Saturday, June 16, 2007

Roger Waters Knocked Up

The Silver Surfer wasn't the only source of entertainment for this journeyman blogger. Last week I saw Roger Waters, live at the Hollywood Bowl.

This was the first concert I have seen at the Bowl, and I would love to see more concerts there. It's set back into the Hollywood hills which is important because it's an outdoor venue. As you watch the show, you are tucked into the forest, on a hillside with a perfect view of the Hollywood sign off to the right. The weather was perfect, the crowd was very excited, and this was the first time I was seeing any Pink Floyd songs performed live, by members of the band. The atmosphere was very friendly, and inviting, which is rare. Maybe it is my cynical disposition which manages to subconsciously seek out and in some cases manifest these things mentally, but I always seem to witness so many Jackobees at live events, whether it's a concert, or baseball game, or what have you. There have been times when it became a drag to just try and sit and enjoy the event I paid for, especially at Dodger Stadium. I don't look forward to games there anymore.

Negativity put away, this concert was spectacular. I have always liked Pink Floyd, but I would never consider myself a fanatic, or 'really in to' them. I own The Wall, Pulse, and The Division Bell on CD. I break one of them out once every year or two. Going into the show, I expected to enjoy it, but not go nutso. Well, I went nutso. I put this concert in the same category as my 3 other 'Other Worldly' concert experiences which were: Radiohead at MSG, Bob Dylan in Syracuse, and U2 in Connecticut. Honorable mentions go to Iron Maiden at MSG and the Billy Joel concerts I've seen. I expended the most energy I ever have at a concert at the Maiden show, and all the Joel shows were great, but didn't send me into that special place where I just never wanted the show to end. When the last song was played at the Roger Waters show, I was genuinely sad that it was over and found myself wishing they would miraculously keep playing. I couldn't tell you why this happened at this show, but I got so wrapped up into the songs, and the atmosphere. The stage had a huge screen at the back of it that showed images and played videos for each song performed, which doesn't sound special, but they did a great job at this show. Whoever designed his show deserves accolades. There were also four giant screens, 2 to the right, and 2 to the left of the stage for all the people in the back to see Mr. Waters and his bandmates up close. We were pretty far back, but there really aren't bad seats at the Bowl as it's only about a 17,000 seat theater. Like I said, I couldn't tell you exactly why this concert grabbed me and wouldn't let go, it just did, and I love it when that happens at a concert. It's just a perfect experience that makes you glad you went. I have to thank Ryan and Crystal for taking me to that show. Thank you guys, I am very happy we went.

Here is the playlist from that night for you Floyd fans, some of these songs are off of his solo albums, which I am not familiar with, but they sounded great live:

Part 1:
In the Flesh
Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Shine on You Crazy Diamond
Have a Cigar
Wish You Were Here
Southampton Dock
The Fletcher Memorial Home
Perfect Sense part 1 & 2
Leaving Beirut

Part 2: The Dark Side of the Moon
Speak to Me
On the Run
The Great Gig in the Sky
Us and Them
Any Colour You Like
Brain Damage

Part 3: Encore
The Happiest Days of Our Lives
Another Brick in the Wall part 2
Vera / Bring the Boys Back Home
Comfortably Numb

In addition to this concert, and the Silver Surfer movie, I also went and saw 'Knocked Up' the other day. What a great movie. It's very funny, and surprisingly heartwarming, which I know many are saying but that doesn't make it any less true. With all these Judd Apatow movies coming out with the same cast members being involved, it seems unavoidable that people compare these films to one another. This one is most notably being compared with 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin.' I can't really say which one I prefer, I laughed my arse off at both of these movies. It's quite possible that I just like them both a whole heck of a lot without choosing which one is 'better.' I've made my up my mind. I like them both a great deal. Go see 'Knocked Up' if you haven't yet, it's worth it.

Fury Fans, I am Furied out for today. Good-night Irene!

I am not the Destroyer...

Fury Fans,
After a year of buildup, and of my excitement waxing and waning moon-style, the time came for me to see the Silver Surfer, in a movie, on the big screen.

I am not dissapointed at all. In fact, I'm actually excited about the prospect of a stand alone Silver Surfer movie which now seems a forgone conclusion. Let's cut to the beans, I liked 'Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer', and I think most of American moviegoers will agree. Those who know me, know that I can be an awful critical asshole when it comes to movies, ESPECIALLY a movie that examines subject matter near and dear to my heart. This movie is one such 'near and dear' piece of film and I, as you can tell from my most recent posts, went into the movie unsure of what to expect. My biggest hope was that I don't hate the movie, and I had let myself start to think that might be too much to hope for. I was wrong!

