Sunday, August 28, 2011

Review: A strong cast makes "Our Idiot Brother" a very charming experience


Film Rating: B

It’s hard to be particularly critical about “Our Idiot Brother.”  Like the film’s protagonist, Ned (played by Paul Rudd), it’s so insanely likable, so sincere in its desire to put a big smile on every face in the audience, that overlooking the flaws is an automatic response.  The script is messy and the story never really amounts to anything significant, but the real attraction is seeing so many wonderful actors and actresses on screen, all playing roles perfectly suited to their talents and clearly having a terrific time doing so.  Sometimes, a pleasant 90 minutes is all that’s required, and thanks to the cast, the film is never anything less than amiable and engaging.  Read more after the jump...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Doctor Who: "Let's Kill Hitler" Review and Analysis (Series 6 Episode 8)


It’s time…after a two-month hiatus, Doctor Who is back for the final six episodes of its sixth series, and my reviews for new episodes are resuming as well!  If you haven’t read one of my TV Reviews before, here’s how it goes: I write about new episodes the night they air, with posts going up an hour or two after the end of the episode.  Though I call these posts ‘reviews,’ they are mostly analysis, looking at the meaning of the story, making predictions for the future, etc.  If you’d like to read my past Doctor Who reviews from my YourHub days, I’ve re-posted them all here on the blog.  Also, if you’re visiting this blog after reading my YourHub work, I want to make note of one significant change to my TV Reviews – starting with tonight’s review, I will no longer be assigning letter grades to TV shows; especially with shows like Doctor Who, where I feel quality is largely consistent week-to-week, it seems like a fruitless practice.

But enough of that…Spoilers for “Let’s Kill Hitler” after the jump!  

Friday, August 26, 2011

"Chuck Versus Phase Three" and "Chuck Versus the Leftovers" Flashback Reviews (Season 4 Episode 9 and 10)

Happy Friday Chucksters!  Since it’s the end of the week, we’re continuing our look back at the fourth season of NBC’s Chuck with re-posts of reviews I wrote for YourHub last year.  These “double-feature” reviews will continue to go up each Friday until the fifth (and final) season premiere on Friday, October 21st.  Small alterations to the reviews have been made, but please keep in mind these were all written the night the episodes aired, so they may read as somewhat out of date (especially the second review here, which is all about the end of Chuck in the year 2010).  We continue today with episodes nine and ten, Chuck Versus Phase Three and Chuck Versus the Leftovers.

Spoilers for both episodes after the jump...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Early Review: "I'm With You" puts the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in the masterpiece business


Album Rating: A

Speaking about the unorthodox cover to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ new album, I’m With You, lead singer Anthony Kiedis stated “It's an image. It's art. Iconic. We didn't give it its meaning but it's clearly open to interpretation.”  Knowing how, well, silly the Peppers can be sometimes, I wondered if a fly perched on a pill could possibly relate to the actual album (I’m specifically thinking of how the planetary theme for Stadium Arcadium had absolutely nothing to do with the music).  After listening to I’m With You – set for release on August 29th but available to stream for free on iTunes up until that date – however, I think the meaning is fairly clear.  Flies symbolize death; they follow it, they prey on it, they exist because of it.  Pills symbolize healing, but more importantly, they indicate that something is wrong with our bodies, usually that we are getting old.  So we have a fly, an indicator of death, perched on a pill, an indicator of illness.  It’s an extremely apt image for an album that is, at its core, a meditation on life and death, related from the point-of-view of a group that has become fully cognizant of life’s finite nature.  But it’s not all dark – after all, that pill has the words “I’m With You” stamped on it, and this is where the message shines clearest: life is hard, we need medication, the flies are coming for all of us, but nevertheless: I’m With You.

This unifying and powerful message makes I’m With You the band’s most thematically coherent and musically rewarding work since their groundbreaking 1991 masterpiece Blood Sugar Sex Magik.  Nothing they do will ever surpass that particular album, but I’m With You is still an incredible masterwork in its own unique ways – the Peppers haven’t been this red hot in a long while.

Read the entire review, with a track-by-track breakdown, after the jump…

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Doctor Who": Farewell Series Six Part One Extravaganza!


One of the things I’ve always done while TV blogging is a “farewell Season X extravaganza,” a retrospective of all the good and bad the latest batch of episodes had to offer.  This June, however, some personal issues stopped me from publishing my “Extravaganza” for Doctor Who: Series Six Part One.  I had about half of it done, but it never did get finished.  I’ve been re-posting Doctor Who reviews for the last four weeks, but today, you actually get something brand new: my newly completed Doctor Who: Farewell Series Six Part One Extravaganza!  It’s about three months late, of course, but since the second half of the season starts this Saturday night on BBC America, now’s a good time to take one last look back at the year’s first set of stories. First, there’s a season report card, with brief thoughts on the first seven episodes of series six (and links to my full reviews of those hours); next, there’s a brief review of this portion of the series as a whole, and finally, a set of awards that look at which characters and moments have resonated most strongly so far this season!

