Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Review- Neverwhere

I typically will always read the novel before I see the film. And just as I said, this was the case for me for Neverwhere. However, what I didn't know was that the novel was actually based off of the film. The film in this case was a six part T.V. series that Mr. Neil Gaiman wrote for BBC back in 1996. Only later did Gaiman adapt his work into a novel. Even thought the T.V. series is the original source material for the novel, I still loved the novel way better. This was the first Neil Gaiman novel that I had ever read and it's the one that took my down a long spiral of obsessively reading his other works. I do love reading dark, urban fantasy novels and this one was a great trip! Since its been adapted into a novel, it has been adapted into a comic book, stage play, and a movie is in the works as we speak! Now that movie studios are running out of Stephen King material to adapt, it seems like Neil Gaiman is their next go-to guy. The first Gaiman novel that had been adapted was Stardust (which was awesome) and the second being Coraline (see my review below). All of his novels have a great commercial feel to it and I think Neverwhere has the potential to become a great movie.

So lets talk about the book itself. The novel opens with a girl running through a series of tunnels, which is the London Underground, while being chased by two assassins. The girl, named Door, has an ability to open doors (and other things) and escapes her two pursuers by opening a door to the "London Above." The London Above is basically the normal, everyday world that we know of and it exists above the Underground (basically its normal London). The world which Door comes from is referred to as the "London Below." The London Below is a fantasy world that is connected through the many tunnels and sewers that the Underground consists of. Door escapes into London Above and a young Scot man named Richard Mayhew runs into her. Obviously injured, Richard takes Door back to his apartment to allow her to rest. The two assassins named Mr. Croupe and Mr. Vandemar travel to the London Above to search for Door in Richard's apartment but Richard denies knowing about her whereabouts. Richard at this point knows something strange is going on and the girl isn't exactly normal. Door asks Richard to seek out the Marquis de Carabras, a loyal friend of Door's family, from the London Below and bring him to her. After going through what seems to be a trippy dream in seeking out the Marquis, Richard eventually brings him to Door and they both leave.

After Richard's encounter with all these strange characters, he attempts to return to his normal life only to find that he seems to have become invisible and non-existent to all the people he previously knew. In an attempt to fix things back to how they were before he encountered Door, he headed to the London Below to find Door in order to set things straight. Upon entering the London Below, Richard meets the Rat Speakers who take Richard to the Floating Market to find Door. Richard eventually finds Door at the Floating Market who is there looking for a body guard. Door hires a woman named Hunter as her body guard and she tells Richard she plans to seek out the angel Islington. Door's father left her a message just before he, along with the rest of Door's family, were assassinated by Mr. Croupe and Vandemar. Richard at this point has no choice but to tag along with them. Together with Door, Hunter, and the Marquis, they travel through the tunnels and sewers of the London Below in search for the angel Islington while being hunted by the two deadly assassins.

The book over all is a really engaging and a fun read. The world of London Below reminded me of the coexisting fantasy world that was in Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy II. Very fairy tale like but slightly dark and urban at the same time. Many familiar names that are part of the actual London tubes take on a all new meaning in signifying locations in the London Below. For example, the Knightsbridge stop is actually the Night Bridge in the London Below. An actual bridge that is engulfed in darkness that Richard must cross at one point in the novel. When Richard comes off the bridge on the other side, he realizes the bridges takes one life per party as toll for crossing. Destinations in the London Below are brilliantly connected through the intricate London Underground tunnels and sewer system. It's one huge Labyrinth but you can always find your way by jumping on a tube. There are a variety of characters that live in the London Below.

In the London Below, several different groups and societies exist and can appear fantastical, historical, or sometimes just as homeless bums. I loved many of the characters in this novel. Richard, the book's hero, was a clueless, Scottish nobody. What could be cuter!? I loved the Marquis de Carabas; a very arrogant trickster, yet an incredibly loyal friend at the same time. Hunter was just badass motherfucker. Door's character was likeable enough. Mr. Coupe and Mr. Vandemar are ruthless, sadistic, and violent bad asses. The book doesn't shy away from any of the dark and grimy stuff. At one point in the novel, our two terrifying assassins have the Marquis captive; all I'll say is they showed no mercy at all to the poor chap. Overall, there isn't anything particularly meaningful or deep in the novel but it didn't matter. The book was fun, imaginative, fantastical, and hard to put down. Gaiman mentioned that there may be a squeal but this time they're going to another big city's underground train system- perhaps Tokyo or New York. The picture on the right is the Marquis de Carabas from the TV series played by Paterson Joseph and he was wonderful! Captured the Marquis' essence perfectly. I wish he 2ould come back for the new film adaption but I'm sure he is way too old at this point :(

Recommended- Final Score 9/10

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bitchin' Ads- Chanel Bleu Ad

