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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Green Hornet



The Green Hornet creates a somewhat interesting sensation for the audience: rooting for the main superhero character in a superhero movie to die. Violently. He doesn't, which is a letdown, and that's the reason why one walks away from watching The Green Hornet feeling so dissatisfied. Truth is, there's quite a bit to like in The Green Hornet. It's stylishly directed by Michel Gondry, contains a lot of witty banter, and is rather entertaining moment to moment - for about an hour or so. Yet the picture is centered around a protagonist so frustratingly reprehensible, it's a wonder (and a disappointment) his deadly sidekick doesn't murder him.

Seth Rogen plays Britt Reid, an egomaniacal man-boy idiot who inherits the vast wealth and newspaper empire of his late father Tom Wilkinson. Rogen has serious daddy issues, the kind that lead him to decapitate a statue of his father in the middle of the night. Rogen also inherits the services of the charismatic Jay Chou as Kato, a brilliant Chinese martial arts master skilled in weapons and vehicle manufacturing. Plus Kato makes a mean cup of coffee.

Reid at first treats Kato like a new toy, but their bromance culminates in the two of them dressing up in masks and fighting crime as The Green Hornet (and his nameless sidekick), rolling through the streets of Los Angeles in an armored, heavily armed muscle car named Black Beauty. It's all funny at first, and then you stop to think about what they're actually doing - tearing through LA, instigating a war on crime, destroying property, with no accountability or responsibility or regard for their own safety - and it stops being funny real quick.

Cameron Diaz and an exhausted-looking Edward James Olmos share the exasperation of working for Rogen, while James Franco and a ravaged Edward Furlong pop in as bad guys. Academy Award winner Christophe Waltz amusingly plays the main heavy whose business the Green Hornet threatens. Waltz wants Rogen dead. Who could blame him? The Green Hornet gladly homages other recent, better superhero movies: Kato designing their cars and weapons are right out of the same scenes in Iron Man while The Green Hornet and Kato singing in the car was identical to Kick-Ass and Red Mist cruising in the Mistmobile in Kick-Ass.

Even with all the funny bits and a handful of huge laughs in the movie, one labors to care about the main crime plot. Rogen growing a conscience late in the movie doesn't make his character's gruesome death any less desirable. After about an hour, I could have really gone for some of the Green Hornet's knockout gas.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Game of Thrones 1x2 - "The Kingsroad"

This week on Game of Thrones, Kahl Drogo learns there are other positions besides doggy style. For Daenerys' own sake, I hope her sexy sex slave servant girl doesn't have her teach the Kahl the donkey punch.

I'm about 130 pages into the book, which left me off roughly 20 minutes into the events of episode two. Everything that happened after Robert's conversation with Ned where they discussed killing Daenerys and how much Robert hates Targaryens was new to me.

Right now, I hate the Lannisters a whole hell of a lot more than I dislike Viserys Targaryen. Tyrion is the only interesting or redeemable Lannister at this point in the series. Jaime is a scumbag and Cersei is quite an actress, marching into Bran's room and confessing the loss of her first born son to Catelyn as if she had nothing whatsoever to do with Bran falling from the tower. (That scene wasn't in the book. Nor was the scene between Ned and Catelyn in Bran's room. Also, Catelyn was much more cruel to Jon Snow in the book.)

I noticed the episode placed a lot of emphasis on hands. Catelyn's hands were slashed fighting off Bran's assassin and Daenerys' hands were focused on quite a bit being groomed by her servants.

Bran's dire wolf earned a lifetime of cookies for saving Bran from the assassin. What a good boy. That was a Holy Shit! moment, and then they delivered another Holy Shit! just like it when Arya's wolf almost tore that asshole little prince's hand off. So far, the dire wolves are the best characters in this whole story.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Smallville 10x18 - "Booster"


Special DC Universe Guest Stars:
With Special Mentions of:

Last week, Smallville returned from its hiatus with "Kent", featuring the re-emergence of my favorite incarnation of evil Clark Kent, Clark Luthor of Earth-2. It also spotlighted our Clark's meeting the Jonathan Kent of Earth-2, with Clark doing the alternate universe version of his adoptive father a solid and getting him to reunite with his estranged wife, the Martha Kent of Earth-2.  Then Clarks Kent and Luthor had a somewhat less-than Superman III-level Super-tussle with each other, ending with Kent introducing Luthor to Earth-1 Jor-El, Luthor being teleported back to meet the Earth-2 Jor-El, and launching Clark Luthor on the road to heroic redemption in his own universe. Plus Tess Mercer was all extra hot and vulnerable each time Luthor hit on her/threatened to kill her. Finally, Clark and Lois agreed to move out of the Kent Farm and into Metropolis. Fine, goofy, fun, Smallville, last week.

