Archive for March, 2009

The Movie Theatre Survival Guide, Part 2

If you missed Part One, then shame on you.  Redeem yourself by reading it.

Just to clarify things, this isn’t a survival guide in the vein of Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide or any other survival guide that deals with actually surviving.  There are plenty of books out there that will help you with robot uprisings, nuclear fallout, and similar apocalyptic events.  This is not one of those guides.  Basically, it’s my thoughts on the movie theatre experience, not on how to survive in a movie theatre.  And this is especially not on the subject of what to do if a movie theatre were to try to kill you.  Because, let’s face it, if a movie theatre were to try and kill you, there is no surviving.

Now for Part Deux . . .

ON TIMELINESS, PREPAREDNESS, AND FOOD(INESS)

I have this issue with time.  Whenever I’m supposed to be somewhere at a specific time, I do my darndest to make sure I’m there on time.  Not late, preferably only a little early, but generally on time.  When it comes to getting to the movie theatre, I HATE BEING LATE.  There are two reasons for this: 1) I want to make sure I can find a decent seat, especially if it’s opening night; 2) I don’t want to miss the trailers.  I know, Number 2 sounds kinda lame, and I know I can just hop on over to the ‘movie trailers’ page on the Apple Quicktime website to see all the latest previews.  However, there are instances when a trailer to an anticipated movie will appear first in the theatre, then online a few days later.  And I want to be among the first.

So, what should be taken into account when making sure you arrive at the theatre on time?  Well, the first thing you should ask yourself is: “Is it opening weekend?”  If the answer is ‘Yes’, then arrive at least 30 minutes early.   Actually, you’ll want to get there anywhere from 45 minutes before showtime to an hour and a half, depending on a few other factors.

Location, parking, and type of movie are what you need to keep in mind when planning your trip to the theatre.  If you’re within walking distance, then that’s great; you can eliminate the ‘parking’ segment.  If you live far away enough to have to drive, then allow yourself a few extra minutes to handle the parking situation.  For example, I used to live about 20 minutes away(by car)  from my favorite movie theatre.  The theatre was nestled right behind the local mall, and there always seemed to be plenty of parking.  I say ‘seemed’ because although there were probably close to a thousand spaces, all the good ones were almost always taken.  It’s not unusual to find people driving around the parking lot for half an hour looking for ‘just the right spot’.

It doesn’t exist.

OK, maybe it does, but it certainly doesn’t belong to you; you’ll have to learn to share.  Often times, I’d park a good distance away, in a lot that required you to walk a couple of minutes to the theatre.  I had no problem with this, and neither should you.  A parking spot is a parking spot, as long as you feel comfortable leaving your vehicle there.  Actually, this would apply to most parking situations, not just the theatre.  Please, don’t be one of those lurkers who sit and wait in the car for someone to pull out of a spot.  Find your own f***ing spot.

If the movie you’re going to see is a highly anticipated one (like the upcoming Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), then expect to wait close to an hour or more.  If you attend the very first showing, generally at midnight, then expect to wait for a few hours.  Earlier this month, I saw Watchmen at midnight and I waited about 3 or so hours in line.  Some might be appalled at this, and indeed it does sound ridiculous, but hey, the movies are my kryptonite, and I’m willing to go to extreme lengths to watch them.  Plus, I didn’t mind the wait, because I came prepared.  Which brings me to my next point.

Going to the movie theatre is quite different from watching a movie in your home theatre.  Consider your style of dress.  At home, you can wear whatever you want, or nothing if that’s how you roll.  It’s all a matter of comfort.  In the movie theatre, some comfort may have to be sacrificed if it conflicts with other people’s comfort levels.  Theatres tend to be cooler in temperature; sometimes I bring a light jacket even if it’s in the middle of the summer.  Make sure you dress appropriately for the theatre, or you’ll be too cold/hot to enjoy whatever it is you’re watching.  And be mindful of the noise your clothing makes.  If you have to remove something/put something on during the movie, make sure the squeaking and ruffling about is kept to a minimum.

