Archive for the ‘My Reviews’ Category

My madness spreads to

In the words of Theoden, “So it begins.”

Dayton Ward and I take up the task of reviewing season-three episodes of the classic Star Trek television series over at, starting with Spock’s Brain.”

Also, for those who like books and t-shirts, is having a giveaway to welcome me and Dayton  to their blogging family. Enter to win signed copies of Star Trek Vanguard: Open Secrets and Star Trek Vanguard: Precipice, along with a “rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock” t-shirt!

My review of AVATAR

This afternoon I went with my pal Keith R.A. DeCandido (aka kradical on LiveJournal) to see James Cameron’s new film, Avatar, in IMAX 3D.  The two-word review: doesn’t suck.

Would you, Joe and Jane Moviegoer, like this movie? If you carry a heavy burden of white man’s guilt and left the film Dances With Wolves thinking that it would have been much improved by the presence of massive aerial gunships, dragons, and explosions, then this is the movie you’ve been waiting for.

It’s a lush, beautiful film with terrific alien world-building and spectacular action sequences.  The special effects are some of the best I’ve seen.  Some of the actors — in particular Zoë Saldana and, playing against type, Sigourney Weaver — deliver very good performances.

That said, the writing in Avatar was very paint-by-numbers and the dialogue sometimes felt clunky. (In the Na’vi sequences, however, there is a poetry to their language and idioms, and I love the sound of the Na’vi language.) The characters are all reduced to stereotypes (don’t tell me they’re archetypes, that’s horse shit, these are caricatures) who even have telegraphing names: the corporate goon is Selfridge (i.e., “selfish”); the noble scientist is Grace; the hero who comes to the Na’vi as a secret betrayer is named Sully.  It’s like a middle-schooler named these people.

Overall, I enjoyed Avatar, and despite knowing that I was being emotionally manipulated, I found many parts of the film to be truly affecting. Cameron isn’t a subtle filmmaker, but he really knows what works on screen.

I don’t think the film lives up to its hype of “changing moviemaking.” However, I do think it represents an important advance in the motion-capture of facial expressions.  Though still not perfect, it is much better than anything similar done before.  The Na’vi still look a bit too glossy and perfect to seem “real” to my eye, but they are much closer than the ersatz humans of Zemeckis’ wooden Beowulf or his nightmare-inducing Christmas flick Polar Express.

The 3D still feels gimmicky and not entirely necessary. In fact, it was more of a distraction from the story (for me, anyway) than a means of immersing myself in it.  I think I might actually have enjoyed this movie more in 2D, because I wouldn’t constantly be adjusting the fucking 3D glasses or looking for the next cool 3D effect.

Bottom line: If you have any interest in seeing Avatar, whether in 2D or 3D, see it in a good theater with a big screen.  Don’t wait for the DVD.  It just won’t be the same.

A movie moment

I’m sitting on the couch moments ago, watching Bad Santa on Comedy Central.

The scene: Billy Bob drinks himself into a stupor, eats all of the candy from the fat kid’s Advent calendar, and collapses in a pathetic heap.

Quick fade to a commercial… for Captain Morgan Rum.

File this under “unintentionally hilarious.”

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

I went to see Blade Runner: The Final Cut tonight with Kara, during its limited engagement at the Ziegfeld theater here in New York.

In a word? Awesome.

And I do not say this lightly. I have been a major Blade Runner geek since I first saw the film on cable in the early 1980s; I came to revere it during my four years at NYU Film School, during which I saw a special theatrical screening of the original film at the Cinema Village theater on 12th street. Over the course of my film-school education, I wrote at least four, and possibly five term papers on various aspects of Blade Runner, ranging from its cinematic inception of cyberpunk to its blending of eras and genres to its religious symbolism, and much more.

As much as I have always loved and admired this film, I have also been one of the most unforgiving critics of both its original theatrical version and its so-called “Director’s Cut”, which in fact was nothing of the sort. The original and Director’s Cut versions are rife with glaring continuity errors both visual and spoken, as well as poor stunt-double shots. The original was marred by the peripatetic voice-over and the tacked-on happy ending; the Director’s Cut did away with those atrocities, but did nothing to address the other, more systemic problems.

This version does. Blade Runner: The Final Cut is the movie that I have always wanted to see. All the visual continuity errors I’ve been bitching about for nigh on 25 years? Fixed, thanks to the magic of Dolby ProTools and digital restoration. The bad stunt-double shots? Fixed, thanks to a re-shoot with actress Joanna Cassidy and more digital magic. The dialogue continuity errors? Re-edited and fixed. And best of all? These repairs are all subtle and seamlessly integrated into the film. If you hadn’t known where the errors originally were, you’d never know they’d been fixed.

The picture looks better than I’ve ever seen it, with stunning clarity, depth, and color intensity. The sound quality is hypnotic and crystal clear. I could’ve done with a touch less gore during Roy Batty’s scene with Eldon Tyrell, but I can live with it if that’s what Ridley Scott wants.

Don’t write this off as just another cheap ploy to make you buy another copy of a movie you already own. For the first time that I can remember, this one is actually worth it. I pray someone holds this up to George Lucas’s face one day and says, “See, you heavy-handed butcher of other directors’ films? This is how you restore a classic work of cinema! Get on your knees and grovel before Ridley Scott!”

As if you had to ask — I am definitely putting this DVD on my Christmas wish list. And if you have a chance to get out to the theater to see this on the big screen, I beg you: Go.

The Sopranos’ finale’s ending…

Okay, I’m not afraid to admit it: I don’t get it.

I mean, was I the only one who saw the scene cut to black and silence, followed by silent credits? WTF?

All right, maybe there was no good way to end that series after all these years, but an abrupt cut to black silence for no reason? After all the buildup in that scene? Was it meant to evoke the idea that Tony and his kin would live under a sword of Damocles all the days of their lives? That the saga would march onward, and this is simply where we got cut loose?

Or was it just Milch Chase and his team in the Avid suite tossing up their hands in defeat and saying, “We give up. Just cut it there and call it avant-garde so we can leave and get dinner.”

I can’t quite put my finger on it…but I feel ripped-off.

(Edited to reflect Keith’s astute note.)