Archive for November, 2009

Review Catch-Up: “2012”

Run!  It’s the end of the world!  Or so Roland Emmerich would have you believe.  First, he sent aliens to destroy us, then Godzilla came stomping around New York City, and next he froze the world with an ice age.  Now, he throws absolutely everything into a blender in hopes of creating the ultimate disaster movie.  What comes out is stupid, cheesy, and over-the-top.  But it’s also a pretty fun ride.

Plot is of no consequence here, but I’ll give a rundown anyway.  It’s the year 2012, the same year the Mayans supposedly predicted the end of the world.  It’s also the same year there’s a once-in-several-thousand-years alignment of the planets in our solar system, an event that has some negative effects on our sun’s solar flares.  The Earth heats up and the core melts, causing the plates on which our continents sit on to shift around.  Thus, all hell breaks loose as the world is restructured after some dramatic earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, etc.

The governments of the world aren’t exactly sitting around doing nothing.  The U.S. has sent Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to get to the bottom of this.  Meanwhile, the governments plan for a contingency: ride out the storm of all storms on gigantic ships designed to ensure the survival of mankind.  In the middle of it all is Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), a failed writer-turned-limo-driver.  He helps his family outrun the end of the world, trying to find a safe place on a planet where there are no safe places.  Anywhere.  Oh yeah, Woody Harrelson is in it as a crazed conspiracy theorist, and Oliver Platt is great as Helmsley’s boss, who is a general asshole.

The real highlight of this movie are the visual effects.  With every movie that Emmerich does, he attempts to outdo himself.  Well, I find it hard for anyone to outdo all the CG carnage featured here.  Yes, there are giant waves hundreds of feet high.  Yes, there are earthquakes that swallow entire cities whole.  Yes, an aircraft carrier gets lifted and tossed onto the White House.  Did I also mention the destruction of Hawaii, a volcanic explosion akin to a nuclear bomb, or the entire state California sliding into the ocean?!  If nature can do it, it’s done here.

I don’t really have too much to say as to why I enjoyed this movie so much.  If this movie piques your interest even in the slightest way, check it out before it leaves theatres.  This is one of those that must be enjoyed on a giant screen with thousands of watts of sound blasting in your ears.  Sure, the plot is dumb, but the actors all seem to have a good time, and if you go in with your expectations in check, you’ll come out with a smile on your face.

7.5/10

November 26, 2009 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

Review Catch-up: “Where the Wild Things Are”

Having vaguely remembered the beloved Maurice Sendak children’s book, I went into Spike Jonze’s latest with absolutely no expectations.  And I walked away fairly impressed.

Where the Wild Things Are, in case you haven’t heard, is actually not a children’s movie.  In fact, parents, or adults in general that have read the book, may enjoy it more.  Jonze and co-screenwriter David Eggers have crafted a story that is not about the whimsical nature of youth or imagination, but one that deals with the theme of ‘belonging’.  Young Max (Max Records) is a hyper, imaginative young boy who is still coming to terms with his parents’ divorce.  His mother (Catherine Keener) works hard to support Max and his older sister, but is also on the lookout of a new love.

Skipping over the family drama bits, Max finds himself in a strange land across the sea, a land populated by creatures several times his size.  Most are human-like in speech and behavior, but still retain an element of scariness to them (the sharp teeth don’t exactly endear them to Max).  It is in the world that Max sets himself up to be the king, ruler of all.  Not in a malicious way, but only to help his new friends, especially Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini).  Only when he deals with the responsibilities of being king does he understand how hard it is to make everyone happy, even when the best solution is compromise.

What I find fascinating about this movie are the lessons that he learns while being king, and how they can apply to Max’s “real world”.  There isn’t a sitcom-esque moment where Max has some kind of epiphany and realizes what the real problem is.  In fact, that moment is implied and never really underscored.  Much like in real life, there aren’t really any moments where you can pause and reflect upon your lessons; you’re constantly being challenged to apply the new teachings.  All of the themes of loss, divorce, love, etc come into play during Max’s time among the Wild Things, and he comes back a more enlightened kid because of it.

Many of the themes will probably fly over kids’ heads, which is why critics have said that it’s much less of a children’s flick than it “should” be.  Still, it’s entertaining and certainly ranks among Spike Jonze’s best.

7.5/10

November 26, 2009 at 9:55 pm Leave a comment

More Microsoft Woes…

OK, so continuing on my previous post regarding my cousin’s Xbox 360 repair debacle, I got some things clarified from him.

