December 18, 2009

What Avatar Is

1. Avatar is every bit as mind blowing as you expect to be. I spent a large part of my car ride to work determining if it was the best movie I HAVE EVER SEEN IN my life! Repeat viewing will tell.

2. Avatar is pretty much fanboy/geek/nirvana

3. Avatar is like living inside a psychedelic black light painting that your roommate had one their wall in college for looking at when he was "bored".

4. Avatar is an epic narrative that feels welcomingly familiar yet magically new at the same time.

5. Avatar is full of performances that are surprisingly good for a movie like this. Zoe Saldana in particular really shines, which is astounding because she's a motion capture character the whole movie. Oh yes, by the way, these motion capture creatures look completely real*, you will feeeel for them.

6. Avatar is so visually breathtaking that it I worry that the next 2D action movie I see (Yes even Iron Man 2) will seem like some simple VHS dub copy that someone recorded off TNT at 2:36 AM on a Tuesday night. In fact, from a special effects standpoint is greater than the WOW factor of the special effects of the combined face melting power Jurassic Park, ID4, District 9, and everything else you ever thought was cool in your entire life.

7. Avatar succeeds in foreshadowing every single cool thing that happens in the story. For example, when one character says "Someone will come who has the power to wield the super badass mega spear of truth destiny power and enlightenment," you damn well know that our boy is going to be regulating on space marines with the super badass mega spear of truth destiny power and enlightenment.**

8. Avatar is so insanely epic in it's scope that it makes the final battles of ID4 and Lord of The Rings (sick link there by the way) look like warm-up training videos for the final battle of Pandora.

9. Avatar is a movie that works on some deeeeeeep Bob Thompson levels. On one level, It's a film about a person who goes into a stationary position, turns his mind off, and occupies a new reality. On another level, technically, you as the viewer, watching in 3D IMAX (Gotta see it that way) tune out and get into a new world. Just like the protagonist in the movie, you'll find yourself waiting to get back into the virtual world and having a hard time telling what's real. I've been out of the movie for not even 12 hours and can't wait to see it again.

10. Avatar, finally is, what happens when a brilliant creative mastermind perfectly melds old fashioned story telling with cutting edge 21st century technology. It's a masterpiece of filmmaking and shining testament to the power of movies!

*You can kiss the Robert Zemeckis garbage (Beowulf, Christmas Carol, Polar Express) goodbye.

** This doesn't happen in the movie

December 17, 2009

24 Christmas Special

End Of The Decade Jumpoff: City of God

2002's "City of God" is the freshest movie of the decade. I'm not sure if it is the best (it could be, I haven't go that far), but it ranks highly as a film that succeeds on every level. The story is a complex tapestry of different time periods, character motivations, and adventure, all taking places in the wild slums of Rio De Janeiro. And the characters, from the terrifying Lil Ze to the heartbreaking Knockout Ned, invigorate the film with pulsating energy equal to the film's legendary soundtrack.   However, the clincher is the masterful direction by Brazilian born Fernando Meirelles.

The opening scene of the movie featured above, is an astounding feat of raw filmmaking. From a technical standpoint it's incredible; the editing, sound design, and camera work is dope (it even uses the "matrix" effect in an artistic way). When looked at the context of the story, the commencement is even more brilliant because it briefly introduces us to many of the main characters of the film  way before we get to know them in the context of the story. On repeat viewings of the film, the viewer can pick out characters and say, "damn, I didn't realize Carrot is holding a gun in that scene."

Yet what really sets the film apart for me is it's incredible depth. You show the movie to your bros and it's a "Scarface" like criminal narrative full of larger than life characters and badass one liners. On another level, it's a moving coming of age story (albeit a violent one) about a boy who matures into a strong young man and talented artist (the film was based off the autobiographical book written by the main character "Rocket"). And finally from a cultural standpoint, it really set the tone for the action-thriller genre. The handheld camera work came two years before "The Bourne Supremacy" made it the norm, and the gritty realism would set the tone from everything from "Slumdog Millionare" to even the most recent video game smash "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2."

