Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Here Comes the Targ!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

It's that time of the week again!  Time to take your MP3 player and stuff it!...with a new episode of U62: The Targ!

Got a very busy show this week in Episode 5.10: Midnight Music.  I offer up a lesson for the artistic types out there, I take a look at the growing intercontinental feud between TV networks, I reminisce about the old days, take a long hard look at the Internet dating scene, and end by wondering what Pixar did wrong in 2011.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Scarecrow's Oscar Picks: 2012 Edition

It's time for my annual tradition going back all the way to when I first stared developing my online presence oh so many years ago.  Oscar nominations were announced today, so that means it's time to roll out my Oscar picks!

I'm feeling kind of guilty looking forward to this year's Oscars when I still have to catch up on last year's Oscar winners.  I've been saying for a whole year now that I'm going to kill a Sunday afternoon by heading down to the video store and renting The King's Speech and Black Swan.  I've still got time...hopefully before this year's ceremony.  

Now, for those who might be new here, I've always done my Oscar picks a little bit different.  Best Director?  Best Actor?  Best Screenplay?  Pfft!  You're going to be flooded with those predictions in the media between now and when the big show is on TV on February 26.  Instead, I tend to focus on some of the smaller awards that I tend to geek out over.  And those two awards:  Best Visual Effects and Best Original Song.

Let's take a look at those categories, shall we?

Best Visual Effects

My ThoughtsHugo has been getting lots of love for it's imaginative use of 3D effects.  Real Steel has ass-kicking giant robots.  But the one that everyone is raving about is Rise of the Planets of the Apes, where virtually all of the apes were done with performance capture animation.

My Predictions:  Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Best Original Song

Hey!  Thanks to YouTube, I can post the nominations!  The nominees are:

"Man or Muppet" from The Muppets

"Real in Rio" from Rio

My Thoughts:  Wow.  Only 2 nominations in this category this year?  I have no idea how this category works.  Help me Wikipedia...OK.  Apparently, eligible songs are ranked on a scale from 6 to 10, and to get a nomination, you have to get higher than 8.5.  And these are the only songs that scored higher than 8.5 this year.  Bit of a surprise with The Muppets...everyone knew it would score at least one nomination, but everyone thought that one nomination would be the film's opener "Life's a Happy Song."  Either way, everybody loved the songs in The Muppets...this is their category to lose.

My Prediction:  Man or Muppet

Best Animated Film

Threw this one into the mix when the category was created 10 years ago because I do so love animated films.  As I've blogged before, there was a time in my life when I'd run out to the theatre and see every animated film that came out, but I stopped doing that when every animated film became talking animals making pop culture references.  Which talking animals will be honour this year?  The nominees are:
My Thoughts:  For the first time since this category's inception, Pixar doesn't get a nomination.  That's what you get for making Cars 2!  Oh, well.  Pixar still gets some love, though, as their short film La Luna got nominated for Best Animated Short Film.  (La Luna made the rounds on the film festival circuit last year...it's going to be in front of Brave this summer.)  As always, there's a couple of art house picks that have people scratching their heads.  A Cat in Paris is a French animated film, about a little girl and her cat solving a mystery on a warm Paris evening, and Chico and Rita is a Spanish/UK co-production about two gifted musicians in the 1940s and 50s as they bounce around from Havana, New York, Vegas, and Paris as they try to achieve their dreams.  There's some controversy that The Adventures of Tintin didn't get nominated, once again sparking debate as to whether performance capture counts as true animation.  And Rango made the list as expected.  I know Rango got a lot of love, both commercially and critically, but when I finally saw it I found it fairly typical and didn't see what all the fuss was about.  But because of all that love, it's the frontrunner.

