Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cool Sh*t!!- Tron Legacy Trailer

Disney unveiled the latest trailer for their upcoming sequel to the cult classic Tron titled Tron Legacy last week at comic-con. Here is the synopsis from IMDb:

"Sam Flynn, the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn, looks into his father's disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 25 years. Along with Kevin's loyal confidant, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous."

Woot! Pretty crazy seeing a 20 some year old Jeff Bridges! What do you guys think? Will this save Disney recent terrible rein of live action films (Prince of Persia, The Sorcerer's Apprentice)?

Tron Legacy hits theaters December 17, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

WTF!?- Project Runway Season Premier

Project Runway Season 8 premier! Whoooo! Yes? Anyone? Certainly this show has been dropping in viewership ever since Season 4. It just seems that their talent pool continues to get smaller and smaller each season, but after the series premier last night, whooooooa there, where do they dig up some of these designers?! First they have this Jason character who is actually a landscape designer which obviously came through when we saw his backwards, stapled kimono dress, April and her "deconstructed" jacket or whatever it was, and the fuck was that unflattering, mismatched green dress not in the bottom six?? These were just three of the several terrible designs I saw on the runway last night. Granted, they were only given five hours for the challenge so maybe this is a bad representation of what they can do. Still the judges had plenty of people they could have knocked out for lower than acceptable work. However, they didn't do this. I get the feeling the judges got some sort of second agenda going on here. Ivy and Casanova were two designers who would have been absolutely justified to have gotten the boot last night but neither of them did. Casanova is rather animated personality while Ivy is just irritating and both those qualities will probably draw good drama to the show which the reason I think they didn't receive the "auf" last night.

Another thing I noticed is how bitchy the judges have gotten. Its turned into American Idol where they are just trying to be as offensive and terrible as possible to give the show a little drama. Is that really necessary? I'm not hearing any sort of constructive criticism at all! Nothing but "your dress looks like shit and I would never wear it." Heidi is slowing becoming more and more like that bitch Tyra Banks! One of the few designs I did like was done McKell (which can be seen in the photo above) and guess what...she was kicked off!! Okay I can see that there is a bit too much side boob showing and the bag doesn't match but who cares!? The design is good! I was really looking forward to seeing more of her stuff over the majority of these other designers. At this point I don't know if I'll continue to watch the show. Sad. Use to be one of my favorites when it took itself seriously. I will say though I do see one great budding talent in this group and that Andy. LOVED his ensemble (on the right). Most cohesive outfit out of all of them and he did it in five hours! I give him a 10/10!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review- Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I'm sure many of you have heard by now about a brand new trilogy thats been gripping the entire nation (or should I say world); this being the Millennium series, though you may better know it as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. The latest installment of the series The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest was recently released back in May and is still holding its place as number one on New York Times bestsellers list. Well I actually purchased the U.K. version of the third installment of the series back last October because I had to know what happened next! The series is just that good! I'm pretty sure that sales for all three books will continue to sky rocket for quite awhile and now that there's an American film adaptation of the series underway, we won't see this series dying out anytime soon. Pretty soon all your friends, family and co-workers will be talking about this trilogy so you may want to get reading! In case you really need another person to recommend this book to you, here you go! This review is just going to be on the first book. I'll later review the next two books as well as the Swedish film adaptions of the novels.

First I'd like to ask for you to please bear with me. I read this novel back in 2008 when it was first released in U.S. so everything isn't as fresh in my head. So Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the amazing debut novel by Swedish author Stieg Larsson who delivered this novel along with the next two in the series to his editor right before his unfortunate death in 2004. Stieg Larsson was the editor and chief of the magazine Expo and is a expert on right-wing extremist and Nazi organizations. These factors can be seen glossed all over the novel. The book centers around journalist Mikael Blomkvist of Millennium magazine who gets convicted of libel against billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. Blomkvist thereafter decides to leave his job at Millennium and soon afterwards gets hired for a unusual freelance job by Henrik Vanger, the former CEO of Vanger Enterprises. Henrik contracts Mikael to investigate an old closed cold case of the disappearance of his neice Harriet Vanger. Harriet is believed to have been murdered 40-years ago when she was sixteen by one of the members of Vanger family, all who are part owners of the Vanger Enterprise.

