Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscars Deadblog

So my laptop died out on me. Again. I should just buy something reliable, like a Mac.

I can't seem to find a decent online stream of the broadcast, so as much as I'd love to liveblog, I don't have a computer in front of a TV, and I can't get the oscars in the computer lab. I'll be writing a commentary of the night overall, and putting it up here tomorrow morning.

I'm so sorry!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Live from the GRAMMYS

Well, live from my living room, anyways.

I'll be updating throughout the night with results and commentary, and hopefully the end product is at least somewhat coherent.

The ceremony opened with U2, singing some song, the verse of which sounded more or less ripped off from Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up" but with Bono's trademark politicization of everything.

Also, the captions projected behind the band were kinda silly and unnecessary. Although it did lend the insight that Bono didn't sing "Yeah!" when he was supposed to.

Aaaaand cut to Whitney Houston. I don't know if it's the crack rock or the Botox, but something is going on with her face.

Jennifer Hudson wins Best R&B Album. Clearly an emotional victory.

Oh snap, Paul McCartney is performing with Dave Grohl!?!? I'm getting my popcorn.

Al Green with Justin Timberlake and Keith Urban. This is what you call a performance clusterf*ck. I love me some Al Green, but I would rather the man just perform by himself. At least Urban's just playing guitar, which he isn't bad at.

This is where I would talk about Coldplay's performance, if they weren't so bloody boring that I can't bring myself to comment.

And there's Jay Z. He could rap over polka music and make it sound cool. I laugh-out-louded at the line he rapped, "It's hard to be Bobby Brown, cause you can't be Bobby then, you gotta be Bobby now." Oh, Jay.

Did they just do two performances with no awards in between? With performers like Coldplay and Carrie Underwood, I need the awards in between to give me a break.

Took a bit of a constitutional there, missed the Kid Rock performance. Oh no, however shall I sleep knowing I missed such a talented performer?

Kanye and Estelle rocked it. Great song, great outfits, I want Kanye's jacket.

Adele is the Best New Artist of the year, which I completely agree with. She's a great new talent, and she shows you don't have to be a ridiculously skanky, skinny coke addict to be a successful musician and a great performer.

Okay, Paul McCartney? Dave Grohl? Record an album together now, please. Thank you.

John Mayer wins Best Male Pop Vocal. Vent your "ha ha"s and "you suck"s below, if ya know what I'm talking about.

More to come!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Wrestler Redacted

As detailed in my column in Wednesday's paper, Mickey Rourke had announced at the Screen Actors Guild Awards that he was going to appear at Wrestlemania, and possibly even wrestle.

This was followed by a genuinely awful exchange between Rourke and WWE Superstar Chris Jericho on Larry King Live, during which Rourke was clearly not playing ball with the pro wrestler.
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but in my article I expressed the opinion that Rourke should not appear at the event, and instead concentrate on his return to acting, and being taken seriously by Hollywood.

A massive influx of comments took that as to mean that I hate wrestling, most of which probably came from this guy:

"It's still real to me!"

Now today, Mickey Rourke's agent announced that he's pulling out of the Wrestlemania appearance, to focus on his acting. Now I don't want to say "I told you so," but...

Now I'm not going to do the victory dance yet, because there's still a chance that he may show up.

When the WWE is involved, the words "too shameless" have no meaning, so there's no saying that they didn't say he won't show, just to further the storyline.

Also, its perfectly believable that he's saying he won't show for now, just to keep it from harming his chances at the Academy Awards, only to re-announce his participation after the ceremony.

So there's no saying what's really going on, until we get some de facto confirmation from either the Roure or McMahon camp.

I for one, would like to see Mickey Rourke's experience in a wrestling ring to remain in Darren Aronofsky's film.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

ROUGH riders

These are words I thought I'd never type, but Central Michigan University could use to learn a thing or two from Corey Densmore.

Personal opinions of the guy aside, he is putting on the best concerts in Mt. Pleasant right now.

His Diamonds in the Rough promotion is bringing bigger-named acts like The Hard Lessons or Dan Deacon and pairing them with the local startups he nurtures, like The Valley Ghosts and Ultramark, and it makes for an astounding show.