My Prediction:  Rango

Best Picture

Well, enough of my hipster Oscar predictions, I guess I should do at least one mainstream one, so why not the biggest one of them all?  I really have no idea how this category works anymore.  It used to be just 5 nominations.  Then, a couple years ago, they expanded it to 10 to try to include more mainstream films and less art house picks that no one had heard of.  This year, they're trying a new system where a film has to get a certain number of points to qualify, and there'll be as many nominations as there needs to be.  9 nominees this year, and they are....
My Thoughts:  Well, the whole point of doing this was to allow more mainstream films, and we can see that here.  The Help was getting a lot of Oscar buzz when it became the sleeper hit of the end of summer.  However, with the Golden Globes and all the various critics awards across the USA that tend to be the indicator, it seems to be coming down to Hugo and The Artist.  And many are pointing out that The Artist was brought to North American shores by the Weinstein Company, who are using many of the same successful Oscar campaigning techniques that they used last year for The King's Speech.

My Prediction:  The Artist

Sunday, January 22, 2012

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

It's that time of the week again!  Time to take your MP3 player and stuff it!...with a new episode of U62: The Targ!

I feel like I need to apologize in advance for this week's episode, Episode 5.09: Flame War.  See, we're having a by-election up here in Athabasca, and I take a large portion of this week's episode ranting about one of the issues that's very important to me:  affordable housing.  Once that's out of my system, I also share one of my favourite stories of the making of Star Trek IV, and ponder the meaning of George Lucas announcing his retirement.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, DeForest Kelley!

As Facebook now allows for longer and longer status updates, I find the silly little blog entries I used to do are getting passed over for just simply posting it straight to social networking sites.

But, since I still want to keep this blog running, maybe I should post this stuff to the blog and then just share the links on all the social networking sites.  Oh, Internet, why are you so big and complicated?

Anyway, the simple little entry I want to say today is happy birthday to DeForest Kelley, still best remembered as Dr. Leonard H. "Bones" McCoy on the original Star Trek.  Kelley passed away in 1999, but were he still with us, he'd be 92 today.

I'm sure lots of folks will be rolling out "He's dead, Jim" and "I'm a doctor, not a ______" montages in tribute today, so instead, I wanted to put out there one of my favourite quotes from Bones:

"In this galaxy, there's a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in all of the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all of that and perhaps more, only one of each of us. Don't destroy the one named Kirk."

Although, for your own inspirational purposes, I'd suggest replacing Capt. Kirk's name with your name.

And, thanks to YouTube, here's one of my favourite McCoy moments.  It's McCoy's return to Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Once you get past the pure 70s cheese of what McCoy is wearing, it's just a great little character moment.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Muppets Review is Online

So, this past weekend, I finally got a chance to head into the city and this new Muppet movie everyone's talking about.

Long story short:  it rocked.

My complete review is now up on the main site.  Click on over and have a read!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's Targ Time!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Time for a new week, that means it's time for a new episode of U62: The Targ!

Today, we break out Episode 5.08: Pound Pound Pound It Out, in which, after we struggle with what to talk about, we start chatting up the sad remnants of dying fads, ponder building new tourist attractions in our national parks, and ask the age old question:  "What am I doing with my money this month:  paying the rent, or buying new DVDs?"

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Red State Review

As I've previously blogged, two of my favourite filmmakers were out with new films in 2011 that I never got around to seeing.  So, of course, I went out with my Christmas money and bought those films on Blu-Ray a) to finally see them and b) so I wouldn't have any gaps in my collection.  A week ago I saw the first of those two films.  The filmmaker was Pixar, and that movie was Cars 2.  The second one was Kevin Smith, and that film was Red State

Being a Kevin Smith fanboy, I'd been tracking this one online for a while.  He sat down and wrote it after Clerks 2.  Hoped to make it his next film after Clerks 2, but his usual studio the Weinsteins chose to pass on it.  "It's a bleak, unrelenting film with no redeemable characters and everyone dies at the end!  I don't understand why they wouldn't want to make it," I heard Smith joke in his famous Q&A sessions.  So Smith went off and made Zack and Miri Make a Porno (ignore the critics and the box office returns, it's a damn funny film) and Cop Out (listen to the critics and the box office returns because it's a God awful film) before deciding to go back to his indie beginnings and make Red State independently. 

