Friday, May 31, 2013

This Week In Headlines- May 31st

Part of my hopes with this blog is to introduce regular weekly features. Friday is an opportune time to take a look back at the week and talk about some of the big stories going on. Have an idea for a feature you'd like to see? Sound off in the comments below!

Without further ado...

It seems like everyone's FAVORITE American Idol judge, Nicki Minaj, will not be returning to the program next season. On Twitter, she announced it was time to "focus on the music" (she must be using that term loosely, of course). Her wealth of talent, wisdom, and articulately phrased critiques ("YES MA'AM. BABY GIRL, YOU HAVE ARRIIIIIVED.") will be sorely missed.

Sequel The Hangover: Part III had an extremely disappointing opening frame this week, taking in only $69,448,603 in 6 days. In comparison, its predecessor, widely disliked, still managed to grab $148,915,509 in the same span. The disparate nature of the revenue pacing doesn't seem to bode well for III. This is what happens when studios rush to cash in while a property is still "hot." I don't really know of anyone who was walking around last summer saying, "MAN, you know what I really could use right now??? ANOTHER Hangover movie!" There was no buzz, no demand. Just ill will for a cookie cutter sequel that was identical to the first movie in all the wrong ways. With this failure, the whole franchise seems to even go back and tarnish the first movie, joining such blunders as The Matrix films, the Star Wars prequels, and the old Spider-Man movies. In fact, director Todd Philips, in his infinite wisdom, has come out and said he was angered by the backlash Part II received. So much so, he almost INTENTIONALLY used the same "wake up" formula again for Part III, just as a middle finger of sorts to fans and critics who complained so much. Now if that doesn't sound like the kind of guy you want running a franchise, I don't know what does!

Star Trek Into Darkness, while not being as publicly derided as The Hangover, continues to curiously underperform as well. While $162 million is nothing to sneer at, it is following the pace of the 2009 entry almost identically. Traditionally, the first sequel is expected to outperform its predecessor based sheerly on the fan base that's supposed to have been created (amongst many other reasons). But it seems folks are a bit frustrated with JJ and co. coming out and lying DIRECTLY to the press about the identity of the villain. Were Trek fans honestly expected to believe there was some major villain in the show's collective history they just somehow forgot??? The Gary Mitchell speculation kept things interesting for awhile, but eventually it became pretty obvious who the villain was. I STILL say Mitchell would've been an amazing choice. People already SAW Wrath of Khan. And loved it. Why mess with that??? Perhaps they were trying to pull a Chris Nolan with The Dark Knight, who went and re-introduced a classic 80's cinematic villain widely regarded as perfect, but totally went and blew the lid off those opinions? Either way, JJ has said he's not a Trek fan, and now I think it's become obvious. Perhaps it's best he not helm the third entry, focus on possibly ruining Star Wars for a second time in a generation, and leaves the work to someone a little more dedicated to the source material. Either way, this is a franchise that will need to tread VERY softly on the next go-round, with almost an apology film in order. You know who they should get? Todd Philips!! I hear he's PERFECT in that sort of situation.

Fans of television racked up a major win this week, with critical darling and ratings disappointment Arrested Development coming back from the grave via the online service Netflix. And WHAT a resurrection it's been. The shows are woven together like a tapestry, with the content building with each character. An event that takes place in the background of one episode will be front and center in the next, bringing the jokes full circle. I've never seen a structure like this before, and it figures the geniuses over with Mitch Hurwitz would be the ones to do it. Comedic timing has never been better, and the cast chemistry has lost NOTHING in the past 7 years since we last saw the Bluth family. I was nervous that, with it coming back, it might be missing that certain spark. I've never been more happy to be proven wrong. WELCOME BACK, Bluths!!!

Any major events you feel should be added? Please feel free to comment! Happy Friday to you all, and thanks for reading! This has been a great first week for my little blog, and I hope to only grow, improve, and reach more people as time goes on! Thank you for your help in making that happen.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Oh By the Way...

