Monday, August 24, 2009

Blogcation: Be back in a week

Well, it’s that time of year again.

Time for the entire staff of (read: this guuuuy) to head off into the wilderness for the annual camping trip.

Luckily for you, “the wilderness” and I have worked out an exchange program and Humphrey, a Cardejack bear, is on his way into the big city to take over the site for the next week.

Humphrey’s computer and blogging skills are questionable, however, so to be safe, I’d just not expect a post for about a week if I were you.

See you back here in seven (or so. You never can tell with camping trips these days) days when we’ll be back to the normal schedule of updating whenever we get around to it.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review: District 9

Seldom do I see a film in the theater that, after the credits roll, makes me want to stand up, walk outside and purchase another ticket for the next showing. This is exactly how I felt after seeing District 9 this past weekend.

The amount of praise I wish to heap upon this film makes me feel like a critical sellout. But I assure you, no palm greasing has taken place. District 9 is simply worthy of every kind word I’m about to throw at it.

First, something must be said about co-writer and director Neill Blomkamp. I do not envy this dude. He came out of nowhere to make his big-time debut with one of the, if not THE, best movies I’ve seen this year and what is now one of my favorite Sci-Fi films of all time. He may have set the bar too high with this one. Good luck living up to my expectations on your next project, Mr. Weird-last-name.

Aside from fantastic writing and direction, District 9 is full of admirable qualities sure to be enjoyed by movie-goers who don’t need to see ‘splosions every thirteen second to be entertained. There are plenty of things going boom, of course, but for a film about aliens being stranded on Earth and forced to live in refugee camps to have this much brains is just shy of boggling.

Racial, political and class(ical?) issues serve as a backbone for this film which somehow manages to say a lot without shoving anything down the throat of the viewer. There’s loads to think about when you aren’t too busy being dazzled by the performances and presentation.

Speaking of which, lead actor Sharlto Copley (what is it with this film and dudes with weird names?) does a ridiculously good job in his first role on the silver screen. Instantly believable and overflowing with energy, Copley’s portrayal of unlikely hero Wikus Van De Merwe (Again!) is award worthy.

Next up is the pacing. District 9 is a perfect story arch that begins slowly and builds to a final act that’s more explosive and entertaining than anything you’re likely to have seen in quite a while. The movie starts as a documentary, shot with various cameras and put together exactly as you would expect to see a genuine film of the genre. As the second third of District 9 begins, the documentary aspects begin to fade, giving way to a style more akin to a drama. When the final act comes, though, it’s all-out action.

The formula works well and, running just shy of two hours, everything feels perfectly timed. Not too long. Not too short. Just right.

Much like the film’s transition from documentary to action/thriller, so too does the CG evolve. At first, the alien ship and the aliens themselves are the only special effects you’ll notice. They’re obvious, of course, but subtle and appropriate. As the pace ramps up, the technological wizardry follows right along, adding up to what is easily some of the best use of movie-making bells and whistles to date.

I was excited to see District 9 in the first place, and I’m even more excited for my return visit. If I find myself with a bit too much free time in the coming weeks, my next trip may come sooner than the DVD release. I’m eager to make my way back to the theater, plop down in my seat with soda and popcorn in hand and once again be treated to some of the most engaging cinema in recent memory.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Review: Funny People

After the less-than-stellar Zohan, I was really hoping to see Adam Sandler return with a performance more akin to Punch Drunk Love or even Spanglish. With age, the man has proven he can be a pretty dang good serious actor.

Falling somewhere in the middle of his extremes, Sandler’s character George Simmons in Funny People is an actor who, like Sandler himself, has made a living off his crazy comedies and oddball characters. When Simmons discovers he has a deadly disease, however, quite a bit of drama takes center stage.

Funny People is a dark project from writer/director Judd Apatow that pulls off a nice mix of heart-crushingly somber moments with absolutely hilarious dialogue and characters. Seth Rogen co-stars as Simmons’ personal assistant and comedic pet project and, no surprise, the dude is 100 percent dynamite. Support from Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman and Aubrey Plaza (and a slew of great cameos) help round out the hilarious cast in what is possibly the most appropriately named movies of all time.

You see…because they are funny people…and the movie is called…moving on.

My only real gripe with the film was that it felt about a half hour too long. Like with The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Apatow has yet to learn sometimes less is more. By the final quarter of the film, things feel like they’re dragging and a few decent edits here and there throughout would have made for a more concise package.

