July 31, 2012

New Skyfall Trailer Drops And It Looks Pretty Fresh

I've been following this new Bond flick for a while and I gotta say, it looks pretty dope. Yet, I was burned hard by the horribly directed QUANTUM OF SOLACE, so I'm not all in yet in yet. That being said I'm kind of a sucker for a exciting action so yeah I mean cranes versus train versus truck versus Bond versus Mr. Friendo Bardem = looks out of control per usual.

July 25, 2012

TPG Batman Facts

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families of the tragic attacks in Aurora. I struggled if I should post this but since the character of Batman has brought me and so many others great joy and memories for so long, I think it's fitting that a personal reflection on the character gets posted. Seeing Christian Bale visit the victims on his own accord reminded me of the power of this character, so here you go, some real deep TPG Batman Utility Belt tools.
  1. I endured two Christmas and two Birthdays of not getting the "Batcave Commander Center" toy. Do you you know what it's like to expect the Batcave Command Center and end up with some bullshit like the Baxter Building. Whatever, that was my first true test of Batman fandom and it made me the fan I am today.
  2. In the build-up to to The Dark Knight Rises I once theorized that Tom Hardy was going to be playing Superman and that Superman would be the villain in the film. Right actor/wrong villain.
  3. My good friend Jesse, notable comic book guru and internet music deity gave me his copy of The Dark Knight Returns to read when I was in 9th grade. Best Batman story in any medium ever made. Read it.
  4. Someone is borrowing my copy of that, if you have it, please give it back.
  5. I've been deep in the potential Knightfall storyline connections to the film for a while. Peep my post here. For good reason though, my oldest brother is a huge fan, and made sure that my other brother and I were totally immersed in the story. When we scored this epic poster of the Azrael Batman for his birthday it was the greatest gift I've ever given my brother.
  6. The first comic I ever bought was a Tim Drake Robin comic where he fights the Joker when Batman is overseas. Bought it at Bob City Comics in Natick. Bought it cause it had a hologram on it. Holograms are still cool btw.
  7. The Batman Forever soundtrack was a key part of my childhood. Full of choice songs from U2, Method Man, and The Flaming Lips.
  8. Batman Forever was the first Batman movie I saw in theaters. Batman & Robin was one of my first cinematic disappointment experiences. Bad explosions, stupid villains, and somehow they made the girl from Clueless not hot.
  9. I once wrote a college essay on the connection between Batman and Gothic literature. Got an A and everyone thought I was a nerd...am I a nerd?
  10. Bruce Wayne is cooler than Tony Stark? Do I believe that? Not sure. Do you?

July 23, 2012

TPG's Chemistry Class: Episode 5002 "Madrigal"

I wanna be like Mike! I mean, not really, but, seriously, Mike man, dude's got that ice in his veins (or does he, more on that later.) In every other TV show this would be a "setup" episode, and while it does serve that function, it's also an insightful look into one of the show's best characters. And finally also provided me with the first mind bone of the season, but we'll get to that later.

Meaning of Title - Hmmm, while some names on this show are easy to decode - Los Pollos Hermanos - means Chicken Brothers, just kidding, this one is tough. The wikipedia page is full of shit about music, soccer players, and characters, in books. But perhaps if we look at like a "Lost" like anagram we find meaning. Ahh...what's this? I found "A Mad Girl" which could be prophetic considering the woman we met tonight.

Acting! - With the show raking in the Emmy nominations, we got a nice little reminder here from Aaron Paul about why he's just as good if not better than Bryan Cranston. His speech where he broke down about the cigarette was phenomenal.

1. This was far removed from the somewhat zany magnetic antics of last week, instead we got some serious back story on everyone's favorite cleaner - Mike Ehrmantraut. We learn about his past in Philly, that he used to be a cop, and retired under somewhat dramatic circumstances. The scene where he is questioned by Hank & Goateemez was tense and classic "Breaking Bad." But that wasn't even it, the hit he dropped on the assassin was so smooth from the piggy on the door to the quick shots to the chest, it reminded us that aka the ear man is such a great strong vicious character.

2. It's nice seeing Jesse and Mr. White do insipid tasks like tear through apartments for poison cigarettes set to rock music.

3. Also nice to see that Heisenberg is up to his old tricks stashing money/drugs/guns/poison in his house where his family rests their heads.

4. Speaking of family, that's what this whole thing is about right? I when I say whole thing, I mean the entire show. It's providing for family that makes Walt start cooking. It's family that drives Tio Salamanca's rage that takes down Gus. And it's family that makes Mike not ice the Sylvia, the Madrigal woman. But who's family is Mike thinking about. His own, who now has lost that two million the DEA found? Or is it Slyvias

5. Walt is motivated wants to save his family. Mike wants to save his family. Jesse? We haven't seen his family in a long time, and while he may care about Brock and Andrea, we haven't seen them around. And yet, so far this season we have seen Walter get reaaaal creepy with Skylar and tell her the value of family. I'm not sure if Jesse shares those values at this point, this could be a serious asset.