Before Henrik contracted Mikael, he comissioned a complete background check of Mikael through Milton Sercurity. A peculiar, asocial girl named Lisbeth Salander who works at Milton Security carried out Mikeal's investigation. Lisbeth, though she carries a high level security job, has been deemed incompetent and required to be under constant watch of a guardian given to her by the state. It soon becomes clear to the audience that Lisbeth is anything by incompetent. As a genius computer hacker born with Asperges syndrome and photographic memory, Lisbeth is incredibly resourceful and ruthless at times. Mikael's investigation of Harriet's disappearance eventually lands him to run into Lisbeth and together the two of them unravel disturbing, dark secrets of the Vanger family that roots back to affiliations with Swedish fascist organizations.

I loved Larsson's characterization of our Girl Lisbeth Salandar, a genius, emotionally complex biker chick. It's hard to put into words what her character is like exactly. Its obvious from the beginning of the novel that Lisbeth is not a person you'd be able to easily get along with. She's incredibly frigid and emotionally closed. Larsson describes her as looking like a 14-year old anorexic, goth girl who looks like she'd never be able to defend herself. However, we find our that Lisbeth is a born survivor and can be cold and calculative. She has little tolerance for men exploiting women to violence and will take retribution into her own hands. As an audience member, you get the feeling that Lisbeth must have suffered from some sort of traumatic past to bring her to the way she is now. The second installment in the series shows us more of why Lisbeth is the way she is.

Larsson doesn't shy away from brutality and violence throughout his novel. Be pre-warned that there is an incredible amount of disturbing, sexual violence especially towards women, much of it occurring in the context of religious extremism. As a matter of fact, the direct translation of the novel's title is Men Who Hate Women. There have only ever been three novels I've read in my lifetime that have scared me to the point that I couldn't read it at night and this is one of them. Many of the describes scenes will make you squirm and squeal is you're a girl or will make you feel incredibly awkward if you're a guy. Other theme's that the book deals with include contemporary Swedish society, big corporate enterprises, Nazism, and religious extremists.

The book mostly plays out like a mystery drama and it keeps you constantly intrigued and guessing who the killer could be. Larsson can go into incredible detail when describing individual characters so you have to be able to keep up with him or you may lose track of everything that goes on! You won't be able to mindlessly read this book so if thats what your looking for, this might not be the right book for you. The book provides you with a nice family tree of the Vanger family which helped me a lot in keeping track of who is who. As you go into the next two novels of the series, you will be bogged down be even more names and characters so be prepared for that! The second two novels I'll say are pretty different from the first one. They steer away from the mystery genre and hit you with an exciting crime thriller that deals personally with Lisbeth. Regardless, I found the first novel to be absolutely captivating and I think the character of Lisbeth is brilliant. It is sad and unfortunate that Mr. Larsson was unable to live to see the impact that his books about a girl named Lisbeth Salander had on the world.

Recommended- Final Score 9.5/10

Movie Review- Inception

I can tell you right now that I won't be blogging about new release movies too often because the purpose of this blog is to recommend movies that are easily accessible if you were to want to stop by your local Blockbuster for a weekend movie or need another movie to add to your Netflix Queue; however, every once in awhile when there is a big, must see movie in the theaters, I'll probably take the time to write a review. Well this summer has been pretty much a disappointer in turning out both a good dosage of summer worthy films and box office numbers. So far I can say this summer has only turned out two good summer hits: Toy Story 3 and Inception. Since most of you all have probably already seen Inception, feel free to treat this as a discussion and put in your two cents about the film and your interpretations of it, especially the ending.