What I thought originally was that Microsoft had sent him a different consoles (a broken one) than the one he mailed to them.  That would’ve made it Microsoft’s problem.  Turns out, Microsoft told him that when they received the console, it was already missing the faceplate and the serial number was different than the one that he registered.  Which leads me to believe that something happened on the UPS end (like someone stealing 360’s).

Once Microsoft received my cousin’s 360 (which, if my suspicions are correct, technically wasn’t even his) they promptly sent it back, along with a letter.

This is what he got the in mail earlier this week:

What’s really amusing is the letter.  It’s in Spanish.  We haven’t bothered to get it translated yet, but maybe I will.

November 14, 2009 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

Microsoft Refuses to Repair Broken Console

I have an issue with Microsoft that I’m hoping someone can help me with. Well, specifically, it’s with a relative of mine that had his Xbox 360 Elite unit repaired.

He purchased an Elite at Radio Shack with an extended warranty. A few weeks ago, the Elite started messing up; I believe it was a ‘No Picture’ issue. After determining it wasn’t the HDMI cable, he decided it was time to call it in and have it repaired. Radio Shack tells him that since the system is still covered by Microsoft’s warranty, he should send it to them first. He did.

A couple of weeks later, he receives the console back. He turns it on, and it runs fine for a few days. Then it Red Ring’d. Frustrated, he contacts Microsoft and sets up another repair with them. The system goes off and then a few days ago he gets word that the console is repaired and is on a UPS truck back to his place.

He received the unit today and, surprise, surprise, it’s broken. Not even remotely fixed. Sucks, too, because of course MW2 just came out and we’ve been talking about it for the past couple of days, buying in to all the hype. So, he contacts Microsoft to complain and set up another repair. They ask for the usual (model, serial, etc), but there’s a problem.

The serial number on the console he got today doesn’t match the one that was sent out previously. He was never notified that the system had changed (all he was told was that his original system had been repaired and was being sent back. Because of the discrepancy, Microsoft is refusing to repair the system and Radio Shack won’t touch it because it’s still, technically, covered by Microsoft.

Anyway, I just thought I’d put this story out there to see if anyone else has had this problem, and to see if anyone had a suggestions as to how to fix this.

November 11, 2009 at 5:19 pm 2 comments

Review Catch-Up: “Fame”

Anyone who as ever aspired to be anything could probably relate to Fame.  The movie interweaves stories from various students from the New York Academy of Performing Arts, showing their dreams and hopes, failures and realizations that either they have or don’t have what it takes.

However, just because you can relate to it doesn’t necessarily mean you should see it.  Fame isn’t terrible, and in spots it is quite entertaining; it just doesn’t do anything new to show us the struggles of up-and-coming performers.

There are a few highlights, such as Naturi Naughton’s stunning solo (which makes me wonder why she isn’t turning out #1 singles by now), and a moments of honest emotional growth of certain characters.  I also appreciate how the movie shows you that not everyone will get what they want.  One character realizes he may be shooting to high and settles for a teaching position at another school.  And another, a budding young filmmaker (of the sort I despise…the ‘pretentious indie’ sort) gets hit with a healthy dose of reality (and fraud) when the money he wants to use for a film gets stolen.

While the main cast is decent, the supporting cast of teachers, featuring such notable names as Kelsey Grammar, Charles S. Dutton, and Megan Mullally, is almost wasted.  I happen to think Grammar is a fine actor, and should be given much more to do other than have a scene or two lecturing students.  The only teacher given any real screen time is Megan Mullally, who plays a singing coach.  Her scene singing karaoke is quite nice, even though there was some editing problems (Kelsey Grammar kind of appears out of nowhere, then disappears without mention).

Fame is a decent movie to watch, and probably a good date movie if your significant other is in to these kinds of flicks.  While the film is good-natured, it just feels like it’s holding my hand the entire time, never really understanding that I’m mature enough for something more…mature.  I’m not saying that there needs to be gratuitous sex or all the students need a drug problem or something; I’m saying that the script is way too ‘by the book’ to warrant any repeat viewings.

6.5/10

Is it me, or is Kay Pannabaker a little miscast for her role?  According to her IMDB profile, she should be 19 by now, but looks like she’s 12.  By the end of the movie, she should be at least 17, and looks like a 14-year-old with a bit of make-up on.  I’m not saying this to slight her, and I don’t think she’s a terrible actress, it was just a little distracting to realize that she was supposed to play someone in her mid- to late-teen’s.

November 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm Leave a comment


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