Friday, November 19, 2010

I'm done here...

I finally got my own website (again) so all future blogs will be there. Thanks, blogspot: it's been a heckuva ride.

"Don't forget the dash!"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Movie Muhfriday - The Social Network - 9-out-of-10 T's

Snarky Title - Facebook: Origins

For those who don't know the plot of TSN (my handy abbreviation), my snarky title pretty much sums it up: It's a movie about the beginnings of the Internet Phenomenon known as Facebook.

I don't know how much of the film is based in fact, other than that the main character is a buttwad. From the little I've seen of Mark Zuckerberg (the guy who created Facebook) which is a few years old at best, he seems like a pretentious jerk... but you know what? He changed the world. My MOM is on Facebook. That's how much he altered our day to day lives. Also? He's the youngest billionaire (with a "b") on the planet. I think he's earned his pretentious jerkiness, so I'll let him have it.

Uhh... thanks?

The movie takes him from a sophomore in college at one of those preppy schools I didn't go to (Harvard, I believe) to the CEO of a company that, again, altered the face of the Internet, and by extension the World.

Cast - 9-out-of-10 mini t's

The cast did a stellar job. No bones about it, they acted the crap out of this script. We'll focus on the lead: Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg.

The pic isn't from this movie, but
he doesn't really change his face to it'll do.

I wasn't really impressed with Eisenberg in Adventureland (mostly because I wasn't impressed by Adventureland, it wasn't my cuppatea), and I kind of figured he was just another Michael Cera: awkward kid, fast talker, THE END. Then Zombieland happened, and I was surprised: he rocked that role. Still the awkward fast-talker, but of a different sort. Now, I've seen TSN, and he's won me over: this dude is awesome.


In this movie, he plays the pretentious jerkwad, but he does it in a way that I'm rooting for him. Even when he's eventually doing the thing that gets him sued by his best friend, I understand why. I don't approve, but I still like the guy. And doing that, playing the douche and doing so in a way that the audience still likes you, is a tough thing to do, but he pulled it off.

The Rest of The Cast


Andrew Garfield plays Zuckerberg's best friend, and is going to be Peter Parker in the next Spider-Man movie. Anyone who's read this blog for a while knows I loves me my comicbook movies, and the only other thing I'd seen Garfield in was "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus", and he did fine, but I wasn't crazy about the film so I wasn't sure about him. Those fears are now put to rest. His American accent is flawless, he's got the chops... the only thing I'm worried about now is that he might be too old. He's like 27 now, and he's playing Spider-Man in High School. Hmm.

Justin Timberlake won me over in Black Snake Moan four years ago, so I knew he'd be fine. Here, he's the guy that invented Napster back in the day, and he very successfully plays a less-successfully-likable douchebag. He does good. Not much more to say.

The rest were fine. They did their jobs. The guy who played the twin preppy row-boaters that claimed Zuckerberg stole Facebook from them had some great lines. "I want to kick his @$: I'm 6'5", 220, and there are two of me!" The only girl that Zuckerberg cares about through the film leaves a lasting impression. High fives all around.

Story - 8-out-of-10 mini t's

How enjoyable can a movie about programming be? Apparently, pretty enjoyable. The dialogue was fantastic, and the story shows how a college undergrad goes about making the coolest thing on the internet. It explains his thought process, and does so in a way that (if you're familiar with Facebook) makes you go "Ooooooh" when you see how they came up with the different features. I don't know that there were any dead-weight characters.

All those blurry people? Important.

There was a beginning, middle, and end to this movie, even though there was a lot of jumping around (flashbacks, flashforwards). It all worked. I don't really have any improvements in mind, since the story is based on fact: real life is tough to effectively criticize. According to various interviews, most of the stuff in the film is made up, but I DON'T CARE, cause it was fun to watch. So there.

Director - 8-out-of-10 mini t's

The jumping around in time was great. It explained the various lawsuits by telling the story behind them, and while this is not a groundbreaking bit of directorial goodness, it got the job done and did so well. The pallete, the range of colors for the film was kind of dark, but not unnecessarily so. I found out after the fact that David Fincher, the Director, also directed Se7en and Fight Club, which doesn't surprise me in the least. The only surprise is that he'd jump from those kinds of stories to this kind... and I'm glad he did.

