Attack of the Book A community for crazy book lovers! <![CDATA[ 'Thor: The Dark World' Splits The Two Jews On Film, Big Time (Video)]]>                                                                                  
By Joan Alperin Schwartz
This film, is my humble opinion, is awesome.  Of course, if you watched our video, you'd know that the other half of Two Jews On Film, did not think so.
In any case, for those of you who aren't comic book readers, here are the cliff notes...
Thousands of years ago, a race of really scary looking beings, known as the Dark Elves, led by the equally freaky looking, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) tried to send the universe into darkness, using a powerful weapon known as the Aether..  Guess these dudes don't like the sun, hence their extremely pale skin.
These evil beings were defeated by the supremely handsome Asgard warriors, led by King Odin (Anthony Hopkins)
The Asgard sent the Elves into exile and hid the Aether in a place where no one would ever find it...Seriously??? .When did that ever work?
Anyway Malekith escapes and rallies his troupes, determined to find the Aether and send all the 9 realms, including Earth, into complete darkness.
At the same time, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been busy busting heads with his hammer, in an attempt to bring peace to these 9 realms.  He's also pinning away for his human love, astrophysicist, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman)
Speaking of Dr. Jane, in between, longing for Thor's godly touch, she discovers an anomaly similar to the one that brought him and his hammer to Earth in the first place.  
When the doc and her over the top sarcastic intern (Kat Denning) go to investigate, Jane is sucked into a wormhole.
Meanwhile back on Asgard, Thor's bro, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been imprisoned for treason and dealing with mommy (Rene Russo) issues.
When Thor, thanks to his buddy (Idris Elba) finds out that Jane has disappeared, he tells his daddy, King Odin, that he wants to return to Earth to find her.  Odin says, No way...Your place is here and of course, as sons often do, Thor disobeys.
But just as Thor lands on Earth, Jane reappears.  Only problem is, during her trip through the wormhole, the Aether entered her body. 
This is not a good thing, since apparently, us humans, can't handle its power.  So, unless Thor can find a way to get the Aether out of Jane's body, she will die.
Faster than the speed of light, he whisks his soul mate back to Asgaard to keep her safe, until he can find a solution to Jane's problem. 
This turns out to be a not so great idea, since, Malekith senses the Aether on Asgaard and he gathers his forces to attack. 
To say anymore would spoil the fun...And this film, shot in 3D, is fun...a lot of fun and it's also funny, as well as exciting, with dazzling special effects, and great characters...There's even a couple of surprises.
The cast is wonderful, with Hiddleston being one of my personal favorites and let's face it, Chris Hemsworth is quite pleasant to look at.
Also worth mentioning...Chris O' Dowd, who has a very funny cameo as Jane's blind date and of course, Stellan Skarsgard, who returns as the discredited scientist, Erik Selvig.   
'Thor: The Dark World' directed by Alan Taylor ('Game of Thrones') and written by Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, based on the comic book by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby, opens in theatres, Friday November 8, 2013.
I gave the film 5 bagels out of 5...John wasn't even close with his. 
Check out our video for more of our thoughts and John's bagel rating.
Please SUBSCRIBE to our YOUTUBE channel and LIKE us on our Two Jews On Film facebook page.
Let us know what you think.  Thanks everyone.
]]> Wed, 6 Nov 2013 01:49:21 +0000
<![CDATA[ 'Thor: The Dark World' Splits The Two Jews On Film, Big Time (Video)]]>                                                                                  
By Joan Alperin Schwartz
This film, is my humble opinion, is awesome.  Of course, if you watched our video, you'd know that the other half of Two Jews On Film, did not think so.
In any case, for those of you who aren't comic book readers, here are the cliff notes...
Thousands of years ago, a race of really scary looking beings, known as the Dark Elves, led by the equally freaky looking, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) tried to send the universe into darkness, using a powerful weapon known as the Aether..  Guess these dudes don't like the sun, hence their extremely pale skin.
These evil beings were defeated by the supremely handsome Asgard warriors, led by King Odin (Anthony Hopkins)
The Asgard sent the Elves into exile and hid the Aether in a place where no one would ever find it...Seriously??? .When did that ever work?
Anyway Malekith escapes and rallies his troupes, determined to find the Aether and send all the 9 realms, including Earth, into complete darkness.
At the same time, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been busy busting heads with his hammer, in an attempt to bring peace to these 9 realms.  He's also pinning away for his human love, astrophysicist, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman)
Speaking of Dr. Jane, in between, longing for Thor's godly touch, she discovers an anomaly similar to the one that brought him and his hammer to Earth in the first place.  
When the doc and her over the top sarcastic intern (Kat Denning) go to investigate, Jane is sucked into a wormhole.
Meanwhile back on Asgard, Thor's bro, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been imprisoned for treason and dealing with mommy (Rene Russo) issues.
When Thor, thanks to his buddy (Idris Elba) finds out that Jane has disappeared, he tells his daddy, King Odin, that he wants to return to Earth to find her.  Odin says, No way...Your place is here and of course, as sons often do, Thor disobeys.
But just as Thor lands on Earth, Jane reappears.  Only problem is, during her trip through the wormhole, the Aether entered her body. 
This is not a good thing, since apparently, us humans, can't handle its power.  So, unless Thor can find a way to get the Aether out of Jane's body, she will die.
Faster than the speed of light, he whisks his soul mate back to Asgaard to keep her safe, until he can find a solution to Jane's problem. 
This turns out to be a not so great idea, since, Malekith senses the Aether on Asgaard and he gathers his forces to attack. 
To say anymore would spoil the fun...And this film, shot in 3D, is fun...a lot of fun and it's also funny, as well as exciting, with dazzling special effects, and great characters...There's even a couple of surprises.
The cast is wonderful, with Hiddleston being one of my personal favorites and let's face it, Chris Hemsworth is quite pleasant to look at.
Also worth mentioning...Chris O' Dowd, who has a very funny cameo as Jane's blind date and of course, Stellan Skarsgard, who returns as the discredited scientist, Erik Selvig.   
'Thor: The Dark World' directed by Alan Taylor ('Game of Thrones') and written by Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, based on the comic book by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby, opens in theatres, Friday November 8, 2013.
I gave the film 5 bagels out of 5...John wasn't even close with his. 
Check out our video for more of our thoughts and John's bagel rating.
Please SUBSCRIBE to our YOUTUBE channel and LIKE us on our Two Jews On Film facebook page.
Let us know what you think.  Thanks everyone.
]]> Wed, 6 Nov 2013 01:48:03 +0000
<![CDATA[ Who's a Captive? Who Is Free?]]>   I finished reading Emma Donoghue's Room a few days ago and I've been puzzling about it ever since. 

