Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Archive for February, 2011

Academy Awards Liveblog – A Day Too Late

So last night on Facebook I liveblogged the Oscars. Here’s the transcript in an attempt to actually post something today.

Film Review – Drive Angry 3D

The Oscars are tonight, and if it were up to me  all the damned nominees would be disqualified and they’d give all the trophies to this movie. Because this shit was gold. It takes a lot of balls to make a film like this. It’s so stupid that brain cells die when you watch it. And all I can really say is that other films wish they could do bat-shit crazy as well as this film does. And you know what? It’s not all on the head of Nic Cage this time. There’s none of the manic insanity of his Bad Lieutenant style here. He plays the role fairly straight. Everybody does really. William Fichtner solidifies himself as one of the best character actors living today and steals every scene he’s in. He’s a damn revelation. He really should just be in every movie ever made.

The movie tanked this weekend, which I think was expected. But you really need to check this one out on the big screen with an audience. This movie works when you’ve got some enthusiastic people watching the insanity there with you. Honestly the 3D is never quite as impressive as it is in the first ten minutes, and after that it’s mostly an afterthought but it does add something fun to the proceedings in the same way 3D added to the lunacy of a film like Jaws 3D. It’s a gimmick but like last year’s Piranha it serves the film for the better this time around.

The Great Comics Con Queso Star Wars Expanded Universe Reading Experiment – Entry # 6 : Imperial Commando – 501st

This book can be viewed from a few different standpoints, most notably as the fifth part of an ongoing story or the first part of a new series that never went any further. Either way you look at it you can’t help but come away feeling a little disappointed at all the loose ends left when you reach the final page. There is so much setup here that gets no payoff because the rest of the series was scrapped, which is a shame because a lot of effort has gone into the crafting of the books from the start and for internal politics to derail what could have been one of the finest extended universe sagas, it’s just a crying shame.

The book does a great job of showing what the Star Wars universe was like in the transition from the Republic to the Empire. It’s something that we haven’t seen in the films or dealt with much in any of the other novels in the series. It’s a very vivid description of a place that doesn’t seem too far fetched in the era of the Patriot Act and domestic security issues that we’ve seen recently. That is an element of great sci-fi and genre fiction, where the real world is present in the corners of the imagined to make the extraordinary feel possible. Author Karen Traviss has never been one to shy away from making the books emotionally engaging and never once do you not feel the consequences that loom over the characters. An element carried over from the earlier books which, as I’ve said before, do a great job of building emotional attachment to the cast.

I hate that the series ends on a forced cliffhanger, and I wish that we could get the end to the story, but it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the novel as a standalone entity as it’s quite well-written and shouldn’t be ignored because of the way things are (not) wrapped up.

R.I.P. Dwayne McDuffie

The world was saddened by the news yesterday that writer Dwayne McDuffie, a pivotal player in the comics industry when it came to the diversification of superheroes in the medium for the last decade, had passed away from complications arising from a surgical procedure. The man who co-founded Milestone Media and brought us so many wonderful episodes of Justice League died all too soon and an entire industry mourned.

I have to admit it came at a bit of an awkward time. I was about to write an article about his handling of the All Star Superman translation which was not entirely positive. But it’s easy to overlook some of his missteps when stacked against his successes. Let’s not forget that he’s leaving behind a legacy that is comparable to many of the brightest stars working in this industry. His work with Static is truly inspiring and his campaigns against editorial meddling have made him a hero in certain circles. And though he may be remembered just as much for that issue of Fantastic Four where Black Panther put the Silver Surfer in a headlock, we should all remember that he made some simply amazing contributions to the comics industry and we’d be lucky to find anyone as enthusiastic about the work he put out as Dwayne McDuffie.

The Great Comics Con Queso Star Wars Expanded Universe Reading Experiment – Entry # 5 : Republic Commando – Order 66

The Clone Wars come to an end in this book and it feels like I’ve been there for the entirety of the campaign. The timeline of this series is not overly extended when put in perspective but the amount of story that has been crammed into four books is astounding. I’ve said before that the books get better with each passing installment due to the emotional investment put into the characters over the course of the story and while I think that True Colors is my favorite of the series, Order 66 has to be one of the most satisfying payoffs for a story I have ever read. It’s not a happy ending and there are a good deal of loose ends at the close of the book, but nevertheless it feels like everyone finds themselves at the place they needed to get to when the final page is turned.

Order 66 takes a while to get going, as the first few chapters made me feel like this book would be one long epilogue, with the story not so much being its own burden but instead only taking time to wrap up the threads of the previous books. Things change rapidly however and the standalone narrative of the book falls into place and moves forward with breakneck speed. There is not much in the way of filler in Order 66. There is a huge shift coming in the universe these characters occupy and author Karen Traviss propels us there faster than if we’d been shot out of a cannon. There is very little time given where we can catch our breath. The tension in this final installment is simply amazing and I cannot praise the construction of the novel enough.