In case you've been living under a rock, Inception is director/writer Christopher Nolan's (The Dark Knight) most recent film that has been under development for that last ten years. The film is a contemporary sci-fi, heist film that deals with the dream state. Our main character that the film centers around is Dom Cobb played by Leonardo Dicaprio. Cobb is a extremely skilled "extractor" (someone who enters a persons dream to steal their greatest secrets) that gets hired by Saito (played by Ken Wantanabe) to plant an idea into a corporate heir's (Cillian Murphy) mind to bring down his fathers empire. This process is what we call "Inception."

My two friends and I went to check out the film opening night and lucky for us the power in the theater blew out during the third dream state so I didn't get to see how everything ended. Annoyed, I had to go back to the theater the next week to see the conclusion but it was interesting for me to get a second viewing; I was able to catch more things the second time around. I was pretty jumbled by the opening sequence during my first viewing but that was followed by a good 45 minutes of Leonardo DiCaprio explaining the concepts of the dream world in the most idiot proof way possible. Nothing is particularly confusing or abstract- it's all pretty straightforward. Ellen Page's character Adriadne is brought on to the scene as a medium for Leo to explain all this to the audience. This portion of the film drags on for quite awhile causing my friend next to me to fall into a dream state herself. The audience also doesn't get to see much of the detail that goes into planning their upcoming heist and it seems like they just sort of jump into it. Once the heist does start though, ohhhh lawdy, I was on the edge of my seat for the rest of the film.

I loved Nolan playing with the concept of dreams within dreams. It served as a ingenious way of story telling and creates some of the most exciting movie sequences I've seen in a long time. I recently ran across this neat timeline showing how all the dream sequences fit together. As exciting as it was, I think I was expecting more visual glory in the film. Considering that the movie is dealing with going into people's dreams, I thought there would be more abstract, transcendent imagery. For the most part it played out like a normal heist. Everything in the dream world seemed to be nearly identical to the reality of the real world- I know my dreams aren't this lucid! The two big visual wows, Ariadne's city bending and Arthur's zero gravity fight were two of the most shown scenes in the marketing material before it was released so I was hoping the movie would leave more to be seen. Additionally, I thought Inception would play more into the theory and philosophy of the dream state. I've always been fascinated by sleep and dreams because I myself suffer from many sleep disorders. Going into the theater I thought I was going be to coming out with my brain intellectually over cooked and flowing with innovative dream theory.

Regardless, I still ended up loving the film; just more as an action heist film than an intellectually, abstract film. The cast was fantastic. Joseph-Gordon Levitt stole the screen especially when it came around to his fight sequence in the moving hotel. I'm a big Leo fan so anything with him in it I approve. Eames played by Tom Hardy was great as well I think we can be expecting to see more of him after this. As much as I love Ellen Page, I felt like her character was kind of thrown in there just to help the audience meld through everything and so the movie wouldn't be completely run by testosterone. I loved the score done by Hans Zimmern, it made everything feel tense and gritty. Had a cool ending.

Recommended- Final Score 8.5/10

Cool Sh*t!!- The Gift by Carl Rinsch

Last month was the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in France where the best and most creative advertisements of the past year are awarded and recognized. Top prize award, the Film Craft Grand Prix, was given to Philips for their Parallel Lines campaign, specifically The Gift segment, a short sci-fi film directed by Carl Erik Rinsch showing what looks to be a futuristic, dystopia Russia. The concept of Philip's Parallel Lines campaign is as follows:

"The Gift
A film by Carl Erik Rinsch
Part of the Parallel Lines project from Philips Cinema and Ridley Scott Associates.
Five short films. Five genres. Five of RSA's hottest directors. One unifying piece of dialogue.
Were pushing the boundaries of cinematic viewing, giving you the chance to experience the spectacular Ambilight, picture and sound capabilities of Philips TVs for yourself.
There are millions of ways to tell a story.
There's only one way to watch o
ne. "

Here's the short:

Neat Eh? Apparently buzz from this short caused a bidding war among several studios to turn it into a full length feature film. Would you be interested in seeing the full length film?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cool Sh*t!!- Sucker Punch Trailer

Zack Snyder's (300, Watchmen) next new original film Sucker Punch has debuted a first look trailer this past weekend at Comic Con.