This week is the latest in Smallville's series of DC Comics fan wanks, bringing in Booster Gold and Blue Beetle into their television universe. Booster (who looked rather a lot like Chris Evans) is pretty much exactly as he should be: a disgraced former football star from the 25th century who stole a Legion flight ring, a gold and blue battlesuit, and a sentient Wikipedia droid named Skeets, traveled back to 21st century Metropolis, and became a vain gloryhound with his sights squarely set on becoming the World's Greatest Superhero. Booster chose a pivotal moment to emerge in our time: Clark Kent has yet to publicly emerge as the Blur and is ripe to be supplanted as the hero of Metropolis. (For some reason, the most important thing the Greatest Hero in Metropolis can have is the Key to the City.)

After spending the entire season making the decision to and then reconciling the need to wear glasses and become the bumbling opposite of his natural, tall, heroic swagger, Clark does a complete about-face about his whole scheme to be mild-mannered. He spends the entire episode irritated and complaining about the very plan to be bumbling he himself deemed necessary. Lois became the one who had to constantly keep setting Clark back on the hide-in-plain-sight scheme he himself came up with (after meeting himself in the future.)  Clark's behavior was more confusing than Booster's time travel paradox origin.

Booster saves a pratfall-prone hard luck kid named Jaime Reyes from getting hit by a car, setting in motion a chain of events where an alien scarab bonds with Reyes and turns him into the Blue Beetle. The scarab had previously bonded with and killed a host named Dan Garrett, and billionaire industrialist Ted Kord (the owner of the "Blackwater" of the Smallville universe) is hot on the trail of his missing alien weapon. The Blue Beetle activates itself and forces Reyes on an armored rampage, coming after Booster Gold as he's rehearsing his acceptance of the Key to the City.  No thanks to Clark, the Beetle fails to kill Cat Grant, and thanks to Booster somehow pep talking Reyes into somehow gaining control over the Scarab, the terror is averted and the day is saved. Thereby, Booster does the first heroic thing in his life that wasn't pre-planned for maximum publicity and profit.

The amusing stuff in "Booster" was writer Geoff John's fanboy-pleasing DC Universe shout outs. I particularly liked Booster's sexy dancers having sluttier versions of his sister Goldstar's costume. Lois Lane had a sweet moment trying to get Jaime Reyes to be confident, straighten up and fly right. For some reason, Booster was selling T-shirts of himself wearing the comic book Booster's headgear and goggles instead of what he was wearing in real life. I liked the dueling billboards of Lois somehow having the funds to cover up Booster's billboard with one of Clark's S shield proclaiming The Blur as "The Real Man of Steel". Clark and Booster had a goofy conversation where Booster egged Clark on to drop the "Blur" as a name and call himself something that actually starts with an S.

Booster: "Something... super."
Clark: "I'll start brainstorming."

Oh, for God's sake! Think long and hard about it, Clark! (Never mind that they've already established Kara is out there in the world calling herself "Supergirl".) Later, Clark suddenly questions whether the public will accept hot, sexy girl reporter Lois Lane could believably want to marry a poor schlub four-eyed version of Clark Kent, but some sex between the two tabled that issue.

A big Superman moment was presented with a grandiose wink-wink to the audience: Clark sees a phone booth and Superspeeds into it to change into the Blur. The Tom Welling-directed camera swirls and zooms on Clark's chest and he zips up his red leather jacket to reveal the famed S logo so near and dear to all of our hearts. He zips the jacket all the way up, note. In the very next cut as Clark enters the frame in slow motion to stop Beetle's energy blast from killing Cat Grant, his jacket is zipped back down halfway. It's as if Clark only zipped it up because he knew a camera was there and he wanted to show off the S.