6. Let's talk about Madrigal company for a little bit. If they're above Gus, then it's kind of disappointing,  I really wanted him to be the top dog. But if they are, then what are to make the Germans? They seem just a reserved as Gus in their sit down with the D.E.A and they're also ruthless enough to start icing people right away. Where the story goes from here, I'm not sure, but I don't think we've seen the last of them, and in fact at Comic Con, series creator Vince Gilligan said we will be hearing more German than Spanish this season.

7. MIND BONE WITH PESTO TOMATO SPREAD WITH SOME MOZZARELLA - There are 12 Madrigal associates including Gus. 12! That's some biblical business folks. Does that Jesus the head of Madrigal? Are we looking at a Meth German Jesus? That's almost too much to handle.

8. What's that, a cold wind blows on the New Mexico sands, yes, it's the Spirit of The West chiming in with his Western thoughts:
Last week's classic Western trope, TEAMWORK gives way this week to its counterpoint, BETRAYAL. New character Sylvia -- who works for Gus Fring's (former) multinational chemical supplier, Madrigal -- comes to ABQ looking for assurance that Mike's guys aren't going to rat them out. He assures her they're solid, that they're in no danger of losing their heads. And everything seems fine.…except Sylvia's skittish and hires another hit man to dispatch all 11 partners, including Mike. BIG MISTAKE, LADY. Before you can say "broken friendship bracelet" Mike has dispatched his would-be assassin and confronts Sylvia, like a boss. You see it  in every Western: fragile alliances shattered, so often by money (or the prospect of money). Everyone looks out for #1. There are true friends sometimes, but ultimately the cowboy rides alone -- to his fortune, or to his death. I expect we'll be seeing both this season on 'Breaking Bad'!
9.  Gotta love how Walter says that "There is gold in the streets waiting for someone to scoop it up," and then we cut to a nice game of Hungry Hungry hippos, gotta gobble up that cash!

10. I loved how Sylvia lived in some modern new age glass house. It works as a double metaphor because A) People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks...because bald dudes like Mike will come to your house to kill you B) All these people are under the microscope now, both by their employers and the D.E.A.

11. With Mike decreeing that he's calling the shots now, is he the new Gus? And if he is....I'm totally cool with that.

July 22, 2012

How The Dark Knight Rises Succeeds and Fails Spectacularly At The Same Time

"The Dark Knight Rises" is an excellent conclusion to Christopher Nolan's cinematic take on Batman, yet it's also a disappointing sequel to "The Dark Knight." Don't freak out here folks, the movie is not bad by any means, it's totally deserving here of your money and at 2 hours and 45 minutes, your time as well. And while I may just be someone recovering from my massively high expectations, I still can't shake the feeling that Nolan botched his follow up to the one of the greatest films of all time.

In order to understand this, let's take a look at "The Dark Knight." Full of incredible performances, epic action, and a tight focused story, it won a boatload of awards and received the distinction of being "more than a comic book movie." The reason it carries this badge of honor is because it is a film about the battles of ideas, just as it's a showdown between Batman and Joker. A clear parable for eight years of the Bush Presidency, the film makes statements on the effect of terrorism on society, the burden of protecting the populace, and the individual's deep potential for good. The climax of that film is not a comic book showdown but rather a Shakespearean battle of ideas with three deeply psychologically wounded men trying to save what they believe in. It's all deep, rewarding, and while not totally entertaining (I've always found it to be a little heavy), it's completely effective.

Going into "The Dark Knight Rises," I was expecting more of the thematic weight mentioned above. Written by the same creative team and trailers featuring dialogue seemingly ripped from the "Occupy Wall-street" movement (Nolan even discussed shooting at the camps) I was expecting more social commentary about our world and Batman's place in it. Sadly, these ideas are nowhere to be found in the story. That isn't to say Nolan doesn't try to make this a political story. Scenes of mutilated bodies hanging off bridges, debris clouds enveloping police officers, and airplane hijackings all are clear images inspired by the "war on terror," yet the driving force behind them, the primary villain Bane, doesn't give them any thematic weight.

Physically intimidating than anything else, Bane doesn't stand for anything as clear as the Joker's anarchistic message. He gives some great speeches, but ultimately as details of his plan, back story, and a certain alliance seem to render it all mute. Seeing him battle Batman is thrilling powerful stuff, but he's just muscle, and little else (which has to be disappointing to comic book fans) At the end of the "The Dark Knight" the Joker is literally left hanging, but it doesn't matter, his power is felt beyond his actions. Here...Bane is just...a beast...and not much more, his actions don't have real impact on the story and the film suffers because of it.

But where the film fails to execute on it's interesting ideas, it succeeds everywhere else. Michael Caine is astounding as Alfred, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great as a noble Gotham cop, and Anne Hathaway's Catwoman is very enjoyable. The action particularly in IMAX is thundering and the insistence on practical effects over computer generated stuff is refreshing. Thislalife readers will be happy to know there are many Oh Shit Moments and many times I found myself pumping my fist in excitement.

