If you'll recall, when I first started this blog I was essentially a posting machine. Guess one can do that if they're busy writing blog posts at work instead of, you know, working. Who knew? In any case, the blog has definitely fallen by the wayside. Like almost into nothingness. But, I'm not ready to shut it down completely. I own the domain for another year at least. [And I'm still more prolific than MEG]
Anyway, what to expect going forward: a few posts per month (more if I'm feeling ambitious), in more of the "quick-hit" variety.
(1) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
(2) Les Miserables
(3) Django Unchained
After many fits and starts, the first of the trilogy movie adaptation of The Hobbit comes to the big screen as it was meant to: in Peter Jackson's capable hands.
Originally, Jackson was slated to write the screenplay and "consult" with Guillermo del Toro directing. Del Toro apparently got pretty far along in pre-production (like a full year) before pulling the plug. In swoops Jackson to rescue the project and save the day. And, really, could any other director have done these movies? Only Jackson could recreate the world of Middle Earth with the care required after the brilliant Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
My nerd friends and I saw it in IMAX 3D HFR on the Saturday of opening weekend. There have been plenty of complaints. That Jackson is just squeezing money out of the franchise by stretching out to three movies. That the HFR is shitty. That there are too many characters. That it's too long.
Notwithstanding these complaints (and a few of my own), I enjoyed Part I immensely. The best part was clearly the British actor playing Bilbo, Martin Freeman. He was just perfect. He had the mannerisms down pat. The angst at being invaded and eaten out of house-and-home by the dwarves? Also perfect. Rejecting the opportunity to join the quest only to slowly (then very abruptly) realize it was what he was looking for? Pretty great.
The movie is long but I barely felt the length. The dwarves are exceedingly numerous and a bit difficult to keep track of but that's the fault of the source material, not the filmmakers. There was also a bit of "Lucas-ification" of some of the CGI aspects, specifically the Goblin King, who looked like he could have come out of Episode I central casting (not a good thing). That said, I didn't really have a problem with the other CGI-based character, the Orc Azog the Defiler. He was actually kind of bad ass.
Some people didn't like the "getting-the-gang-back-together" vibe with Agent Smith, Galadriel, Rivendell, etc. I personally thought it was great. As were the tie-ins to Sauron the Necromancer, which will, of course, be significant in seventy-so odd years.
I didn't really notice the HFR though one of my friends branded it The. Worst. Thing. Ever. All in all, a solid A-/B+ and I'm really looking to the next one, especially if the subtitle is at-all explanatory (The Desolation of Smoag). DRAGONS!
I had much trepidation going into Tom Hooper's (The King's Speech) big screen adaptation of Les Mis. I'm in the weird spot of being ridiculously familiar with the stage show's music and songs, without having ever actually seen it.
From junior high to now, I've listened to the Original Cast Recording and the Tenth Anniversary Concert Recording countless times. My concern going in (not completely allayed) was that I wouldn't be able to concentrate on the movie due to constantly thinking how different the voices were to the voices I knew. Especially Colm Wilkenson!
So, on to the movie. I really enjoyed it. Having never seen the stage show other than via the televised PBS anniversary concerts it was really cool to finally see some visual interpretation of how the songs fit into the overall setting/story. Fantine's tragic descent during "I Dreamed a Dream" is especially more dramatic and sad having actually seen what happens to her during the song. And, Anne Hathaway absolutely kills it. She deserves all the award season accolades she's getting. It would be shocking to see her fail to win her first Oscar.
Much has been made of the director's decision to film the movie with live singing, as opposed to lip-synching and post-production studio recordings of the songs. It completely works. The acting benefits greatly from this new idea. The different emotions of the actors while they're singing comes across much better this way than the standard way.
As for the individual cast members, Hugh Jackman is tremendous and, in any year where Daniel Day Lewis was not playing Abraham Lincoln, he'd likely win the Best Actor Academy Award. Russell Crowe. Well. He's not as bad as everyone is saying. It helps that is character is meant to be stern and stoic. His voice chops simply aren't there though. I mean, in the rights hands, "Stars" is one of my favorite songs from any musical. Crowe's Javert simply cannot do it justice.
For those curious, here's the gold standard of "Stars":
Eddie Redmayne had a surprisingly good voice but does have the chin-quiver thing while singing. Amanda Seyfried was only okay. But she's a member of TGS's famouse Y&P! Club, so she gets a pic:
|Yes and Please!!!|
The last of the Christmas-season releases I saw was Tarantino's fabulous Django Unchained. This is what moviemaking should be: extremely pleasing to the audience while also superb in nearly every technical aspect.
This is right up there as among the best movies I saw in 2012. Tarantino simply does not fuck around. Like not even a little. Django is much more action-packed than its predecessor, Inglorious Basterds, yet still features his exquisite, technical filmmaking.