Official Synopsis:

“Sucker Punch” is an epic action fantasy that takes us into the vivid imagination of a young girl whose dream world provides the ultimate escape from her darker reality. Unrestrained by the boundaries of time and place, she is free to go where her mind takes her, but her incredible adventures blur the lines between what’s real and what is imaginary…with potentially tragic consequences.

Thoughts? Sucker Punch hits theaters March 25 2011

Television Review- Mad Men

This past Sunday was the highly anticipated series premier of Mad Men Season 4; did you get a chance to catch it? I unfortunately didn't but with my new TiVo I was able to record it! Season 4's premier delivered records with 2.9 million viewers tuning in marking it as the most watched season premier for a Emmy-winning series. I expect this season to have a huge gain in viewership for the series and well deservedly too! If your still skeptical about whether this AMC period drama is well worth your Sunday evenings, read my thoughts on the show ahead. There are a few spoilers.

In case you're unfamiliar with the show, Mad Men is a highly critically acclaimed Emmy and Golden Globe winning American period drama series created and produced by Matthew Weiner broadcasted on AMC. The show is set in the 1960s and follows a fictional advertising agency named Sterling Cooper located on Madison Avenue in New York City. The series centers around Don Draper, the Creative Director of Sterling Cooper and his professional life in the office as well as his personal life outside the office. The show also depicts historical events and social movements thematic to the 1960s.

Seeing that working in a advertising agency on Madison Avenue would be my dream come true and the fact that I've always been most intrigued by the 60s decade, I was immediately drawn to this series. After diligently watching the first three seasons, I can say this series completely blew my expectations out of the water. I was throughly impressed by the historical accuracies of not only landmark events, social movements and culture (especially the GORGEOUS fashion trends) of the 60s but also the work ethic of advertising men at the time.

Many of our male characters in the series are often shown lighting up, drinking during the work day, subjecting women to male chauvinism, and engaging in promiscuous activity in the office. In a recent study done by the Wall Street Journal, 101 male Young & Rubicam alumni were surveyed and the results of the poll showed that 58% of the sample smoked, 68% had at least one drink during the day, 45% agreed there was male prejudice towards women, 55% responded DEFINITELY YES in acknowledging sex in the workplace.

Aside from company culture, Mad Men does an incredible job in depicting American society and culture in the 1960s. Besides the themes of smoking, drinking and sexism I mentioned earlier, the show also highlights themes of adultery, feminism, racism and homophobia. The show presents many of its male characters frequently cheating on their spouses and subjecting women to pervasive sexual innuendo. The racism in 60s is also prominent in the show. Of the two black characters I can recall from the show, one worked as an elevator operator for Sterling Cooper until he gets unjustly blamed for theft in the office and the other, Carla, works as the Drapers' help and often has to deal with being talked down to by Don's princess of a wife Betty. In one episode, account man Peter Campbell spots an market opportunity for their Admiral account if they were to delve into the African-American market. Their clients gruffly respond to his suggestion by stating "Who's to say that Negroes aren't buying Admiral televisions because they think white people want them?"

Radical change can been seen as the series progresses. Peggy Olson who arrived in the first episode as a secretary for Sterling Cooper uses her smarts and wits to work her way up the ladder and ends up as a Senior Copywriter for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce at the end of Season 3. The show marks notions of change through historical context as well. Peggy is shown in Season 1 getting prescribed for the newly approved Birth Control Pill and Season 3 notes social unrest throughout the progression of the Civil Rights Movement. The start of Season 4 mentions Andrew Goodman, one of the three civil rights activists that were murdered in Mississippi in 1964. There have also been hints on the active Twitter accounts of shows characters that we may see the return of Salvatore Romano, the Art Director of Sterling Cooper and a closet homosexual who was wrongly fired from the agency in Season 3 due to his sexuality.