Other than that, the man is still batting a thousand. Funny People is just as funny as his previous films despite the subject matter and the dramatic moments are as well delivered and put together as any movie belonging solely to that genre.
It’s a little unbalanced, but damn if I didn’t enjoy it.

Review: 500 Days of Summer

I think the object of 500 Days of Summer was to present a relationship-gone-wrong where the average viewer can see both sides of the story and maybe, just maybe, walk out understanding a little bit more about the opposite sex.

Not this guy. It’s a testament to the writer and actors that, by the time the credits rolled, I hated all women.

Okay, not really. But I was impressed with how well the film portrayed a breakup to the point where what is happening onscreen and being said by the characters will likely hit way too close to home for anyone who has ever been in a relationship.

Despite the less than upbeat subject matter, 500 Days of Summer manages to offer plenty of laughs and, more importantly, hope.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt once again solidifies his place in my mind as the best young actor of our time and Zooey Deschanel is deliciously unique and cute as all hell.

The plot jumps about, using the days of the main characters’ relationship to keep things in perspective, and this method works extremely well. The constant contrast allows 500 Days of Summer to move in a steady series of valleys and peaks rather than a typical bell curve, giving a more interesting perspective to events (courting, embarrassing first date, fuzzy feelings, broken heat) you’ve seen a million times before.

With a whimsical narrator helping move things along something like a fairytale and interesting uses of animation, 500 Days of Summer amounts to a wonderful, fresh take on love and loss.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday mini-movies: Goal! Aw-aaaaw?! edition.

With the new season of the Premiership just around the corner, I figured now would be a good time to post a soccer video to get everyone in the spirit.

The person who posted the above clip said it was a funny video. At about the 30 second mark, I started to question when the "funny" was going to happen.

Trust me, it's there. As well as a valuable lesson about who should and should not be used to take a penalty kick.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

UFC 101: Pepper vs. Echo- Genesis

UFC 101 is here and that means it’s time to throwdown. Some of you will recall a certain Pesky Pepper calling me out last month, challenging staticEchoes to a sort of “he said, she said” battle, the idea for which was lovingly stolen from Cagepotato's Ben vs. Ben.

I've spent the past month training and feel confident in my ability to out-“call” Mrs. Pepper. Many-a blogger have fallen victim to my patented triple finger key tap and I can backspace like a bastard, so I hope she's bringing her "A" game.

Here’s the main fight card:
--Josh “The Dentist” Neer vs. Kurt “Batman” Pellegrino
--Kendall “Da Spyder” Grove vs. Richard “Big Dog” Almeida
--Amir “Powda Keg” Sadollah vs. Johny “Ham Sammich” Hendricks
--Anderson “The Spider” Silva vs. Forrest “Open car doors” Griffin
--BJ “The Prodigy” Penn vs. Kenny “KenFlo” Florian

Let’s get it on!

Josh Neer/Kurt Pellegrino
Josh “no one’s tougher than the Orphans” Neer vs. Kurt “Mineral Water Only” Pellegrino. Neer’s a little bit thick. Saying Nick and Nate Diaz are the same fighter? That’s like saying Hans Gruber is the same kind of villain as the Joker. I didn’t like that about him. Doesn’t matter which Diaz though, bro, you got knocked the eff on your a** by both. Neer is slightly more experienced than Mr. Fancy Italian Water, and though Kurt seems like he really wants it, I have to see myself swaying for Neer.

Echo: I’m surprised to see we disagree right from the start. First of all, am I the only one that finds it humorous a guy nicknamed “The Dentist” is going to be fighting a guy who is best known for winning a fight after having a tooth knocked out of his skull? Anyway, Neer has been in the game quite a while and has some knockout power, but Pellegrino can take a punch and is quite comfy on the ground. Depending on whether or not this fight stays standing will be a huge deciding factor and, personally, I see Pellegrino bringing it to the mat where he will quickly break between one and three of Neer’s limbs.

Kendall Grove/Ricardo Almeida
Echo: Into fight two and we have Kendall Grove battling Ricardo Almeida. After winning The Ultimate Fighter 3, Grove has been learning from the best and built a good ground game. His chin, though, is suspect. Unfortunately for Almeida, the guy’s got no strength behind those mits, so Grove’s weakness is moot. Both enjoy submitting their opponent, but Grove desperately wants to keep a forward momentum following a sloppy start to his UFC career. I hate his nickname, but I see Grove winning this one.