The novel, which according to Donoghue's website has now sold more than a million copies, was nominated  for and/or has won a raft of prizes including the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize (for best Canadian novel), the Commonwealth Prize (Canada & Carribbean Region), the Canadian Booksellers’ Asand the Orange Prize.  In addition the American Library Association gave it an Alex Award (for an adult book with special appeal to readers 12-18) and the Indie Choice Award for Adult Fiction.

That means, I guess, that a lot of people found it compelling reading.  As did I. But what's the point, I found myself asking.

Donoghue's narrator is  Jack, a five year old who has been imprisoned since his birth with his mother in Room, a reinforced, sound-proofed garden shed.  She makes him sound like a kid, giving him the same grammatical quirks most children that age struggle with, such as how to form the past tense of words like "got"--is it just "got" or "gotted?"

Ma is everything to Jack, as mothers frequently are to pre-school children.  But we quickly learn that their connection is orders of magnitude stronger than most because she is the only person he has ever seen. Even though  Old Nick, Jack's father and their jailor  visits Room most evenings, Ma protects Jack from him: the only people he knows anything about are those he sees on television.

How they escape from Room occupies the first two-thirds of the novel.  Donoghue makes it every bit as exciting as the best action movie, and she also lets us know that having watched Dora the Explorer can be very useful too.  The rest of the book deals with how Jack and Ma learn to live Outside.

This is where a few question have to be asked.  It might be easy to dismiss the first part of the book as a light weight adventure lifted almost bodily from the headlines: there are after all  terrible stories of the man in Cleveland who held three young women hostage for a decade, and before that men in California and Austria.    But Donoghue isn't interested in why such things happens, she concentrates on Jack, whose existence isn't terrible, thanks in large part to Ma's efforts to keep him from  Old Nick. 

This part of the book reminded me of Montreal writer Ann Charney's account of her own escape from imprisonment at the end of World War II.  In her novel Dobryd (a very good book BTW) she tells how she  had been hidden in a barn along with a dozen adults for two and a half years when the sector of Poland where they were was liberated by Soviet forces.  Her memories of the time are not unpleasant, though, because she was cosseted and played with, in part to keep her quiet, but also because she symbolized life to those in hiding.

Similarly Jack regrets leaving Room a little because Outside has a terrifying number of choices to make.  Nothing is certain, everything changes, Ma isn't always there. 

This is, perhaps, the point of the book, what rescues it from being just light suspense reading.   There are many varieties of danger and captivity, Donoghue seems to be saying. Those of us on Outside may not recognize what traps we are in, or what threatens us.]]> Wed, 16 Oct 2013 17:30:54 +0000
<![CDATA[ A solid, well-done piece of writing]]>
Xander has lived a life of wealth and privilege. It has taken him a long time to realize that people are living in the slums outside the city walls, including his friends, Kai and Priya. Xander's home planet has recently finished a century-long war between the two civilizations that inhabit it, forcing them to work together.

Xander asks his father why he never talks about his family, and receives a really sickening answer. Despite the "peace" between the two civilizations, there are those who really don't like what Xander's father represents (he is more than just a world-famous scientist). They plan to do something about it, forcing the families (Kai, Priya and their mother are now included) to flee, several times. Along the way, Xander learns that his destiny is to get very involved in what is to come, and not just be a spectator.

This is a solid, well done piece of writing, in which the author has left room for a sequel. Teens will enjoy it.]]> Sun, 13 Oct 2013 14:02:42 +0000
<![CDATA[ A Great Follow-up to the First Book!]]> When Mr. Massie offered me a reviewer copy "Pinned: A Kentucky True Crime" I decided to give it a chance and was thoroughly engrossed in the tale for a week!  Mark Casey (Mr. Massie) was "suckered" into a relationship by a "black widow" and then left to rot in jail for something he didn't do.  Now this new book comes along and though I definately wanted to read it, I felt it couldn't be as good as the first.  I was so wrong!

This book details Mark's fight to get an "uncarring" Kentucky justice system to try to listen to him and go after Roxie (the woman who set him up) while they keep shuffling him around from on jail facility to another.  On top of that Mark suffers from a leg condition that requires frequent rests and a heart condition requiring he have nitro glycerin pills (they keep taking them from him) and nobody cares about his medical woes.