Martin Scorsese directs a TV spot for Chanel's fragrance for men "Bleu." Stars Gaspard Ulliel and features Rolling Stone's song She Said Yeah. See the ad below:

Incredible right? What else can you expect from Scorsese. I liked this one much better than the Gucci Guilty ad directed by Frank Miller.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Movie Review- Coraline

I love movies. I love animated movies. I love dark fantasy movies. I love movies that involve a child lead- especially when its a girl. I love Coraline. Movies like Coraline remind why I love movies so much and why I spend my nights writing about them. It's no secret that in America, an animated movie automatically means its a children's film. I grew up watching My Neighbor Totoro and The Nightmare Before Christmas probably everyday. The brilliant Hayao Miyazaki, I believe, is one of the greatest film makers EVER. He understands how to make a animated film for people of all ages and how utilize that medium to create something truly breathtaking. My Neighbor Totoro was cute for me as a child and very moving to me as an adult. The Nightmare Before Christmas was the perfect dose of scary for me as a child; a nice change from the other stuff I was watching at the time. In the light of making a scary movie for children, Disney shook their finger and gave a big "No, No" to them. The thought of having a scary Disney movie for children was just impossible in their heads. The Nightmare Before Christmas was then released under their 'adult' film distributor brand Touchstone. Well as most of you probably know now, The Nightmare Before Christmas is kind of a big deal. It is re-released every year in theaters around Halloween and has a HUGE cult following. Disney now smothers their Disney brand all over their Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise. People assume incorrectly when it comes to children watching a scary film. Children do love a good thrill.

Coraline was huge risk for movie studios. Stop-motioned seemed to be a dead form of animation especially with all animation going to CG. No parents wanted to take their kids to a scary movie, right? And no adult wants to see an animated film cause those are for kids, right? Oh yeah, and who likes it when it's a little girl lead with no love story? Still, the movie was distributed by Focus Features and they underwent a AMAZING marketing campaign. What I loved about their marketing campaign was that they sold it for what it was. They didn't flower it up to look like a fun movie for little girls and a great family film. They made it clear is was quirky, different, and dark. Yes, the previews weirded some people out, but it intrigued others. In the end, the people who would have loved the movie saw it and many children saw it. Judging from the reactions of people in the audience, it seemed like the adults were the scared ones while the children were completely pulled in and emerged in the film.

So, about the film itself. Coraline is a stop-motion (moving little dollies painfully slowing while taking pictures) animated film directed by Henery Selick based on the book by Neil Gaiman. Well Neil Gaiman (Stardust, Neverwhere) is one of my favorite authors EVER and Henry Selick's previous credits include The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach...need I say more? Basically, I had to see this film. So Coraline is about a 11-year old girl named, well, Coraline who moves into a old house. The house is divided into three residences. Coraline lives with her parents who are constantly working and ignore her the majority of the time. Her neighbors are Miss Spink and Forcible, a pair of eccentric retired actresses, and Mr. Bobinsky, a Russian circus mice trainer. Coraline's world is basically full of dullness with no one paying attention to her.

One night, she finds a small door leading to a strange tunnel. Coraline steps through the door and finds a alternative reality where everything looks the same and the people are the same, yet its the completely different at the same time. The house is more colorful, the food is tastier, the parents are loving, and the neighbors are fun. Oh and everyone has buttons for eyes. What stands out most in this other world is the other mother. She's gorgeous, kind, cooks up amazing meals for Coraline, and showers her with love. This new world seems to good to be true. It doesn't take Coraline long to realize that fact. After three visits to the other world, the other mother wants to sew buttons into Coraline's eyes. Coraline does the smart thing and dips out of that place. Problems arise however when Coraline meets the ghosts of three children who's souls have been eaten by the the 'other' mother and soon afterwards her real parents have been kidnapped by the other mother as well. Coraline must gather all her courage and go back to the other world and face the other mother in order to rescue her parents and set free the souls of the ghost children.

This movie has been referred to as a dark Alice in Wonderland (the animated Disney version). Seems like anything that involves a kid finding themselves in a fantasy world is a Alice in Wonderland. I personally thought is was more like Spirited Away and Pan's Labyrinth. Nothing is fluffed up and thrown in there with no purpose. All the eccentric fantasy elements had a reason to be there. There were many elements in Coraline's other world that weren't in the book and I loved it all! The other father being a giant pumpkin that came from the garden- it was all brilliant! Also unlike Alice in Wonderland, Coraline isn't just brainlessly wandering around. She's out to save her parents and the ghost children, like in Spirited Away where Chihiro is trying to save her parents or in Pan's Labyrinth where Ofelia tries to save her mother and brother. Coraline doesn't shy away from taking risks. The film was scary and very dark. The other mother is grotesquely horrifying towards the end and when it seems like everything is finally okay, there is yet another twist at the end.

