a crime ridden slum. The solution: move them to a bigger, better, newer slum known as District 10.

Enter our hero, Wikus, an employee of MNU, the company in charge of the slums. It's Wikus's job to head into District 9 and start handing out eviction notices. But before long, he's infected by a mysterious alien chemical that starts mutating him into one of the aliens. Now, Wikus becomes a fugitive as he's hunted by MNU and crime lords, because Wikus could hold the secret to making the alien's advanced technology usable to humans. Wikus knows that the answers to his condition lie deep within District 9.

I had a real Terminator weekend, as I watched T2 from my personal collection, rented Terminator Salvation, and then managed to catch the first one on cable TV. District 9 has a lot in common with the first Terminator in that they are both low-budget sci-fi films, with that low budget really adding an additional layer of grit and realism. There was also the much-lauded bit of tackling real political issues as it tackled issues such as racism. But, about halfway through, I found it started getting fairly typical of the genre.

Other than that, it was really good. Let's say 3 out of 4.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Latest Targ's Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

It's that time of the week again! We've got a new podcast all for you!

For your listening pleasure this week, I present Episode 3.15: Driven to Distraction. What starts out as a typical ramble about all things pop culture quickly goes off the rails as I begin having a text messaging conversation a very dear friend.

Click here to listen!

Click here to subscribe in iTunes!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Catching Up on the Summer Blockbusters

So, I did something tonight that I don't do very often, and I should do more often. I rented some movies. With my vast DVD collection, I usually watch something I own, but there are a few summer blockbusters I wanted to see, but missed in the theatres, so I rented them to see what I missed.

First up was Terminator Salvation, aka Terminator 4. Ever since I was in junior high and read the novelization of Terminator 2 have I wanted to see a film about the future war...the war against the machines. (The novelization's first three chapters are dedicated to it and go into it quite in depth.) And, with prequels and gritty origin stories being the rage in Hollywood these days, it was just a matter of time until we got it.

The plot: Marcus Wright, a death-row inmate in 2003, makes a deal to donate his body to science after he's executed. Wright then wakes up in the year 2018. Skynet is online and the future war is in full-swing. Wright soon meets up with a young resistance fighter named Kyle Reese, and they battle the machines while they try to find more resistance fighters. Meanwhile, John Connor is testing a new weapon that might finally bring an end to the war. It's not long before Connor and Wright are brought together, and a terrible secret is uncovered about Wright.

My reaction to this one was pretty much the same one I had to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. It's good, but oh so unnecessary. The first two films, the James Cameron films, form this nice little two part story that there's really no need to revisit it. Everything else is just rehashed.

What also doesn't help is the fact that I threw my own personal copy of Terminator 2 into my DVD last night, so T2 is still very fresh in my mind. The genius of the James Cameron films is, even though there's many great explosions and awesome killer robots, Cameron manages to throw in some weighty discussions about destiny vs. free will and the definitions of humanity. That's what makes the Cameron films some truly great science-fiction.

But Terminator Salvation didn't have any of that. Just some mighty fine explosions and robots fighting robots. And, it does have some great "wink wink" references to the earlier films. I'd probably give it 3 nibs out of 4.

Next up, I rented the big-screen version of the classic 1970s TV series, Land of the Lost. I think I saw, maybe, two episodes of the original series when I was a kid. However, I thought the trailers looked kind of clever, not to mention that it also starred the incredibly adorable Anna Friel, whom my fellow Pushing Daisies fans will forever remember as "the girl named Chuck." (And in Land of the Lost, Friel wears pigtails and short shorts, and uses her natural British accent, which makes her even MORE adorable. She is my new secret girlfriend.)

Anyway, Will Ferrel stars as Dr. Rick Marshall, a scientist who has fallen from grace because of his radical theories about time travel and other dimensions. When a young grad student named Holly (that's Friel), encourages him to continue his research, it's not long before Marshall, Holly and Will (a roadside attraction manager) get swept through an interdimensional vortex to a mysterious land, where they fight dinosaurs, battle lizard people, and try to find a way home.

Now, this film actually had a lot going for it. Some great creature designs, fantastic landscapes, a fairly routine plot, though. It had the makings of a pretty decent comedic sci-fi/fantasy film. About the only negative was, well, Will Ferrell. Everything just kind of grinds to a halt so he can do his usual Will Ferrell schtick that it kind of seems out of place. If Will Ferrell could have toned it down just a bit, it would have been good. 2 out of 4 nibs.

I also got District 9, but it's getting late, so I'll save that one for Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon Trailer

I feel like I need to relentlessly mock the trailer for the latest DreamWorks animated epic, How to Train Your Dragon.

I wanted to mock this trailer mainly because of how it opens with the montage of clips from other DreamWorks films...it's like they're trying to establish this Disneyesque legacy for themselves. And I don't think they've established one yet in their 15 years of existence.

But I started reading up on How to Train Your Dragon, and suddenly, my eyebrows were raised in curiosity. It turns out the director is Chris Sanders.

Sanders cut his teeth at Disney back in the 1990s. He was one of the writers on Mulan. And then he got to write and direct Lilo and Stitch, which many consider to be the last good film in that period of animation now known as "the Disney renassance." A lot of people were stricken by Lilo and Stitch and how it was just so different from anything Disney had done...injecting new life into the Disney formulas.

Sanders' next project at Disney was Bolt, and then there was a management change. Remember, it was the whole Disney/Pixar merger, and John Lassetter, the head of Pixar, became the head of Disney Animation. Lassetter and Sanders butted heads over the creative direction of Bolt. Sanders eventually left Disney and soon found himself a job down the street at DreamWorks. It was the highest-profile...negative that came out of the Disney/Pixar merger. How to Train Your Dragon is Sanders' first DreamWorks project.