It was about a year ago when he premiered it at the Sundance film festival and announced that he'd be distributing it independently as well.  Many thought his distribution method was unique.  Rather than pass it off to a distributor and put it in thousands of theatres, he was going to take it personally from theatre to theatre, screen it, and then do one of his famous Q&A sessions afterwards.  Many thought this was revolutionary, but I looked at that and went, "Hey!  Didn't Tim Allen do that a couple of years ago?"  And he did.  Allen made his directorial debut a few years back, and he personally took it theatres and screened it.  Only instead of a Q&A, he busted out some new stand-up material and did his stand-up show.  So it was hardly revolutionary.  And, for a director like Smith, with a very dedicated fanbase, it made a lot of sense. 

Smith brought his Red State show to Edmonton back in August or September...I can't remember exactly when.  All I remember is I couldn't get the time off work to go, so I knew I'd probably just have to buy it on Blu-Ray when it came out and kick back some evening and watch it.  That kind of didn't bode well, though, because the only other Smith film I'd ever seen without seeing it in the theatre first was Jersey Girl and...well, I can't make the expected joke.  You can tell I'm a dedicated Kevin Smith fanboy, because only the dedicated utter these words:

"Ya know, Jersey Girl's actually not that bad." 

You can't deny though that Jersey Girl and Red State have similar origin stories.  Both were touted by Smith as being efforts to break out of his safety zone and try something new for him.  With Jersey Girl, he was wading in the shallow end...just out of his comfort zone, but able to retreat quickly would things go on.  With Red State, though, he did a cannonball off the high dive. 

So, let's take a look see, shall we?

Red State

Directed by Kevin Smith

Starring Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Kerry Bishe, Kyle Gallner, Michale Angarano, Nicholas Braun, Ralph Garman, Stephen Root, and Kevin Pollack

Backstory:  Well, I pretty much covered that above, so no need to repeat myself

Plot:  This is a tough plot to summarize briefly.  Three teenagers go off into the woods one night to lose their virginity to a woman they met on the Internet, but it turns out to be a trap lain by a religious fundamentalist organization that's a borderline cult.  Things quickly spiral out of control and our borderline cult is soon in the midst of an armed standoff with federal agents.  The film could more accurately be described as a series of character portraits as this Hell on Earth starts to break out.  There's the small town sheriff, played by Root, who gets all jittery because this incident could reveal some of his secrets.  There's one of the eldest children in the cult, played by Bishe, who's only thoughts turn to saving the children when things start falling apart.  There's the lead federal agent, played by Goodman, who desperately tries to do the right thing.  There's our three teenagers who kicked off our story, wondering desperately if they'll make it out alive.  And, the most talked about performance in the film, Michael Parks as our cult leader Abin Cooper, who is very much the face of evil in this film.  

What I Liked:  Visually, this is nothing like Smith has done before.  He'd always been reluctant to direct action sequences, citing his own inexperience, but for most of the action scenes in this film, he does a pretty good job.  In fact, there was one camera shot that, while not Earth-shattering, was just out of Smith's norm enough to make my jaw drop.  Make no mistake though, it is still a Kevin Smith film.  There'll be a line of dialogue and the delivery of that line that'll make you smile and go, "Yup, that's Smith."  As I said, everyone's raving about Parks' performance, and deservedly so, but I was rather impressed with Goodman as the flustered federal agent in over his head.  Being largely familiar with Goodman's comedic work, I'd never seen him do something dramatic before, and he was good.  And there were some wonderfully tense moments. 

What I Didn't Like:  Well, it's still a Smith film, and as such, it does get a little too talky for an action/thriller.  As riving as Abin Cooper's sermon is, it does kind of bring the plot to a halt.  

Final Verdict:  Despite its preachy moments, I found Red State to be a tight little action thriller.  It was tense, it was scary, and it was enjoyable.

3 Nibs

Sunday, January 08, 2012

It's a New Targ!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Let's see if we can keep this streak of new episode going in the new year with Episode 5.07: Overtired

In this week's episode, we're chatting about the recent World Juniors, building monuments to TV shows, and sampling black burgers!

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Friday, January 06, 2012

Cars 2 Review

So, as I'm sure has become very obvious by now, I'm a big, big fan of Pixar.  Love their films.  However, this past summer, I skipped their latest film.  The commercials just held no interest for me.  It was the first time I'd missed a Pixar film in the theatre in...ever.  I'd seen every Pixar film in the theatre!  Except this one.  However, with my pockets filled with Christmas money, I went out and I bought it on DVD.  I mean, I also own every Pixar film on DVD, so I can't have a gap in my collection. 