The animation is absolutely gorgeous! I believe this is the longest, most extensive stop-motion film that has ever been made and the results were beautiful. The score was also fantastic! As much as I loved Danny Elfman's score to The Nightmare Before Christmas, I was so glad Mr. Selick didn't use him for Coraline. Mr. Elfman's music has become so comercialized and it's never anything new. French composer Bruno Coulais did a brilliant job adding a creepy yet beautiful score to Coraline and his gibberish singing children's choir for some of the tracks was just genius. This movie had everything I love. Beautiful animation, trippy dark fantasy, horrifying antagonist, and a strong minded little girl lead. Mr. Selick, you have now made two of my favorite movies of all time.

Recommended- Final Score 10/10

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bitchin' Ads- Gucci Guilty Commercial

Frank Miller has directed a ad for Gucci's fragrance titled "Gucci Guilty." Stars Rachel Evan Wood and Chris Evans. Here it is!

Looks a bit like The Spirit/Sin City right?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book Review- The Help

Does this cover on the left of this post look familiar to you? I'm sure your thinking that you've definitely seen it before. There is always that same set of books that you always see displayed in every book store you go to. Right there when you walk in, the best of the best sellers list. This is one of them. I usually don't read books on the best sellers list but occasionally, when I see one over and over again, I give in and read it. The last book I did this to was The Kite Runner and I didn't regret it. At Borders one day, when I saw this cover staring in my face again (with no idea what the novel was about) I logged into my Amazon account from my Droid and typed in the title, The Help. WOW Nearly a perfect five star average with almost 2,500 reviews!? (Though Amazon is not always reliable- when I first read Twilight 2007, it also had a near perfect score with 1000 some reviews). Okay now I had to read this book. I purchased The Help with still no idea what it was about and started reading it immediately that day. I only knew that it was centered around women because the tagline for the novel read "Three ordinary women are about to take one huge step." Well I love novels that center around women so I was excited about that. When I started the novel, I soon found out that it was centered in a small town in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960's about black maids working for white families. Nothing like anything I've ever read before so I thought it would be interesting to read.

The book is separated between the POVs of three different women: Skeeter, Minny, and Aibileen. Skeeter is a young twenty-some year old wealthy white girl who recently graduate from Ole Miss and comes home to find her family maid, Constantine, no longer working for them. Skeeter's old-school mother refuses to tell Skeeter what happened and Skeeter begins to ask her friend Elizabeth Leefolt's maid, Aibileen, if she knows of Constantine whereabouts. Aibileen is a sweet, fifty-some year old black woman who has been working as a maid for white families all her life. Aibileen unlike many other maids, will frequently switch families once the children in the family reach a certain age. Aibileen lost her son in a tragic accident that left her emotionally damaged. She quits working for a family when their children get older because she can't stand to see the children she raised and fell in love with begin to despise her when they learn racism from society. Aibileen is a very shy and quiet woman and keeps to herself most of the time. The only time she can express herself is when she is writing. When Skeeter begins questioning her about Constantine, Aibileen shies away.

Aibileen is good friends with Minny, a sassy, big mouthed black woman who has an abusive husband and several children. Skeeter and Elizabeth are both also friends with a white woman named Hilly- all three went to school together and were in the same sorority. Hilly is what we would call the 'Queen Bee' of their group. She feeds off of attention from others and loves telling people what to do and believe. She leads around her group of followers, acting superior and more enlightened than all the other women in the town. When she is introduced in the novel, she is trying to begin a health initiative where all households have to have a separate bathroom for their help because "they carry different disease" than white people so installing one will "keep your children and family safe." Hilly's mother is the employer of Minny and after much fuss from Hilly, Hilly's mother decides/is forced to let Minny go. Minny not entertained by this gets revenge on Hilly by doing a "terrible, awful thing." So what does Hilly do? Anything a two-faced bitch would do. Spread rumors, making it impossible for Minny to get another job. Minny, desperate for a job, finds one with a busty young blonde named Cecilia Foote living with a husband who happens to be the ex-fiance of Hilly. Miss Cecilia is not like the other women in the town. Instead of being the town's typical uptight, husband loving, snooty, 'high class' southern woman, she's downright 'southern trash.' She's not associate with Queen Bee Hilly's crowd (though she desperately wants to be) and doesn't understand the lines and rules put up by society.

