Friday, March 30, 2012

Drawing the line at, whatever we feel like?

DC Comics had a slogan called"Drawing the Line at $2.99", which is a clever way of saying that all of their comics would cost no more than $2.99. This slogan was ushered in January 2011 and phased out right before the revamping of their comics with the New 52 in September of 2011. According to sales figures, the campaign had no affect on DC sales. While the slogan may have disappeared as had the prospect of increased profits, the actual pricing of many DC comics remained 2.99.

DC's flagship title, Justice League (JL) costs $3.99. This is the same as some of their more popular titles such as Batman. JL is drawn by DC's visionary leader Jim Lee and was the first comic released for the New 52 line. Less popular titles of the New 52 line are still priced at the $2.99 mark. This difference in pricing had me wonder why some of the DC comics are priced at 3.99 while others at 2.99. 

iFanboy website laid out some solid reasoning as to why the $2.99 price tag was done away with, such as someone who doesn't normally read a comic would see 2.99 be just as expensive as 3.99 in light of how much time per $ they would receive in entertainment. I would add that the retention of the $2.99 price tag is in effect for less popular titles as a way to encourage new readers on board. These are the readers that already buy comics on a weekly basis and acts as a low price point to entice them to try a new title. If the title becomes more popular (as a result of the low price acting as a lure), then I would wager the price tag would jump to the $3.99 mark. Another reason for the price differences is that there is likely a difference in the artist's page fees. Every artist employed by the big companies such as DC and Marvel are paid per page they draw. Better and hence more popular artists can command higher page rates than less skilled and hence less well known artists. These lesser known artists often draw fledgling comics and hence the production costs for these comics is also less. The idea of different page rates would explain why Jim Lee's JL costs more than say Supergirl who is illustrated by Mike Johnson (who by-the-by does produce some great art but isn't as well known as Jim Lee).

The topic of the New 52 also reminds me that the majority of the initial story arcs have now ended. Out of the 52 new comics released back in September of 2011, I have continued reading roughly 6 on a regular basis and occasionally grabbed a few issues of about 3 or 4 others, but find myself always a few issues behind on them. 

Lee's cover for JL

Mack cover for DD
Justice League is the first of the New DC comics to complete its initial story arc while it seems that most of the others are about 1 or 2 issues away from doing the same. I have been pretty pleased with the comics that I have continued reading except for Green Lantern, which has a sluggish story and I am still mystified (to put it kindly) as to why nothing in the character's life had changed following the Flashpoint series. As to the Justice League story, I was immediately enamored by the highly skilled line work of Jim Lee. His art is still one of the finest in the realm of comics, although at times it is more flashy than substance unlike other artists such as David Mack. 

2 pages from JL featuring smashy-smash panels & no dialogue
The initial story arc of Justice League was interesting because it rapidly brought the team together as the evil Darkseid made a play at taking over the world. This brought us some spectacular fight scenes that utilized Lee's art to the fullest. However, the context of the story was rushed leaving myself wondering why Darkseid was doing any of this; I'm sorry, but a reason of 'he's just evil' does not always cut it. In the end, there really wasn't much of a story that Geoff Johns brought to the starting plate of Justice League. We were really only handed a beautifully drawn six issues of fight scenes where the characters clumsily found themselves brought together as a means to stay alive during Darkseid's devastating attack in America, which by-the-way is where apparently every extraterrestrial /demon likes to invade the world. I can only hope that from issue 7 on we see an actual story somewhere in the pages of Justice League. Otherwise, I may only regularly be collecting 5 comics from DC.

Well, I think I rambled along enough here. Suffice to say that I understand (for the most part) why companies like DC charge different prices for their comics but that doesn't mean I like it. And speaking of not liking something, I really hope that an actual story with a plot emerges in JL. While I love Jim Lee's explosive fight sequenced paneling, I would also love to know who these characters are!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Vote for What Could Become the Next Lego Set!

1 Idea Lego has already made a reality!
So a friend off of facebook posted about a website where people post their ideas for new Lego sets, called LEGO CUUSOO. These ideas are then voted upon by anonymous internet peeps and voila! the most voted for idea might be picked up by Lego! If Lego does decide on making your creation into a reality, then you will receive a 1% royalty from the total net sales. Pretty damn cool if you ask me!