The next book on the reading schedule is the sole “Imperial Commando” novel entitled “501st” which picks up from here and marks the end of these character’s narratives for the time being as Traviss’ issues with her work being ignored during the production of the Clone Wars television series forced her to cancel the second book. Which is a shame because I could read about these characters forever, as I think they’re some of the best developed in the entirety of the license.

Film Review – Unknown

The main insult I’ve seen thrown at Unknown in the reviews I managed to read before heading into the theater to see it for myself was that the film is implausible. Unknown does require a very heavy suspension of disbelief but I don’t think that the plotline is anymore ludicrous than any other entry in the genre. Maybe those who find fault with the composition have the same qualms with Taken, although that film seems to enjoy a level of love that shoots that theory right out of the water. I don’t have a problem with Unknown, other than the fact that because of the level of absurdity in the plot the finale seems deflated and without a real sense of closure because the tone shift once the big reveal happens is so severe that any previous assumptions about how things would wrap up are tossed out the window.

I give Unknown major credit for keeping me guessing. The one thing that would have sunk this film entirely would be if I had been able to figure it out before the characters did. The twist is rather unexpected and therein lies a bit of the problem for some of the viewers who feel like the explaination to Mr. Neeson’s problems comes off as being from out of left field. I do agree that there was nothing previously indicated, no clue left that would point the viewer in this direction but the way it plays out is no less valid than whatever the viewer may have anticipated.

The only real problems I have with the film is the style of the action beats which are mostly obscured and dizzying. The phenomenon of the skakey-cam needs to go away sooner rather than later. I could tell that there was some decent car chase and fight choreography but that work was lost in the frenetic editing of the scenes. It doesn’t torpedo the movie entirely but it does take the viewer out of the action as they try to figure out what the hell is going on at certain points.

In the end, it’s not the mess some people make it out to be but neither is it the worthy successor to Taken that others hoped it would be.

Book Review – Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Owalt

Patton Oswalt is one of my favorite working standup comedians. He’s one of the few I haven’t had a chance to see live but I hope to remedy that when he manages to drag his shebs down to Houston for a show. I think that Mr. Oswalt is one of the most refreshingly honest comedians working the stage these days, with Dave Attel, Louis C.K. and a few others riding alongside him like a sort of comedic Magnificent Seven, saying the things nobody wants to but doing it anyway.

So when I heard he was putting out a book I obviously had to pick it up. I felt I owed it to him in a sort of gesture showing that the time he spent putting this together was worth it in the end. So if nothing else he can feel validated that someone read his book and felt that it was worth doing so. Though partially I must admit that reading this is my penance for reading Olivia Munn’s book last year because after seeing a few episodes of Perfect Couples on NBC I have come to be certain that she is a serpent from the depths of hell sent forth to vex me in between good shows on Thursday night. I’m sure she’s a lovely person and if she’d like to come to Houston and spend a night on the town convincing me that she is not a derivative of Satan’s plan I would love to accompany for a few hours.

Anyhow, Patton’s book. I guess I should talk about it insofar as how it works as an actual entity shouldn’t I? I think I need to clear up that this is a biography in almost no way whatsoever. This is a disjointed standup act cobbled together and thrown in between the covers. The structure doesn’t seem to follow any narrative pattern and there are whole chapters thrown in that are just comedic musings on general themes that do seem a bit awkward at times but their placement makes the comedic gems contained within pack more of a surprise punch because of their ability to slice through your confusion and make the guy sitting next to you wonder why you’ve suddenly starting chuckling like a fool when you were previously looking at your book the way that Sarah Palin looks at a monosyllabic word.

The best parts of the book are truly found in the biographical sections and I can’t help but wish there were more of them in the book. The people who populate Patton’s world are like frightening creatures pulled from some dystopian indie film and yet somehow more realistic and sad than they have any right to be. Patton’s story about his time spent in Canada doing standup in a suburb of Vancouver which mirrors a sort of dark purgatory that you wouldn’t wish upon one of your enemies is simultaneously infuriating and hilarious. His chapter explaining his theories on the categorization of man into either the Zombie, Spaceship or Wasteland niche groups is oddly insightful considering the sort of madness that precedes it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever looked at someone on the street and felt a twinge of anger for no discernible reason but had their gut instinct rewarded when that person turned out to be an animal abuser who also owns more than one Nickelback album. This is a book for the rightfully frustrated. I count myself among that number.