Like the first book, what makes this one work is the author's amazing writing style where the reader feels they are actually Mark Casey, experiencing what he is experiencing and feeling both his emotional and physical pain.  Through everything Mark never gives up hope and refuses to ever accept blame for something he didn't do. 

One thing I will say is that Mark does sometimes have temper issues and some of his woes are caused by them (his slapping of Roxy in the first book, his mouthing off against Bubba the prison guard, his nasty letter about a judge).  But then again when an innocent is pushed to the brink with nothing but his Bible to fall back on some of this is understandable.

It is highly recommended that the reader begin with the first book but not absolutely necessary since the author recaps a lot of the important aspects of the first book here.

]]> Thu, 10 Oct 2013 13:50:48 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Sith Lord Guide to Life]]>
Naturally, I'm open to any new insight on the Sith the Star Wars expanded universe has to offer me. Naturally, I was intrigued when I saw the Book of Sith in the local Barnes and Noble. This book doesn't have the name of the actual author anywhere inside it. It's made up to look like some kind of important lost text - hardbound, with no other wording anywhere on the outside except for the title Star Wars Book of Sith and the name of the publisher. The Star Wars Wiki says the author is Daniel Wallace.

The Book of Sith is written as a series of journal entries from the various notable Darths who existed in years past. It's presented by Darth Sidious (Emperor Palpatine), who tracked down the pivotal texts of five highly regarded Sith Lords and wove them together in a single volume. He is also one of several Star Wars characters to add occasional footnotes, along with Luke Skywalker (who is chronologically clearly the last character to have read it), Yoda, Mace Windu, Darth Vader, Asajj Ventress, and Quinlan Vos.

The Book of Sith goes by in six distinct texts, each with different page designs, calligraphy, and character footnotes. They're presented in chronological order. The first is the exile journal of Sorzus Syn, the original exile to Korriban who conquered the Sith purebloods and became the first Sith Lords. That's followed by a war journal from Darth Malgus during the Great Galactic War. Following that is a journal from Darth Bane, arguably the most pivotal figure in Sith history, the man who took down the Brotherhood of Sith, took the movement into the Shadows, and enacted the Rule of Two and Sith master plan. After that is an instructional manual from Mother Talzin of the Nightsisters, exploring her peoples' use of the Dark Side. Afterward is a scientific journal from Darth Plagueis which details his experiments with midi-chlorians, the tiny beings which enable Force Sensitivity. Finally, Darth Sidious adds his word about political manipulation. It might sound a little overwhelming, but this entire books clocks in at just a little more than 150 easy to read pages.

Some of the major Darths who are missing from the compilation are Darth Revan, one of the most interesting characters in the expanded universe; Darth Gravid, who was drawn toward the Light Side of The Force and tried to weave some of the teachings of the Jedi into Sith philosophy; and Darth Ruin, who initiated the New Sith Wars against the Jedi.

The first the parts are the most interesting. Sorzus Syn and Darth Malgus both write about important events in the history of the Sith, and Darth Bane writes what became the defining philosophy of the Sith for all time; his section includes several aspects of the Star Wars universe that people unfamiliar with anything about it outside the movies know. On the downside, Mother Talzin's section about the Nightsisters feels like a real waste. The Nightsisters come off as sort of Dark Side users, but sort of not. Mother Talzin writes them almost as if they're practitioners of one of the Earth religions - I mean REAL Earth religions; there seems to be a real influence of Wiccan philosophy in her writings - but with a slight edge toward evil. Then Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious both get their writings in.

Without doubt, Darth Sidious comes off as the most evil by far. And that's saying something, because Sorzus Syn isn't exactly a bringer of world peace. Sidious is also the most overconfident, cruel, and the closest to some of the worst dictators Earth has ever seen. Not only does he promote a political philosophy hinging on instilling fear into his subjects, but his footnotes - which appear in every section - show him to be a supreme egotist as well. He believes with with great haughtiness and a frightening absolute certainty that he's going to use the scientific midi-chlorian experiment advances to become immortal, and so he repeatedly writes about his refusal to name a successor.

If there's any kind of theme within the Book of Sith worth noting, it's how sinister the Dark Side can really be. In many sections, the Sith finally come off as a true evil. I've been saying for awhile that the Jedi are just as bad as the Sith, except unlike the Sith, they lie to themselves about who they really are. The Book of Sith makes it clear how cruel Sith philosophies are. Sorzus Syn approves of slavery and writes prominently about using other beings. Darth Bane states that, without any exception, every Sith Master will eventually be killed by their apprentice. Darth Sidious wants to make sure his people live in perpetual fear.

Star Wars Book of Sith isn't a bad look into the Dark Side of The Force, but I'm a little disappointed, because of its potential. It could have been much more. I still don't know why later Sith Lords have reverence for Darth Revan, a man who was only a Sith Lord for a few years before redeeming himself as a Jedi. I would love to know more about Sith Alchemy and more about the rise and fall of the Sith Empires. Book of Sith will do for now, but I'm hoping there's much more on the horizon.]]> Sat, 28 Sep 2013 20:11:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ This is very much worth the reader's time]]> This is the story of a love that really does span the ages.