What makes this site even more interesting is that upon voting you are asked a series of short marketing questions, such as your gender and how much you'd pay for a set like the one you are voting on. This information is then used to influence Lego's decision. The questions are also not invasive so as to encourage people to answer truthfully. Overall the site gives me the feeling that the ideas that you are voting on could truly become a reality in the land of shiny bricks and cylindrical heads!

The downside to this site is that it appears to be swamped with ideas inspired by previous properties. Almost every idea is related to either this movie or that, or this comic book character or that. While I have nothing bad to say against a Lego product designed around Back to the Future or Shaun of the Dead (both of which I voted for), I did nonetheless wish for something a bit more creative. I greatly enjoyed seeing the ideas for various architectural feats but again I think the ideas could be bolder and more original. To be fair, an untested idea is a much more risky venture for a company as known properties like Harry Potter and Star Wars already have a well cultivated fan base to draw from. Nonetheless, I hope to see more creative and original ideas pop up on this site.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Where's my Star War's Styled 3D Glasses

I went to see Star Wars: A Phantom Menace in 3D on it's opening weekend because I love Star Wars and wanted to relive the experience of seeing the movie on a big screen with a bunch of strangers. Kinda creepy right? Well, I did bring a friend and I was after some of the free Star Wars swag they were to give out during the opening weekend. That makes it better right? Right.

I had seen numerous adds on TV and the internet proclaiming that Darth Maul styled 3D glasses and Star Wars themed toys would be given out to those going to see the movie on its opening weekend. I thought this was great and am a sucker for anything Star Wars related, not to mention 'free'. Apparently I was taken as a sucker as none of this was offered when I went! 

I bought my tickets online to assure myself and my friend the best seats in the house and came extra early to take it all in! I usually hate opening weekends because of the crowds but figured I'd be surrounded by fellow Star Wars fans and that this would make it OK. I was correct on this account but was wrong about there being free Star Wars swag. There were no Star Wars 3D glasses or toys! The people working at the theater -Chinook Cineplex in Calgary Alberta- were unaware of such things and I felt like someone who just bought a Darth Vader mask thinking it would have sound effects; sure the helmet may still look cool but it would've been cooler with the sound effects! All I can figure is that these offers were only valid in the States (in particular at AMC movie chains), which pisses me off to no end because I am sick of specials such as this being offered only in the States. Canadians spend more per person than the average American! We deserve to be provided the same incentives as Americans! Now I'm left without these useless trinkets that likely would've found their way to the depths of a cardboard box in a matter of weeks! Gah!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Star Wars Burgers Make a Disturbance in my Belly!

Would I buy it, sure! Would I regret, you bet!

So in celebration /capitalization on the upcoming release of Star Wars in 3D, the fast food chain Quick has released a Star Wars themed burger. I'm just afraid of what they did to make the burger bun black.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D!

I think that many Star Wars fans are not too interested in the re-release of episode I despite it's graphics update into the realm of 3D magic. As we are all painfully aware, there is little that can be done to erase the painful performance by Jake Lloyd, who portrayed a young Anakin Skywalker, or the searing comedic talent of Ahmed best, who voiced the zany Jar Jar. On the bright side, episode one has some amazing chase scenes and action sequences thanks to the uber talented Ray Park, who of course played Darth Maul.  I will still fork over the cash to see this movie because I am a sucker for special affects and am too obsessed with Star Wars to pass this opportunity by. 

Recently, Mike Ryan of Moviefone website published a story that unearthed rumors that swirled the interweb before episode I came out. Some of the rumors are pretty weak but there are a few that would have made the movie much more interesting, particular where Darth Maul would have been Kenobi's clone. Pretty neat idea right? Well, follow the link here to read the rest of these unearthed rumors. Also, the one rumor I remember is the one that came from a trailer for episode III. Footage of the Millennium Falcon, Bubba Fett, and Chewbacca (not from the final Kashyk scene) were shown. I've met a few other people that remember this trailer and recalled that it played for only a short time; really it was more of a teaser trailer. However, no one seems to know why the footage was not used in the final film. Anyone out there with any ideas about it? I've also never seen this trailer again and would love to know if it exists somewhere out there in the web!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Not All Girls Bring You Lasagna...

My wife and I never signed prenuptials before marrying. We've been happily married for almost 7 years. Thankfully she tolerates my geeky obsessions and has even joined me in the dark side for a few of them. Some marriages, however, can be strained by geeky obsessions, like any other obsession such as sports or video games. The result of a strained marriage can mean a messy divorce where the geeky life-long collection of toys or comics comes to an end. In these cases prenups would have been ideal.