Also, don’t be afraid to bring some other forms of entertainment along while waiting for the theatre lights to dim.  A portable gaming system is my choice to waste time with, and I’ve had many rousing games of Mario Kart DS with my friends at the movie theatre.  Lately, it’s been more like Animal Crossing: Wild World or Ninjatown, but it doesn’t really matter what game.  As long as everyone’s got a system, and the game is multiplayer, a good time will probably be had by all.  Except for the one person that doesn’t have a system, and just has to watch everyone else have a good time.  In that case, you only have yourself to blame.

One other thing I’ve brought with me to the movie theatre: air freshener or body spray.  No, not for me; I never leave the house without showering.  But if you’ve checked out my Watchmen or The Dark Knight reviews, you may have noticed I have this thing about body odor.  Occasionally, a movie theatre may stink like someone’s unwashed ass, so it may be necessary to give your surrounding personal space a little spray of cologne, perfume, Lysol, whatever.  During my Watchmen viewing, my girlfriend and I noticed the stink of B.O. hanging in the air where we were sitting.  Then these two guys who were sitting in front of us moved over a few seats, and the stink diminished a little, but it wasn’t completely gone.  So, I took out my tiny travel-sized can of Axe and gave the area directly in front of me a quick spray, and all was well.  Just be careful where you spray, as you don’t want to offend anyone nearby that could be allergic, or would think you’re spraying because of them.  If it’s the latter, then they probably do stink and they can only get mad at themselves.

And be mindful of what you keep in your pockets.  You don’t want to drop your keys or cell phone or anything else, then have to feel around in the dark for them.  Sure, you can wait till the lights come up again to look, but once you see what’s on that movie theatre floor, you may not want to touch it.

Now on to what is possibly the most expensive aspect of the movie theatre experience: food.  I am part of the AMC Movie Watcher club, which means I earn points for every ticket I buy, and those points can go towards free things like tickets, popcorn, etc.  It’s a great program, and it’s free so I think people should check it out.  Anyway, one of the prizes that is offered is either a free ticket or a free large popcorn and large drink.  I almost always go for the popcorn and drink because the ticket usually won’t be good on new releases and the popcorn and drink, combined, probably cost more than the ticket.

If you don’t have the option of getting some free food, either be prepared to buy what’s at the concessions stand, or bring your own.  Personally, I love popcorn and always have to have some whenever I watch a movie, even at home, so that means I’ll probably be buying some popcorn at the theatre.  If you choose to go this route, remember to get enough napkins.  You don’t want to be caught with oily, buttery fingers and nothing to wipe them off on.  Yes, you can lick your fingers, but what are you, five?  Besides, movie theatres can be pretty unsanitary places, you don’t want to lick your fingers after they touched the seats and stuff.

Many, and probably all, movie theatres discourage bringing in outside food.  I tend to agree, simply because theatres make most of their money from the concessions stand and I generally don’t mind supporting things I like.  But, I do understand that times are tough, and corners need to be cut in order to make ends meet.  So, if you’re going to bring food in, do it properly.  Don’t bring in food that’s going to be hard to smuggle in.  Recently, my girlfriend and I brought in a nice meal of burgers and fries, complete with ketchup, lettuce, tomato, etc from another restaurant simply because we were jonesing for some real food and didn’t want to be late to the movie.

The food was put into relatively small containers that easily fit into large jacket pockets or a purse, or some other type of bag.  Some theatres will check bags and purses to make sure you aren’t bringing in a camera or something, so be careful.  You’ll have to pay attention as to whether or not your theatre does this.  If so, then you’ll have to find other ways of getting food inside.  I remember many years ago, when Attack of the Clones came out, my friend and I were conscientious enough to wear loose clothing with big pockets so we could bring in sandwiches, bottled drinks, candy, etc. for us and our friends while we waited for the movie to start.  But the underlying point is this: don’t be too obvious about it.  I know most theatre workers couldn’t care less if you brought in some outside food, but rules are still rules, and you have to assume they’ll be enforced.

Next time on The Movie Theatre Survival Guide: A Treatise on Courtesy.