Now, don't get me wrong here people, by no means do I think any of you folks reading this post will go see the movie(in fact most of the people who read this, probably won't ever see it) in the theaters, but this is a good enough movie that it will make a pretty decent box office bundle for the studio, and they will most certainly consider this movie, as well as the Fantastic Four franchise a success. As for my friends, if you want to go see a fun movie, that has some very good action sequences, humor, Jessica Alba, and ol' Chrome Dome himself, go see it. To anyone wanting to go see the next 'Shawshank Redemption', skip it.

That being said, here's why I like it, and there will be 'spoilers' in here, but really, unless you can't follow Storytelling 101, there isn't much to 'spoil' in this movie.

The writing was good enough that I had very few cringe moments. In fact, I only remember one rapid fire segement of cringe that involves Dr. Doom, who is unfortunately one of the least impressive characters in this movie. That fact is a shame, because Dr. Doom within the realm of Marvel Comics history is one of the most recognized, and successful 'heels' that ever existed. Unfortunately in both Fantastic Four films, the character just never translates well onto the screen. A big part of that is the dialogue they write for Doom, and the fact that the guy who plays him(I can't remember his name and refuse to IMDB it, he's one of the guys from Nip/Tuck) delivers his lines with the most cliched, 'arrogant bad guy' voice you can imagine. He's one step away from satirising his own roll. Not good.

Back on point, the writing was good enough that it doesn't take away from the movie. There is a lot of room for improvement for sure, but it's not bad, and it's by no means horrible as some out there suggest. One example that sticks out to me is at a point where Sue(Invisble Woman) is upset and explaining to Reed(Mr. Fantastic) that even when they manage to successfully get married, they will never have a normal life, and she was questioning how they could even dream of raising a family in that environment. This is not only straight out of the comic book storyline, but it's an uncommon theme for your typical summer blockbuster comic book movie to address. She raises a good point, and is clearly upset, whereas Reed is understanding but is so wrapped up in his work that he doesn't quite get how upset Sue really is. What bothered me is what happens at the end of that conversation. Sue is frustrated, and pulls the ol 'I'm...I'm going to go check on Johnny' routine and leaves in a huff. Reed watches her walk off, and they don't really resolve that issue until the end, when all is well and Reed just decides to say 'Fuck it' and let's Sue know they should have a family anyway, la la la, happyland. What SHOULD have happened was Sue should've gotten incensed at Reed's complete lack of understanding of just how torn up she is about it, as they would've done in the comic, and she should've left the scene teasing a break-up and sending Reed back to his lab with a sharp, 'Fuck you, dummy' type-line before she storms out(no pun intended).

That's an example, but, in the land of summer blockbuster, I can accept the fact that they want to keep the story moving and end up in la la la, happyland.

So, the writing was good, and much better than the first FF movie. Something else I liked, was the acting. Yep, I said it. We're not talking Oscar here people, but the acting was MUCH better than the first installment, and save for two characters, everybody did a fine job. Mr. Fantastic and Johhny Storm were the standouts here. Johnny Storm was again the funniest character in the movie, and what I especially liked about that fact was, and this ties into the writing as well, that it creates a very good side story for Johnny. As the plot moves along, Johnny is so wrapped up in being a celebrity, and doing his own thing that it eventually leads to Reed, Sue and Thing telling him he better do what they say or people will end up dead. It's serious, he's hurt by it, and it shows a vulnerability that was not present in the first movie. That's called character development, and when it spans over two movies, I consider that a success. At that point in the movie, you have Reed and Sue stressed over their eventual marriage and what their family life will be like. You have The Thing, who is always good for a one-liner while at the same time he struggles constantly with the fact he'll never be a standard, flesh and bone human again, and now you have Johnny feeling very isolated and admittedly sad with the prospect of being alone. Reed and Sue are considering getting out of the Superhero biz once the current threat is over so they can attempt the normal life they want, which obviously leads to some tension with Johnny and Ben. This is good stuff, and everyone in the main four plays their role well. The two characters I alluded to earlier as being 'bad' in their roles were Dr. Doom, and Alicia Masters. Doom, as I said, is played pretty horrifically, and it doesn't help that they write standard, bad guy lines for him such as 'I hate you' and an over the top, 'Let's go for a spin' when he's got a 'whirling' upperhand in a battle with the FF. It's bad. Even though I very much like the fact that Dr. Doom comes back in this film, gets the Power Cosmic at some point, and turns on the FF after he 'helps' them(which is all straight out of the comic books), the acting job, and writing for him specifically, were both bad. The other character on the acting chopping block is Alicia Masters. She is The Thing's main squeeze, and she's blind. The girl who plays her, though smoking hot, doesn't play a blind person well, and it takes away from her scenes tremendously. They either should have not made her blind, or cast a girl who was not so friggin' hot. It is hard to buy she'd date The Thing, I'll leave it at that.