From SF website.
An article from the website Science Fiction recently posted  a story about Tony Alleyne, of England, who lost his customized flat to his ex-wife. This was no ordinary flat but one that was personally customized into a replica of the star ship Voyager! Tony had, with incredible patience and skill, transformed his flat into a real-life Trekie dream, minus the warp drive! The verdict from his long divorce showed that it was his wife that actually owned the flat he had transformed into a piece of Star Trek heaven. So with this decision, Tony was forced into destroying all his customized Trekie embellishments. In all, Tony had spent over $150,000 US and 16 years to create this 'man cave' fit for Captain Janeway herself, only to see it disappear the same way his marriage had!

From SF website.
Not to be outdone was an earlier story  (also posted on Science Fiction) where a man was kicked out of the house by his ex-girlfriend. She piled and bagged up his life's collection of Star Wars collectibles and threw them out into the neighbouring alleyway. Blessed with clear skies and two working arms, the man hurried to save his collection. While I feel for this guy in the way of having a life's collection being put in jeopardy, I feel more strongly that if he had put as much gusto into his relationship that he now (presumably) would not be back to living in his parent's basement. I would say the same argument goes for Mr. Alleyne but to be fair the story of these two men's actual relationships is left unsaid, except (and it is telling) that the stories never mentioned if these men were in new relationships.

The moral of these two stories is that if you are entering a serious relationship and have a geeky passion, you must then make a decision! Before entering a serious relationship, decide what is more important: your geeky obsession or your relationship with your significant other. If it is your obsession that wins out, then make sure you have prenups in hand because chances are your serious, real-life relationship will falter. A good relationship is built on love, respect and to devoting time to being with one another. In this case, the second option is to continue your geeky obsessions with a modest amount of restraint and understanding that it is not the most important component to your life. 

Personally, I love my geeky obsessions such as Lego, comic books, and science-fiction movies. However, it is the relationship with my wife that means more. It is for this reason that my wife has shown interest in my hobbies, as I have shown interest in her's. A solid relationship is built on understanding what is truly important, which I suppose is something that neither of the men in the  two stories above understood before they entered serious relationships. 

So to all the geeks in relationships out there, remember that it's easier to replace a collectible than it is a relationship! Don't take it fore-granted!

The wise Silent Bob (Clerks) sums it up best.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Lego is for Everyone: Awseom Time-Lapse Vid of Building Millennium Falcon

Lego is for everyone! On BuzzFeed I came across a cool time-lapse video of someone building the 9-14, 1254 piece Lego Millennium Falcon set! The host says it took her 4 hours to complete and I am beset with envy! Thinking of my own Lego sets, I don't think I own anything in the 1,000 piece mark. Cool video to watch.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

More Lord of the Rings Lego news!

The awesomeness that will be "Lord of the Rings LEGO" continues! Recently, images of the principle mini-figures and some set names were released. The set names, along with the mini-figures included, were leaked and hence unofficial. The photos for the mini-figures, however, were officially released by LEGO. 

I am ecstatic about these new sets but am still confused why they wouldn't start with sets that would tie into the Hobbit movie. I think they should definitely produce sets for the trilogy but it would make more sense to begin with the first book to keep the sets in a more chronological order. It also stands to reason that MGM Studios and Peter Jackson would've preferred a toy licence with Lego that had them first make Hobbit sets. 

List of set names:
- "Gandalf Arrives" – Minifigures: Gandalf, Frodo
- "Shelob Attacks" – Minifigures: Samwise, Frodo, Gollum
- "Uruk-hai Army" – Minifigures: x4 Uruk-hai with a siege crossbow, x1 Rohirrim Soldier, x1 Rider Of Rohan with his horse
- "Attack On Weathertop"- Minifigures: Samwise, Frodo, Aragon, x2 Nazgul
- "Mines Of Moria" – Minifigures: Frogo, Gimli, Legolas, Boromir, x2 Goblins, x2 Skeletons, Cave Troll
- "The Battle Of Helms Deep" – Minifigures: Aragon, Gimli, Legolas, Theoden, x5 Uruk-hai

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lepors & Pirates

A new claymation movie entitled Pirates! Band of Misfits is set to be released on April 27th, 2012. The movie is produced by Aardman Animation, the same company that brought us British claymation gems like Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. Recently, the movie has come under fire from Leprosy Advocacy groups because of a scene where the Pirate captain boards a boat that turns out to be filled with lepers. According to the angered advocacy groups, a particular comedic scene that involved a leper loosing his arm only helps to further the stigma of the disease (movie trailer below).