General Enjoyment - 9-out-of-10 mini t's

This picture made me laugh.

I had a blast. As I said in the Cast section, Eisenberg is known for his fast-talkiness, which seemed to spread virus-like through the rest of the film and it took me a second to get my brain in gear with the fast pace that everything was taking. Once I did, I loved it. This was a very enjoyable film. There was comedy, drama, great acting, excellent directing, the story kept me engaged, and all together they worked like a dream. This is a great film. If you haven't seen it yet, you should probably get on that.

So, now that that's over: how's this rating system? Too much? Too little? I throw myself at your mercy, dear readers. In the immortal words of those Superbowl Commercial guys: Whazzup?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Movie Grading Scale REVISITED

I've decided to view my grading scale as something that is constantly evolving. The finished product will always be in the header, and will remain on the BLANK-out-of-10 scale, but how it gets to that scale needs to be something more than just "Oop, that was a hoot, NINE T'S!" on my end. So sayeth me.


That's why.

So here's how it will work: four (for right now at least) mini categories that will be on the mini-t scale. I will add up the total of mini-t's and then divide by the number of categories. Each category is worth 10 mini-t's, each mostly independent of the others. Aaaaaand here are your categories:

Cast - 10-mini-t's

How did they do? Did I believe them? Where they enjoyable? Did they perform their craft with gusto and fervor, or did they phone their performances in?

Story - 10-mini-t's

Was it a good story? Did I willingly suspend my disbelief, or did it engage me in spite of the actors and director?

Director - 10-mini-t's

How did he do? Did he take the components above and utilize them fully? Anything particularly visionary in his approach?

General Enjoyability - 10-mini-t's

This scene was awesome...

This is a little tougher to nail down: it's my wild card. If I liked the movie, in spite of my self, this is where it will come through. If everything was terrible, but there was SOMETHING, something I can't really quantify that made me like it, this is where it will show. On the flip side, if the above were all great but the finished film just doesn't jibe, becoming something less than the sum of it's parts, that'll show here too.

Final Grade: Cast+Story+Director+General Enjoyability/four=number of T's

So there you go. We'll see how it works out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I like it with a hint of something impossible

When it comes to entertainment, I need mine with a little extra "oomph". That "oomph" can come in many forms, but it needs to be present. It's like salt on a steak, or a dash of cinnamon on your french toast: something small just pushes whatever it is that I'm enjoying over the edge into the realm of edge-of-your-seat awesomeness.

Lemme 'splain.

I read "The Maltese Falcon" a few months ago. It's largely considered to be the greatest private-detective novel of all time, and was later turned into one of the greatest hard-boiled detective movies ever, starring Humphrey Bogart. Great book, great movie.

Seriously. Check it out.

But I definitely didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoy "The Dresden Files"...

Detective novels, but the guy's also a wizard

...or "The Automatic Detective".

A detective novel, but the guy's also a robot

Do you see where I'm going with this? The oomph I require to take a form of entertainment from "Yeah, it was good" to "Holy crap, that was awesome" is something out of the ordinary, and also probably impossible. I first noticed it years ago on the Nintendo64:

*insert angel choir here*

This rightchere was one of the greatest game systems of all time. It was the first, and also the last, time that my entire family sat down and got seriously into the business of playing each other at a video game:

Welcome to Mario Kart!

Oh, the fun we had. But it isn't Mario Kart that I want to talk about here. No, I want to talk about the game that is considered to be the greatest First Person Shooter game of all time. Yes, I'm talking about GoldenEye.

It was also a movie!

It wasn't the first FPS (that honor goes to something else that I've never played and don't know the name of... maybe Wolfenstein or something), but it was the best, and because it got in on the genre early and was just really really good, it's like the grandfather of the genre that now includes HALO and Gears of War and Modern Warfare: basically, GoldenEye did it right, and became what other FPSes aspire to.

