Friday, June 29, 2007

SiCKO Review

Let me get this out of the way first and foremost: I do not particularly like Michael Moore. I think that for the most part he raises very very interesting questions that are ultimately supported by his manipulating of random facts and figures. The truth value of his assertions are likely to be questioned, and justifiably so. Therefore, his credibility comes into question and his movies are looked at hesitantly.

That being said, I think that SiCKO is one of the most important movies I have ever seen in my life. The topics raised by Moore have their usual extravagance but he does not use facts and figures to convince us of anything. He uses people. Real people. And not just ridiculously poor people. Middle class people who are crushed under the weight of their own medical expenses. Families of people who were essentially murdered because of the denials of health coverage by their insurance providers. Families of people who could have been given a fighting chance, if not for survival, but for more time with the people they loved, were put in the forefront. And seeing this, seeing these atrocities happen to people all over the country was heartbreaking.

Yet, Moore wants to answer the question of what is happening in the rest of the Western world in regards to health care. The answer seems to be a hell of a lot more. He goes to Canada, England, and France to ask people how much they pay for health care. He wants to know who protocol is for going to the hospital and finding out whether or not a person is covered. The answers to those two questions? Nothing.

People in those countries pay either nothing or almost nothing for health care. And it boggles the mind.

Of course, a criticism that could be brought up is "Yes, but the doctors are of a lower quality. They don't get paid as much."

That could be the case in some places. Yet, what about all the Americans who cannot afford a quality doctor? Also, the payment issue is also raised, and for a doctor living in London, he drove an Audi, lived in a $1 Million home and lived a pretty damned comfortable life. Moore asks him whether or not he thought he could be making more. He responds that if he wanted 4 cars and 6 flat screen televisions and a $3 Million home, then he might be more satisfied in America. But he doesn't want that, therefore what he's getting is good enough for him.

Sure, the people over there pay higher taxes, but look at the trade-off. These people are able to walk into just about any hospital when they are sick and get treatment without being asked who their HMO is.

The film is also hilarious and quite honestly more humorous than many comedies that are released in any given year. The way people respond to some of Moore's questions and some of his questions themselves lend themselves to some genuine laughter. The movie never ceases to be entertaining. I went to the movie very sleepy but came out alert and engaged. The duality of the humor and the serious makes for a movie that rises above traditional entertainment to truly say something about the world in which we live.

I do not have all the facts and do not claim to. But one cannot look at the American health system and say that it is not broken. Too many people deserving of health care are not getting it. I am sure that Moore manipulated things in this film. It is in his nature. And therefore it is in mine to be skeptical of all that he puts before us on the screen. Yet, there is much that just cannot be manipulated that is on display for the world to see. And it made me angry. Wanting to know what I can do to help change this. I urge all of you to see this movie some way. Whether or not you hate Michael Moore, whether or not you pay for the movie, it is irrelevant. Just see it. I cannot stress enough how worth it this movie really is.


Ratatouille Review

Pixar is an example of everything that is right with movie making today. And one needs to look no further than Ratatouille to understand why.

Ratatouille is the newest Pixar movie from writer/director Brad Bird, who previously directed "The Incredibles" and the little seen and highly praised "The Iron Giant." For those not up to speed, Ratatouille is about a rat named Remy (Patton Oswalt) who cannot stand his rat-like existence. Having an exquisite sense of smell and a well-defined palette, he is set apart from the rest of his clan who are content eating yesterday's garbage. He knows he wants much more out of life than being the poison-checker, and he does everything possible to achieve the goal of being an excellent chef, even if that means reading chef books in the woman's house in whose walls he lives. An unfortunate set of missteps causes him to be separated from his rat brethren and in an attempt to find his family, comes across Gusteau's restaurant, which was created by his idol of the same name. After watching a garbage boy in the restaurant, Linguini (Lou Romano), accidentally butcher a pot of soup, Remy feels he has no choice but to fix it, coaxed on by the ghost of Gusteau himself (Brad Garrett). The delicious soup is accidentally attributed to Linguini and he is suddenly made chef and put under the wing of Collette (Janaene Garofalo), where he realizes the rat was the one who cooked the soup. Since Linguini does not want to lose his job, he asks Remy for his help which leads to a series of misadventures in an attempt to keep the ruse alive so that Remy can cook and Linguini keeps his job.