Pepper: I am trying very hard to not make Dentist, waiting room, “sit back and breath the gas” jokes here, and you're not helping by bringing it up once again! Almeida seems to have the heart. It’s tough to say just by watching the pre-fight video who wants it more, because they’re both so relaxed, but it seems like Almeida has done his homework. Unfortunately it still seems his only objective is to get Grove to the ground, but he knows that the six inch height advantage for Grove will make it tough. He had enough foresight to train with super tall guys, and he recognizes that he has to work hard because Grove isn’t someone who will just rollover. But I am hoping in the rough and tumble Almeida will be victorious. Extremely bloody, but victorious.

Amir Sadollah/Johny Hendricks
Amir “The Surgeon” Sadollah vs. Johny “Teach Me Something I Don't Know” Hendricks. LMAO. That’s what I have to say to both of them. Sadollah called his favorite techniques “deliciously painful,” while Hendricks replied that his favorite technique was an eloquently succinct “punch in the face.” Seems like this might actually be a great match-up with two equal opponents. Sadollah seems like he has been waiting for a good challenge like this. Being Hendircks’ first UFC fight, he has a lot to prove, but he is up for it. I think that Amir might have a little bit of an advantage though.

Echo: I agree with you on the equality of the fighters here. Sadollah and Hendricks are about as green as they come and, both wanting to keep their early undefeated records going as long as possible, hopefully this fight will be all heart. I would give Hendricks the advantage, actually, but I know too little about these young fighters to give an honest call. For the sake of argument, I’m going with Sadollah.

Anderson Silva/Forrest Griffin
I think you would have to be crazy to call this fight in Griffin’s favor, and I doubt Mrs. Pepper is ready for a straightjacket, but I suppose we’ll find out in just a minute here. In the meantime, let me say that I would be totally fine with Griffin pulling off the upset. I love this guy. You can’t not love this guy. His heart is bigger than his body and, though he doesn’t like to show it, he’s a big thinker and knows the science of a fight. Silva, though, is as close to unbeatable as you can get. If anyone’s going to give him a run for his money it’s Griffin, and I’m hoping for a fantastic fight before Silva finds a way to embed a knee in Griffin’s skull. No matter what happens, I seriously doubt Silva will get the opportunity to dance around again. Griffin will push the fight, and Silva will push right back…But I really would like to see Griffin pull it off…But he won’t.

Pepper: Forrest “F**kin’” Griffin. Just scroll down and look at his fighter pic on He’s so goofy he has finally won me over. That doesn’t mean I'm going to rally against the original Spider, though. None of that missspelt “Da Spyder” crap Kendall Grove is pushing. However, I am going to firmly plant myself on the fence for this one. Maybe they can both knock each other out, or both decide the fight is silly and go play bumper cars and get milkshakes. I don’t want either of them to lose.

BJ Penn/Kenny Florian
Pepper: Lastly, we have BJ “Fox and the Grapes” Penn vs. Kenny “I Believe You Have My BEEEEEEEEELT!” Florian. That yell Florian does in the pre-fight videos cracks me up. I am rooting for KenFlo, that’s all there is to this one. I don't know if it's all the whine he made with his sour grapes, but BJ Penn just rubs me the wrong way. I hope KenFlo hamburgerizes him, shuts him up, whatever. I’d rather see someone who feels they have to work extremely hard to attain a goal have that belt.

Echo: Oh snap! As for me, hopefully we’re looking at another dynamite bout. (Assuming Silva/Griffin is dynamite, of course.) Both Penn and Florian are top-notch combatants and both have a good reason to win this one. Penn, so he can prove he’s not ready to retire. Florian, to prove he’s a champion-caliber fighter. I have a bad feeling Penn might be out of this one mentally, but if he comes in confident, his experience is going to guide him straight through Florian. The man executes brilliantly and, if he can get the upper hand, he’s not going to lose it.

(Thanks for reading and please remember to check out for Pepper’s post on UFC 101. Feel free to hang around and give her full blog a look-see as well. Or else.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

staticEchoes: One

Introducing a new feature to It's staticEchoes, the comic strip! I'll be posting these whenever the mood strikes, so let me know what you think and I'll do my best to make them entertaining.

That shady fellow in the glasses will be a recurring character known only as "The grim realist." The kid is merely one of his helpless victims.