Me? I could take it or leave it.


While my brother and his friends were playing that, I was playing Legend of Zelda and Banjo-Kazooie. GoldenEye just didn't appeal to me, and I assumed that that meant all FPSes were equally unappealing.

Then, Banjo-Kazooie got a sequel: Banjo-Tooie...

Worst name in video game history, but a decent game

... and Banjo-Tooie had a FPS mode.


It's a bear shooting with a bird!

And I enjoyed the crap out of that. That's when it hit me: I needs my entertainment with a dose of the weird. As much as I love shooting Nazis in WWII...

And who doesn't?

... I'd much rather shoot aliens in WWII!


The reason I'm blogging about it is because I just finished a book called "The Starter", which is the second in a series by a guy named Scott Sigler.


Pope Silgerissimo the Umpteenth is a writer (obviously), but he was having trouble finding a publisher. So, he decided to record himself reading his book, then give the result away for free over the Intertubes. The response was flabbergasting.

Now, Da Sigster is a New York Times bestselling author, and he's still giving his books away for free online. By way of saying "Thanks for the Free Books", his fans (called "junkies", cause we's always jonesin' our Sigler-fix) then buy the books so he'll keep writing more. It's a cool system, and it's working.

Way to go, dudenstein

So, back to the Starter: it's about football.

"But Tony," you're asking, "where's the flavor? Wheres the dash of crazy that you love?" And I'll tell you:

It's football... IN THE FUTURE.

ooooOOOOOOoooooooooo! (Image from here)

And there are aliens who play the game as well. After years of galactic war, humanity and all the other fighting races have been conquered, and to appease the masses and promote inter-species harmony, our conquering overlords have created a Galactic Football League. It's a good read.

The point is, I'm not crazy about boring ol' football. I could care less about the Super-, Sugar-, Soup-Bowls. But you add in a bunch of aliens? It's on like Donkey Kong.

YEAH (Image here)

All that said, I still won't read "The Time Traveler's Wife". I don't care how much salt you put on it, to me that sucker looks like ham, and I can't stand ham.

And the movie looked creepy.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Tony goes to the Ren Fest!

I love the Renaissance Festival. And since you're here reading this, you probably care about "why" I love the Ren Fest, so I'll tell you.

I love the food

I love games

I love the people in costume

And, of course, the eye candy is nice, too

I went to the Renaissance Festival last Sunday and had a great time, which ought to tell you a bit about the kind of person I am. The day started out with glorious sleeping in. It's the rare Sunday that I skip church, but we were leaving at around the same time services were just getting into the swing of things, so there wasn't really a point to going.

I assume God likes the Ren Fest too, so I'm sure he understood.

After the sleeping in, I pulled out my kilt, which I haven't worn since commencement at college (I'm sure my folks sure were proud of their oldest son as he accepted his diploma to the sound of an auditorium full of laughter) and ironed the wrinkles out. Clutching my freshly printed tickets I piled into my car and went to pick up some pals. Here's the crew manifest:

Captain (Me)
First Mate (a good friend)
Ship's Physician (Mom)
The pretty one that serves no purpose (my sister)
Random Crew *expendable* (Sister's boyfriend, 3 more of my friends)

For those of you counting at home, that's 8 people along for the ride. Awright.

When we finally get there about an hour and a half later, I'm beginning to question if the kilt was the best idea: it's frickin' cold out. But by the time I walk through the parking lot and get to the main gate, my legs are either numb or my Scottish Heritage gives me a +5 racial bonus against cold damage; regardless, I feel fine, and I can tell this is gonna be a good day.

Oh yeah: good to go

We get to the gate (which looks like a castle) and we get inside, immediately to be surrounded by people in period dress from nearly every era and : Victorian/Elizabethan England, Ancient to more Modern Scotland, vikings, there was a dude dressed as the Pope... it was awesome.

They had projectile-and-thrown weapon games as well, but you had to pay for them with RenFest money, which they sold to you in increments of $5. All the games cost RF$3. If you're doing the math, you need to buy $15 worth just so you wouldn't take the useless RFDollars home. Oh, they's sneaky.