Lots of hoopla is made of Lois about to get a promotion, that would allow her to leave the basement of the Daily Planet and fill the slot Steve Lombard left behind to work at the Daily Star (never mind that Lombard is a sports reporter in the comics). Cat Grant also wants the promotion and wanted an exclusive with Booster Gold to cinch it. (I bet she was planning the headline: "I Spent The Night With Booster Gold".)  Thing is, Lois is close personal friends with Tess Mercer, the owner of the Daily Planet! They fight crime together! If Lois wants the promotion, Tess could just give it to her.  But okay, Lois wants to earn the promotion on her own - and she gets it by interviewing Jaime Reyes about his experience as the Blue Beetle? Weird.

The interplay with Booster, Jaime Reyes and Ted Kord at the end was also kind of weird. It's sort of implied Booster is going to mentor Reyes and they'll somehow work for Ted Kord. The Smallville versions of these three lacked the hoped-for "bwah-ha-ha" interplay of Beetle and Booster in Justice League International, but this was just because of the nature of how the characters were designed to suit the story. Also, I didn't like how Blue Beetle lumbered around like Robocop. At least Beetle, Booster and Kord were more pleasing incarnations than how Smallville royally screwed up Maxwell Lord last season.

Overall, "Booster" is not quite the nerdgasm of "Legion" from two seasons ago or "Absolute Justice" from last season. Had a hard time shaking off the nonsense in the episode. But then again, "Booster" did feature one hilarious piece of dialogue from bumbling, mild-mannered Clark Kent excusing himself from Ted Kord that absolutely made me BWAH-HA-HA!:

"Is there a restroom I can use here? I had a milkshake on the way in, and..."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Game of Thrones 1x1 - "Winter is Coming"

I bought the novel "A Game of Thrones" last week but I haven't started reading it. Normally, fantasy isn't my thing. But the hype is overwhelming. And I thought episode one lived up to it.

Learning all the names of all the characters is challenging but the main players and their motivations were clear. It was easy to relate to Sean Bean torn between not wanting to leave his family at the behest of his friend, the King, who needs him to protect him as his Hand against the schemers plotting against him. Easy to sympathize with the gorgeous girl offered to the barbarian so the barbarian army can help her brother seize the crown. The ending genuinely shocked me.

The cast and acting are terrific, the show looks terrific, and it's well-written and directed.

What else can I say about it? I offer my "live Tweeting" of Game of Thrones:

"@hansen9j I really want a dire wolf puppy. #gameofthrones" Me too. Clever how they used the growth of the wolves to mark time passing.

"I would let his whole tribe fuck you. All 40,000 men and their horses too, if that's what it took." @GameofThrones #brotherlylove

Heh. Fred Flintstone (Mark Addy) is the king of @GameofThrones. #yabbadabba #vivarockvegas And his queen is Sarah Connor (Lena Headey).

"I don't fight in tournaments because when I fight a man for real, I don't want him to know what I can do." @GameofThrones is well-written.

I gotta hand it to @GameofThrones: That was more incest in one hour than the entire series (of implied jokes) of Arrested Development.

Scream 4



"Don't fuck with the original!"

"What's your favorite scary movie?" Well, it isn't Scream 4, I'll tell you that much. Or any movie in the Scream franchise. Scream 4, or Scre4m, depending on who cares, returns us to the familiar everytown USA of Woodsboro, home of the Ghostface killer and a never-ending cadre of Ghostface successors. Over a decade has passed since Scream 3 and 15 years have elapsed since now-author and always-survivor Neve Campbell was first tormented by the original Ghostface(s). It all begins again, involving a new generation of self-aware, loquacious sexy teenagers slashed to death by a new Ghostface killer after numerous tedious meta discussions about the "new rules" of remaking slasher movies. Standing against Ghostface, as ever, are the Scream originals of Campbell, blundering local sheriff David Arquette, and his shrill, harpy wife Courtney Cox(-Arquette no longer). The past 15 years and four films have only served to reaffirm how unpleasant and uninteresting Arquette and Cox's characters and relationship are. Practically every nubile young starlet in Hollywood is given the honor of being offed in Scream 4, including Lucy Hale, Shenae Grimes, Aimee Teegarden, Kristen Bell, Anna Paquin (the only Oscar winner in the bunch), Alison Brie (who gets to unleash her potty mouth), Marielle Jaffe (the hottest of the lot), Marley Shelton, and Brittany Robertson. Scream 4's prime starlets are Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere, and if you suspected, as I did, one of them is the Ghostface (there are usually two but the other Ghostface is just an irritating henchman), then hurrah. The reveal of the true identity of Scream 4's mastermind Ghostface is kinda clever, I guess, and true to Scream's internal logic, though I cared to the sum of zero. Despite the presence and constant discussion of how modern technology like Facebook, Twitter, and live streaming web shows affect how the Ghostface would kill in 2011, in action, Scream 4 is a retro-schlock throwback to the 1990s. The murders are simplistic and uninteresting. Not once are the Ghostface's appearances frightening and no amount of wink-wink dialogue about Ghostface's methods disguise how trite and yawn-inducing the kills are. Pop out from the shadows, chase a girl, stab with knife, repeat, repeat, ad nauseum. The most gruesome murder of one of the girls results in all four walls of her bedroom splattered with blood, but the Ghostface's black robes remain impeccably clean and his knife free of crimson. Here's a question: After 15 years of dozens of teenagers gruesomely murdered, which has resulted in best-selling books and 7 "Stab" movies, why doesn't the FBI track down the manufacturers of the Ghostface mask and costume and make it illegal to sell it?  Perhaps that would only force the next killers in the inevitable Scream 5 to don a different costume, but at least we wouldn't have to look at that stupid Ghostface anymore.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Country Strong