Now the meat and 'taters, the reason I ever went and saw this movie in the theater in the first place. The Silver Surfer. What can I say? I loved the Surfer's place in this movie, and they did a perfect job introducing him to the audience where probably 97% of them had either never heard of him before, or had heard the name but never saw a comic book with him in it. That is a very important point as to why I think this movie successfully translated the Surfer story onto the big screen for the GENERAL audience that it is intended for. So often the world of the 'internet fanboy' who cries 'source material foul' when they see Optimus Prime has flames on his arms, or that the Surfer has eyeballs, forget that they make up about, ohhhhhh, a micro-percentage of the audience these big budget, Hollywood adaptations are meant for. ESPECIALLY Silver Surfer fans, good God, the last Surfer stand along comic was cancelled after 8 issues because no-one but hardcore Surfer fans bought it(it didn't help that story was boring and confusing, BUT it did have a sequence where the story took place in the very village where they filmed 'The Prisoner' show and you know I was in hog heaven for that). Bottom line is, Surfer fans are so few and far between these days that they don't make for enough fans anymore to keep a Surfer comic alive, let alone justify a 100% accurate film adaptation. They are the last people who should complain about this movie not staying completely true to source material, they should be happy with what they get(which will never happen but it must be said).

I am happy with what I got in this movie. The Surfer CG looks great. The dialogue they write for him, is not the brooding 'My life is sad', existential crisis-mode Surfer, but it is fine material that gets the story and his characters out to the audience. Not only that, but Lawrence Fishburne delivers said lines with an underlying current of pain and confusion that successfully channels the conflicted and tortured Norrin Radd. If I were someone who knew nothing of the Surfer, and saw this movie, I would get the feeling that 'there's something else to this guy' when listening to his dialogue and seeing what he does, which is another example of where this movie went right. The scene where Sue is talking to a then captured Surfer(at this point Doom had helped the FF seperate the Surfer from his board and had assumed control of the Power Cosmic[I'm a dweeb here]), sent chills down my spine. I'm not sure non-Surfer comic fans will experience that feeling at this point in the movie because you need to know his origin before he talks about it to really 'feel' it. But when he describes and names Galactus, I was completely attached to the story and at that moment knew even if the rest of the movie stunk up the house, I would always like it for this one scene. Again, I say that as a Surfer fan, I do not think the general audience will feel so attached to that scene.

From there, it leads to the conclusion, the FF use a trick from the comic book to get Doom off the board, and the Surfer gets his board and powers back.
The end, between Galactus and Surfer, many are complaining about. I could even see some of my best friends complaining about it too. There is no crazy battle between a power starved God and his Herald. It's a simple end, but dramatic. This ties into my earlier point that you can't have a direct translation from the comic book here. In the comics, Galactus is a giant human-like God who wears a Purple skirt/kilt, and has a huge, horned purple mask(see above pic). That is NOT going to fly in this day and age on the big screen. In this movie, they don't show you Galactus' true form, he is engulfed in a giant, swirling storm of what you can assume is galactic debris from all the planets he has devoured previously. There are hints of what Galactus looks like. As he approaches Earth, there is a shadow cast onto Jupiter that shows comic book fans the shape of the mask I mentioned ealier. To me, that's enough of a nod to the original comic book version to make me happy. I guess I'm easier to please than others. Also, when the Surfer makes his final stand and flies up into the swirling mess(which also has great CG) you can see amongst the debirs, and firey core, a faint shape of 'something' there, but it's too quick to see anything specific. You just know that there's something there.
After that , the Surfer summons up as much of his Power Cosmic that he can muster and there is a pretty gnarley implosion. The world is saved, Sue and Reed get married, and off go the FF to another crisis before the credits roll.
A minute or two into the credits, they show the Surfer floating in space, unconcious. His board starts to move and flashes towards the camera, and then the credits roll to their conclusion.
That small scene during the credits, as well as the internet buzzing with talk that they are getting a popular comic book writer to pen a Surfer stand alone movie that has already been greenlit, has me excited. This movie was a very good launch pad for a Surfer film, which was it's purpose beyond making a crap ton of money for Fox. Now, you will have millions of people who will have liked this movie, gotten to know the Surfer just enough to see he has badass powers and is unlike any of the other Superheros they've seen on the big screen to date. Fox has dangled a shiny, silver carrot and will hopefully cash in with an even better Surfer movie.