Skeeter, unlike the other girls in her crowd, doesn't have a boyfriend or husband. She doesn't want to spend her days watching football all the time with a boyfriend and would rather go to New York City to become a journalist. Skeeter is given an opportunity to write a book by a publisher in New York so she begins to put together a compilation of stories about the lives of black maids in the town. Fearful for their lives, no maids come up Skeeter to share their stories except Aibileen and soon afterwards, Minny. Things gradually begin to get sour between Skeeter and Hilly. Like all girl fighting, everything is done behind each other's back. To be perfectly honest, if I were to compare this novel to anything I've ever read or watched before, I'd say Mean Girls. Hilly is like your Regina George, dominating everyone in the town, getting them to follower her around like a love-sick puppy. Elizabeth and many of the other girls in town are like Regina's 'plastic' minions who do whatever she says even if they themselves don't have a strong opinion about it. Skeeter is like Cady's character; she sees through all the bullshit and is secret friends with the folks they're taboo to be associated with. And then, like in the Mean Girls movie, there is plenty of secret back stabbing fighting that goes on between two frenemies. Like Aibileen says at one point in the book, women aren't like men when they get mad; they're not just going to punch you in the face and then forget about it, they will secretly eat you from the ground up and never stop until your dead.

Unlike Mean Girls, however, there isn't much humor in this book. There is good amount of violence towards many of the black characters in the novel. On top of that, there are many heart aching moments in novel as well, especially when all the maids in the community come up to Skeeter and share their stories about working for white families. Also, reading about Aibileen and Constantine and how much they suffered in their roles as a mother will bring a tear to anyone's eye. You as a reader are constantly worrying about that psycho bitch Hilly discovering Skeeter's secret book project. If she ever did, she would use her influence on the town to cause devastation and death among these families in the black community. Despite all the stressful moments in the book, there is a great amount of touching moments as well. Seeing these women come together knowing the risk of what they were doing and watching Aibileen teach Mae Mobley (Elizabeth's daughter) skin color does not mean anything, hinting that the next generation of children will grow up knowing the truth, and Martin Luther King's dream will be realized. I can't comment on how historically accurate it was because I don't know. As I understand it, the book has received some criticism on the portrayal of black women in Mississippi during the 60's. Lastly, the book is not a dull read at the least. You are constantly engaged and wondering what is going to happen next. I'll admit it was pretty hard for me to put down this book and I was pretty sad when it ended. So in conclusion, even though this isn't the type of book I typically read, I still loved it. It made me think about the extraordinary things normal people are capable of. On a side note, there is currently a film adaption in production, directed by Tate Taylor and starring Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer.

Recommended- Final Score 8.5/10

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cool Sh*t!!- Black Swan Trailer

Trailer for Darren Aronofsky's new upcoming physiological drama Black Swan has just been released! Stars Natalie Portman, Vinvent Cassel, and Mina Kunis.

Here's the offical synposis:

"BLACK SWAN follows the story of Nina (Portman), a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her retired ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who zealously supports her daughter’s professional ambition. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her"

Looks great! Can't wait to see it! Please share your thoughts!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Movie Review- Scott Pilgrm vs. The World

It always makes me sad to see brilliant work get over shadowed by brainless garbage, and in the case of this past weekend, that would be the fact that The Expendables, a film that's a perfect example of America's desires to watch testosterone driven nonsense, blowing up the box office while a gem called Scott Pilgrim vs. The World opened with a meager $10 million at the number 5 spot. I really shouldn't hate on The Expendables because I understand that there were a lot of Stallone and Schwarzenegger fans excited to see them back in action and the film served as nostalgia factor for them from 80's action flicks. This nostalgia factor is probably one of the biggest reasons I loved watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World this past Friday. Please, if you're between the ages of 20-30, go see this film. It was made for us! One thing funny I noticed about the few critics who gave this movie a negative review was that they were over the 40 mark. Well it makes total sense to me why they wouldn't have enjoyed it.

So Scott Pilgrim is a brilliant film by Edgar Wright based off the comic book series by Brian Lee O'Malley released between 2004 and 2010. I haven't read the comics but from what I understand, the movie did a fantastic job adapting it. So the film is about 22-year old Canadian Scott Pilgrim who is a unemployed bassist for a rock band named Sex Bomb-omb. One night in a dream, a girl with crazy pink hair visits him and soon after that, Scott sees her at a library delivering goods and it's love at first sight. The girl's name is Ramona Flowers and she eventually reluctantly agrees to go on a date with Scott. Things start to get a bit complicated from here on out for Scott, seeing that he is already dating a 17-year old Chinese school girl named Knives, and the fact that Ramona's seven evil ex-s are coming out to kill him. Scott must defeat Ramona's seven evil ex-s in order to date her, much to his dismay.

Anyone who watched a commercial for the film may have had a little trouble figuring what it's going at. The video spots are filled with eccentric CG imagery and looks a bit like a mix between comic book panels and old video game graphics. Well, that's a pretty good summary of what the entire film looked liked. Why are they doing this? The whole movie is a satire of the pop culture that contemporary youth grew up with. The concept that Edgar Wright was going for is pulled off so brilliantly in this film. Bits and pieces from our beloved T.V. shows, movies, video games, comic books, and music from the 90's can be seen scattered throughout the film. I was wriggling in excitement in seat every time I heard or saw a familiar theme from the past. Some of the most recognizable ones are the Zelda sound effects, the Seinfeld theme being played in a transition shot, and a video game commentator shouting "K.O!" The films also uses plenty of split screens, one screen words, exaggerated/overly dramatic slow mo shots, as well as panels from the actual Scott Pilgrim comics.