(click the image to enlarge)

Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I’m not sure what to think about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

On the one hand, everyone has really grown into their roles and the acting is some of the best in the series. As a whole, the movie is well put together, if not a bit too by the book, and works just fine as a piece of cinema.

On the other hand, a lot of the magic is missing. I’m not just talking on-screen, either. Half-Blood Prince was moody and dealt a lot with raging teenage hormones and the concept of loss, making for a two-and-a-half hour trip down Melancholy Lane in the middle of Depressoville.

I kind of miss the days of rampant magic, crazy creatures and wild adventures. Then again, it’s fitting that, as the characters grow older, the magic (both literal and figurative) will fade in their lives, giving way to more real-life issues and serious subject matter like love and friendship and what it means to…Ah. Who am I kidding? I miss me some dragons and Whomping Willows.

With so much drama going on, it felt more like everyone was in mourning through the entire film rather than going to school in a magical freaking castle.

Also, though the main plot points needed to carry the viewer into the final film were hit, tons of material pertaining to the Half-Blood Prince was left out. It’s the title of the movie, for crying out loud. I think a bit more time could have been spent on the film’s namesake rather than being like:

Ron: “Wow, Harry. Who is this Half-Blood Prince fellow?”

Harry: “I don’t know, but he sure knows his magic!”

(Three hours later)

Name omitted for spoiler-related reasons: “Hey, you remember that Half-Blood Prince guy you were so interested in for five minutes at the beginning of the movie? I’m totally him.”

Harry: “Who? Oh, right. Um…yeah. That’s cool, I suppose.”

While Half-Blood Prince, as a book, did give some fantastic insight into Voldemort and what makes him tick, I think it was probably my least favorite of the series.

When it comes to the movies, nothing has changed.

Movies to miss in August

With films like District 9 and Inglourious Basterds coming out this month, it’s kind of hard to be too upset with the few rotten apples in the bunch.

Then again, they look to be especially terrible, so I’ll do my best to put on a sad face and get to bashing them.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra- If Duke gets killed by a snake-spear at the end and Sgt. Slaughter tells me to say no to drugs in a PSA following the credits, all will be forgiven. Since that isn’t very likely, I’m going to have to call foul on this over the top, adrenaline fueled cash-in on yet another animated 80's television show. And what’s with the powersuits? Which genius in the writing room came up with that one? Did these guys even see G.I. Joe back when it was on T.V? I just…You can’t just…What do they even…I mean…Really?

Bandslam- I doubt too many female tweens read this blog, but just in case, this movie is totally not cool. I mean, for real. Janice said that Margret said that Samantha said a movie about a girl forming a band to pwn her high school rock star ex-boyfriend in a battle of the bands is soooo lame.

Post Grad- A girl graduates from college and learns she has to move back in with her ca-razy family because she can’t find a job and then, you know that guy she’s been BFFs with her entire life? I hear she totally kisses him. Make like a popular 90's exercise toy and skip it.

Halloween 2- Considering how big a leap in quality director Rob Zombie made between House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, I was willing to believe a follow-up to his ill conceived Halloween remake might stand a chance to improve upon the first. Then I saw he somehow worked his wife (and terrible actress) into the film and realized I was just being a Wishful Willy. Le sigh.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Games to get in August

August is here and that means things are starting to pick up speed in the gaming world as we approach the all-important holiday season.

There's a nice selection of big name titles this month to help tide you over until October and November when at least eleventy-kabillion titles will be dropping all at once.

14th- Madden NFL 10 (All systems)
24th- Metroid Prime Trilogy (Wii)
26th- Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS)
27th- Dissidia: Final Fantasy (PSP)

I'm sure Madden fans are just giddy at the prospect of another, slightly enhanced title. I'm still in favor of just making a proper game every few years and, in the middle, releasing roster updates as needed. Same thing with all these rhythm games. We really don't need a new version every year. Just keep the track packs coming and we'll be dandy.

Those who own a Wii have at least one game to be pumped for this year and it goes by the name Metroid. Of course, this is a retooled versions of games you've already played, but hey, it's better than eXtreme PetZ 7: Loco Summer Edition.

I'm most looking forward to Dissidia in August. The demo was fun and the idea of a Final Fantasy fighting game with a 20-character roster, RPG elements and around 100 hours of story seems like a sound investment in my book.