I don't know what it's like to put on a country music concert tour, but according to Country Strong, it's all about being as unprofessional as possible. Gwyneth Paltrow stars as a six time Grammy winner and one of country music's biggest superstars. She hit rock bottom after getting drunk while five months pregnant, falling off the stage in Dallas, losing the baby, and landing in rehab for months. Her husband, a bearded Svengali-in-black Tim McGraw, wants her back on tour and bringing home the bacon.  Coming along for the ride on Paltrow's comeback tour are her "AA sponsor" Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester, the "next Carrie Underwood" (Meester's a far better actor than Underwood). They're only on a three city concert tour, but they make a heapin' mess out of two of the dates. They're Charlie Sheen tour-level PR disasters. Paltrow has an emotional breakdown on stage in her first Houston concert, claiming "food poisoning", and then she gets so plastered in one of her many pills + booze benders, she makes it as far as puking in a garbage bin in Austin. The greasy, unkempt Hedlund is no better; Paltrow keeps telling us how good he is, but he sucks. When Hedlund's not cozying up to Paltrow then feeling guilty because she's still married, he's being a patronizing asshole to Meester, then banging her. McGraw may have banged Meester too; the movie is coy about that. Paltrow also decks McGraw in the kisser once, and then McGraw punches out Hedlund. They all just take it in stride. But whatever, that's just the backstage shenanigans. What's important is what's on stage, what the fans paid for, and they get their country superstar screwing them over while the opening acts freely change set lists, bring each other on stage unrehearsed, and perform brand new songs they'd just written the night before. Pity the poor, long-suffering band members and back up singers, who kind of get shuffled off to the side and have to go along rolling their eyes while the headliners play out their endless drama. Paltrow is never more likeable than the scene where she visits a young boy dying of leukemia for the Make-a-Wish Foundation - until that sweet moment is ruined by horrendous unprofessionalism: First, when the boy asks Gwyneth if she'll play him a song, the Make-a-Wish handler shakes her head and says, "You don't have to." WHAT? The kid's dying of leukemia! What Make-a-Wish employee would deny him his wish? Then during a nice moment where all of the kids are dancing and having a good time, McGraw decides to dance with Paltrow and then causes a scene and storms off. What dicks. That poor Make-a-Wish kid should have contacted WWE and asked for John Cena, who wouldn't have let him down. The biggest bit of unprofessionalism is in Country Strong's admittedly ballsy ending where, after actually putting on her Dallas show successfully, Gwyneth OD's in her dressing room. That's our Gwyneth, country strong, country bred, and by God, she'll end up country dead.

Thursday, April 7, 2011




Adapt or Die

One of the precious few but genuinely laugh out loud moments in Hanna occurs when the title character, played with wide-eyed, deadly grace by Saoirse Ronan, is having dinner in Morocco with a British family she befriends. The mother, a proudly unglamorous Olivia Williams*, asks Hanna where her mother is. Hanna simply, straightforwardly informs them her mother is dead.

"What did your mother die of?"
"Three bullets."