Oh and the music. OHHHH the MUSIC!!!! I loved it! And with a movie like this, it has to be great. My personal favorite was "Black Sheep" by Scott's ex-s band. Sex Bomb-ombs and many of the other bands in the film reminded me of the type of attitude guys from high-school garage bands would have. Completely emo and wanting to sing about "death and make you sad and stuff." The attitudes of these kids in the film reflect perfectly the people our age (that being the in the 20s). Scott Pilgrim has that very happy-go-lucky attitude and is doing really nothing with his life. Unemployed at 22 years...that sounds familiar. Okay I'll admit, I was unemployed for a handful of months when I was 22-years old. I juggled a whole bunch of different ideas in those months trying to figure out what the fuck I was going to do. All the actors in the film suited their roles so perfectly. I loved Kieran Culkan as Scott's gay roommate. Ellen Wong was hilarious as Knives Chau. After Knives finds out about Scott's new girlfriend Ramona, Knives frequently refers to her as a white "fat ass" (a lot of Asian girls find white girls to be fat when they're not).

Again, if you're between the ages of 20-30, WATCH THIS MOVIE! My friend who came with me (who originally wanted to watch Eat, Pray, Love) isn't really into pop culture but still had a ball laughing. As a matter of fact, everyone in the entire theater was constantly laughing. Every bit and piece of this film is strung together so brilliantly and keeps a smug smile on your face. The movie is a visual and audio wonderland and succeeds wonderfully as a satire and parody. I'm sure many who watch this movie will come out of it thinking "I don't get it," but for those who do "get it," you'll love it! I'm just waiting for some nerd to go through the entire movie and figure out all of the pop culture references that were used.

Recommended- Final Score 8/10

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bitchin' Ads- Honda Jazz Packing Campaign

Check out this hilarious, brilliant new ad campaign for the Honda Jazz titled Jazz Packing. The ads were done by Ogilvy and it's a brilliant example of why I want to work there so badly. There are four spots: Hipster, Rap, Massive, and Ninja. My personal favorite is Hipster. Please share your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review- Percy Jackson and the Olympians

I got the Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief DVD on Netflix today for my sister to watch and while watching it, I kept thinking how badly Chris Columbus raped the source material. This series could have potentially become something huge and 20th Century Fox ruined their chance. Why did they think it would be a good idea to bring the director of the first two Harry Potter films (which were the worst) to helm it and market is as another Harry Potter. Anything that calls itself the next Harry Potter will undoubtedly fail. Nothing is the next Harry Potter except Harry Potter!! Percy Jackson needed its own identity for people to love it. With the release of the Percy Jackson teaser, which featured Mt. Olympus looking a lot like Hogwarts and text displaying "From the director of Harry Potter," HP fans immediately screamed rip off! Well I guess Chris Columbus did what he was good at and made a shit film. So eager for this film to succeed, it became something that was extremely safe and mindlessly entertaining but easily forgetful. Anything meaningful in the novel were scrapped away and only action scenes from the novel were kept, then a bunch of random shit was thrown in between. Anyways I'm ranting about the movie where I should be reviewing the book. Please don't judge the book by the film. The two are very different. Here's my review of the book/series.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is the first in a five part fantasy series by Rick Riordan. Percy Jackson is a 12-year old boy living in New York and has ADHD and dyslexia. While attending a school field trip, he gets attacked by a teacher who is actually a disguised fury. From then, it all goes to hell for Percy. He is rushed out of Manhattan by his friend Grover who is actually his assigned Satyr protector, in charge of getting him to a safe haven called Camp Half Blood. Grover found Percy at his school suspecting him to be a demi-god. All demi-god children must be taken to Camp Half Blood because once demi-gods are discovered, they become targets for all sorts of monsters. Camp Half Blood is protected from allowing in monsters and the only place a demi-god can be safe. While Percy, Grover and Percy's mother are making a getaway to the camp, they get attacked by a Minotaur and Percy's mom doesn't make it. Soon after arriving at Camp Half Blood, Poseidon claims Percy as his son. The "Big Three" gods, Poseidon, Zeus, and Hades are forbidden to have children due to a prophecy made long ago. With the revelation of Percy being Poseidon's son, Zeus suspects Percy was the one to has his master bolt which recently stolen from him. So war is about to start between Zeus and Poseidon and Percy is given ten days to bring the bolt back to Zeus at Mount Olympus during the summer solstice. Percy, Grover, and their new friend Annabeth all travel across the country and encounter various ancient Greek monsters to get to the Underworld where they suspect Hades must have the Master Bolt (with Percy secretly wanting to go only to get his mother back).