(images found using Google Image Search)

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March 30, 2009 at 11:57 pm 1 comment

The Movie Theatre Survival Guide, Part 1

The other day, I was in line at the concessions stand in a movie theatre.  The line wasn’t too bad, but it was moving slow.  I’d have to guess that it was because of the high number of parents herding their children around (Monsters vs. Aliens had just come out, so that was probably why there was a higher attendance of kids than usual).  Behind me, a man was conversing with a friend about their ‘theatre experience’, which was basically complaining about the time they were spending in line.

They mentioned over-priced tickets, over-priced food, and crowds, which led me to think of, “Why the hell are you here, then?”  The movie theatre is such a unique place that it requires learning and adjusting to certain customs, like paying for over-priced food and dealing with lines.  Actually, one of the reasons I enjoy going to movie theatres is because of crowds, specifically for those huge blockbusters that draws in a thousand people per screening.  So, I decided to put my thoughts down on something concrete (like the Internet!) so that others can learn from my experiences.  Or, comment on how much of a loser I am for spending so much time at the movies.

A quick note: I spell the word ‘t-h-e-a-t-r-e’, not ‘t-h-e-a-t-e-r’, only because I’ve been spelling it the Ye Olde English way since I can remember, and it just kinda stuck.

Anyway, off we go . . .

MOVIE THEATRE VS. HOME THEATRE


A lot of people now have a ‘home theatre’, which used to refer to just a really nice home speaker set.  Now, many common home theatres consist of a high-definition television, a DVD player, and at least a 5.1 Dolby Digital-capable speaker system.  If you want to get fancy, toss in an upscaling DVD player (with appropriate HD cables), or even a Blu-ray player, a 7.1. Dolby- and DTS-capable speaker system, a massive (50″ and higher) HDTV, and theatre-style seating.

Many of these home theatres mimic the visual and audio experience you may get when going to a movie theatre.  Sure, they cost a pretty penny, but for cinema buffs, technophiles, and people with money to burn, a home theatre system is a necessity, just like food and clothing.  So why spend $10 for a ticket, $8 for some popcorn, $5 for a drink, not to mention using gas, just to go to a movie theatre?  Well, the first thing I can think of is asking a person who loves paintings, “Why go to an art show when you can sit at home and view the paintings online?”  Or, “Why spend $30+ on a ticket to a play or musical, when there’s probably a home video version of it available for $20 or less?”

Simple.  It’s the experience.

OK, maybe that’s actually a little more complicated than it seems.  There are certain situations where the movie theatre experience outshines the home theatre experience.  You have to take into account what you will be watching and the mood you will be watching it in.  For example, generally big-budget Hollywood summer-action-spectacular-extravaganza-apocalypses should be seen on massive screens to assault your eyes, and with tens of thousands of watts of audio power to destroy your ears.  That is, if you’re interested in those kinds of movies.

Then you have your smaller-scale movies.  Generally, your comedies, dramas, and most other films that don’t have budgets higher than $100 million.  A Wes Anderson-directed film probably won’t have any scenes that will shake the floor so hard you’d think the San Andreas Fault was splitting.  But, on the other hand, a Michael Bay-helmed picture is nothing but ridiculous explosions.  If you love action movies, then you’d most likely be better off watching an action movie in a movie theatre.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “But I have a home theatre system.  I spent a bazillion dollars on it, what am I going to use it for?” There are plenty uses for a home theatre system.  Movies that you love should be watched in an environment that supports the watching of movies.  For example, you love Wes Anderson, you think The Royal Tenenbaums is the greatest piece of cinema ever put to celluloid.  Personally, you’d be doing that movie a disservice if you’re watching it on some rinky-dink 19″ cathode-ray-dinosaur.  The cinematography is gorgeous in that film, and deserves to be seen in the highest possible resolution, with the best color clarity you can get.  Or maybe you love Saving Private Ryan; you should be able to hear every bullet whizzing past the camera, every explosion rocking the scenery, every casing dropping to the ground.  That’s where a great speaker system comes in.