The premise of the movie is absolutely absurd. Not only because of the communication between humans and animals, but because there is little more disturbing to most people than a rat in the kitchen. Rats, in reality, are dirty, disgusting creatures and therefore the premise is initially difficult to buy into. Yet, everything clicks. Despite the fact that Remy can only communicate with humans using only nods and gestures, the relationship between Remy and Linguini is one of the more developed relationships in any movie so far this year. Their dependence on one another in an attempt to achieve their mutual goals is incredibly touching. Even the relationship between Collette and Linguini does not come off as forced even though the two of them were effectively forced into their situation.

Of course, the realistic relationships between the characters is not all this movie has to offer. Ratatouille has some rather intense action sequences that can easily compare to the big summer tentpoles. The reason for this is that the action serves a purpose involving characters in whose outcomes the audience is invested. Also, the outcomes are not entirely predictable. Assuredly one probably would not be able to guess the exact nature of the ending until it actually happens. This lends heavily to the suspense of the action sequences.

Yet, what really makes this movie work is the writing and direction of Brad Bird. The way the "camera" moves around is reminiscent of a live action movie and helps to bring the audience further into the story. The pacing is almost perfect and no scene really seems superfluous. There is just something about his ability to connect with an audience that makes his movies so great. So far, all of his movies have been excellent and I cannot wait to experience the next one he has to offer.

Michael Giacchino also puts up another excellent movie score to go along with his work on "The Incredibles" and the television show "Lost." The way he works in original music with what seems to be an authentic French sound is magnificent, as he is already one of my favorite composers.

Finally, the artistry in these movies continue to get better and better. The hair on the heads of humans and on the rats themselves looks so realistic that it is a marvel just to look at it. The recreation of Paris is stunningly beautiful and gives off an almost majestic aura. One cannot help but wonder how much further technology can go to keep upping the ante with more stunning imagery.

Ratatouille is an incredible film for anyone who loves the art of storytelling. There is enough in the movie for both children and adults alike to enjoy. After last year's somewhat misstep with "Cars", Ratatouille returns to Pixar's form of creating incredible, touching stories that are leaps and bounds above what other studios have been putting out as of late. Absolutely recommended.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Schick Quattro Razor Review

I tend to have a pretty hairy face on average. Most people never get to experience it since I continuously shave. Granted, I'm sure a full beard is something I'm missing out on. I'd like to look like a mountain man one day. Because of my fast growing facial hairs, a few years ago I switched from the wonders of the electrical razor to a new fangled razor, aptly titled the GILLETTE MACH 3 TURBO! I feel like I'm placing an Air Force Jet on my face to destroy the absurd hairs that attack my daily life. And it worked well.

Until recently.

I left on vacation without bringing any razors with me. So I hit up my local Meijer to pick up some new ones. And there they were, sitting on the counter on sale, beckoning me.

The Schick Quattro Razor. Sure it doesn't sound as exciting as the MACH 3 TURBO, but it got me thinking. Four blades. Four blades instead of three. If three blades kept my face silky smooth for over a day, then four must do the job for a week.

Right then. Right there. My decision was made. I was going to switch over to the Schick Quattro.
This, my friends, may have been the biggest mistake of my life.

I brought that baby into the shower with me, since I don't use shaving cream. I shave without mirrors in the shower. Like our forefathers did. Real men. And the result was one of the worst shaving experiences I've ever had in my life.

You want to know what four blades do? I'm going to tell you.

Four blades do nothing.

That's right. The four blades succeed in doing nothing other than getting hair caught between the blades. That happens to most razors, right? Yeah, except that it takes damn near a half hour to clean the blade between shaves. People are probably thinking I'm dying in the shower as a result of this new razor.

I finally finish up what feels like six hours later, and I feel that I have had a satisfactory shave. I go about my daily business thinking everything is all right.

I wake up the next morning like I never even shaved at all. I almost wonder if the Quattro has some sort of MiracleGro ingredient that makes hair grow FASTER than it did before. My anger knew no bounds. Yet, I had no other option than to spend another $10 on a classy razor. (I don't use those single bladed baby razors. Those are for sissies and for shaving your dog.)

Once I returned to my apartment, I broke out the MACH 3 once more and felt liberated. I will continue to keep the Schick Quattro, but as a reminder of everything that is wrong with the world.

Don't mess with perfection. MACH 3 is for real men.


Live Free or Die Hard Review

This is a particularly difficult movie to review. On the one hand, there is the history of the Die Hard franchise to contend with. And on the other hand there exists Live Free or Die Hard completely separate from the older films. Yet, one cannot watch this new movie without thinking of that which came before it. And that is where much of the problem lies.