Leprosy (also known as Hansen's disease) is a disease that continues to ravage people across the globe. Leprosy is curable with the treatment of several drugs over a period of months to years, with vital importance being placed on early diagnosis. Leprosy is uncommon in wealthy nations but is common in poorer nations such as India and across Africa.

I did not agree with the outright removal of this scene by leprosy groups, but instead felt that this was an instance of both PC gone a muck and a huge missed opportunity by leprosy groups, as contradictory as it may sound. What I mean by this is that political correctness in this case had the result of stripping the subject entirely away from the a source that potentially could have brought greater exposure to the disease -Pirates: Band of Misfits. A joke, that by appearance in the trailer suggested it had made light of the issue but did not seem to be maleficent in nature towards those afflicted with the disease.  The missed opportunity here was huge. Instead of stripping the joke away, leprosy advocacy groups could instead have encouraged Aardman Animation to include a short trailer that educated the audience about the disease. This trailer could have been shown right before the movie and mentions the joke within the trailer, instructing the audience how leprosy is actually a current disease where funding is greatly needed for medicine and research. The result of this missed opportunity would be to educate millions of people across the world about the current issues involved with leprosy and perhaps have an added benefit of gaining new benefactors through those watching the film.

The common saying "there's no such thing as bad publicity" does not apply here. All that has happened here is bad publicity for leprosy advocacy groups because of their missed opportunity to promote their cause and that they chose a fight with a children's animated movie. What furthers the situation is that a particular individual from The Leprosy Mission has made it her goal to connect with anyone who disagrees with the removal of this scene. This lawyer, a miss Sian Arulanatham, is the Head of Programs for the mission and a self-proclaimed Human Rights Defender according to her Twitter account. Sian sends personal insults and accusations to people who criticize this move by leprosy groups on Twitter. Below is the Twitter exchange between myslef and miss Arulanatham.

The part that annoyed me the most about miss Arulanatham's Tweets was that she turned my criticism of a situation into a personal insult and assumed a lot about someone she had never met. In her first Tweet she wrote "clearly you have not experienced such suffering". Such attacks on people via the social network does no one any good and in fact it ultimately hurts the institution /beliefs you represent, in this case leprosy advocacy groups. In fact, this runs counter to what the leprosy advocacy groups were saying in the first place: that Pirates had made the joke a personal matter against those afflicted with leprosy, or in another words a joke is not funny when it comes at the expense of someone. Furthermore, her Tweet would suggest that only those that have been affect by 'suffering' can understand leprosy. Does this mean that my opinions mean less because I have not 'suffered' enough according to her vague criteria.
I truly hope that the Leprosy Mission rethinks who they have representing them through social media networks and also rethinks how they want to go about creating social awareness for their cause. Via attacking children's movies and forming personal attacks on people through social media venues, groups such as the Leprosy Mission will never achieve the positive exposure that I believe they are ultimately seeking. 
I believe that issues such as leprosy deserve attention and illustrate a true tragedy in this world since it is a problem that can be solved. We have the medication but for various reasons it is not being dealt to those suffering with the problems. What is disheartening is that the groups that supposedly stand to help and be the voice for those ailing with leprosy are instead more concerned with how a children's movie is going to depict the disease and how a few people on Twitter disagreed with their stance against the said movie.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Problems with the 2012 Oscar Nominations

Oscar Nominations were listed today and right away I found myself angry! Below are my problems with the list and my opinion on who will win according to their list. The full list of 2012 Oscar Nominations can be found here.

1. Why were there only 9 films chosen for Best Picture? 50/50, Ides of March, Crazy Stupid Love, Young Adult, and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are all real contenders for the spot of 10th film nod. Artist will win, but Hugo deserves to win.

2. Best Actor category filled with award favorites, not necessarily best actors. Leonardo Dicaprio (J. Edgar) and Joseph Gordan Levitt (50/50) should have been included over Brad Pitt. Clooney, Pitt, and Oldman all delivered adequate performances (Oldman perhaps the best), but Dujardin (The Artist) will win. Levitt should have been nominated and won.