Enjoy, and come back this Saturday night for my review of Let’s Kill Hitler!  Read the Extravaganza after the jump…

Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: "Fright Night" is a messy horror flick, but at least it's got David Tennant


Film Rating: C+

Fright Night is not a great movie.  Far from it.  But I’d like to start by recommending it as wholeheartedly as I possibly can – to a specific group of people, that is. 

If you’re a fan of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, books or movies, please stop reading this, drive to the nearest cinema, and watch Fright Night.  As a Twilight aficionado, chances are you have no bloody idea what an actual vampire is.  For all its faults, Fright Night does feature real vampires.  They’re 100% evil, thirst only for human blood, burn in the sunlight rather than sparkle, lack reflection, are susceptible to Holy Water, crosses, stakes, and the like, and don’t brood passionately with teenage girls.  In Fright Night, vampires are objects of horror, not lust, a treat teenagers reared on Twilight are certainly unfamiliar with.  I would normally recommend classics like the Bela Lugosi Dracula, modern reinterpretations such as Ann Rice’s Vampire Chronicles or Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or even the original Fright Night over this remake, but chances are that if you read Twilight, you won’t want to approach anything more than two or three years out of vogue.  So go see Fright Night: it’s all shiny and new and it’s even in 3D!  Watch it, revel in all the vampiric accuracy, and then, having learned what real vampires are like, go home and cheerfully shred your Twilight novels. 

Those of us more familiar with vampires and horror may want to think twice about checking out the new Fright Night.  It’s a decently fearsome experience, certainly a few rungs above most modern horror movies, but given the talent on-screen, and the film’s apparent willingness to go bat-shit crazy when called upon, the final product should be a lot more memorable.  More after the jump...

The Monday Musings #3 - End of Summer Movie Awards! The Best Performances and Films of Summer 2011

Can you guess which award
"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Shittier (I mean, 'Stranger') Tides" won?
It's Monday, and I'm back with another Monday Musings column!  I missed last week’s column (personal reasons involving moving to College) but I think I’ve made up for the absence with today’s column, a massive retrospective looking back at the summer movie season!  This wasn’t the most memorable summer ever, but there were some very good movies playing in theatres; I would classify few of them as “classics,” but nevertheless, this was a consistently entertaining season of movie-going, and the best films of 2011 so far all came out in June and July.  In this week’s Monday Musings, I’m honoring the best films, performances, and moments from the summer movie season with a series of “awards” (we’ll also make fun of the worst movies).  Enjoy, and please use the comments feature to sound in with your thoughts – if you were giving out these awards, which ones would you pick?  

Read about all the Award Winners after the jump!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review: "The Guard" falls short but provides big laughs and lots of heart

Film Rating: B

One of my favorite films of the last few years is Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, a movie that comes as close to perfect as any film can.  Though riotously funny, it’s not quite a comedy, and though it can be painfully bleak and is thematically complex, it’s also not quite a drama.  It eschews ordinary genre classification, but make no mistake: the film – about two hit-men on holiday after a botched job - knows exactly what it is at all times.  The Guard – written and director by Martin’s brother, John Michael McDonagh – is similarly flavored, a film that is simultaneously thoughtful and comedic, but has a more difficult time justifying its genre-bending antics.  It’s certainly good – like his brother, John Michael writes brilliantly rewarding dialogue – but it feels slight and unfinished, leaving some great ideas and narrative or thematic possibilities unfulfilled.  Continue after the jump...

"Doctor Who" Flashback Review: "A Good Man Goes to War" (Series Six Episode 7)


It’s Saturday, and we’re on week away from the return of Doctor Who from BBC America.  I’ve spent the last three weeks reposting my reviews of the season’s first half, originally aired earlier this summer, and today, we complete that journey with a re-post of my original review for A Good Man Goes to War, the wonderful mid-season finale that has left fans hungry for more for the past few months.  Come back next Wednesday for a special retrospective feature, and next Saturday for my review of the new episode! 