What I’m getting at is this: the home theatre experience is a personal experience.  It’s for you, and anyone you choose to share that experience with.  A home theatre allows you the freedom of examining every frame of your favorite film, and appreciate the skill in which those frames were put together, all in the comfort of your own home.  The movie theatre experience is, to me, something a little more social.  I love being there, with hundreds of other people who enjoy what I enjoy.  There’s also something about watching a really kick-ass movie, then at the end listening to, and feeling, the audience’s applause ripple through the theatre.

A recent experience I had was when I watched The Dark Knight last summer.  It was a midnight showing, with about 500 others sitting in the IMAX theatre.  Now, that was a movie that should be seen with a crowd.  Listening to the audience ‘Ooohh’ and ‘Aaahh!’ at all the right parts just adds something to the experience.  Also, when I saw the re-release of Star Wars back in ’97, every member of the audience I saw it with gave it a nearly 2-minute standing ovation when the final credits started rolling.  That is something you just can’t replicate with a home theatre.

Coming up on The Movie Theatre Survival Guide: On Timeliness, Preparedness and Food(iness).

(images found using Google Image Search)

March 29, 2009 at 11:39 am 1 comment

Review: “Monsters vs. Aliens: IMAX 3D”

The latest effort from DreamWorks Animation comes to the big screen (and if you watch it on IMAX, the really big screen) and in 3D in the form of Monsters vs. Aliens.  The movie is delightful, funny, and very entertaining, which will please children plus any adult willing to pretend to be a child for an hour and a half.  No, that’s not a slight against the movie.

Monsters vs. Aliens, despite what the previews angle this movie as, is actually about Susan, aka Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon).  Susan, who is roughly 50 feet tall and possesses super strength, was a young bride that, on her wedding day, was struck by a meteorite.  The element that comprised the space rock incidentally transformed her from a brunette woman of average height, to an ice-white-haired 50-foot-tall ‘monster’.  A top-secret U.S. military program then carries her away to an unknown facility.

The facility, run by General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland), has been capturing and detaining monsters for the past 50 years.  Susan, now dubbed ‘Ginormica’, then meets her fellow inmates/monsters: Dr. Cockroach, PhD. (Hugh Laurie), a former mad scientist-turned-giant-cockroach who can walk on walls and endure ridiculous punishment; The Missing Link (Will Arnett), who is some type of fish-man that likes to scare beach-goers; B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), a blue gelatinous blob that can stretch himself and do other blob-like things; and finally Insectosaurus, a giant (300-something-feet-tall!) fuzzy bug-looking thing that acts a lot like the group’s pet.

Turns out the meteor that struck Susan was wanted by an evil alien named Galaxhar (Rainn Wilson), who needs the element to power a machine that helps him take over planets.  Or something like that.  Basically, the plot becomes unimportant at this point, because the focus of the movie turns to pure entertainment, and a little bit of self-empowering feminism.  The rest of the story really focuses on Susan’s denial of her new life as a super-powered being, then her attempts to reconcile her old and new life.  She’s still in love, or thought she was in love, with her fiance Derek (Paul Rudd).  Derek is your typical ego-driven, career-focused man who is only willing to do anything if he gets something out of it.  Basically, he’s an asshole, and a bit of a chauvinist.

Ah, good old San Fran

Ah, good old San Fran

Now for all the stuff that the kids would appreciate.  The 3D works a lot better here than it did in recent movies like My Bloody Valentine 3D.  I’m not an expert in this new 3D tech, but my eyes adjusted to this way better than in the live-action stuff.  Only a few times did my eyes have to forcefully focus on something, but it could’ve been attributed to my wearing eyeglasses and the 3D glasses at the same time.

On the Filmspotting podcast this week, the hosts had complained about the pacing of the movie.  While they enjoyed it as a whole, they had an issue about the first part basically not meshing well.  I did not find this issue at all.  I thought the movie moved at a nice pace, with the action scenes taking up huge chunks of time without becoming boring.  The first major sequence, an attack on San Francisco, was quite fun to watch.  I also loved the little jabs they did to San Fran, and since I watched it in San Francisco, the audience got a kick out of it, too.