Tonight, I finally sat down to experience the mediocrity that is....

Cars 2

Directed by John Lasseter; Co-directed by Brad Lewis

Starring the voices of Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Eddie Izzard, John Turturo, Jason Issacs, Thomas Kretschman, Tony Shalhoub, and Bruce Campbell

Backstory:  So, when this film was first announced, the question that every Pixar geek had was, "Out of all the fantastic films that Pixar has made, why does Cars get a sequel?"  That question is best answered by Yogurt from Spaceballs:  "Merchandise!"  Granted, while Cars was Pixar's lowest grossing and not-best-reviewed film, it was also Pixar's biggest hit ever...in terms of merchandise sales.  And since merchandise sales are one of the biggest parts of a film's revenues these days, a sequel was pretty much assured.  But hey, we were all cynical towards Toy Story 2 & 3, and they turned out to be good, so Cars 2 could be good...right?

Plot:  In the freakish nightmare world where cars rule and humans are nowhere to be seen, the fuel magnate Sir Miles Axelrod develops a new alternative fuel call Allinol, and to promote the usage of this fuel, holds a race known as the World Grand Prix.  Of course, our hero from the first film, Lightening McQueen, is invited to race, and he brings along his best friend Mater the Tow Truck.  Mater, simple country bumpkin that he is, has all kinds of delightful culture shock misunderstandings, which eventually causes him to be berated by McQueen.  However, Mater is soon mistaken for an ace secret agent by two British spies, and is enlisted to help them in their latest adventure.  Seems that a crime syndicate made of history's greatest lemons is out to sabotage the World Grand Prix.  Can Mater and his two new spy buddies save the day?  Will Mater reconcile with Lightening McQueen?  And who will win the World Grand Prix?

What I Liked:  Well, it is Pixar, so the animation is gorgeous.  My current favourite composer, Michael Giacchino, did the score, and it's a great pseudo-James Bond score.  John Turturo voices McQueen's chief rival, a Formula One racer named Francesco, and he is hilariously over the top.

What I Didn't Like:  PREACHY.  This film is very blunt with its messages.  Look, I appreciated trying to whip a little wisdom at the kids, but it doesn't have to be this blunt.  The plot is kind of muddled, as we cut back and forth between McQueen on the race and Mater in his spy adventures.  Owen Wilson is really phoning it in this time out as the voice of McQueen.  And, as always, the humour of Larry the Cable Guy is an acquired taste. 

Final Verdict:  Well, what can I say?  Pixar's four films prior to this all had me in tears at the end.  No tears were shed at the end of Cars 2.  The typical Pixar effort just doesn't seem to be there this time out.  It's just...a sequel.

2.5 Nibs

Now, I've got a busy weekend ahead, but hopefully I'll be able to sit down and watch my other new DVD.  Another of my favourite filmmakers had a new film out in 2011 that I never got around to seeing, so hopefully I'll be able to find a few moments over the weekend to watch and review it as well.  Keep your eyes on this blog for when I finally check out Kevin Smith's Red State.  

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

2 New Movie Review for the New Year!

So, before this whole crazy Christmas/New Years period came to a close, I knew I had to get out to the movies.  So I figured it was time for a good ol' double feature day, which I did back on Monday!

First up, I wanted to check out the new Sherlock Holmes sequel.  I liked the first one well enough, and I found the second one to be...well, as the ol' cliche goes, "If you liked the first one...."

Next up, I wanted to catch the latest Mission: Impossible.  As I'd previously blogged, I'd been very curious to see this, because one of my favourite directors, Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille) was making his live-action debut with this.  And for his live-action debut, he did a stellar job.

I've got complete reviews over at my main website, so click on over and give them a read!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

It's Time for the Targ!!

U62: The Targ -- My podcast

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2012, and I can think of no better way to ring in the new year than with a brand new episode of U62: The Targ!

We start the new year with Episode 5.06: A Week Full of Thursdays.  I discuss the pains of being recognized, I lament the end of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and I spend my time dissecting the trailer for The Hobbit.

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