Another quick point before I close, what they did right with the Surfer, they also did right with Galactus, and depending on what happens in the Surfer movie, could be even better when you look back at this movie. They had this storyline that revolved around The Surfer and the FF. And again, you have to look at it from the perspective of the General Audience I mentioned ealier. If they don't know the Surfer, they sure as shit don't know of Galactus. It's not even until this movie is halfway over that the Surfer reveals he is 'Not the Destroyer.' The audience gets a hint of that in the first scene of the movie, but really they have no idea what the fuck he's talking about. Surfer later reveals who Galactus is and that his role as a reluctant herald is only in order to spare his planet the fate that awaits Earth. But, the audience still doesn't know what that means beyond 'There is a giant God-like character out there, strong enough to create Surfer who can beat any Superhero's ass he wants, and it can destroy planets to boot.' You never 'see' Galactus, you never hear him speak, and not once does it make a lick of difference. They save two major reveals for the Surfer movie. That is awesome.

At the end of this movie, people in the theater clapped. I never once heard anybody laugh at a scene because it was 'so bad it was funny', which definitely happened in 'Spider-Man 3'. I saw it with an audience in a half-full theater yesterday afternoon, so I didn't get to see it with a typical opening weekend crowd. But the people in the theater were a mixed bag of ages ranging from single digits with parents to couples in their 30's. If those folks liked it, young and old alike, then The Silver Surfer can certainly be back on the big screen next year or early the following year. I very much look foward to it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Well, check out these two new FF:ROSS reviews here.

I am relieved to hear that maybe this thing ain't so bad after all. I won't be reading anymore reviews going in, for my own sake.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Rise of the Silver Surfer

As some of you have seen from previous posts, I have been eager to see the Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer moviefilm.

We are less than a week away from the films release, and I am sad to report my enthusiasm has turned to dread. I feel it is a lock that this movie is going to be absoultey horrible. The previews range from making it look like a 'good enough' movie(the Surfer action sequences) to a 'load of crap'(Anything that has to do with the Fantastic Four characters).

I read a review here. And it basically says my fear of the sucktasticness that this film will achieve, is a reality.

Later, another review popped up that is supposed to give a ray of hope to Silver Surfer fans like me, here.

Unfortunately, I can't buy into the positive review. If one watches the first FF movie, it's pretty much crap. There were a few fun moments, but overall the writing, directing and acting were almost universally bad. The exception would be the Johnny Storm/Human Torch work, he was entertaining. I suppose Michael Chicklis did OK too. I say all this about about the first film because this sequel was written, produced, directed and acted by all the same folks. That can't be a good thing.

Maybe Lawrence Fishburne can at least bring some respect to the Surfer character. Maybe whatever dialogue they wrote for Surfer/Norrid Radd can carry a few scenes to make me happy they ever made the effort to bring the Silver Surfer, and the story to the big screen.

What a let down, I wanted to see the Silver Surfer in a movie for a very long time, but it seems it will be a very dissapointing experience.