The first two parts of this book are actually abridged versions of a pair of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels (that is why he is listed as a co-author). They tell the story of Victoria Custer, your average resident of the early 20th century. She likes candy, her favorite color is pink, and she is very interested in hats and barrettes. She is also deathly afraid of earthquakes, and she is very troubled by dreams and visions of a handsome young man whose name, she learns, is Nu.

A millenia ago, Nu was part of a tribe living in an earthquake-prone part of Africa. It was a time when death could come anywhere and anytime, whether from a snake bite, or being devoured by a large, carnivorous beast. Nu is very interested in taking Nat-ul as his mate. Her "price" is the head of Oo, a very large lion who has caused their group many problems in the past. While off on his solo hunt, an earthquake knocks out Nu, and seals him in a cave, for 100,000 years. Another earthquake opens his cave, and he awakens in the 1920's. For Nu, it's a very boring place, except for meeting Victoria, who is there on a vacation. She could be Nat-ul's identical twin sister. The attraction is immediate, and mutual.

The third part (the part written by Gill) takes Victoria from the family farm in Nebraska to the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico. By now, she has embraced her inner cave woman (Nat-ul is now a part of her), and she is planning to visit the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. Her brother, Barney, goes with her, knowing that Vic is quite prepared to go by herself. While there, Vic has many adventures, including helping to release several young children from being sold into slavery, killing a jaguar single-handedly, and falling into an underground river, which leads to her almost being devoured by a hideous flying beast. Of course, Vic has a bigger reason for her trip than simply becoming an adventure addict.

I really enjoyed this book. Gill does a very credible continuation of the story of Victoria/Nat-ul. Nearly anything written by ERB will have good writing, and lots of action; so does the third part. This is very much worth the reader's time.  ]]> Wed, 4 Sep 2013 19:40:19 +0000
<![CDATA[Elysium (2013 film) Quick Tip by Creamtrumpet]]> District 9 (2009), and his short films, I was eagerly awaiting the release of Elysium. Though it's not a total disappointment, Blomkamp's sophomore effort unfortunately doesn't match the brilliance of his debut.
There's much to like and admire in the film. The visuals are gorgeous, thanks to some impressive design and special effects work by Syd Mead, Image Engine and Weta, and there are lots of clever and interesting ideas and concepts in the film. Where Elysium falls short is in story and narrative. The plot is paper thin and riddled with inconsistencies, and themes and character motivations feel sketchy and undeveloped. Characters who should be interesting, layered and nuanced simply come across as two dimensional archetypes, with the possible exception of Sharlto Copley's Kruger, who pretty much steals the entire film. District 9 was edgy, intelligent, witty and subversive. Elysium feels slightly bland, clunky and lazy in comparison. Even the score, by newcomer Ryan Amon, feels overly familiar and clichéd.
I can't help feeling that what's ended up on screen is a compromised version of what Blomkamp originally envisioned. It seems like he had much more to say on the themes of class division, immigration and universal healthcare, but poor judgement, cold feet or studio pressure forced the excision of political and character based material in favour of action sequences. As a result, the film feels shallow and unengaging on an intellectual level.
What we have here is two thirds of a great movie. The skill behind the camera and the artistry on display raises it above most similar Hollywood fare, and it still proves that Blomkamp is one of the most promising young directors working today, but without the spark, invention and wit of his debut, Elysium remains a well made, above average sci-fi action movie and nothing more.]]> Fri, 30 Aug 2013 00:35:07 +0000
<![CDATA[ This one is surprisingly good]]>
June learns that she is a Writer, with the ability to Write an entire world into existence. One Earth, June meets a young artist named Jackson. He has a hard time believing her story; he has an even harder time believing that he has related "abilities" of his own. As a Writer, the intention is that June create a Writer for Earth, someone who, out of frustration and boredom, will Write a whole new world into being.

Meantime, Vivien is the Master Writer. Her son, Victor, is a manipulative little you-know-what who thinks that he "deserves" to be the next Master Writer. He also desperately wants to be reWritten (reborn). It is used only in cases of extreme emergency. In her Will, Vivien makes June the next Master Writer, and practically begs her to never, ever reWrite Victor. She is afraid that it will magnify his negative qualities (of which he has many). When told that the answer is No, Victor does not take it well. He spends weeks and weeks plotting the "perfect" way to force June to reWrite him. Does it work? Does Earth get unWritten out of existence (always a possibility)?

This one is surprisingly good. The author does a fine job from start to finish. She is only 16 years old (!), but writes like someone older. Young people will love this book; it's well worth reading for adults, too.]]> Mon, 26 Aug 2013 19:03:48 +0000
<![CDATA[ Maybe better than Volume 1]]>
In this book, the group of six has been given three different tasks, forcing them to split up. Jane and Ryan head into the Nevada desert, looking for a drug factory that is creating a very powerful and very addictive drug. It happens to look and taste exactly like regular tap water.

After several days of hiking, they find the drug factory (by being taken prisoner). Among the other prisoners are several women who are used in all sorts of unspeakable ways, and members of a US Army unit who were ambushed while on a training exercise. They are guarded by a number of dark elves, and members of the Army unit who were induced to go over to the "dark side." It is run by Andre Wittenburg, the local crime boss, who knows exactly what Jane and Ryan really are.