The characters were all great, especially B.O.B.  It’s obvious his character is the real comedy relief of the movie, but I think he was actually very well written.  There’s an ongoing joke involving him/it and Derek that even the kids in the theatre thought was hilarious.  And I loved Keifer Sutherland as General Monger and Stephen Colbert as The President.  The movie also does a great job of referencing other sci-fi/horror films from the past, such as E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Blob, and the list goes on.  Many of these will fly over the heads of almost anyone under that age of, oh say 18, but I think of it as a treat for parents and adults looking for a good time.

Monsters vs. Aliens is another promising step for DreamWorks Animation.  They certainly had their share of misses (Shark Tale, also directed by Rob Letterman, who co-directed this), but this and last year’s Kung Fu Panda can be added to their ‘hits’ list.  While their story development teams still have a ways to go before they reach Pixar-levels of storytelling, they do make some very funny, very entertaining movies.  If you get a chance to see this in 3D, I say, “Go.”  The movie is funny in a way both parents and their kids will get it, the animation and the 3D look great, plus it has a nice message for children.  Pure family fun.

8.5/10

The IMAX Experience

I honestly don’t think it’s necessary to see this movie in an IMAX theatre.  It wouldn’t hurt, but there was nothing about my viewing experience thast told me, “Wow, this looks awesome in IMAX!”  The 3D definitely adds a layer of ‘fun’ to the movie, but I’d say to save your money if you can catch this on a regular screen with 3D.  If the only theatre near you capable of playing 3D films is an IMAX screen, well then, I guess you don’t have  a choice, do you?

March 28, 2009 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

Review: “Knowing”

The first half of this review will be spoiler-free.  I don’t generally do reviews with spoilers anymore since it obviously takes a lot of the fun away from people who haven’t seen the movie, but in this case, the ending warrants a section devoted strictly to it.

Knowing is the latest feature film from director Alex Proyas, who gave us Dark City (1998), The Crow (1994), and I, Robot (2004).  The trailers, if you haven’t seen them, set up the basic premise of the movie: a time capsule unearthed by a local school contains a piece of paper with numbers written all over it.  These numbers pique the interest of John Koestler (Nicholas Cage), an astrophysicist working at MIT, who believes the numbers are a pattern that predict disasters.

Honestly, that doesn’t sound like a movie I’d be particularly interested in.  Although I respect Proyas and like his previous movies, Nicholas Cage’s track record has been spotty of late (at best), and this felt like just another paycheck for the both of them.  However, the studio allowed a brief screening of two scenes from the movie at this year’s WonderCon, and they blew me away.  Without giving too much away, but the scenes that they showed were from the trailer: an airplane crash and a subway train crash.

Needless to say, the sheer horror I felt when watching those scenes made me go, “I must see this movie.”  So I did, and I’m glad I did.  For the most part, the plot keeps you guessing until the end.  “What’s the next disaster going to be?”  “Will our heroes be able to stop it?”  “What happens when the numbers on the paper run out?”  All those question eventually went answered, but I won’t get to that until the spoiler section.

The movie, as a whole, felt just a tad bit too long.  The first act of the movie sets things up nicely, but it moved along at a slow pace.  I felt that there was too much time between the opening and the first major catastrophe, and too much time between that event and the next big one.  The movie clocks in at around 2 hours, but I feel that they could’ve shaved off 5 or 10 minutes.

The cast also does an OK job.  While Nicholas Cage’s name maybe the most prominent one, this wasn’t a movie that was ‘meant for him’.  Not that he’s particularly bad or anything, it’s just that I think that if anyone else got that role the movie would’ve been just as it was.  And Rose Byrne, who plays Diana Wayland, does a terrible job of screaming and saying her lines.  It just sounded awkward, almost comical.  The children also dont’ get annoying as child stars tend to do when they have important roles.

The cinematography was very good throughout.  The movie was shot digitally on the new ‘Red’ digital cameras, and though they obviously did some color correcting on the scenes, the look of the movie was almost film-like.  And the way they shot the plane crash sequence was beautiful.  From the moment they realize the plane was coming down, to the moment Cage’s character was told to get back to his car (about 3 or so minutes) was one unbroken take, or at least it was meant to look like it.  The scene would’ve been shot in parts, edited like an action scene, and generally made to look very ‘Hollywood’, but the unbroken take, along with the documentary-like camera movements and zooms really highlighted horror, confusion, and brutality of this freak accident.