3. Best Actress category is filled with incredible performances. There were handfuls of strong leading ladies this year and while some were left out, they were not substituted by weaker actresses unlike the best male actor category -however, I would have liked to have seen Theron (Young Adult) nominated somehow. Meryl Streep will win, and probably should win.

4. Supporting Actor category has two inclusions that take away from more deserving actors. Jonah Hill (Moneyball), in particular, delivered a strong but not award winning performance. Sacha Baron Cohen (Hugo), however, did. Christopher Plummer will win, but Cohen should win.

5. I have no issues with the Best Supporting Actress category. Lots of great female actors this year and it is difficult to choose who was best. I think Octavia Spencer (The Help) will win, but I have to admit to not seeing the Artist yet.

6. Honestly, this was not a terribly strong year for animated movies. From the Oscar list I have only seen two of the nominations, Rango and Kung Fu Panda 2, which neither were all that special. What I do find notable is that Cars 2 was not nominated. This makes it the first time Pixar has not been nominated, and from what I hear from reviewers, they didn't deserve a nomination anyways.

7. In the Best Director category we see David Fincher again being snubbed. I think Fincher and Christopher Nolan need to start up their own self-help I got snubbed by the Oscars again club! Scorsese for Hugo is a shoe-in for winning the award, but Hazanavicius and Payne may give him a run for his money. Overall, a lot of strong contenders.

8. Best Original Score overlooked Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross' amazing soundtrack for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's a real shame because Reznor and Ross produced an amazing soundtrack that added depth to each scene of the movie. Tintin is the obvious choice for me as to who should not have been included in the list, but I think the Artist will win as it is a silent movie and therefore the soundtrack becomes that much more obvious and important.

9. How can there be only TWO nominations for Best Original Song? How? Was there really only two good original songs this year? Bullshit! I'm sure Elton John had at least ONE decent song from Nomeo and Juliet! Plus, The Muppets was loaded with awesome songs! Muppets will easily win.

10. Best Adapted Screen Play makes a HUGE omission by not including Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Huge mistake! My money is on Hugo winning.

11. Best Original Screen Play also made HUGE omissions by not including Young Adult and 50/50
Either one of these movies could have won, but as it stands I would have to choose Midnight in Paris.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Star Wars: The Next Generation, Blue Ray Release

Recently read that TNG seasons, the TV show, will be begin being released on blue-ray early in 2012, beginning with a sampler collection on January 31st. I usually don't care about HD transfers because I have a crappy TV but this time I do because the difference is substantial! On the Random Tuesday website, photos from the DVD set are shown morphing into the same photo from the Blue Ray set. This morphing illustrates some outstanding differences between the two sets. Scenes with characters appear substantially sharper and the film grains from the original production are smoothed out and the lines now appear crisp. Changes in focus are also made, providing greater depth to each scene as well. The most noticeable differences are probably those that involve special effects. These scenes are principally those that feature the Enterprise, where the ship is depicted with considerable more detail. In one particular screen shot, the Enterprise is shown in front of a Klingon Bird of Prey. The Enterprise again is shown with a much higher level of clarity and detail and the Bird of Prey is replaced completely with a CGI version of the ship. 

Overall, the changes look fantastic and is what a lot of fanboys had originally hoped would happen with the Star Wars films -update the film quality and special effects but leave the damn story line alone! Again, here is the link to the website that features the comparison /morphing screen shots.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Popular Culture of the early 1900's -In Film!

Today's cinema produces images and ideas that are sometimes too risque for the general public. Grossly, however, these films are not banned but instead labeled with the nefarious NC17 or X ratings, which imply that no children are allowed to see the film. A recent example of this comes from the 2011 release, Shame, which offered a critically praised lead performance by Michael Fassbender. What produces strong labeling often includes overtly sexual imagery such as graphic sex scenes, while over-the-top violence achieves much less restrictive labels such an R rating. Outright banning of a film is an extremely rare occurrence in the Western cinema world, and the reasons often involve lawsuits that result only in a film being delayed.

The reasons why modern films are provided NC17 ratings or are banned are only slightly different from the rationales utilized in the turn of the 20th Century. My previous post discussed how much popular culture had changed in the past 100 years, but this post illustrates how in some areas popular culture has not changed at all. 