To call conditions "brutal" is a huge understatement. Jane and Ryan free the other prisoners, and destroy the camp. They have to fight a mythical creature or two along the way. After a few days to recover, the six are back together and off to their next challenge. The tears of Freya (Norse goddess and Jane's mother) were encased in amber a millennia ago. It is very important that they not fall into the wrong hands. The group heads to a very restricted part of the Atlantic Ocean, just off the Florida Keys. It's the sort of place that no sane ship's captain would ever visit. There they meet another couple of mythical creatures (who really are not so mythical).

Most times, literary sequels are not as good as the previous book. That is not true in this case. If anything, this book is better than Volume 1, because the reader gets more of the back story. This is very much worth reading.]]> Wed, 21 Aug 2013 17:19:38 +0000
<![CDATA[ Very interesting and plausible]]> Last of a trilogy, this book is about a new age on Earth with the coming of the Mayan Sixth World. This time, something is really going to happen.

Several years previously, Amy Magee, archaeologist and expert on Mayan hieroglyphics, discovered some real Mayan pyramids that were buried. . . in central California. It seems that the Spanish wiped out only some of the Mayan race several hundred years ago; they did not wipe out the entire race.

Today, Mayan workmen are busy unearthing the new Mayan city of Ixabal, getting ready for the coronation of the new King. Amy has a major part in the ceremony, as the Bringer of the Sixth World. Everything has been kept very quiet, so that the public does not know what is happening. The exception is a nosy newspaper reporter, who has been asking questions.

A major complication happens when Will, a major figure in what is to come, gets conked on the head during a cavern cave-in, and loses a large chunk of his recent memory. That includes the memory of just what he is supposed to say and do in a couple of weeks. Candis, Will's sister, knows and accepts her part in the coming ceremony (think "human sacrifice"). Leo, her boyfriend, most assuredly does not agree. He comes up with a bold plan for the both of them to flee to someplace where they will never be found. Rumors of a huge treasure attract the attention of several international bad guys. Meantime, Amy races to interpret an ancient Mayan book which may have a very different interpretation of the start of the Sixth World.

As with most trilogies, reading the first two books first is a good idea. It's also a good idea because this book, and the whole trilogy, is that good. It's interesting and plausible and it will certainly keep the reader interested.]]> Sat, 17 Aug 2013 20:21:54 +0000
<![CDATA[ Neil Blomkamp Delivers More Social and Political Commentary in a Futuristic Action Film]]> District 9”, I thought it was a good interpretation of just how an “Alien Nation” would affect a modern human society in a way that almost feel rather similar to a “Hotel Rwanda”. It was a valid attempt to be original and to be imaginative, with a direction that blended stunning visuals, a ‘mockumentary’ style of storytelling along with the usual conventional form of direction. So I was waiting for its sequel, but Blomkamp appears to feel that he needed to do something yet different with his 2013 film “Elysium”.

Elysium or Elysian Fields in Greek Mythology is a conception of the afterlife that evolved over time and was maintained by certain Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults. Initially separate from the realm of Hades, admission was initially reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life.

The year is 2154. Earth has become over-populated, over-polluted, that most of its population had become riddled with disease. The wealthiest of the population have retreated to an orbital world called Elysium, while the rest of humanity suffer, work for minimal wages and live with their potentially fatal diseases. Sad, since the key to every cure is available, but the rich would like to monopolize its benefits.

                         A scene from "Elysium."

The film is pretty darned entertaining with the action sequences and the display of futuristic gadgetry; but it is also rich with social and political commentaries. Despite a futuristic setting, the screenplay by Blomkamp speaks a lot about today’s modern times. There is the rich getting richer;  the 1 % against the 'poor' majority 99 %, as Blomkamp creates a world where social class have become the definition of ‘citizenship’. He does not take it easy with the metaphors of illegal immigration, health insurance and the current situation in the economy. In this world where the wealthy lives in a place in space, the rich feel that they have the right to play God, decide what they are entitled and just how to separate from those that are less fortunate. There is very little revealed as to how this futuristic world came to be, but then Blomkamp really does not need to. If one just takes a look at our environment and the economic crisis being faced by the world today, Blomkamp’s Earth of the year 2154 may not feel too far-fetched.

The first two acts of the film focuses on the Max character as we get to see his background through flashbacks, and just how he develops into the man he is in the film. Max is a man who has dreams of coming to Elysium, and he took several bad turns that he tries to make amends for himself. He is your regular hard-working joe who is struggling to make ends meet, and in many ways, his past life of crime becomes his own personal demon. Max may be the film’s lead character, but he really isn’t your usual heroic character. The man just wants to have a better life, and he is afraid to die; in many ways, Max is just trying to do what is best for him, and his dreams to stay connected to a woman named Frey (Alice Braga) appears to give him something to cling to. Frey is the woman who represents his youth and his innocence, before Max becomes exposed to the harsh realities of his world. Blomkamp does a good job encouraging his audience to become invested with the Max persona, it is a tale of just how a man changes, from someone a little cynical and frankly a little selfish, into someone who finds something different from his current perspectives in life.

                  Diego Luna as Julio, Matt Damon as Max Da Costa and Wagner Moura as Spider in "Elysium."

                 Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley in "Elysium."

I also enjoyed what Blomkamp brought forth from the orbital satellite called Elysium, as the writing gave a glimpse just how any society created by human beings, no matter how rich, no matter how smart will always have problems within. When the greedy lead the greedy, the politicians going for more clout with the masses, then things will always begin to collapse on itself. It is almost as if life may be harder for the poor, but their lives are also simpler; unlike the rules of the rich where everyone seems ready to backstab the other. It is almost as if the writing is trying to express the notion that the poor works hard to attain material wealth, all the while having it kept away from their grasp as the rich does whatever they can to maintain social status. It is an idea presented in a subtle way, and Blomkamp does not really go deeper into this area, but the message does linger around its narrative.