Nearly every part is perfectly acted. I don't love Jamie Fox, either as a person or as an actor, but he plays Django exactly as he should. Christoph Waltz kills yet another character that Quentin seemingly wrote just for him. Don Johnson? Awesome. Walton Goggins? Ummm....okay!! Leo crushes the bad-guy role and Samuel L. Jackson absolutely steals the entire movie as Candie's Stockholm-Syndrome head house slave, Stephen.
This is a bloody, violent film. It's about pre-Civil War America. The "N-Word" features prominently, as some of you might have heard. I was not distracted by it in the least. In fact, I think it's a pretty believable portrayal of how the word was used in those times (if not to such a voluminous extent).
As with any Tarantino movie, the cinematography is sublime, the music/song choices fit in impeccably and add a ton to what you see on the screen and the dialogue is as snappy as we've come to expect.
I'll agree with one of the Half in the Bag guys and concede that, if there was a weakness, it is that the movie had what felt like a great "natural" ending point but still blazed on for another half hour. It is on the long side but I don't mind staying past the "natural" time in Tarantino's world.
THE IDIOT BOX!
(2) Happy Endings
The post-holiday network hiatus is at an end, meaning not only do all the normal shows come back with new episodes, but also the appearance of some winter premieres (Justified! Archer!), old shows on new channels (Hello TBS, CougarTown!), and completely new shows. Of the latter category, I'll be checking out Fox's The Following but, thus far, have only agreed to put Continuum in the standard rotation. After being repeatedly told to check it out, I also added Happy Endings to a regular spot in the ol' DVR.
If you're looking for a new Sci-Fi show, I highly recommend (based only on the first two episodes), SyFy's new one, Continuum.
The story: it's 2077 and corporations have displaced sovereign nations as the rulers of the world. The world these corporations run is a little on the Nazi-side of governing principles giving rise to (of course) a rebel group called Liber8. See what they did there? Well, they blow up the "Corporate Congress" (at the same time killing tens of thousands of innocents), get caught and are sentenced to be executed.
At their execution, they've got other ideas. One of them throws...well...something into the device set to kill them which instead creates some sort of portal that they all disappear into.
And, not alone!!! See, the future has super cops called "Protectors". Our main character, Kiera, is one such Protector. And she gets caught up in the portal and sent with the Liber8 leaders to...wait for it...almost there... 2012!!! Dun-dun-DUNNNN!
And, oh by the way, Kiera is played by Rachel Nichols, definitely Y&P worthy.
How did I ignore the calls to watch Happy Endings before now? More importantly, WHY?!?! It is, joke-for-joke, the funniest show on television. The jokes are just as fast and furious as on Archer but not with the obscurity some of the jokes in the latter feature. There's not much to say about the plot. It's six young professionals, living in Chicago, and being ridiculous. It's also on cancellation watch so, if you haven't, PLEASE START WATCHING THIS SHOW!!!!!
This also features a long-time member of the Y&P Club, Elisha Cuthbert...
|Yes and Please 1!|
As well as a new candidate for membership, Eliza Coupe...
|Yes and Please 2!|
(1) Da Bears Enter the NFL's 21st Century
Chicago's long nightmare is over. Lovie Smith = Fired! QB and offensively-focused Marc Trestman = Hired! Never again will we need to look upon the personification of confused looks during a Chicago Bears game.
I don't know if Trestman is the right hire. He's never been a head coach in the NFL but has head coaching experience...but in the Canadian Football League. That said, he's had tremendous success up North, winning back-to-back Grey Cups and generally churning out successful teams on the offensive side of the ball.
This is a necessary change for the Bears organization. The modern, Goddell-era NFL is geared to the offenses. A good defense is a nice thing to have but the old adage really does not ring true any more. To be sure, most of this year's playoff teams have good defenses. That's simply not sufficient anymore. Almost all of them also have dynamic offenses, capable of scoring a lot of points in a lot of different ways.
In Jay Cutler, the Bears have a QB with franchise-QB talent. He's had what, four (?) different offensive coordinators and systems (none of them good) in his time here? Trestman eschewed from the Lovie-esque, Beat Green Bay, rah-rah, pandering and went instead with a focus to get players who love the game of football, rushing the QB and protecting the QB. He might look like a complete nerd but I like what I've heard so far.
Oh, and GM Phil Emery being allowed to can Lovie after a 10-6 season? Thus proving he's really the man in charge and not Ted Phillips or a McCasky? That's pretty damn sweet too.
Welcome to the modern NFL, Bears fans!
IT. IS. ON.
For the record, I am 100% all-in for the 49ers. Not because of Jim Harbaugh's Michigan and Bears connections (though those don't hurt). Nor do I have anything against John Harbaugh. I actually like him and think they are both top-5 NFL coaches right now.
No, what I'm hoping for is for someone, anyone, to please send Ray Lewis off into retirement, sans another Super Bowl ring. PLEASE!