Check it out, I guarantee you'll like it, and that guarantee comes with a 100% stamp of approval of freshness. Keep it fresh, keep it cool, and keep it as one of the best movies of the decade.

There is Partying And Then There Is This

If only this dude was wearing a costume.

December 16, 2009

Is Avatar An Ad For Vonage?

Yes, the blue alien woman is aghast that that the blue alien man got the coloring wrong on his full face Vonage tattoo. Yes, I can't wait for Avatar!

December 11, 2009

Happy Hanukkah

You light the candles, I light up all the suckas that don't respect the Hebrew Hammer! But seriously, to all my Jewish readers, have a wonderful holiday season!

December 10, 2009

Decade Jumpoff: Grand Theft Auto And The American Narrative

Released in October 2001 for the Playstation 2 console, Grand Theft Auto III shook the world with it's controversial violence, scope of it's story, and complete realization of it's world (even down to it's radio stations). Video games had never been like this before, and if you believe the numerous accolades the game has received, video games were never the same after. It pioneered the open "sandbox" game where everything from peacefully driving a taxi cab for money to going on murderous sprees was possible. And while this was a huge reason why the games were so successful, it is not the only reason. As ye olde high school english teacher once said to me: "It's all about the story."

Whether it's bank robber Jesse James, depression all-star John Dillinger, or fictional characters such as Michael Corleone or Tony Montana, the criminal is massive figure in American storytelling. Part of the reason the GTA series is so successful is because it taps into this outlaw spirit that America loves. We can relate to the protagonist's struggle to get to a better life but we also want them to do it in a fantastical (i.e. violent) way that we as law abiding citizens cannot.

However just as stories around campfires evolved into books and then into movies, GTA is the next jump in terms of the criminal narrative. GTA IV was the first game in the series to present choices to the gamer. And while the writing isn't winning any Pulitzers, the many narrative parts of the massive story show how effective a video game can be as a narrative. This great article from SLATE magazine perfectly exemplifies this point.
At one pivotal moment, Bellic has to choose between killing two people—one a total jerk who could help advance his career, and one a good friend who can't do much for him. There's no right or wrong decision here—well, actually, there are two wrong decisions—and players will struggle to make the choice. No cheat code or online FAQ can help you here.

While I don't see the video game replacing the book or the moving picture any time soon, GTA is the series that shows the true narrative potential of video games. In the next decade the medium as a true storytelling tool will definitely evolve, and don't worry, I hope it goes someplace more than killin cops with flame throwers and icing criminals with baseball bats (but that's still kind of fun).

December 8, 2009

Decade Jumpoff: The Symmetry of Diesel

Vin Diesel is the decade's most symmetrical movie star. His ten year span of ass kicking and pushing pedals to the limit is almost poetic in how it fits together. And while I'm not saying it was composed with a fountain pen by Kay Ryan (that's the Poet Laureate yo), but it's interesting how it all fits together.

Some say that Diesel's career started with movies like "Boiler Room" and "Pitch Black," and while those were solid films, let's be honest, things didn't jump into higher speed until "The Fast and The Furious."

It was a movie that took a classic American story; a man, a car, and whole bunch of evil folks and updated it with nitrous tanks and import models. Yet it no coincidence that other characters in the film (Paul Walker, Ja Rule) drive foreign imports, Diesel, Mr. Melting Pot drives a classic American muscle car (granted he totals it in the end, but hey, that's foreshadowing his career trajectory).

With "The Fast & The Furious" underneath his belt, he took a whole bunch of bizarre projects trying to become an even bigger star. He fought aliens (including an alien Judi Dench), battled terrorists with XXXtreme sports, and even saved babies from Koreans (come on now Vin!), but never became the massive star everyone thought he would be. So he went back to what he was good at: punishing fools and pushing pedals to the limit. 2009's "Fast & Furious" was a smash, opening to 70 million and making over 340 million world wide.