Want to feel old? Sure you do! The Mission: Impossible film franchise is almost TWENTY years old. I remember being on the PLAYGROUND at RECESS talking about the first one (which 6th grader me did NOT understand). This summer marks 17 years since Brian De Palma's first entry hit theatres. *gulp*

Review: Fast and Furious 6

*Some very mild spoilers warned*

It's no secret that when a franchise gets a little long in the tooth (i.e. a fifth sequel), the quality gets to be....a little lacking (looking at you, Resident Evil). So the Fast series seriously comes as a pleasant surprise to me. It seems like, with the sixth entry, we're only just now really getting started. Fast Five was by far my favorite entry, which you NEVER hear about a fourth sequel (in fact, at the time of this post, Fast 6's 4-day box office total is $120,019,000 compared to Fast Five's $92,430,005 through the same amount of time). So I tried to keep my expectations in check sitting down for #6. What I found was a movie that's just plain FUN. Are there inconsistencies and miracles of physics that make its events pretty much impossible? Are there runways that magically extend for hundreds of miles like some sort of cosmic treadmill to allow for a 30 minute sequence of action??? OF COURSE. But if you're going in expecting a documentary on real life events, then you deserve to be miserable for 130 minutes.

What's good about this series is not the quality of acting. There won't be any Oscars handed out to this crew. But their chemistry is irresistible. You really get the feeling these folks enjoy working with one another, and aren't just there to cash a check. Check-cashing is usually all ANYONE is around for by the time a fifth entry hits (looking at you, Die Hard. Can't wait for Die Hard VI: Die Dammit, Die! coming 2016 to a theatre near you).  What I also love about the Fast films is their ability to bring in new characters. The addition of Dwayne Johnson to #5 was probably the best move the franchise could've made. He could probably make an hour and a half of reading the phone book on camera seem fun and b.a. The addition of MMA Amazon Warrior Goddess Gina Carano was another amazing choice. When she's in a fight scene, you cannot take your eyes off the screen. If you haven't seen her in Haywire, stop reading now and take care of that. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Wasn't that INSANE???? Even if the movie itself was a little lacking, watching her absolutely demolish people never gets old. Right, so moving on!

Another high point of #6 is its pacing. The filmmakers did an extraordinary job of keeping the events rolling, without huge sections of lag. A very common mistake is to OVER compensate and assault the audience's senses to avoid the appearance of lag. 2004's Van Helsing is an EXCELLENT example of this. I was downright exhausted by the end, because it was just too busy. This movie has a lot going on, but it's stretched out nicely. I loved the Mission: Impossible-esque teamwork element it has going. All the characters have their own little side mission to do, and you get to see how each one impacts the overall objective as it goes along.

As for the drawbacks.... A major element of the plot involves amnesia. Yep, that old cinematic chestnut that never seems to go away. I understand they had to find a way to work that character back in, but I just wish it could've been done in a different way. That's a minor gripe, though. Also, the villain seemed a little two-dimensional, taking a backseat (no pun IS a car movie, after all) to the action. Finally, you'll be hard pressed to give a fig about the cyber-warfare MacGuffin that the ENTIRE film revolves around. I'm still not sure I'm entirely clear as to what all it does. Kinda sounds like a mix between the titular GoldenEye weapon and the Rabbit's Foot from Mission: Impossible III (whatever the heck THAT thing was). Oh well. If you can't approach a movie like this with a little extra suspension of disbelief, again, you probably won't enjoy it.

The bottom line is, Fast 6 is a perfect example of a summer spectacle. Go in, sit down, laugh, oo and ahh, and just have a good time. Don't take things too seriously, and don't wonder what a fall from x height would do to a human body or a car's suspension. Even if you're unfamiliar with the series so far, you won't have a single problem rolling in and feeling like an old pro by the end. It's loud, flashy, colorful fun.