With Hanna, director Joe Wright (Atonement) constructs a bold, dynamic, near-perfect action yarn, assembled from many familiar elements into something that feels brand new.

Raised in "the forest" somewhere in Europe by her father Eric Bana, a German-born former CIA operative gone rogue, sixteen year old Hanna is a highly intelligent, deadly force of nature (and science, as it turns out). Hanna's training sequences harken to the loving cruelty between Big Daddy and Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass while invoking curiously similar imagery to next year's The Hunger Games. Hanna's origins (teased in dollops throughout) turn out to be exactly what you think they are, similar to James Cameron's Dark Angel and innumerable other tales of genetically engineered "super soldiers". Hanna's action beats have that immediate, impactful Bourne-ness to them, with more than a jolt of Run, Lola, Run.

Yet Wright, with the confident showmanship of a stage magician, turns Hanna's genre familiarities on its ear -melding themes and iconography of fairy tales - as the film blazes forward. The unrelenting inventiveness in cinematography, editing, score (by The Chemical Brothers), and production design continually astound, whether Hanna escapes an underground fortress, eludes her would-be captors in a city port, and especially in the third act (the weakest act in the narrative, to be honest), where Hanna is chased by Cate Blanchett through a marvelously-realized Grimm's Fairy Tale amusement park. Sporting a Southern drawl, a seething Blanchett embodies pure redheaded evil, barking orders to her fantastically bizarre, murderous underlings, Jason Flemyng and Tom Hollander.

Hanna's most intriguing moments are when she stows away with the aforementioned British family (we never do find out what becomes of them). Hanna forms an oddly sweet, compelling friendship with the world-weary beyond her years daughter Jessica Barden, the second best character in the picture. In these compelling moments, which include Hanna's first date, first road trip, first sleepover, and Hanna's first (almost) kiss that ends in hilarious violence ("Should I let him go?" "As opposed to what?"), the audience shares Hanna's constant thrill of discovery, seeing the world beyond her forest that she'd only read about in memorized volumes of encyclopedias. Hanna, the character, and Hanna the motion picture, are kinds of little miracles that don't miss the heart.

* Before Hanna, I never knew "red lipstick on a woman's lips is meant to resemble the labia minora". True or not, it's an intriguing thought.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

WrestleMania Fever

I woke up this morning with WrestleMania fever. I can't believe how I excited I am for the show. It's an irrational, illogical kind of excitement unencumbered by reality, like the deplorable presence of Snooki or the prospect of how unlikely it is the show will end with The Miz retaining the WWE Title over John Cena.

I feel that something extra special in the air; that there will be some form of magic tonight. What form that magic will take, I can't say. The card on paper holds no clues about where that magic will emanate from, though I actually like the card on paper. It's a variety card, a little something for everyone. Spectacle, legends, celebrity, and yes, even the potential of a great match or two. Certainly the potential for some surprises. And the answer to what The Rock is going to do to Cena - Rock Bottom, People's Elbow? What else? We shall see.

The important thing is, I feel like a fan again tonight. I'm expecting if not the best, then the most entertaining show of the year. I hope WWE exceeds expectations. If there's one night this year they have to, this is it.

Live Tweeting WrestleMania 27

Reunited with @ and @ for . And my nephew Joe in the house for his first @.
Cody Rhodes vs @ looks like Dr. Doom vs. Captain America. Or Captain Mexico. (That movie won't do well.)
Is there any way to get refunded for this first hour of ? @
@ is dressed like Rick Steiner! Who's the shittiest town in America?
Yep, @ ought to call @ vs. @ right down the middle.
Undertaker vs. Triple H up now? Is @ closing the show? Send the crowd home happy?
Undertaker v. Triple H is two men trying to kill themselves and each man not trying to stop the other.
Unprotected chair shot to the head! When they said No Holds Barred, they meant it.
Oh my god! The Tombstone on Undertaker got me. They got me. My heart stopped. Thought it was a redo of HBK v. Flair.
That was magnificent. Undertaker and Triple H, God bless you both. You are magnificent. 19-0.
@ did 90% of the work, the men were tokens, and @ actually impressed with the finish. Perfect.
@ and @'s entrances are outstanding. John Cena is the Black Jesus.
Yes! Kicking out of @'s AA was the most important thing @ has ever done.
A haphazard, overbooked, flaming car wreck of a main event (and of a @) but @ retained the @ title.