Thomas Edison is the creator of film and two of his initial films were banned for being too sexual in nature! In 1896 Edison released the incredibly short and silent film, The Kiss. This film featured a couple having a short but sweet smooch. In 1900, Edison revisited the subject with Kissing. The image of two lovers partaking in a kiss was too much for the average Western eye and so the films were moth balled. In one shade of light, this is starkly different from today where film scenes with a sexual nature are much more graphic than this before they are moth balled or slapped with strict labels. In another shade of light, popular culture of today and yesterday are no different for it is the subject matter of intimacy between two people that is the mire of our society while images of violence are allowed and praised. In 1900, the most popular film was The Great Train Robbery, which was also crafted by Edison. From the title alone, this film has a much more violent theme than The Kiss or Kissing

I am not suggesting that violent films should be moth balled in replace of more sexual films. I personally enjoy action films and movies such as Pulp Fiction, A Clockwork Orange, and Taxi Driver are among my all time favorite films. However, I think it is instructive to consider what subjects our society restricts and to think of why these subjects over others are viewed in certain ways. By doing so, we as a society can understand ourselves better and come to more holistic conclusions on what direction our society should take in the future.

Documentary of the Arctic Resurfaces after 108 years!

Still from Trip to the Moon
A hundred years ago popular culture was much different than today's. This statement probably won't surprise anyone but I doubt that many people know what was popular 100 years ago. Looking back on what constituted popular culture forces me to think of what is considered popular culture today and how it will be viewed in the future. A hundred years ago popular culture was characterized by learning about foreign cultures and landscapes (to name but two), which are subjects found in famous pieces of literature such as Heart of Darkness and early films such as Trip to the Moon, which is a film presented within the recent wonderful film Hugo.

Early publicity image from the arctic.
In the mid to late 19th Century, film was just beginning. The beginnings of film are rooted in the public showing of photographs, which is something that has been featured in the recent AMC show Hell on Wheels with the two Irish brothers showing photos from home that are projected upon a screen. One of the more popular subjects for these screenings, and for the first silent movies, was images of the savages in exotic locales. The images that were captured during this time have been a rich resource for anthropologists and archaeologists in studying the life-ways of traditional cultures in areas such as South America, Africa, Polynesia, and the Canadian Arctic.

Illustration of the search for the Franklin Expedition.
The arctic, in particular, captured the popular imagination because of it's stark dissimilarity to the world in which Westerner's knew. This ice covered land that appeared to be uninhabitable was instead populated by thriving Inuit groups. This region was also important as a possible route for shipping as the Panama canal had yet to be built at this time. The exploits of Western explorers (think Shackelton and Franklin) became legendary and entranced Western audiences via newspaper articles, public lectures, and of course, newly created slide shows and later moving pictures.

Still from The Romance of the Far Fur Country
Recently, a documentary resurfaced from archives in England that dates to 1919! This silent film was entitled The Romance of the Far Fur Country. This is some of the earliest footage of the Canadian arctic and it seems from the BBC News story that the film is very romantic in nature, which is inline with many of the arctic documentaries of that era. The restored documentary will be shown in numerous arctic communities and hopefully will be made available online through the HBC archives, which is the company that originally financed the film. I recomend you see this film as it provides an idea of what once constituted popular culture and is also an excellent portal into how traditional cultures thrived in the Canadian arctic!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Assassidate ~ New Webseries from David & Kate Hewlett!

David Hewlett hard at work on set of Stargate
David Hewlett is perhaps best known for his role in the Stargate franchise, notably Atlantis. His sister, Kate, also acted alongside him in a few episodes but she is not as well known. David is also known for his writing and acting abilities in the beloved cult Canadian indy films, Cube and Nothing; I beg you to see these two movies if you have not already! Recently, David was cast as the angry neighbor in Rise of the Planet of the Apes movie that was released in the summer of 2011. Privately (or perhaps not so privately), David is known for his consistent Tweeting about his son and their geekish adventures of making lightsabers and learning the inner mysteries of comic book lore. Suffice to say, David is one beloved icon of geekdom! 

Just this week, David and his sister Kate released the first episode of their webseries entitled Assassidate. The first episode is just over 3 minutes long and focuses on a skype conversation between the brother and sister where David reveals that his wife just left him. Within three minutes I managed to laugh more frequently and harder than I have at most of the tv shows aired this season! The premise is unique and filled with geeky references -if you're not a geek, make sure to look up what LARP is before watching this! The comedic timing is also spot on, with juicy punches being jovially thrown between the two siblings. I highly recomend watching this webseries and I hope to see more episodes in the near future!