The movie begins when the FBI's Cyber Division is attacked. In an effort to discover who the hacker was, a list of possible suspects is compiled and tasked to local police districts to go pick these suspects up. John McClane (Bruce Willis) is given the honor to pick up Matthew Farrell (Justin Long, who most of you might know as the 'Mac Guy'), who just so happens to be marked for assassination by the terrorists since Farrell wrote an algorithm for them, not knowing who his employers really were. Of course, this sets in motion a series of events that range from completely absurd to somewhat cool.

To start with, the bad guys truly seem like non-threats. Yes, they are causing all sorts of damage but not one of them has the charisma or gravitas to even be put in the same league as Hans Gruber from the original or even Col. Stuart from the second or Simon Gruber from the third. What is rather interesting is how Timothy Olyphant has been rather satisfactory is some of his previous roles and even seemed to be more dangerous than he is here. His character Thomas Gabriel and McClane never seem to have the chemistry that Willis and his former villains had.
The third in command villain (whose name escapes me...if he even had one) is nothing more than a Spider-Man wannabe and his acrobatic feats seem completely out of place in the Die Hard universe. Whenever this character is on screen, the suspension of disbelief is lost because it destroys the gritty sense of realism trying to be portrayed, even if one might argue that the realism is already ineffective.
Maggie Q (from Mission: Impossible 3) plays Mai Lihn, who is Gabriel's second in command and also girlfriend. The only reason she seems to be in the movie is that she is attractive and to give Gabriel a reason to get even angrier at McClane. Otherwise she could be another nameless, faceless villain for McClane to contend with.

There are also a few massive plot holes that are difficult to get around. Thomas Gabriel could have been found much earlier in the movie if people would have shared certain information when it was pertinent. Unfortunately, the information needs to be procured by McClane first in order for people to realize that it is relevant. This seems entirely unrealistic and was obviously a ploy to keep the movie going.

The PG-13 is also felt. There are so many cut-aways from violent scenes that you just know they were not originally planning on PG-13. Die Hard is, and always has been, an R-rated franchise. McClane swears up a storm, not caring who is around to hear it or who he offends. He is a brutal fighter and does not let up. The bad guys have always been brutal, ruthless killers. But none of that is seen in this movie, and it is not better off for it. Even McClane's catchphrase is almost whispered and the "fucker" in "motherfucker" is cut off by a gunshot. There were even a few completely obvious dubs, when the character was saying something that obviously was not filmed that way.

Yet, that is not to say that the movie is a total loss. On the contrary, there are many enjoyable moments in the movie. Justin Long starts out as incredibly annoying despite saying a few humorous things. Although as the movie goes on, he tends to calm down and his character is much better for it. He never seems to be a true worthy companion to McClane but his presence is tolerable for the most part. McClane's daughter Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is brought into the movie for no reason other than to "make it personal", but she is sufficient with what she is given to work with.

The action is also satisfactory. Director Len Wiseman (of the "Underworld" movies) crafts a few action set pieces that could probably be seen in just about any other movie. But no other movie has John McClane. His attempt at realism is a somewhat mixed bag. There are times where it feels like some of the most outlandish stunts could possibly happen in the real world, but McClane walks away from them with such ease that it jerks you out of that realism. If they were able to go for the full R-rating, then the action probably would have been slightly more than satisfactory as opposed to satisfactory.

Finally, there is Bruce Willis making his return as John McClane. How does he fare? Well, for the most part, he's still McClane. Sure the swearing is gone and he doesn't wisecrack as much as he used to, but the core character is still the same. A few jokes could have been better, but it was still nice to see him back in action. Yet, there is no reason for this to be John McClane. One could probably put in any other action hero and get similar results. Although, once again, it was good to see him.

Ultimately, the movie is a satisfactory entry into the Die Hard franchise and is overall a welcome return. Comparing it to the previous films, yes it is rather flawed, but so are 2 and 3. When it is working, it is working. But when it's not, it's not. And I'm sure we'll see the "Unrated Cut" on DVD in 6 months to a year, so I am holding out hope that it returns some of the gritty realism that is so obviously missing from the movie.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Indiana Jones and the First Day of Filming has a cool video of Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas prepping for the first day of filming the new Indiana Jones movie. The roarin' 50's are back in action as is evident in this new, cool video.

I can't tell you how excited I am to see a new Indiana Jones movie. Here's to hoping that it's good.

First Day on the Set

Harold Perrineau (Michael Dawson) returning to Lost?

Kristin from E! Online is reporting that Lost producers have made an offer to Harold Perrineau to return as a season regular for Lost this year. Apparently, negotiations are underway, and hopefully they can come to some sort of agreement.