The film has some heavy themes but it is also visually arresting. Blomkamp and company did manage to create a world that very much looks like a view of the future, as well as something so familiar that the viewer could easily be enthralled by them. Blomkamp did a splendid job in maneuvering the camera to bring the viewer right in the middle of the action. The devices, gadgetry and weapons all had that sense of familiarity and yet they were something more advanced than what we were used to. With some practical effects in blood and gore, Blomkamp did not allow his film to be another one of those 'overdone' cinematic CGI effects, as he maintained an almost B-movie charm. Exo-suits, robots and computers that dictate a lifestyle could also be a warning about man’s over-reliance to technology, as Elysium and Earth were both controlled by such things. The set designs and cinematography were spectacular; from the slums of the Earth to the extremely high-tech world of Elysium, the characters did come alive around the set pieces. The character designs were simple, and yet they were fitting to Blomkamp’s creation.

                   Alice Braga as Throws Frey, Emma Tremblay as Matilda and Josh Blacker as Crowe in "Elysium."

                   Matt Damon and Jose Pablo Cantillo in "Elysium."

While “Elysium” is indeed an action film, and the tempo is dictated by Max’s many encounters. But I felt that the final act of the film is the part where everything that Blomkamp was trying to say becomes a little hazy. From what had been established, and how things moved on Earth, Blomkamp seemed to abandon the workings of the Max character and the political overtones presented by Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) to turn its focus on the fighting between Max and the mercenary agent Kruger (Sharlto Copley). Max and Delacourt never met, and yet they made an impact in each other’s lives, it was a bad move to underutilize the potentials of Foster’s character just so the Kruger character could take the spotlight. Not to say that the fights weren’t good, but Kruger’s cheesy lines could definitely become annoying the more Copley delivers his lines. He was a one-dimensional villain that did not match the intricacies and the themes in the rest of the film.

Being an action-sci-fi film, Blomkamp does not really present many opportunities for his performers to shine, but Damon does an exceptional job even in his case. He portrays his character with such natural, realistic zest that it wasn’t hard to become invested in what he was going through. Alice Braga may play a character that may feel like a stereotype, but really, much of the roots of Max’s personality were formed around her. Jodie Foster is her usual self; she was able to command the scenes she was in, that her character became an excellent element in its story. Copley was alright in his performance but …well, he wasn’t the villain the narrative deserved.

                   Jodie Foster as Secretary Delacourt in "Elysium."

I enjoyed “Elysium” but somehow, somewhere, Blomkamp seemed to stop short with the expression of his modern world commentaries and he began to be a little safe with his storytelling. I found the first two acts of the film to be its strongest points, and unfortunately, the way everything was wrapped up wasn’t as bold as its core premise. It was a shame that the film became predictable in the third act. It was almost as if the writing wanted to have a happier ending, that it lost much of its intended power. Still, “Elysium” is a film worth seeing. It is highly entertaining and the action sequences did provide that significant emotional feeling of urgency. Yes, the final act could’ve been a lot better, but it wasn’t enough to ruin its overall experience that “Elysium” is a film that I would definitely recommend. [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

                           Matt Damon as Max Da Costa in "Elysium."

Poster art for "Elysium: The IMAX Experience." Poster art for "Elysium: The IMAX Experience."
 ]]> Sat, 10 Aug 2013 01:05:27 +0000
<![CDATA[ The author does it right from start to finish]]> In a world where the gods of antiquity take human form and have been mating with present-day humans, one man begins to learn his destiny.

Ryan Hunter has been on his own for most of his life. One night, while accompanying a bounty hunter, Ryan sees some very strange things, and feels his godly "abilities" awakened within him. He soon finds himself, along with five other Disciples, in a hotel conference room in Orlando, Florida. Each are sitting next to their godly parents. It is not just Greek gods who are alive and well, but gods from many other cultures, including Norse, Aztec and Japanese.

The six are given a mission. They must travel into the Everglades, and kill a very special alligator. After several days trudging through the swamps, they find the alligator. Think of a giant, mutant alligator on steroids (that can climb trees). Later, the group finds a small town where they think can rest and recuperate for a few days. Strange things are going on in the town. All the women are dressed in very revealing outfits, and they all have blank looks on their faces. There are separate gatherings for men and women every night. Attendance, even by visitors, is expected. The group has to fight their way out of town.

Back at the same hotel conference room, the group learns of a fancy charity ball happening in the hotel. The organization's official address is an abandoned warehouse, and the people listed as the Board of Directors are all dead (no, they're not zombies). The group infiltrates the ball, and learns that, among other beings, vampires are involved. Do all members of the group survive their tasks? Do any of the group, three men and three women, hookup with each other? Do they stay together, and become the newest group of superheroes?