Last night's show was incredible. The Valley Ghosts, Frontier Ruckus, Mason Proper, The Great Lakes Myth Society and The Hard Lessons, all playing in the historic Broadway theater. It was up-close, personal, hip, high-energy, and all flavors of fun.

In comparison, CMU Program Board's "big" winter concert was Friday night. They brought Josh Gracin, the country-singin' American Idol also-ran.

Sure, he's a name, but is the music any good? What's wrong with bringing up-and-comers who play genuinely great music instead of has-beens and never-wills that may have a marginal level of name recognition?

Why bring Josh Gracin or Yung Joc when you could pay less for Great Lakes Myth, or Otto Vector? You might not get the mass of country fans, but good people who like good music would attend, and you wouldn't lose money on the venture.

Also, just in case somebody from Program Board is reading--would it kill ya to book Lemon Demon?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Advanced Manliness

I, for one, am pumped for "The Expendables."

Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, "Expendables" is a straightforward men-on-a-mission action flick about a group of mercenaries overthrowing a dictator in South America.

Starring Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and MICKEY ROURKE, this ridiculously cool-sounding project starts filming next month with hopes of being the premiere testosterone-palooza of 2010.

And then today, this picture of Stallone, in shape and made up with the tattoos for his role of merc Barney Ross, hit the Web:


That makes me, as a 21-year-old keyboard-jockey, whimper with jealousy and latent homosexual urges.

Talk amongst yourselves. I'm going to the store for whey protein and those p90X videos.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

2008 in video games: A Top Ten Adventure

2008 was a great year for gamers, with enough A-list games to leave even casual gamers penniless and friendless. Here is my incredibly opinionated and biased cream of the crop.

10. Prince of Persia

It was a fight between "PoP" and "Gears of War 2" for this spot. While "GoW2" is a stellar game, it suffers from "Halo 3"-itis, offering little more than the features offered in the original game.

"Prince of Persia," on the other hand, offers gameplay completely different than previous entries in the series, and a visual design like none seen before. The gameplay, though overly forgiving, is engaging and exciting, the story and characters are compelling, and the visuals are ethereal and beautiful to watch in motion.

In this house, artistry and innovation win over name-power.

9. Fable II

Still rather simplistic for the "Life simulator" designer Peter Molyneux touted the first game to be, it was a fantastically detailed adventure-RPG that was worth the hours and hours of gameplay. A messed up economy system couldn't keep the main gameplay of adventure and combat in a world that reacts to your decisions from being tons of fun.

8. Dead Space

Ironically, the year that fresh breath is given to survival-horror games is the year that there is not a new "Resident Evil." The story is stellar, the environment is eerie and invokes a space-version of "Bioshock" at times. The sound design is also extremely commendable, and all-around the production values of this game are absolutely top-tier.

7. Left 4 Dead

Squad-based, first-person zombie-killin' action adds an exciting breath of fresh air to the over-a-decade-old survival-horror genre. Either online or with live friends, multiplayer is this game's golden goose. The dynamic between the players is fantastic, as the four survivors quite literally live or die by each other.

6. Far Cry 2

A first-person sandbox adventure in a nondescript warring country, where your character can affect the outcome of the conflict, while trying to survive his affliction of malaria.

A few strange choices keep this from being an absolutely amazing game, and travel time can be killer, but the gorgeous environments, fun run-and-gun gameplay and first-person sandbox dynamic makes this game worth the hours of driving a jeep through the gorgeously rendered jungle while popping malaria pills.

5. Super Smash Bros. Brawl

The best fighting game of the year wasn't Soul Calibur 4, and most certainly wasn't Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. That honor goes to Smash Bros., which, like those other games, had some very strange guest stars. Whoever thought putting Sonic and Solid Snake in a balls-crazy party-friendly fighting game with Mario and Pikachu should get a medal.

4. Fallout 3

This game blurs the lines between FPS and RPG the way only Bethesda can.