Geekdad has a good article about this webseries, and the original vid can be found on youtube here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Star Trek Sequel Update!

I loved J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movie because it was a fresh and gritty take on a classic sci-fi favorite. I also appreciated the movie because it engaged people that were not originally fans of the franchise, such as my wife who loathed the acting in the original series but loved how the characters were portrayed in the new movie despite how the new actors faithfully rendered the styling of the original Enterprise crew. This being said, I do recognize how many Star Trek fans were dismayed as to how Abrams filmed a Star Trek movie that was more in line with the Star Wars franchise and dismissed some of the core values of the original shows.

The latest news of the Star Trek sequel is that principal photography has begun, along with the announcement that the release date will be May 17th, 2013. Below is the press release from Paramount pictures:
Paramount Pictures announced today that principal photography has commenced in Los Angeles, CA on the sequel to STAR TREK from director J.J. Abrams. The film will be released on May 17, 2013 in 3D. The 2009 re-launch of the “Star Trek” franchise by Abrams was met with critical acclaim and a worldwide gross of over $385 million at the box office.
Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions present a Bad Robot Production of a J.J. Abrams Film. Returning to their posts on the Enterprise are John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoƫ Saldana, Karl Urban, and Anton Yelchin. They are joined by new cast members Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve and Peter Weller.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Top Movies of 2011: My Opinion

For what it's worth, here's my list of the top movies I've seen this year. There are a few movies I did not have a chance to see yet that I am sure would make it somewhere in this list, such as Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, Midnight in Paris, Ides of March, Driver, The Artist, and Martha Marcy May Marlene. Nonetheless, I have seen a large swath of the movies released this year and I have noticed that the ones I believed to be the best were nowhere to be found on the lists others have set up (for instance Rotten Tomatoes). In particular, I strongly felt Hugo was an astounding piece of film despite being unanimously panned and dismissed, unlike the popular clunker that the Descendants was and yet unanimously hailed as being the year's strongest.

The movies here are what I felt were some of the best and most worth watching. I had more of a 'take it or leave it' mentality for movies like Contagion and Transformers, and hence are included here.

My choices:

1. Hugo
 A visually stunning movie where Scorsese delivers a doctoral thesis on why film is important and how 3D can be used to tell a story. This is a masterful movie where each character is well rounded and utilized to their full potential. Most under-rated movie of the year.
2. 50/50
 This was an astounding movie in how real and powerful the subject matter of cancer was presented. The performance by Joseph Gordan Levitt was inspiring and the script was strong. Levitt definitely deserves an Oscar nod, if not the prize itself.

3. War Horse
 It begins with a Disney-esque sequence but quickly turns into a Spielberg classic thereafter. This is a movie constructed around several vignettes that approach the subject of war from a few different angles and manages to do so deftly and with great thought. What surprised me the most was that considering I am not someone who cares for animal centric movies, I was moved and attached to the character of the horse by the end of the film.