This book is better than excellent. The author does it the right way from start to finish. It has action, it has weirdness, and it has lots of good writing. I am very interested in reading future books in this series.]]> Fri, 9 Aug 2013 22:53:06 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Original Darth]]>
Apparently Karpyshyn has a great fascination with the canonical history of the Sith, because he sure seems to write a lot about it. After writing the story to the Knights of the Old Republic video game, it seems like Karpyshyn wanted to give gamers at least a little bit of a sense of closure. Revan is a sort of sequel to the legendary video game. Karpyshyn had a lot to live up to in trying to fill in some of the gaps to the story of Revan, because Knights of the Old Republic is considered the best Star Wars game available bar none, and one of the greatest video games ever made. Fortunately, anyone familiar with Karpyshyn's work in the expanded universe knows the author is easily up to the challenge. Karpyshyn's books tend to vividly depict the worlds inhabited by the characters, and Karpyshyn does more than a lot of the other Star Wars authors to fill us in on the backgrounds of The Old Republic's history, current events, and culture. Karpyshyn's books have always been engaging and quick reads.

With Revan, Karpyshyn succeeds in nearly every way. However, while the book may have Revan's name and image slapped on the cover all by himself, Revan actually presents us with two main characters. The first is Revan himself, and the second is actually a Sith Lord by the name of Scourge. If you peruse reviews of Revan, a lot of them make the argument that Scourge is actually the main character of Revan, and it's certainly easy to understand that assessment; Scourge gets at least as much coverage as Revan. The story feels like it's going to be two different stories through the first half of the book, as Scourge and Revan spend the entire first half alternating chapters before Karpyshyn finally brings their intersection into the book, thus making his point.

That means a lot of the narrative is nonlinear, but I actually like it better that way because it allows Karpyshyn to introduce to us a wider expanse of The Old Republic series universe. He gets to expound on little details of the Mandalorian culture, the Mandalorian Wars, the Great Hyperspace War, the background of the Sith Emperor, and the Sith Empire.

Revan's story begins with him having nightmares. He's married to Bastila Shan, still part of the Jedi Council but only in title, and pretty much a pariah with no trace of exactly what happened beyond the Outer Rim which turned him into Darth Revan for a brief period. He's dying for answers, and the members of the Jedi Council who are still pissed off at him aren't much help. So he seeks out his friend Canderous Ordo to help, hoping to find answers by seeking out an ancient Mandalorian artifact he had buried in order to destroy their culture. In the process, he finds the lost Jedi Exile, Ordo's rightful place in the universe, and the memories the Jedi Council stubbornly refuses to let him in on.

Scourge starts out turning himself over to the employ of a Sith Lord called Darth Nyriss. He basically begins as Nyriss's little errand boy, there to gather information. Nyriss wants a certain Sith Lord wiped out, Scourge does the job with the assistance of a non-Force Sith named Sechel who managed to attain a high rank despite his lack of Force sensitivity basically making him an untouchable among the Sith castes. He learns that Nyriss wants to knock off the Sith Emperor, and after being taken to a planet which is devoid of any sense of The Force, he gets disgusted and joins the cause…. Only to get disgusted at Nyriss because she's inactive and scared to death to actually go through with anything. He eventually throws his lot in with the one person he believes may be powerful enough to destroy the Sith Emperor.

While Revan is one of the greatest characters in the expanded universe, this book is placed in his timeline in such a way that the different sides of him can't be explored in much detail. We get his love for his wife and how he's disturbed by his lost memories and his understanding of the way The Force works, but considering that the book only covers a relatively brief couple of events in his life after the, ahem, interesting parts, there's not much Karpyshyn can do with him in the general timeframe without taking him out of character. Scourge, on the other hand, starts out as a regular old Sith Lord, but he begins to show an extra dimension later in the book. In particular, he wants to learn the ways of The Force the way Revan knows them, and his pure fascination with what he is as compared to what he could be leaves him with an open end which makes readers believe he may have a real capacity for change.

I can't say I was especially wild about the twist ending, but I was satisfied with it, because it fit the ethos and left a few things wide open. I would have also liked to see more about Canderous Ordo. I've also noticed in my expanded universe readings that the legendary Jedi Council - originally depicted as a group of wisdom seekers on high who always knew what the light, moral path was - is really fucking corrupt, full of petulance and petty grievances, more concerned with its own self-image that anything, and frequently not at all concerned with justice for those beyond the Republic. In Revenge of the Sith, Darth Sidious tells Anakin Skywalker that the Jedi and Sith are alike in almost every way. Mainstream audiences, of course, brush this off as a lie Sidious is telling to lure Anakin to the Dark Side, but expanded universe patrons see a lot more truth in that statement than movie watchers would realize. The only notable difference I can consistently see between the Jedi and Sith is that the Jedi use their credo to be smug and self-satisfied while the Sith make absolutely no bones about what they really are.

Still, though, I'm not complaining about anything. Karpyshyn does more than any other Star Wars author I've read to satisfy my curiosities about the expanded universe of Star Wars, especially The Old Republic Era. In the original movie, Obi-Wan spoke wistfully of a time "before the dark times. Before the Empire." More and more, readers of the Star Wars expanded universe are learning that there was no time before the dark times. They were pretty much always hanging around. Thank god for that, though, because without that, The Old Republic just wouldn't be as interesting.]]> Thu, 8 Aug 2013 16:16:32 +0000
<![CDATA[Elysium (2013 film) Quick Tip by KingreX32]]> Wed, 7 Aug 2013 22:52:46 +0000 <![CDATA[ 'Elysium' An Exciting Sci-Fi Action Film With A Message (Video)]]>

By Joan Alperin Schwartz

Neill Blomkamp, writer and director of the critically acclaimed, 'District 9', once again brings us a thought-provoking, sci-fi, fantasy, action film.