Grade: A-

P.S. There's rumor of a Hobbs movie...bring it!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Have You Seen: Hemlock Grove

Didn't think I'd find something I felt strongly enough to write about so soon, but here goes. Netflix has really been expanding their borders lately, much to my (pleasant) surprise. Original programming through an online medium has been rumored to be a thing of the future for quite some time. Well, with hits like House of Cards beginning to rise in the public eye (through some excellent word-of-mouth, especially with HoC), and Arrested Development set to hit 26 May (AHHHHHHHHH!!!!! :-D), the future seems bright for the medium. BUT...just got a look at the first episode of Netflix's Hemlock Grove. It looks like the good folks over there are keen to cash in on the Twilight/True Blood/Vampire Diaries (and the graddaddy of them all, Buffy)  fandoms with some angsty, sexually charged, supernatural horror drama of their own. 

Initial reaction? Not impressed.

It really seemed to wander, and had no characters I really felt like I could latch onto (as I re-read this, that could actually be taken as a pun. Unintentional, I promise). That might even be excusable in a pilot if the pacing was good and the story was interesting. I really didn't find either one here. Something about... gypsies, and werewolves, and possibly vampires? I dunno, it all blurred together after awhile. Not really feeling too eager to put on another episode in exchange for an hour of my life. Has anyone had a chance to see the show yet? If you're a fan of any of the shows I mentioned earlier, I'd be interested in your opinion especially. Did you like it? Hate it? Did it earn the ** 1/2 star rating I see? Let me know!

Introductions are in order, I believe...

If there's one thing I could talk about endlessly, all day every day, for no money at all (though, if someone feels inclined to write me a check...), it would be talking about pop culture. Film, television, games, literature...anything that sparks curiosity, imagination, and tells a story. So that's the focus here. If you're into these things, please feel free to come back as often as you like.

I will say these two things, as we get started:

1. I'm not a professional writer (shocker, I know. I thought ALL bloggers on the internet were supposed to be!!!). However, I do know the proper uses of your, you're, there, their, they' rest easy in that regard. But also, if you're looking for a polished, 30-draft entry that Stephen King would be proud to claim as his own, I can't guarantee that's what you'll get. I'll try to make it sound good, though. How's that?

2. I do NOT care about celebrity gossip. You will not find discussions about a celebrity's personal life, unless it directly impacts their art in SOME way (Brad Pitt's DUI arrest prevents him from taking part in a remake of Casablanca, for instance). I do not care if an actor or actress is gay, straight, sexually attracted to various forms of plant life...OR what god, goddess, or primordial energy field they pray to. I do not care who they vote for, or what causes they publicly speak out on. Those things do not enter my mind as I'm watching them perform, so I do not feel they are relevant in my analyses of said performances.

Also, the views and opinions I hold and post here are exactly that. They are not meant to be taken as a sweeping indictment on you, the reader, or your personal tastes in performers, shows, etc. I am not here to make anyone feel small or ashamed of...WHATEVER you enjoy. Believe me, I have just as many guilty pleasures as the rest of you. If you're into the Real Housewives shows, or Honey Boo Boo, etc etc etc...go for it. Whatever works for you. But I will not pretend to find the value, merit, or inspiration in those shows I simply do not enjoy (those two just happened to be examples that leapt to mind). But know that, if I express this, it is not a personal attack on you. K?

I enjoy seeing the latest films and posting my thoughts on's not usually a long, drawn-out affair. And very rarely are any spoilers involved. If I DO post something that falls into the category of a "spoiler," I will always notify you ahead of time. So hopefully no issues there.

Those are really the high points, I guess...If I think of anything else that's pertinent, I'll be sure to come back and add it. In terms of comments, you're going to disagree with me. Sometimes often. I don't mind that. But vulgar, personal attacks won't stay up. Nor will spam links, hate speech, etc. Just...act like you've got some sense, please? I know that's a pretty tall order on the internet in the year 2013, but I'd like to think it's still SOMEWHAT possible.

Thanks for reading! I hope to make this an enjoyable part of, week...however often I update it. If you have any ideas for topics, certain movies or shows you'd like to hear about, etc, let me know!