4. The Muppets
 To be fair, I am a little biased in my opinion of this movie as I was already a fan of this franchise. However, the people that went to see the movie with me were not but quickly became fans thereafter. I loved how witty and original the songs were, how gifted the jokes were, and how the new movie stayed true to the original conception of the Henson Muppets.
5. Young Adult
 This movie stands out from many of the other movies I saw this year for it's unparalleled acting from Charlize Theron and the level of detail that director Jason Reitman brings to the screen. The story is flawless with having a twisted nature that makes you simultaneously sympathize and hate the main character.
6. Crazy Stupid Love
 Hands down the biggest surprise of the year. Going in I thought I would encounter a generic romantic comedy but instead left seeing a well thought out and composed drama. A multitude of well conceived characters both in story and acting are presented. 
7. Money Ball
 The acting is superb and the cinematography is captivating. The love for the game is on center stage and interest in the characters is abound. The movie falters, however, with not presenting enough on the characters themselves and would have done better if the supporting characters were developed more. 
8. Captain America
 It has the thrills as expected with a summer block-buster, but it also had some of the strongest characters to be found in any movie this year. The movie is filled with fun and excitement, which pleased me on a visceral level but also left me surprised with the breadth of story and character. By far the best of the summer block busters.
9. Friends with Benefits
 Reminded me of 300 Days of Summer, but came up short in the story's grandeur and originality. However, I greatly appreciated the refreshingly real substance of this romantic comedy, which is why I draw parallels to it and 300 Days of Summer. 
10. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  Like Captain America, I came in expected a generic summer blockbuster but left seeing something much more. While falling in the category of sci-fi, this is more of a drama that focuses on the relationship between an ailing father and his son. This is an incredibly bleak movie with strong acting and a surprisingly sophisticated story line. One of the year's dark horses.
11. Arthur Christmas
 Funny and touching. The subject matter is not unique as it features the squabbling relationships within a family, but it is executed very well with numerous well timed laughs to make it perhaps the best animated movie of the year.
12. Harry Potter
 The ending of an epic franchise. By itself, the movie is strong but not excellent. However, in the context of the series this finally acts as a terrific bookend. I left the theater feeling satisfied with how the characters were left but was aggravated how it completely dropped the Deathly Hallows' storyline that the previous two movies had been working towards.
13. Thor
  There is nothing deep or Oscar worthy found in this movie. However, this was one of the most fun movies of the year besides The Muppets. Some of the best casting was featured in this movie, with a story line that had a perfect pace and amount of laughs that filtered through the screaming action sequences. The biggest flaw, however, was that a lot more story could have been told. In particular, this story focuses on the decent and resurrection of Thor, but the story pays hardly any time to showing Thor's decent.
14. Bridesmaids
 While funny, I did not find this movie as hysterical as some. It is obviously a female take on The Hangover, and does so with a considerable amount of originality. One of the better comedies of the year.
15. X-Men: First Class
 Like Thor, X-Men had some of the year's best casting. The acting was outstanding but the film suffered from several slow moments in the story; Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy stole the show.
16. Super 8
I want this movie to be better! The first 4/5 of the movie reminded me of the best Spielberg films but the ending was so damn poor and cliched! The movie opens with an original premise and uses aliens as a foil to understand the relationship between father and son, and the loss of the mother character. Excellent dialogue and acting all around, but with such a weak and generic ending it reminded me of District 9 where again we had an original movie that ended like a generic action flick.
17. Descendants
 I don't get why people love this movie so much. George Clooney is good but he is only playing himself; I do not see a noticeable difference from how he portrayed characters in other movies. The directing is well executed with some terrific cinematography, however the story is segmented with characters being haphazardly dropped and a different storyline being awkwardly jammed in half-way through the movie.

Star Wars Lego Mini-Figures: 7957 Sith Nightspeeder

Over the holidays I was given a new Star Wars Lego set! This is a new set based off characters from the Clone Wars tv show and featured Asajj Ventress, Savage Opress, and Anakin Skywalker. This set's vehicle is pretty simple, featuring a skiff-like machine with two detachable rocket-styled bikes. Opress and Ventress utilize the vehicle. There is nothing horribly complicated to this set, and truly the set is memorable only for the mini-figures that it includes.

I did not previously have a Ventress or Opress in my Lego mini-figure collection, but do have several Clone Wars Anakin Skywalker figures. The Ventress mini-figure included two lightsabers with curved handles similar to Count Dooku's. Her body has a simple design with dark blues and blacks, with small amounts of silver on the front. The head has an intricate design, faithfully representing the markings she sports in the cartoon series. These markings are found on both the front and back of her head.

Savage Opress is easily one of the most complex mini-figures I've seen. He came with two weapons, a double-sided lightsaber and a large war axe. The front of his face has an intricate design similar to that of Darth Mauls', but is in eye and has a head attachment with upward extended horns. A chest plate fits under his head and covers another intricate yellow design. When the chest plate is fitted on, this yellow design is completely obscured. I appreciate the level of detail here as Lego did not have to add the yellow design with it being covered up.

#7957 set Anakin
Lastly, an Anakin Skywalker mini-figure was included in this set. He came with a blue lightsaber that had a dull silver handle. Black and brown colors dominate his body, with simple lines suggesting robes and a belt, which is the attire worn during the cartoon series. There are scars on both the left and right side of his face and his hair is big and disheveled. Compared to the other Clone Wars series Anakin Skywalker I have (from the #7669, Anakin's Jedi Starfighter set) , the heads are identical, but the chest for the new one is much darker in color and has a slightly different pattern.

All three mini-figures from #7957
#7669 set Anakin with R2D2