I, for one, would LOVE to see Murderin' Michael back on the show, since the presence of Walt in the season 3 finale pretty much DEMANDS it.

I mean, seriously Harry, what else do you have on your plate anyway? Your CBS pilot didn't get picked up, and you were relegated to a lame helicopter pilot in "28 Weeks Later". I think it might be time for you to turn that little tugboat around and head back to everyone's favorite island.

Who Am I?

I don't know how unorthodox it is to do two consecutive posts, but hey, I'm new to this whole thing. I figure that I should give a little reference for the types of media I enjoy. Since you have already gotten an idea on the types of television shows that I watch, I should probably give you an idea of the types of movies I watch and video games I play to see if your interests are even close to lining up with mine. So here we go.

I am a huge fan of all movies. No budget, big budget, it doesn't matter. I tend to approach "event" movies as actual events. I watch movies like Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean, Die Hard, Transformers, etc. for their spectacle and I treat that as such. But that's not to say that I don't enjoy smaller, more personal movies like "Half Nelson" or "The Last King of Scotland." I liken it to watching different sports. One doesn't go to an NBA Finals game with the same enthusiasm as one would go to the US Open. You may like both equally, but the events are treated entirely different.

The one genre that I can never seem to get into is the horror genre. I watch them, but on average I do not enjoy them very much. I don't know why that is, but that's the way things go I suppose. I rarely find myself scared, as well, which could have something to do with it. Maybe I'm just not taking enough girls to these things to enjoy it enough. Other than that, I'm pretty accepting of all other genres.

In terms of video games, I try to keep an open mind. I currently own a Nintendo Wii, an Xbox 360 and a Playstation 2. I don't see myself buying a Playstation 3 anytime soon, since most of the games are available for the 360 and the ones that aren't do not entice me to spend $600 on a video game console. Although that could all change once Metal Gear Solid 4 comes out. I tend to enjoy entire series of games, so if I mention a game in which there are multiple installments, I like all installments unless otherwise stated. My favorite games are Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Kingdom Hearts, Splinter Cell, Paper Mario, Guitar Hero, Final Fantasy X, Zelda, Resident Evil 4, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and a few others.

I tend to play more action oriented games like Halo, although I would consider myself to enjoy anything that plays well. The only one I tend to stay away from on average would be RPGs. The only problem I have is the amount of time they normally take is not conducive to the amount of time I normally have. That, and all the pointless leveling up I need to do is never enjoyable to me.

One of the largest draws to video games for me is the storytelling. I see video games as an incredible new way to tell stories and I see it being done more and more effectively. The games that I will be reviewing on this blog will be heavily focused on story and in fact, could make or break whether or not I would recommend a game.

Now that I have the more serious stuff out of the way, my background, my likes, dislikes, and whatnot, we can move on to the fun stuff. So here we go!

The First in a Long Line of Blog Posts

Throughout my life, I've spent a good portion on the internet writing about things that are important to me. Mainly those things have consisted of movies, video games, and television shows. The world of entertainment is an incredibly important influence of my life. I love all aspects of it and will certainly continue to feel this way in the foreseeable future.

The problem laid in the fact that until now, I never had a proper outlet for something like this. LiveJournal and MySpace are two very limited forums in which there is great difficulty creating an effective blog. So I've decided to port myself over in this direction, one more suited to my overall style. That is not to say that I will quit posting on MySpace. On the contrary, I am sure that I will continue to post carbon copies of whatever I post here there as well. But I feel that this is going to be my primary outlet.

So what are you going to see here? Well, that really depends. I would say that primarily it will be movie reviews. I see at least one or two movies every week and I often enjoy writing about them. And my first order of business will probably be to write a review of Live Free or Die Hard which I am sure I will inevitably see on Wednesday. If I get the opportunity to see an advance copy of a movie, then I will definitely write reviews up about those.

Also, within the blog there will hopefully be some video game reviews as well. I do not play video games as often as I would like. But the ones that I do play, I will write about. Also, I'll include any relevant gaming or movie news that I feel needs to be shared.

I am also a HUGE fan of certain television programs. My favorite programs at the moment are Lost, Heroes, Dexter, 24 (provided they change things up in season 7), Smallville (I honestly think it sucks now but continue watching out of habit), The Office, and Prison Break. Lost being my favorite, I will hopefully be writing about that as often as possible.

At any rate, I am sure there will also be some random ramblings from time to time about the state of the world or my personal grievances or other rants of that nature. I am looking to both entertain and inform and bring the world together in perfect harmony, through a blog.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.


P.S. I hate the word blog. But what other word for this sort of thing is there anyway?