The series continues onto The Sea of Monsters, followed by The Titan's Curse, Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian. Each book brings more ancient Greek stories and lore into the picture with various characters and creatures from ancient myth. Any reader will definitely get an insight on the stories of various Greek god and goddesses. I understand this series has actually become a required reading for many elementary school grade levels to help them with their ancient Greek history. Rick Riordan does a fantastic job stringing together various myths and turning it into something exciting to read. The first two books are short, fun, entertaining novels; however, when we start getting into the third, fourth, and fifth, they take a step forward and turn into something grittier and more gripping. There is a much greater sense of danger for our young demi-gods as the series progresses and matures. Percy, Annabeth and Grover seemed to be untouchable by the mythical monsters when the series begins, but eventually, going into the third novel, we begin losing many of our young characters (I won't say who!).

The story is definitely a good one in the series, but it still lacks something that would have made it a great series. First off, each book is pretty short; my bff read the first four novels in a day after I recommended them to her. When a book is this short, its hard to develop complex characters. To be honest, I didn't really like ANY of the characters! None of them were very likeable and were kind of a one-note. For a book to be great, the characters must be great too! They weren't unlikeable, they just don't stand out. When I ask people who have read the series who their favorite characters is, it's hard to them to give me an answer. But on the books defense, it's not a complicated novel to begin with. It is definitely geared towards children especially young boys. Young boys can easily relate to Percy's character. The writing style is lazy. The biggest word you will probably come across is "Medusa." There's nothing lyrical or beautifully written. But again, its a book for young boys!

So yeah, great story but nothing too complicated. It's a fun ride when your reading it and it's incredibly addicting. It's imaginative and exciting with nonstop twists and turns. Definitely a book for young folks! If you got a kid who struggles in school, this may be a good book for them because it provides some what of a confidence booster in the story line. If you're looking for the next Harry Potter, I can't say this is it because it won't give you the emotional depth and heart; however, if you looking for something to ease your Post-Potter Syndrome, this can give it to you temporarily. The basic premise is similar to Harry Potter's but the story is still very different. The picture on the right is from the film...I put it there because I thought the actor was cute. There is no reason to see the film unless you want to goggle at him.

Recommended- Final Score 8/10

Monday, August 9, 2010

Music Review- The Arcade Fire

The Arcade Fire has been making quite an explosive scene this past week. For any of you on Twitter, you may have noticed that The Arcade Fire has been a trending topic for several days in a row now. Well as a lot of you probably know, their newest album titled The Suburbs, was released last week and along with that, they performed a live web cast of their concert at Madison Square Garden. The album was released Tuesday and the concert, broadcasted on Thursday, is titled Unstaged. What was cool about the concert was that none other than Terry Gilliam (Monty Python, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) himself directed the webcast. Viewers were able to select multiple camera angles and submit photos of their own "suburbs," which may be featured on stage during the band's performance. I wanted to watch the live webcast but wasn't able to; I figured I could go back later and view it but it looks like Vevo took it down. Right now there are little bits and pieces of it up and you can view it here.

Terry Gilliam isn't the only big director they've recently teamed up with. Last year, you may remember the release of the film Where The Wild Things Are, directed by Spike Jonez. The song Wake Up was used heavily in the film's trailer (and I think the film too but I never saw it) and added an incredible touch to it. I believe the use of the song in the trailer really helped it become the beloved song it is today. Even now, whenever I hear that guitar and those drums fire up, followed by the haunting voice and poetic lyrics: “Children don’t grow up. Our bodies get bigger, but our hearts get torn up” chills shoot right through me. Well, Spike Jonez is returning the favor to the band by directing a short Sci-Fi movie for the new record. In an interview with front man Win Butler, he said "It's like a science-fiction B-movie companion piece for the record. Basically, we played Spike some music from the album and the first images that came to his mind had the same feeling as this idea for a science fiction film I had when I was younger."

Seems like this Indie band based out of Montreal has got some pretty exciting stuff lined up! So what about the new record is it any good? To be honest I haven't heard the entire album. I've only heard the stuff thats been leaked online which includes their songs, The Suburbs, Month of May, Ready To Start, and We Use To Wait. I haven't had time to purchase and listen to their entire album yet so my review is just based off of those four songs and their previous material. Expectation couldn't come much higher for this Canadian Indie rock band. After the critical and commercial success of their two previous albums, Funeral and Neon Bible, many have been wondering what The Arcade Fire could invent next.