Spoilers for “A Good Man Goes to War” after the jump…

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Chuck Versus the First Fight" and "Chuck Versus the Fear of Death" Flashback Reviews (Season 4 Episodes 7 and 8)


Happy Friday everyone!  Since it’s the end of the week, we’re continuing our look back at the fourth season of NBC’s Chuck with re-posts of reviews I wrote for YourHub last year.  These “double-feature” reviews will continue to go up each Friday until the fifth (and final) season premiere on Friday, October 21stSmall alterations to the reviews have been made, but please keep in mind these were all written the night the episodes aired, so they may read as somewhat out of date (especially when I worry about the show getting cancelled, which didn’t happen).  We continue today with episodes seven and eight, Chuck Versus the First Fight and Chuck Versus the Fear of Death.

Spoilers for both episodes after the jump...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Review: "The Help" offers a surprisingly thoughtful look at domestic racism


Film Rating: B+

The Help comes very, very close to being a truly great movie.  It deals with familiar subject matter, but at its best, approaches the material from a fresh and thoughtful perspective.  There’s a message here that’s not so much about racism as it is about institutional thought and culture, and since it’s set in the early 1960s, it showcases the birth of the generation and attitudes that would eventually begin tearing these institutions apart.  The film struggles tonally – the sillier sections beg for some Mad Men style subtlety – but when the story is at its calmest and most reflective, it shines very brightly, thanks in no small part to the handful of mesmerizing performances that draw out the latent power of the material.

Read the rest of the review after the jump...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"Doctor Who" Flashback Reviews: "The Rebel Flesh" and "The Almost People" (Series 6 Episodes 5 and 6)


It's Saturday, which means it's time to continue our look back through the sixth series of BBC America's  Doctor Who.  The show returns for the second half of the series two weeks from today, Saturday August 27th, and I couldn't be more excited.  The episodes we're looking at today set much of the groundwork for the cliffhangers this first half of the season left us with; they are also a tightly-knit two-parter, so I've combined my original, separate reviews into one review for the entire story.  Enjoy, and come back next week for the last flashback review!

Spoilers for "The Rebel Flesh" and "The Almost People" after the jump...

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Chuck Versus the Couch Lock" and "Chuck Versus the Aisle of Terror" Flashback Reviews (Season 4 Episodes 5 and 6)

Happy Friday everyone!  Since it’s the end of the week, we’re continuing our look back at the fourth season of NBC’s Chuck with re-posts of reviews I wrote for YourHub last year.  These “double-feature” reviews will continue to go up each Friday until the fifth (and final) season premiere on Friday, October 21stSmall alterations to the reviews have been made, but please keep in mind these were all written the night the episodes aired, so they may read as somewhat out of date (especially when I worry about the show getting cancelled, which didn’t happen).  We continue today with episodes five and six, Chuck Versus the Couch Lock and Chuck Versus the Aisle of Terror. 

Spoilers for both episodes after the jump…

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: Mediocre "30 Minutes or Less" fails to conjure laughs or excitement


Film Rating: C–

I would love nothing more than to go the rest of the year without any more mediocre movies.

Seriously.  Give me a bad movie, something awful and irredeemable, or a film that’s good to great.  Just get rid of everything in between, because in most cases, there’s nothing more painful than a mediocre flick.  When a film straddles the line between ‘decent’ and ‘bad,’ it’s truly infuriating; you can see all the ingredients there on screen for something good, can tell that if the filmmakers put in just a bit more effort, the final product would be worth the price of admission.  Instead, a mediocre movie tantalizes the viewer with empty promises of something better while it flirts with being downright awful. 

We’ve had too many of these films this year, and Ruben Fleischer’s 30 Minutes or Less is the latest.  It’s not a bad movie, per se, but it’s very far from being a good one; given the promising premise and the amount of talent on and off screen, that makes its mediocrity all the more disappointing.  The few moments of true entertainment we do get are little more than empty reminders that film really should be better.

Continue after the jump...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Monthly Ten Podcast #10 - Favorite Video Games of All Time! Links and Announcements


I’m very excited to announce the release of the latest episode of The Monthly Ten Podcast.  For those new to the blog: I host this monthly podcast wherein I and a guest star count down the top ten somethings in a given month.  This month, my friend and usual co-host Sean Chapman, absent on last month’s podcast, joins me to countdown our top ten favorite videogames of all time!  You can subscribe on iTunes, and if you already have, it should automatically download on your ‘podcasts’ page when you open the program.  If you haven’t subscribed yet, it’s easy, free, and can be done at any time!  Or….


We hope you enjoy this month’s show – it’s our longest yet, clocking in at nearly three hours, but it’s also one of our absolute best, because each of the great video games we discuss are deep and complex enough to fill an entire podcast.  Come back next month for a discussion of our top ten favorite TV Shows! 

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Monday Musings #2 - The 3D Dilemma - After "Avatar," where did Hollywood go wrong?