One last thing I love about this show is that it plays well into the changes that were happening in advertising at the time as well. We begin in the first episode with Reader's Digest Reports on the Dangers of Smoking forcing ad man Don Draper to rethink their creative approach for the Lucky Strike Cigarettes account. Additionally, the famous "Think Small" campaign done by DDB for Volkswagen Beetle is shown in Season 1 causing Don Draper to realize the potentials of using nostalgia in their advertisements. I'm excited to see what will happen when Nixon signs the law banning cigarette advertisements on T.V.

Besides the shows great portrayal of the world of advertising and 60's decade, they've hit the spot on many other facades as well. They've assembled a great cast creating throughly complicated characters. The lead character Don Draper puts on several different faces throughout the series causing me to have many love hate feelings toward him. The visual style of the show is gorgeous and the wardrobe even more so. Don't be surprise if you start seeing women today donning Audrey Hepburn inspired hair styles. All in all, I find Mad Men to be smart, creative, engaging show and a great watch.

Recommended- Final Score 9/10

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review- The Hunger Games

So there's been a lot of talk about a series called The Hunger Games by children's television writer Suzanne Collins (Clarissa Explains it All, Oswald) which has been dubbed the next Twilight (which I am not a fan of but will save my review of it for another day) so I recently took a trip to Borders to see what the hype is all about. The Hunger Games is the name of the first book in this soon to be trilogy followed by Catching Fire and Mocking Jay (to be released in August). The series has been making quite an explosive scene in the young adult community and currently a film adaption is in development with Collins helming the screen play herself. So is it worth the read? Here is my as spoiler free as possible review.

Even though its been given the title as the next Twilight I don't believe you have to be a Twilight lover to be entertained by this book. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world where North America, renamed Panem, is divided into twelve (once thirteen) districts and The Capitol, a rich totalitarian government that dictates the poor districts. As punishment for a rebellion led by District 13 years ago, the Capitol holds the annual Hunger Games in which a boy and a girl from each district is selected at random by lottery to compete in a outdoor televised arena in which they are forced to kill each other until only one remains. Our heroine in the novel is 16-year old Katniss Everdeen from District 12 who volunteers to enter the games when her little sister Prim's name is drawn as the tribute for their district. The novel follows Katniss's journey into the games and her fight for survival, humanity and love.

Intrigued? Expecting another Twilight, I was surprised by the lack of similarities this novel had with Twilight. Our main character Katniss much more likeable and is not your typical Mary Sue. The novel is narrated from her point of view and the audience can see her many weakness yet a great inner strength as well. As a skilled hunter and archer, she becomes a strong contender in the games. You could say that there is a budding romance in the novel between our girl and another one of the game competitors; however, unlike another character in another series cough...cough...Bella, her judgment and decisions aren't fogged by irrational, nonsensical feelings for a boy.

I'll admit that this isn't the most original story in the world. While reading it I kept thinking about its plot line similarities with Battle Royale. The Hunger Games is not nearly as gritty, compelling, well written, or emotionally involved as Battle Royale or many other books I've read. The writing style is simple and length wise its pretty short. This book could have been great if there was more room left to develop the concept of this dystopian, sci-fi world that our heroine lives in. The world of Panem is still a vague one in my head besides its basic authoritarian, government oppressive characteristics. The characters are for the most part likeable but they lacked development as well. Two of our main characters at the end seemed relatively unchanged even after having gone through an incredible ordeal. Despite my complaints, this book is the epitome of reading for entertainment and the writing style is throughly engaging. I read the entire novel in one take because I couldn't put it down. If your looking for a short entertaining read for a long car ride, this is the one. Look for my review of the second installment later on.

Recommended- Final Score 7/10