Funeral was a fantastic debut album for the band. Their creative process in writing the album was drawn from a mix of somber emotions when suddenly, many members of a quiet a few of the band member's families began passing away (thus the title Funeral). With Funeral, Arcade Fire seemed to have debuted on the scene with a style of their own. The take bits of several genres of rock music al hemmed together with violins, piano, keyboards, accordions, xylophones, and many more instruments I can't even name. The tempo of the album seems constantly changing- building up powerful climaxes then submerging into steady rhythm. With Neon Bible released in 2007, The Arcade Fire wowed audiences again with their eclectic mix of instruments, most notably the pipe organ, which added to the album's grandeur. Listening to these four new tracks on their newest album, I can tell they continue to use their strategy of putting imposing instruments and it still sounds good! However, as much as I like it, it kind of feels like they are starting to go over the top with it. Instead of creating something new, it sounds like they are just throwing in a bigger mix clashing sounds and instruments. I'll reserve greater judgement for when I hear the entire album but I still love this fucking band. If you haven't heard their stuff yet, head over to YouTube or wherever and take a few minuets to listen to their own new, innovative style they've created.

Recommended- Final Score 8/10

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Movie Review- Un Prophete

For any of you who watched the Oscars back in March, you may briefly recall a film in the "Best Foreign Language Film" category titled Un Prophete. Besides that quick recognition the film received at the Oscars, this film hasn't really gotten the acknowledgement it deserves here in the states. The DVD was released this past Tuesday and I got it in my Netflix mail box that very day. Here's my review.

Un Prophete is a French film by Jacques Audiard that was released earlier this year. The film opens with 19-year old Malick being tossed into a French prison for a unsaid crime. Malick is a harmless young man who's part Arab and part Corsican and illiterate. The prison is split by racial tensions between the Muslims and Corsicans. The Corsican mafia, led by Cesar Luciani, rules prison life and enforce rules by controlling the guards. An informant against the Corsican mafia named Reyeb arrives at the prison to testify in trial within the next few days. The Don of the Corsican mafia orders Luciani to have Reyeb killed before he can testify; however, Reyeb isolates himself from all non-muslims making it impossible to get to him. Luciani finds out Malick is a non-muslim Arab and tells Malick he must kill Reyeb and inreturn they will offer him protection. If Malick refuses or fails, he will be killed.

From the very beginning, the audience can see that Malick is an easy target in prison life, being much younger and seemingly innocent. Upon his arrival he immediately gets beaten. Being a mix of Arab and Corsican, he's constantly tossed between different groups but not accepted by any. Muslims see him as Corsican and Corcicans see him as Arab. Malick wants to be invisible to all groups throughout his sentence and spends his time studying Arab, French and Economics in the classroom. Being forced to kill Reyeb puts a lot of stress on our young protagonist and when the moment comes to kill him, it's not pretty. After Malick successfuly murders Reyeb, he is under the Corsicans protection and is given a number of missions to carry out for them, strengthening his character and gaining Luciani's confidence. Malick is smart and begins to rise up the prison ranks. He learns to read in write in French and Arab and picks up on Corsicans by listening. Pretty soon he beings to devise plans of his own gaining the trust of the Muslims and, bringing down Luciani's presence in the prison, and creating his own empire.

A great thing about this film are the small subtleties throughout which would send chills down my back. Now I usually don't get grossed out by violence in movies but several scenes in the film made me squeal. The plan for Reyeb's murder was for Malick to pretend to engage in oral sex, push out a razor blade concealed in his mouth out with his tongue and cut Reyeb's throat. While practicing, his mouth gets ruthlessly sliced up. When the time comes to do it, he gets too nervous and bites down too hard on the blade causing him to bleed. Malick is forced to take out the razor with this hand and violence ensues! What happens it pretty freakin' gross! Just watch it for yourself to see. Overridden by guilt of Reyeb's murder, Malick begins hallucinating the presence of Reyeb's ghost in his cell who servees as a spiritual guide of sorts. Reyeb's ghost probably freaked my out more than even Frank from Donnie Darko. Jacques Audiard really did an amazing job adding great touches on his film.

The film is heavily character driven, particularly by Malick. Malick in the film is portrayed by newcomer actor Tahar Rahim. For now on, any movie with him casted in I will watch!! PLEASE I need to see more from this beautiful, talented man! He does such an incredible job playing Malick. Malick's character strengthen and grows very well throughout the film and yet never loses himself to arrogance or pomposity. Several moments in the film you become overwhelmingly concerned with Malick's safety and mentality. Overall the film is superb in every way and beautifully crafted. I thought the ending was great. Definitely a must watch.

Recommended- Final Score 10/10

Saturday, August 7, 2010

WTF!?- Justin Bieber Biopic

Is this a joke? Apparently there is gonna be a Justin Beiber biopic to be released in theaters in 3-D!! Paramount pictures is going to be distributing the film and Oscar-winning David Guggenheim (
An Inconvenient Truth) is in talks to direct!! Who's starring in this film? Justin Bieber will be playing himself as you would guess cause if he wasn't, the 13-year old girls, the demographic the film expects to make its money off of, won't be interested. I'm just baffled. I love film biopic because they're usually about incredible individuals who have done something extraordinary in their lives (this usually spanning across several years). Isn't Justin Beiber like 15? When did his career start like 12? It's gonna be a biopic that spans three years? This entire situation is just down right ridiculous!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cool Sh*t!!- Don't Be Afraid of the Dark Trailer

Watch the premier trailer for producer Guillermo Del Toro's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark- a remake of the 1973 horror TV production.