Finally while the film may fail on making a statement about the world we live in, it does a great job of concluding the journey of Bruce Wayne and The Batman. As a whole, this is probably the best super hero movie trilogy ever made, and maybe even the best trilogy ever*. In the future I'll be dropping more posts about how the film stacks up against other comic book films, where I think the franchise is going, and soon, I'll be giving you some news about it, but for now, go see "The Dark Knight Rises," its a great movie, but not as good as the masterpiece known as "The Dark Knight."

*It's definitely better Spiderman and X-Men. I'd even say it's better than the original Star Wars trilogy. The only one it has trouble with is Godfather.

*For a great article about the politics of the film check out Badass Digest

July 16, 2012

TPG'S Chemistry Class: Episode 5001 "Live Free or Die"

Remember when Walter had once had to practice using a tiny little pistol? Welcome to Breaking Bad, where our hero (?) has made a massive leap in terms of fire power. But we'll get into all that in a second, but first, let's just be happy that this amazing show is back!  There was a lot going on here so let's put on our chemical suits and step off the ladder into the meth soaked details of this first episode.

Meaning of Title - Last year I did a post about how the whole show is really about the individual's quest for control. This episode just reinforces that. Free is the only way to do it, you either make the rules or you're a sucker.

Acting! - As much as I wanna give it to Jonathan Banks (Mike), I gotta give up for Bryan Cranston for just reminding us what a monster Walter White is.

1. Let's get right into it with that opening. Set sometime in the future, we have Walt going by an alias purchasing an M60 machine gun from someone in a Denny's bathroom (isn't that where all firepower gets purchased). Couple things I noticed here was that Walt is still coughing, which indicates that his cancer may be back at this point in the future. Also he seems extremely weathered and he's celebrating his birthday by himself so maybe at this point both his family and friends (?) have all left him. And finally, later in this episode he tells Jesse he doesn't have much cash on hand. Well leaving 100 dollar tips and buying GTA like firearms certainly indicates the winds of scrilla have blown back in his favor. But could he could afford a better disguise, if that is even a disguise? I think it is.

2. I love how Walt is now "The King" with Gus being dead but he's still pretty sloppy at the whole criminal thing. See how he bumbles around his kitchen cleaning up bomb making supplies, pours himself some whiskey, and then remembers the Lily of the Valley, a massive piece of his devious schemes. He may be close to Montana/Corleone status in terms of power, but he's still a bumbling bald dude.

3. Speaking of bald dudes, we as viewers should be aware that Breaking Bad is pretty much Breaking Bald with the bulk of the characters not sporting any flowing locks. Walt, Hank, Mike, and now Ted have embraced the shiny top (while I'm not sure it was Ted's choice) and Jesse as well keeps shit short as well. I wonder what show creator Vince Gilligan has against hair.

4. When is Jesse going to explode? He's way to trusting of Walt: loaning him money, following his plans, putting his life on the line for his. Content with now being satisfied with janky magnetic plans (yeahhh bitchhh) he has a showdown of epic proportions when all is revealed regarding Jane and Brock. Perhaps that M60 is for the final showdown with his former student.

5. Can we talk Godfather here for a second? It's no secret that show loves to pay homage, but I was shocked that Ted survived after those oranges fell on him, which in the masterpiece film is a dead giveaway someone is about to bite it. Also all these scenes with the baby, I got a really creepy Godfather Michael Corleone vibe. Skylar messed up big time by roping Ted into their business and I wonder if that kiss at the end...was like the one Michael gives Fredo...and we know how that ends for Fredo (he gets killed... if for some reason you haven't seen Godfather 2...and if you haven't...really...get on that shit!).

6. Yes I did just say that I think Walter would kill Skylar to stay in power.

7. This season we'll be featuring some guest commentators, so I had a chance to ask "The Spirit Of The West "(follow him on twitter here) on the cinematic classic western imagery and archetypes figured into last night's standoff.

While last night's episode was more "caper" than anything else (there were BLACK SKI MASKS), Western influences still shined through. Take Mike's confrontation with Jesse and Walt. It's the first time he's seen either in weeks, and since they last met, those knuckleheads sort of killed his boss. They're probably going to get grounded! In an insanely beautiful shot, two cars nearly collide before coming to respective screeching halts. And sure enough, Mike draws his gun as soon as he gets out of the car. 
8. Glad to see the Boston Museum of Science getting a shout out, great museum.

9. How nice that they ended up at the junkyard, hatching schemes, as the junk-yard has figured prominently into Breaking Bad mythology. I'm sure astute viewers picked up on the red and blue cars in the background. Chemistry Class readers will recall the Real Life Scientists epic explanation for how those colors fit into the show, glad they're keeping it going.

10. We didn't get to see how Hank reacted to the laptop getting toasted, but it's safe to say he'll be heated. He was walking with a cane, which shows he's made huge progress, by the end of this micro-season he'll be on his feet. Re-invigorated, he's going to be on the warpath, and it's only a matter of time before we get the showdown we've always wanted.