Following up a ten-year-old classic game is a daunting task, but this game passed all expectations. Sprawling, complex, engaging and fun, "Fallout 3" will suck up hours and hours of time.

3. Metal Gear Solid 4

This game is absolutely bugf*ck insane. It's overblown, over-indulgent, and you'll spend as much time watching the game as playing the game.

Still, it's an absolutely fascinating experience like no other game can provide. The Big Crazy lends to the Magical Moments that will stick in your gamer-brain for the rest of eternity. The Metal Gear vs. Metal Gear fight, the honest-to-God espionage section in Eastern Europe, where you are required to be stealthy in a way you never have in a MGS game. It's absolutely insane, but it's also insanely satisfying, and is probably the number-two killer app to have on the Playstation 3.

2. LittleBigPlanet

...And this would be the number one killer app for the PS3.

This absolutely brilliantly platformer blends the line between gamer and game designer. Infinitely replayable by downloading levels others have made, the level designer to create your own is one of the most robust and flexible tools released to the public for making games. You can make your own platforming levels, but you can also use it to turn the game into something else: You can make your own storylines, turn it into a murder mystery, a trivia contest, a role-playing game. There probably are technical limits to LittleBigPlanet's creation system, but it's more likely to reach the limits of the imagination first.

1. Grand Theft Auto IV

The GTA games have become such huge productions, it's always shocking that they are some of the most coherent games, with stories that aren't only gigantic, sprawling, and interactive, but also incredibly well-written.

The tale of Niko Bellic is one of hope, heartbreak, and disillusionment of the American Dream. It's also a bloody, insane tale of theft, murder, car chases, shootouts, and explosions that takes place in a gorgeous, gigantic city that seems to live and breathe around Niko. Not only is this the Game of the Year, but one could spend an ENTIRE year playing nothing but this game and never be tired.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2008 in bad and disappointing movies: A series of Top Five Adventures

I have a confession to make.

I haven't seen "The Wrestler" yet.

I wrote out my Top Ten Movies of 2008 post, and put the wrestler on it, but felt it would be best to wait until actually having seen the movie to post it. So that will probably be up at the end of the week. Until then, you'll have to settle with a pair of top fives, for the worst and most disappointing movies of the year.

Most disappointing movies of 2008

5. Cloverfield

There was a lot of hype and high hopes for this movie, and although it wasn't necessarily bad, "Cloverfield" certainly did not live up to expectations.

This super-cool concept was marred by hammy acting, a ridiculous looking monster, and camera work that would make the Blair Witch lose her biscuits.

4. Hamlet 2

The advertising and trailers for this movie promised a raunchy, controversial, creative comedy, and what audiences got was a pretty safe movie that never moves beyond the raunch introduced in the trailer.

"Hamlet 2" never delivered any huge laughs, but Steve Coogan's wild-eyed, lovable performance in the lead saved the movie. The problem is that it shouldn't have to.

3. Hancock

What this movie promised was a wise-eyed sendup of superhero movies, featuring an alcoholic superbeing and the PR guru trying to clean him up. And that's what we got--for the first half of the movie.

At almost the exact halfway point of the movie, the focus shifts from Hancock's behavior to his relationship with the PR guy's wife, played by Charlize Theron, who has similar powers to Hancock, and claims that they share the same fate

 At this point the movie stops being funny. Very soon after, it stops making sense. Somehow Hancock and Charlize are linked, and when they get close to one another, their powers weaken. But it doesn't seem to always work like that all the time, and the climax of the movie hinges on logic that either wasn't explained or isn't there at all.

A great concept marred by sloppy handling. I would actually like to see Will Smith come back for a "Hancock 2"--with a new director and screenwriters that can do the movie right.

2. Speed Racer

Now don't get me wrong, because I actually liked "Speed Racer." Visually, it was the most stunning thing I've ever seen. It was colorful, visceral, completely fresh and altogether insane. And John Goodman suplexes a ninja.

However, as far as being a coherent film, it falls a little bit. The plot is both sloppy and simplistic, dialogue is stilted and there are only a handful of worthwhile performances.