So, Vin, you start the decade with fast cars and end it with end with faster cars and I'll forget about the crap in the middle. Wait, what, now that you're a star again, your making sequels to Chronicles of Riddick and XXX, no, you can't be serious, didn't you learn anything? Vin? Vin?

December 7, 2009



When I turned 10 years old, it was a very big deal for all the parties involved. I was anxiously expecting the impending arrival of some fresh Nerf guns and my parents, grandparents, and other relatives were impressed that I was now in double digit world. Double digits, that's a hell of concept. I can only imagine what 100 feels like. I can tell you one thing, that's a hell of lot candles on a cake.

And now here we are, on the cusp of entering the double digit years, it's a place that we're going to be a long time. Barring some insane medical advancements, I'll probably retire both in the literal and metaphorical sense in the double digits. The world is going to change a lot in the doubles, hopefully things will be double the fun and joy, and not double the sadness.

So before the great odometer ticks up, let's take this time to look back at EVERYTHING. There are many retrospectives coming out now, and many more  forthcoming. Some, like TIME magazine's  seek to remind you how much the decade sucked. Some like, Film School Rejects provide a very insightful look on the important films of the decade. Me, well, let's just say I went through high school, college, and young adulthood during the 00s, so in other words, I have lots to talk about.

December 4, 2009

Have A Ahhhhhhhnuld Weekend

Still Got It

When Is It Cool To Start Bumping Christmas Jams?

When it comes to Christmas Music, there are couple of things you gotta know. The first, I don't play games when it comes to Christmas music. The second, I have a very substantial library full of classic standards and modern bangers. The third, don't even think about spreading sonically inclined holiday cheer until December 1!

Christmas in CalifornIay can be tough. There isn't that many lights, there definitely isn't snow anywhere, and tis' hard to be in Christmas cheer when you are wearing board shorts and surfing all the time brahhhhh. So, because it doesn't really feel like Christmas, I've been struggling with tapping the song library because I don't want to start the sleigh early (apparently starting the sleigh early can really unjingle some people's bells).

What I'm going to do, is ease into the Christmas song world. One minute I'll be listening to some Brad Paisley, mix it up with a little brah man indie rock Edward Sharpe, and then out of nowhere comes Jim Jones "Living Fast and Balling At Christmas Time." The next day I'll stuff the Christmas Song Stocking a little more, then a little more. Before you know, I'll have Mariah Carey on repeat, and if you don't know about Mariah Carey and Christmas, well you must be Scrooge.

December 3, 2009

Scar Wars

This was on slashfilm earlier, but it's too good not to share with the world.

December 2, 2009

Steven Seagal Lawman: And Why The WWF Should Be More Powerful

Nothing gets Steven Seagal excited like mix and matching human appendages into strange positions. Take this poor fellow above, looks like he's a victim of Steven making a modern art piece of human arms. And don't want to share the rest of the images, but let's just say I've seen Steven Seagal do some  things with fingers, toes, and kneecaps, that you can't possibly fathom. But all arm twisting aside, are people aware that Steven has a new TV show where he is a cop? Let me clarify, he is not playing a cop, no, he really is a cop, apparently he's been one for 20 years.

That being said, if the reviews of the show are to be believed, apparently Steven is not snapping fingers like chicken bones or ripping out throats (wait, that was Swayze) on the show. Which brings me to the question of the decade? Why the hell is Steven Seagal not snapping fingers like chicken bones and ripping out throats on his TV SHOW?

The reason? I'll tell you the reason.  When it comes to "reality" TV shows like this, the wrong people are calling the shots. The person who needs to be calling the shots is none other than Vince McMahon, the mastermind of the WWE. This is a dude who virtually invented "reality" television, so therefore I'm sure he could make Mr. Seagal's show a hell of lot cooler. And what is cooler? Check out this classic Seagal scene below.

And by the way, if I seem a little crazy today, it's because I still have not recovered from the mind melt of the Iron Man 2 poster.