So I bought some RFBucks, and tried every game they had: bows and arrows (that were made for tiny people, not sexy frost-resistant behemoths like myself), tiny throwing knives, big throwing knives, ninja stars, spears, and my personal favorite: throwing axes.

Like this, but less potential for murder

That's better

I nailed the target right betwixt the eyes (it was a longhorn outline painted on a wall). It was beautiful. Sure, I missed the first 4 throws, but the upside to throwing axes is that even if you don't get the axey-part to stick, you did just throw a 5 pound weight-on-a-stick at them, and they're probably unconscious and ready to be dispatched at your leisure.

The only downside for the entire day was the food I got: I bought the giant turkey leg.

It's tradition

... and it sucked. It was terrible. It tasted like ham. If I wanted ham, I would have got the ham, but I don't like ham: that's why I bought the turkey leg. Graaah.

But that was the only problem. If you've never been, you should check it out because the Ren Fest is a hoot and a half.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Movie MuhFriday: Legend of the Guardians - 7-out-of-10 T's

I've been kind of lax in my reviewing of late (because I haven't seen anything that wasn't over a month old)... so here's a link to my reviewing scale just as a refresher. Check that crap out.

Now that that's out of the way, we'll get a few other things out of the way: The Guardians of Ga'hoole is a book series for children. They're like 3rd-grade reading level chapter books, the kind of thing you give a kid who's too young for Harry Potter, but too old for the Berenstain Bears. (I haven't spoken the words "Berenstain Bears" in over 10 years, and now it feels simultaneously strange and familiar on my tongue.) So here's what we're getting out of the way:

1. The books were better.

2. If you enjoy pretty things, this movie will make you poop.

Cue elaboration!

When I first saw the preview for this movie, I was dazzled. The pretty flying scenes coupled with the epic music gave me shivers. They put those trailers together RIGHT. Way to go. After that, I did my research and found out about the book series: there's like 15 of them. The movie is apparently based on the first 3 books, so I got them from the library (venturing for the first time in years into the "Children's Section"), and devoured them in a weekend at work.

It was a slow weekend.

They's good books. If I were in the 3rd grade, I'd be all over that, but I'm not, so I trudged through the poop-jokes and got into the deeper narrative about a war between the good owls (the Allied Powers) and the bad owls (the Nazis). Epic stuff for a 3rd grade book.

Almost as epic as this kid.

Fast forward to last night when I watched the movie: they hit the important bits. All the characters are there, even if they don't get the same amount of "screen" time that they did in the books. They combined two of the Guardian's enemies into the same faction, something that I totally understand for reasons of time. In fact, every change they made, I completely "get" the reasoning behind (except for this weird echidna-oracle thing, he seemed kind of pointless). The two things I wish would have been different were the training montage and the credits.

I hate training montages. I think they're the reason America is so fat: because we've been watching the heroes in movies go from weak-to-fighting-shape in a five-minute musical montage since we were born, but that's another blog post entirely. More time spent on their training would have been awesome. As for the credits, it's like this shadow-puppet paper-owl thing that makes the owls look clumsy and stiff and stupid, which is such a weird feeling after seeing them become excellent fliers and arial acrobats.

This movie could have been better, but examples like The Golden Compass, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Legend of the Seeker (or whatever that movie was called), they show how crappy these adaptations can be. This is not a crappy adaptation. It could have been better, yes. But it could have been a whole lot worse.


And, on the extremely positive side, this film is completely beautiful to behold. I got to watch it for the frees, but the next time I get a few hours I'm going to go someplace nice with 3D glasses and gladly pay to see it.

Oh, one more thing: the band/solo music artist Owl City is part of the soundtrack. I groaned.

This pic is unrelated, but I kind of love it.

It's a good song, but it plays during the movie when there should have been epic orchestral music or something, and this guy with his synthesizers just took me completely out of it.

So, anyway, good movie. Take the kids. Or, if you like watching pretty things (and I know I do!), go yourself. I don't think you'll be disappointed.