Knowing ended up being a surprise for me, and probably for most of the audience I saw it with.  I was expecting to be entertained, but by the end, the movie had prompted a discussion between myself and my girlfriend, who was also taken aback by the ideas the movie was putting forth.  Roger Ebert’s review states that this is “among the best science-fiction films [he’s] seen”, and while I won’t go as far to say that this is among the best I’ve seen, it’s certainly very good and worth checking out.

8/10

——————————–

Spoilers below!

To put it bluntly, the last 15 or so minutes of this movie was a literal “WTF?” moment.  Basically, the secret of the string of numbers is revealed, along with the reason behind the creepy-looking strangers that seem to follow Nicholas Cage and his son around.  Turns out that the numbers were left behind for a reason; not just as a warning, but almost like a checklist.  These bad things are going to happen, and when they do, you know the end of the world is coming.

The reason Cage’s son, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), is being haunted by crazy visions, is because he’s been chosen, along with a select few other children around the world.  The numbers were left behind by a girl name Lucinda way back in the 1950’s.  She was actually a messenger chosen by aliens to prepare mankind for the inevitable.

Now, these aliens actually pose a serious question.  These are just your run-of-the-mill grey or green skinned aliens.  There’s one particular shot that really made me question if these were aliens, or if they were…angels.  As the aliens ascend to their ship, along with the children, they appear to have wings.  It could’ve been just some wierd gaseous substance that surrounds them, but I think it was deliberate that the filmmakers made it look like they ahd wings.

And now the biggest mindf*** of the whole movie: the final scene.  The children are whisked away by the aliens to a new planet, what appears to be the Garden of Eden, complete with a gigantic tree that appears to be the Tree of Knowledge.  The whole planet, or ‘garden’ if you will, seemed like this would be where Judeo-Christian-Islamic beliefs had sprung from, and it raises the question of, “Did God create us, or did aliens?”  Or, maybe the aliens aren’t aliens, and they’re angels, they just have ships to help them much like we have vehicles to help us, and God has masterminded all of this.

There’s also the issue of Free Will vs Predetermination.  Roger Ebert also posted a separate entry on his blog about the issue, which is worth a read for those interested.  Basically, the aliens/angels/whatever had to have known somehow that the catastrophic events in the movie (including 9-11) were going to happen.  After all, they gave the info to a messenger that wrote down all the dates years before the events happened.  It’s possible that maybe they orchestrated the events for some reason far beyond our ability to comprehend, but let’s assume that they weren’t responsible, they just knew they were going to happen.  So what does that mean for free will, considered quite possibly the best gift God gave Man (if you’re of the religious type)?

If everything was predetermined, then there has to have been some higher power at work that passed on the knowledge to the aliens/angels, who then tried to warn us.  Or, maybe the movie’s ‘synchronicity’ law is real: there is an exact mathematical formula to the whole universe and the aliens/angels have figured it out and they chose (either at random or through some sort of vetting process) a messenger(s) to deliver the news.  The messenger tried to warn/tell us about it, but we don’t listen or don’t understand and all hell breaks loose.  If that’s the case, then free will doesn’t exist and everything we do has been predetermined by some ridiculously complex formula since the Beginning of Everything.

And to make heads spin faster, toss in the whole Intelligent Design and Evolution theories.  If there is a higher power, did this power have a hand in crafting humanity, or the entire universe?  The whole Evolution thing suggests that life is absolutely random and that, against the mathematical odds, life evolved on this planet by sheer luck.  However, the predeterministic (if that’s even a word) theory of everything being calculated since the Beginning kinda tosses this out, as according to whatever formula governs everything, life was guaranteed to have occurred on this planet (and possibly elsewhere) at some point.

Anyway, the ending was totally unexpected.  I’m sure there are plenty of people that are going to see this movie and be totally pissed off at the ending, but I thought it was so well done that I accepted it, only because it had me wanting a discussion beyond a simple, “Yeah, that was a good movie.”  Good movies tend to do that.