It's Monday morning, which means it's time for another Monday Musings column!  If you didn't read last week's debut article, here's how it works: Every Monday, there will be a new column where I discuss whatever's on my mind, usually related to film, TV, music, or general entertainment trends.  Today, we're taking a look at one of the biggest controversies for modern film fans - Hollywood's obsession with 3D, when it works well, when it doesn't, and how the industry needs to approach 3D moving forward.  Enjoy it, come back next Monday for more musings!  

Read "The 3D Dilemma" after the jump...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Review: "Crazy, Stupid, Love" fails on every level, despite the cast's valiant efforts


Film Rating: F+

I can think of few other films that have ever tested my patience as much as Crazy Stupid Love.  It takes many of the worst romantic comedy cliches and aggravates them, relies on ridiculous contrivances rather than honest pathos, contains one of the most annoying cinematic characters this side of Jar-Jar Binks, and has no use for any sense of narrative logic or thematic cohesion.  It is, simply put, one of the worst films I have ever seen, and I have never so strongly desired to get up and storm out of the theatre in a huff.

Read more after the jump...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Review: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is a remarkable achievement


Film Rating: A-

My favorite episode of The Simpsons is “A Fish Called Selma,” a 1996 installment from the show’s seventh season.  It’s the one where has-been movie star Troy McClure, voiced by Phil Hartman, marries Marge’s sister Selma as a publicity stunt to further his stalled career, and it’s my favorite episode because McClure winds up starring in a Planet of the Apes Broadway musical.  From the “Dr. Zaius” song to McClure singing “I hate every ape I see, from Chimpan-a to Chimpan-z,” this is just a note-perfect, hilarious parody, one that works because it lovingly pokes fun at how incredibly silly the entire Apes premise really is.  Film concepts don’t get much more ridiculous than a planet full of intelligent, talking chimpanzees, and that makes the franchise ripe for spoofing.

The concept does not seem to lend itself well to a serious, introspective, and thoughtful look at how the apes wound up conquering our planet, and I bring up the Simpsons comparison to highlight exactly what a remarkable achievement Rise of the Planet of the Apes truly is.  Twisting Apes lore for comedic purposes isn’t exactly a stretch, as the Simpsons demonstrated, but crafting an intelligent and emotional drama - all from the Apes’ perspective, mind you - has got to be one of the toughest challenges a summer movie has ever taken on.  I’m floored to report that this new prequel rises (no pun intended) to that challenge spectacularly.

More after the jump...

"Doctor Who" Flashback Reviews: "The Curse of the Black Spot" and "The Doctor's Wife" (Series 6 Episodes 3 and 4)


Matt Smith with guest star Suranne Jones and writer Neil Gaiman

We’re spending Saturdays in August looking back at the first half of Doctor Who’s sixth series with re-posts of reviews I wrote for YourHub earlier this year, all in anticipation of the show’s return to BBC America on Saturday, August 27th (and the return of new reviews!).  These reviews have been revised from their original versions to remove the copious amounts of prediction-work made irrelevant by revelations in the mid-series finale.  Today, we continue with episodes 3 and 4, which, coincidentally, represent the best and worst that the sixth series has so far had to offer…

Spoilers for both episodes after the jump…

Friday, August 5, 2011

"Chuck Versus the Cubic Z" and "Chuck Versus the Coup d'Etat" Flashback Reviews (Season 4 Episodes 3 and 4)

It’s Friday, and that means we’re continuing our look back at the fourth season of NBC’s Chuck with re-posts of reviews I wrote for YourHub last year.  These “double-feature” reviews will continue to go up each Friday until the fifth (and final) season premiere on Friday, October 21stSmall alterations to the reviews have been made, but please keep in mind these were all written the night the episodes aired, so they may read as somewhat out of date (especially when I worry about the show getting cancelled, which didn’t happen).  We continue today with episodes three and four, Chuck Versus the Cubic Z and Chuck Versus the Coup d’Etat

Spoilers for both episodes after the jump…

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Monday Musings #1 - TV in the Internet Age - A look at "Netflix," "Hulu," and "HBO GO"

Today, I’m debuting a new weekly column - The Monday Musings.  Sometimes, I want to write about topics that don’t fit into neatly definable categories like “movie review” or “TV blog,” and I have such a vast back catalogue of these topics that I thought it might be fun to turn them into a weekly feature.  Every Monday there will be a new column where I discuss whatever’s on my mind, usually related to film, TV, music, or general entertainment trends, but sometimes not.  We’re starting The Monday Musings with a look at how the internet has recently changed my TV habits, focusing on streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.  Enjoy, and come back next week for another article full of musings.

Read “TV in the Internet Age” after the jump...