Official Synopsis:
"A young girl sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend discovers creatures in her new home who want to claim her as one of their own."

Creepy eh? Can't wait!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Movie Review- Kick-Ass

Yesterday was the release of Kick-Ass on DVD and Blu-Ray and the first thing I did when I got off of work was rush to Best Buy to purchase my own copy. Usually on the day of a DVD release, Best Buy has these huge Point-of-Purchase displays with a zillion DVD and Blu-Rays to grab from right at the entrance of the store. When I walked in yesterday, it took my awhile to find the Kick-Ass POP. When I did spot it, I found this little tiny thing with only a few DVDs on it. Okay I live in a pretty big city so it's not like my local Best Buy is a small pathetic one or anything, but wow, their Kick-Ass in store marketing material was pathetic.

Probably a good handful you guys heard of Kick-Ass but probably didn't see it or don't know anyone who did saw it. The movie was a complete box office failure grossing a mere $48 million. Hmmm...must be a pretty terrible film in that case, right? NO! This film is by far one of the best films of 2010, trailing behind only Toy Story 3 in my opinion. So what's the deal with this movie? It's based off the Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. comic by the same name about a geeky comic-loving, teenage boy named Dave Lizewski who one day decides to become a super hero. I've never read the comic before but according to fans of the comic, the movie is a pretty good adaption besides some changes in a few plot points.

So in the film, Dave, despite not having any super powers or any formal training, puts on a wet suit and names himself the superhero Kick-Ass. So as you can imagine, he gets his ass kicked basically throughout the entire movie. Now this movie is a mix of a dark comedy and a action film. While watching the films gritty, gruesome violence, you can still laugh at it most of the time and be excited by its action sequences. Other super heros in the film include a father-daughter pair, Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. Big Daddy (played by Nicholas Cage) trains his daughter Mindy vigilante style justice and the two of them go out on killing sprees together. Great parenting, right? And our fourth super hero is none other than McLovin himself, named Red Mist in the film. Okay, who doesn't love McLovin? Watching him prance around in a ridiculously extravagant super hero costume was just a cherry on top of the cake for me.

So we have four amateur-looking super heros and a mix of hilarious scenes with Kick-Ass and Red Mist along with exciting action scenes with Bid Daddy and his young daughter Hit-Girl. To a parent, this could sound like a cute, funny movie to take their kids to. To older, larger movie going crowd, it sounds pretty stupid. This movie was presented with a REALLY tough marketing challenge. This is certainly NOT A MOVIE FOR KIDS. I read several reviews by parents who took their kids to see it and came out of the theater raging and demanding a refund. I'm surprised how stupid some parents can be. Do they not look at the rating?? It has a R rating for a reason. The character Hit-Girl I think was a big draw for parents in thinking it was a children's movie. Well, they certainly thought wrong. The movie is full of Hit-Girl spewing insane profanity and decapitating people.

For the older crowd that should have been drawn to the movie, they were deterred by bad marketing. The film certainly tried hard to reach only their target market and the result of that was poor exposure. Of their marketing material that did reach the right market, they were presented with not very appealing looking stuff. "Nic Cage in a batman costume? What exactly is he doing?" The film opened with pretty poor numbers and dropped substantially the next week. This was an indicator to the rest of the movie going crowd who may have saw the film that low box office numbers meant it was nothing worth watching. The film's director Matthew Vaughn is extremely talented and deserves to have a larger audience for his films. His previous film Stardust was a incredible adaption of Neil Gaiman's (who I love) novel but also suffered from terrible movie marketing. P.S. if you haven't seen Stardust, watch it!!

Okay, I'll stop ranting. Let talk about the film itself. So what can I say? IT WAS BRILLIANT! I loved the riskiness of this film, especially Hit-Girl;s character. Hit-Girl is portrayed by Chole Moretz and done brilliantly so. The girl is super adorable and bad ass at the same time. The first half of the film is devoted to Kick Ass and his story but towards the second half, Hit-Girl steals the show. If anything, you need to watch this film for Hit-Girl. I think Chole Moretz is bound to go on to become one of the industry's best actresses. Her next role will be in Matt Reeves' American adaption of my all time favorite book, Let the Right One In (renamed Let Me In) and I'm super excited to see how she does! So anyways, bottom line, WATCH THE MOVIE!!! You won't regret it!!!!!!

Recommended- Final Score 10/10