Hopefully I'll be pleasantly suprised. roll the dice, one moooore tiiiiime

The Sopranos finale was last night, and I loved it. It closes the book on what I consider to be my favorite drama of all time. If you haven't seen it yet, don't read any further unless you don't care about knowing how it ends.
I expected the reaction, after witnessing it myself and letting it digest, to be split down the middle between people liking it, and hating it. It seems now after 24 hours, more people hate it than I expected!
I can understand that some people will feel 'jipped' or 'cheated.' They didn't get a 'hit you over the head' ending with death, or Tony being arrested, or anyone flipping on Tony(save for the quiet Carlo storyline). However, there was most certainly a climax to this show.
The last few minutes of that show were the most intense moments of TV watching I've ever experienced. I am sorry to say that if you did not watch it last night, or today, with your friends or family, and watch that heart pounding DINER scene(yes, a diner scene was heart pounding) and only watch it after reading reviews and hearing your friends talk about it, I sincerely doubt your heart will beat up to your throat like every body's who watched last night did. I hope I'm wrong for some of you, but it seems to me it will be hyped too much and your expectations will be too high. It can't be described well enough to make up for it. If you missed it, I'm sorry.
That scene had all the history of the show, and any other mob movie or show for that matter, running through your brain. There was a Godfather reference, there were shady characters about, a man walks into the bathroom, two thugs walk in, all the while Tony sizes each and every person who walk in up with the same look of underlying paranoia and suspicion. Even when Carmela, AJ and Meadow finally make their entrances, he is barely able to crack a smile as they approach. While all this is going on, I shit you not, Journey's 'Don't Stop Believing' is playing, Tony chose it on the jukebox and that song couldn't be more perfect for this scene. You are filled with absolute dread and joy at the same time. Appropriately still, 'Any Way You Want It' is the other Journey song available for selection, which is exactly how this show ends.
The last moment is when Meadow, after finally parking her car after a few unsuccesful attempts, gets to the door of the diner. Tony looks at a few more songs, hears the bell that the door makes when it opens, looks up, and BAM.
Nope, not a gun shot. Nothing. The screen cuts to black, the song cuts out, and there is nothing but a black screen for 10 seconds. The credits roll after those 10 seconds and in silence, the Sopranos show is over.
At the apartment, after we all took it in, we talked about it. Some said it's all so they can have a movie down the road. Some were mad that there was no resolution (IE - Tony didn't die, Tony didn't go to jail, Nobody flipped on Tony, we don't know what happens when Meadow walks in,we know nothing of what happens 'next').
Out there in the world, there are a lot of opinions too. Some out there feel it was a horrible, cop out ending. Some say the blackness and silence mean that Tony was killed at that instant, and just like Bobby Baccala once sermised - 'Maybe there's nothing when it's your time to go. You never see it coming, and it's just blackness.'
I don't believe Tony Soprano is dead, but I could be wrong, that's part of the beauty of the ending. It's open for interpretation, and there were enough teases in those few moments of the show that no-one will ever know for sure if they are right, save for David Chase telling everyone what he intended.
What I saw in that Diner was typical, miserable Tony Soprano, just trying to get through dinner with his family after the 'war' with NY was finished. In that scene we finally all felt that tension that exists within Tony as he lives his life. He provides all the comforts and pleasures for his Wife and Kids, they even made a point to show AJ driving an M3 Beemer, and Meadow was driving a brand new Lexus. All the while, he has to constantly be looking over his shoulder at who is there, around him, at all times, because as the boss, especially coming off a mob war, he could get hit at any time. Is that a fate worse than death? Is that how he ultiamtely pays for the being creepy, murdering asshole that he is?
The people in the diner are all seemingly familiar faces too. The cub scouts are like the kids that witnessed Bobby's death. The two thugs are like the two that tried to shoot Tony back in the 2nd season(or are they Hesch's friends looking for revenge?) The 'Man in the Member's Only' jacket looks like a perfect fit to be the man who whacks Tony, and ends up being the gent who heads to the bathroom, Godfather style. All these familiar faces, seemingly regular people to you and I, but to Tony Soprano, they could be the one who takes him out. That's terrifying, and we all experienced it along with Tony.
The way that scene panned out was extraordinary. The way a mundane task like parralel parking your car became such a moment of tension for the audience, it fucking kept me holding my breath. That diner scene, was more than enough payoff for me.
You'll hear people complain that they 'wasted their time' with this show. No fucking way! If any of us feel that tension and drama and fear and excitement that those last few minutes garnered again in our TV watching lifetime, we should consider ourselves lucky.
Some will say David Chase is a, I'm not so inclined to call him a messiah. But he did definitely hit a most memorable hot streak of writing and creativity that has cemented his place in TV history, for whatever that's worth to everybody out there. So, in the end, there is no way of knowing if Tony's been shot, or if they just enjoy their dinner together and go on living their life. That life being the type we just watched 6 seasons of unfold, where we grew to love and root for abosolutely despicable examples of human beings. Maybe David Chase just wanted to give a big ol' 'Fuck You' to America with this whole show? No matter how you slice it, The Sopranos will be talked about, studied, written about, and debated over for as long as we all live.
As I said, I loved the ending, and I loved this show. Yes, seasons 4 and 5 dragged a little, and we got a few too many filler epsiodes, but the build to the end was great, and that last scene was the big payoff. Personally I got what I wanted in the finale, I had these thoughts going in:
I did not want to see Tony die.
I did not want to see Tony go to jail.
I wanted to see Phil Leotardo get killed, and that fucking scene delivered 100 times over. "Ohhhh shit" = Incredible.
I got all three of those things, so I'm pretty darn happy.
In closing, as fans of this show 'Some will win, some will lose, some are born to sing the bluuuuuuues.'
The Sopranos will be missed.