March 22, 2009 at 12:34 am Leave a comment

Favorite ‘Battlestar Galactica’ Moments

Spoilers below!

Just watched the series finale of one of the greatest television shows ever (and quite possibly the best remake ever): “Battlestar Galactica”.  I honestly don’t know how I feel about my favorite show ending, but it does give me a chance to reflect on the past 5 years and why ‘BSG’ was so frakkin’ awesome (sorry, had to put ‘frak’ in here somewhere).

So, here are some of my favorite moments of “Battlestar Galactica”:

1.  The exodus from New Caprica.  It started with a rescue mission that split the remainder of the fleet in two: one to guide the civilian ships in search of a new home, and the other to lead a strike force back to Cylon-occupied New Caprica and free those left behind.  The three-episode arc was fantastic, with one jaw-dropping moment after another.  Memorable scenes: Galactica jumping out of lightspeed into the atmosphere right above New Caprica City, launching its Vipers, and wreaking havoc on the Cylons below.

2.  Another one from the New Caprica arc: the Galactica covering the escape of the rescue ships by taking on three Cylon Basestars by itself.  The camera pulls back into infinite space, making the space battle seem small and insignificant.  It was also highlighting the valiant last stand William Adama and crew were making…until some missiles streak out from behind the camera toward the Basestars.  Then the Pegasus, the other Battlestar in their fleet, the one that was supposed to lead the civilian ships, swoops into view, sacrificing itself so that the flagship can escape.  Awesome.

3.  The opening scene of the very first episode of the series, “33”.  The crew looked tired, worn out, sleepy, ragged, etc.  For the past few days, the Cylons had been attacking every 33 minutes, slowly wearing out the fleet.  This set the tone for the entire show, letting us know that this isn’t ‘Star Trek’, with its clean walls, neat uniforms, and high-tech comforts.  This was gritty, dirty, in-the-trenches science fiction.

4.  The appearance of the Pegasus.  Just when we thought the Galactica was the last Colonial military vessel in existence, they run into its more modern sister, the Pegasus, commanded by the tough-talking Admiral Helena Cain.  At first it seemed that there would be hope for the last remnants of humanity, but a new Battlestar would prove to be a blessing and a burden.

5.  The use of suicide bombers against the Cylons on New Caprica.  Mimicking modern-day headlines, Colonel Tigh and his resistance fighters lead an insurgency against the occupying Cylons.  When things go from bad to worse, they authorize (with some hesitation) the use of volunteers to blow themselves up and take as many cylons as they can with them.

6.  Gaius Baltar trusting God for the first time.  In a more profound episode of the first season, Baltar’s Six tells him the location of a critical spot on an important Cylon facility.  The information leads to an important military victory for the humans, and opens Baltar’s eyes to the possibility of the ‘One True God’ that the Cylons believe in.

7.  Admiral Adama leading those loyal to him against the mutineers.  In an exciting end to a very exciting story arc, Adama, who was ordered executed by his former lieutenant Felix Gaeta, leads a loyalist faction against the uprising that splits the Galactica crew in half.  Which leads to…

8.  Executing the traitors.  In an incredible moment of the final season, Adm. Adama and Co. prove that justice must be carried out, even when the population of humanity sits below 40,000.  They execute the two brains of the mutiny that nearly destroyed the fleet.

9.  The murder of Cally.  One of the most depressing episodes of Season 4, it was quite a shocker for me to see fan favorite Cally, now the wife of Chief Tyrol, jettisoned into space.  On a similar note, the first episode of Season 4.5, when Dualla kills herself.  Despite the discovery of a nuked Earth, Dualla tries to keep her spirits up.  She goes out on a high note, though, because after spending a nice evening with Lee Adama, she points a gun to her head and pulls the trigger, her last memories being happy ones.

10.  Discovery of Earth.  I’m sure many minds were blown, mine included, when the fleet finally arrives at Earth.  Problem is, the planet is uninhabitable due to a nuclear war that destroyed all civilization.  And another thing: the bones and ruins found on the planet are thousands of years old.  Oh, and Starbuck discovers her body on the planet’s surface.  Woah.