Those looking for more visual innovation from the Wachowski Brothers were doubtlessly thrilled by this movie. Those that were hoping the Wachowskis would climb out of the hole they dug themselves with the "Matrix" sequels and create another genuinely great movie remain wanting.

1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

19 years.

Movie lovers around the world waited 19 years for a new "Indiana Jones" movie, and this is what they got. CGI gophers and monkeys. Nuclear bomb-proof refrigerators. Unbearably phony Russian accents. Shia LaBeouf. The list of complaints goes on an on.

I think this movie recaptured the look of the old "Indy" flicks on the most superficial levels, but absolutely failed to FEEL like Indiana Jones. The action never stops long enough for tension to builds. The characters never stop to THINK. There's never any feeling that Indy is in peril after the first 15 minutes because HE ALREADY SURVIVED HAVING AN ATOMIC BOMB DETONATED ON TOP OF HIM.

Spielberg and Lucas have already begun talking about an Indy 5. Unless they are planning to get back to the high-tension adventure escapism of the previous films, I think the majority of the viewing audience would rather if they didn't bother.

Worst movies of 2008

5. Punisher: War Zone

Yes, it was a bad movie. It bombed, and rightfully so. But that's not to say it wasn't fun.

The story is childishly simple. The editing is pretty poor. The acting--save for Ray Stevenson, the best Punisher ever--is atrocious. The villain is laughable. This is not a good movie.

But Stevenson's psychotic, determined Punisher and his hard-core crimefighting make this movie an absolute riot. The Punisher grabs a bad guy and PUNCHES A HOLE THROUGH HIS FACE. Another bad guy is jumping from rooftop to rooftop, only to get hit midair by a rocket-propelled grenade and disappear into a red mist. Wayne "Newman" Knight shows up as a weapons-dealer, for crying out loud.

I recognize this as a bad movie. But it was the most fulfilling, entertaining bad movie of the year, so I guess it can take that as a victory (because the movie certainly had no victories in the box office). This is a movie to watch with buddies on a Bad Movie Night. Wait three years, and this will play on TBS from then until forever.

4. Max Payne

I would have not thought it possible, but "Max Payne" manages to essentially be an even less-intelligent "Punisher" movie. It tries to be visually interesting but ends up distracting, the story is essentially gobbledygook, the action is uninteresting, and star Mark Wahlberg does nothing to save this sinking ship.

The movie's one saving grace may be the brief appearance of Olga Kurylenko, who would later be seen as the Bond girl in "Quantum of Solace." I don't think she had really been in anything significant before this. Don't by any means think I'm calling "Max Payne" significant, but that's just an interesting little piece of trivia.

3. Doomsday

CMU film professor Ken Jurkiewicz loved this movie. I love Dr. J, but on this point I could not disagree with him more. This movie is derivative of things like "Road Warrior" and "28 Days Later," without managing to be half as interesting. This is not a horror movie, and tilts more towards action, but the copious amount of gore in this movie is played more for gross-outs than thrills, and the lingering camera on decapitated heads and acts of cannibalism both throws the movie completely off-pace and makes the audience totally uncomfortable. Not even worth seeing for a laugh.

2. TIE: Disaster Movie/Meet the Spartans

I don't want to dignify Friedberg and Seltzer by putting their cultural regurgitations at the top of this list. They're crap. Everybody knows it. I'm pretty sure even Friedberg and Seltzer know it. Nobody could churn out movies like this so quickly and humorlessly without knowing that what they are making is total drivel. In an economic climate where so many people are desperate for jobs, how is it that these two hacks are still making movies?

1. The Spirit

I can't believe anybody thought this was a good idea. Frank Miller, a comic book writer that has no experience directing, and hasn't even written a good comic in ten years, turns in the most flaccid, ineffective, poorly written, poorly directed, poorly acted attempt at cinema to make its way to theaters in a long time. He surrounded himself with talented people and adds a black mark to their IMDb pages--legendary cinematographer Bill Pope, for example, who still makes this movie look as good as possible.

Don't see this. Don't buy this. Don't give movie studios any motivation to give Miller another directing job. This movie sucks so bad.