So I'm intrigued now. Part of the reason why I have a distaste for DreamWorks films is the fact that they nailed down a winning formula with their first film, Antz, and they've stuck to it ever since. Sanders was able to inject new life into the Disney formula with Lilo and Stitch...perhaps he can do the same with the DreamWorks formula and How to Train Your Dragon.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Family Guy: Something Something Something Dark Side Review

Wow, I haven't bought a straight-to-DVD movie in a while, so let's review this sucker on the blog! I blew a Christmas gift card on....

Family Guy: Something Something Something Dark Side

Directed by Dominic Polcino

Starring the voices of Seth McFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green, Mila Kunis, Mike Henry, H. Jon Benjamin, John G. Brennan, and James Woods.

Backstory: As you may recall, a couple years ago, Family Guy did something special to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars. They produced a 1-hour special episode entitle Blue Harvest, which was a scene-for-scene spoof of Star Wars. It was so well-received that they decided to do scene-for-scene spoofs of the entire Star Wars trilogy. So that brings us to Something Something Something Dark Side, which is their scene-for-scene spoof of The Empire Strikes Back. But rather than show it on TV first, they decided to release it as a direct-to-DVD film.

Plot: Look, I'm pretty sure that everyone who reads this blog has seen The Empire Strikes Back, so no point in rehashing it here. I mean, it's just The Empire Strikes Back, but all your favourite Family Guy characters fill the roles.

What I Liked: There are a couple of clever gags, and they do point out some inconsistencies with Empire that I never really noticed before.

What I Didn't Like: Just like Family Guy on TV these days, the pop culture references and cutaway gags really get repetitive and start dragging things down.

Final Verdict: If you ever thought Empire Strikes Back needed to be shorter, and filled with crude humour, pop culture references, and some F-bombs for good measure, this is for you.

2 Nibs

Bonus Features: You get a running commentary with the cast and crew, a pop-up trivia feature, a featurette, some clips from the table read, and a clip from the table read for We Have a Bad Feeling About This, the forthcoming scene-for-scene spoof of Return of the Jedi.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sherlock Holmes review

Hey! My Sherlock Holmes review is up!

Head on over to my movie review site to see what I thought of it!

Latest Targ is Up!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Wow, this a monumental episode! First one back from Christmas holidays! First one of the new year! First one of the new decade! Too bad the content is still the same.

It's time for Episode 3.14: Remember to Make a Pi Joke, in which I ramble about Shrek 4, Godzilla films, and ski documentaries. So drop it in your MP3 player and crank it up...to a comfortable listening volume!

Click here to listen!

Click here to subscribe in iTunes!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Sherlock Holmes, More DVDs, and Other Shenanigans

Ah, it just wouldn't be a vacation without a day in Edmonton. I was hoping to see Avatar, but I'm saving it up to see it in IMAX 3D...the way James Cameron wants me to see it. And, since it was all sold out for today AND tomorrow, I decided to go see Sherlock Holmes instead.

Now, I should mention that I know absolutely nothing about the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Never read the books, never seen any of the earlier film adaptations...unless you count the Disney classic The Great Mouse Detective. So, really, this film was my first exposure to Sherlock Holmes.

It was pretty good I guess. Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law do have a great rapport as Holmes and Watson. I had no idea that Holmes, as a character, was so eccentric. The action scenes are pretty good, and I love the ending where Holmes explains the entire plot and how he figured it out. Hans Zimmer also provided a delighfully offbeat music score.

But I don't know...as cop movies and detective movies go, the whole thing seemed kind of conventional.

I give it a 3 out of 4 nibs.

Oh, and, of course, with Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket, I had to buy more DVDs!

First up, Best Buy, where I had to spend my Best Buy gift card. I snatched up Family Guy presents Something, Something, Something Dark Side. As you may recall, a couple years back, Family Guy did a scene-for-scene spoof of Star Wars. It was called Blue Harvest. Well, it did so well, that they decided to do a scene-for-scene spoof of the entire original trilogy. Something Something Something Dark Side is their spoof of The Empire Strikes Back.

I was hoping to get Robot Chicken Star Wars: Episode II as well, but Best Buy was all sold out.

And then, over at HMV, I was blessed to finally get my hands on a copy of Andy Barker, PI: The Complete Series, which came out a month ago but I hadn't found on store shelves yet. As I had to explain to a friend, Andy Barker, PI was the second brilliant-but-canceled sitcom starring the very, very funny Andy Richter. The series was created by Ricther's old partner Conan O'Brien, and was specifically geared for Richter's talents. Richter played Andy Barker, a very mild-mannered accountant who finally opens up his own practice. Thing was, his office used to be occupied by a private investigator, and when some of that PI's old clients start coming by looking for help, Barker begins moonlighting as a detective. And the whole thing turns into a loving homage to/spoof of the detective shows of the 1970s. It only ran 6 episodes, but Richter is comedy gold.

Oh, and for a while now, I've been thinking that I need more foreign films in my DVD library, so I grabbed Run Lola Run out of a discount bin. I can hardly wait to crank up that iconic techno score on my home theatre!

And, of course, I started pricing out some big ticket items. Every spring, I threaten to buy a bicycle and take up cycling again. I used to love cycling, I don't know why I stopped. I was also pricing out a Blu-Ray player. They've really come down in price...you can get a pretty good model now for around $150.

Next time.