11.  The assault on the Cylon ‘homeworld’.  The final mission of the Battlestar Galactica sends the series off with a bang.  The whole sequence was exciting: the Galactica jumping right in front of the Cylon colony, guns on both sides blazing, Marine strike teams enterting the colony, Vipers dogfighting with Raiders, Raptors launching nukes.  Nerdgasm.

I’m sure I’m missing dozens more incredible moments from the show.  But, those are the ones that popped into my head as of this writing.  Anyway, I’m gonna wait a day or so before posting my thoughts on the series finale.  This list of great moments, though, will replay in my head long after the finale has aired as a reminder of what incredible writing can do in any genre.  So say we all.

March 20, 2009 at 11:57 pm 1 comment

Christopher Nolan’s Brother Arrested

Who knew there was a 3rd Nolan?
clipped from www.suntimes.com
The brother of Christopher Nolan — director of the blockbuster “The Dark Knight” — has his own dark tale, law enforcement officials allege.
Matthew Francis Nolan, 40, of the South Shore neighborhood, was under investigation by Chicago Police in a $700,000 bank-fraud scheme when FBI agents here nabbed him last month in connection with a 2005 killing in Central America.
Matthew Nolan is wanted in Costa Rica in the kidnapping and murder of Florida businessman Robert C. Cohen.
Matthew Nolan pretended he was interested in doing business in Costa Rica when the two met in a hotel. But his real mission was to recover $7million Cohen owed another Florida man, authorities said.
An accomplice kidnapped Cohen and the men tried to extort the money from Cohen’s family; but when that failed, they killed Cohen, Costa Rican authorities said.
Sources said Chicago Police were investigating Matthew Nolan in an unrelated, $700,000 check-kiting scheme.
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March 20, 2009 at 6:55 pm Leave a comment

Review: “Race to Witch Mountain”

It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen the original Race to Witch Mountain.  I think I saw it around the same time I saw Tron, another movie I barely remember anything about.  So, it’s safe to say that I went into this version of Witch Mountain with a fresh mind.

Race to Witch Mountain follows two kids, brother and sister Sarah and Seth (Anna-Sophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig), who are actually aliens trying to recover an alien artifact and their alien ship in order to get back to their alien planet.  Apparently there are no witches in Race to Witch Mountain.

Helping them is wheelman-for-the-mob-turned-taxi-driver Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) and hottie scientist Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino).  Not helping them is government agent Burke (Ciaran Hinds) and his underlings that are trying to capture the kids and experiment on them.

First and foremost, this is a kids’ movie, therefore, it should appeal to kids.  And indeed it does.  Most of the audience I saw it with (aside from my girlfriend and about twenty or so twenty-somethings) were children and their parents, all of which seemed to get a kick out of this flick.  The children ‘oooh-ed’ and ‘aaahh-ed’ at all the appropriate moments, and seemed thrilled whenever something excited happened, like a car flipping over or the kids using their crazy powers to do something crazy.  Indeed, there was enough action and special effects wizardry here that it seemed like a Michael Bay movie for 9-year-olds.

The cast is all fine here.  I can’t really attest to Johnson’s acting ability in his other childrens’ fare, since this is the first PG movie of his I’ve seen.  He does seem to improve slightly with every movie I do see him in.  The kids are also OK (although Ludwig seemed a little obnoxious, and I don’t know if that’s the character or the actor).  Ciaran Hinds plays a decent villain, all straight-faced no-nonsense.  Carla Gugino isn’t really given much to do, except stand around and look hot, but that’s not a bad thing from my point of view.

The movie itself seemed to be a tad too violent (and the alien assassin looked a bit too scary) for a ‘PG’ rating, but then again The Dark Knight really pushed the boundaries of what can be shown in a ‘PG-13’ film.  Overall, Race to Witch Mountain is enjoyable, especially for the younger crowd, even if it does suffer from the same general pitfalls that most kid-friendly action movies usually do.  If you’ve got kids, this is the movie to take them to, not Watchmen, unlike some parents who don’t bother looking a movie’s rating.

7.5/10

March 17, 2009 at 11:37 am Leave a comment

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