'Elysium' starring Matt Damon, takes place in the year 2154. Earth is polluted, overpopulated and crime ridden. The rich have long ago abandoned the planet for Elysium, an orbital space station, a 19 minute shuttle ride away.

But those 19 minutes, might as well be several light years. The space station is protected by a killer security force run by Jodie Foster, who will do anything and everything to keep Elysium safe for the wealthy.

Matt Damon, plays Max, an ex con on parole, who lives and works in Los Angeles, which is now a getto. That's right folks, the homes of the 'rich and famous' are now a thing of the past...And I don't think Universal Studios is conducting any more tours in the city of Angels

Max is just an ordinary guy trying to do the 'right thing'. He's put his days of stealing cars behind him. Now, his time is spent working at Armadyne, a corporation specializing in defense. Important to note:

The company is run by John Carlyle (the wonderful William Fichtner) a man who cares about 3 things...Money, money and more money....

Okay, back to Max...who winds up having an on-the-job accident. He gets a lethal dose of radiation and finds out from a robot...seriously, a robot, that he only has five days to live...

Max is not at all thrilled with the news and decides, his only chance to survive, is on Elysium.

It seems that every home on the space station, not only comes equipped with a washer and dryer, but also has a machine that can heal any disease in seconds...Only catch...You must be a 'citizen' of the Elysium for the machine to work.

So since Max doesn't have the billions it costs to become a 'citizen' of Elysium, he has no choice, but to contact some of his old criminal buddies, including... 

Spider (Wagner Moura) a very creepy dude, who helps illegal immigrants get to the space station (which unfortunately doesn't always turn out too well)

He's also quite adept at turning people into Cybourgs, which comes in handy for Max, but that's all I'll say on the subject. Don't want to spoil the fun.

And 'Elysium' is fun... a lot of fun. It also has a great message and for a sci-fi film, that's rare.

Rounding out the cast is Alice Braga, who plays Frey a childhood friend of Max, who has her own reasons for wanting to get to Elysium and Sharito Copley (District 9') who's excellent as the villaninous, Kruger, Jodie's pet operative/assassin.

I gave 'Elysium' which opens in theatres Friday August 9, 2013, 4 bagels out of 5. John however, had a different take on the film. 

Check out our video for his bagel score and for more of our musings.

Please SUBSCRIBE to our youtube channel and LIKE us on our Two Jews On Film facebook page.

Thanks everyone and let us know what you think about 'Elysium'.

]]> Tue, 6 Aug 2013 06:10:47 +0000
<![CDATA[ Oz The Great and Boring!]]>
He is discovered by Mila Kunis, who thinks he is the legend that was foretold to save Oz from the wicked witch. (His initials are OZ, hence he uses the name Oz which by chance is the name of the land he is in).  He befriends a flying monkey and travels with Mila to the Emerald City.  He is told by Mila's sister that he is a fake and not the foretold one but she insists that he is.  He is told that the way to fulfill the prophesy is to kill the wicked witch. 

I was pretty bored with this film at this point (almost an hour in) and fell asleep before I could finish.  There was nothing about the film that makes me want to watch the rest.  It is totally devoid of the musical numbers that the Wizard of Oz had.  James Franco makes a boring wizard.  I think they should have picked someone closer to the personality of the actor from the 1939 film. ]]> Wed, 31 Jul 2013 14:19:48 +0000
<![CDATA[ Teens will enjoy this book]]>
Aradia is the "new kid" at Salem (Massachusetts) High School. She can't help but notice that a larger-than-normal portion of the students are either incredibly handsome or incredibly beautiful. Those same people are openly staring at Aradia, and not just because of her flaming red hair.

As time goes on, Aradia learns that the school is home to a large number of beings that go under the general name of "hidden." They include werewolves, vampires, shapeshifters, faeries, etc.; the hidden part comes from their greatest law, which is to never, ever reveal anything of their existence to humans. The interest in Aradia is because she has "abilities" of her own. The non-humans at school have never seen, or smelled, anyone like her. Aradia doesn't know what she is, only that she was found in a cave, as a newborn, and officially adopted by Ross and Liza Preston.

The town of Salem is being menaced by the Vampire Murderer. A pair of bodies are found, with puncture marks on their necks, and totally drained of blood. Aradia is assured that the chances of a vampire being the culprit are tiny; someone is trying very hard to frame them. Aradia takes matters into her own hands, and attracts the attention of the real culprit. Does Aradia help bring the murderer to justice?

This one is surprisingly good. The plot may be a little average, but the author does a fine job with it. Teens will enjoy this book; adults will also enjoy it. ]]> Sat, 27 Jul 2013 19:42:20 +0000
<![CDATA[ 'The Wolverine' The Mutant is back and greatly in need of some anti-depressants (Video)]]> By Joan Alperin Schwartz
I really feel for The Wolverine, aka Logan (Hugh Jackman).  The poor guy can't die, doesn't have any cool people to hang out with, and he's suffering from major depression...
On top of that, he's still in love with his ex girlfriend (Famke Janssen. Even though he killed her, their relationship seems to be going well.  Of course, Logan can only see her in his dreams.
No wonder our century year old mutant has the blues.

However, we don't know all of that quite yet.  
When 'The Wolverine' directed by James Mangold opens, Logan is having a flashback...It's 1944 and he's in Nagasaki, just as the atomic bomb is dropped.  It's here that Logan saves the life of a Japanese soldier, who promises to repay him one day.  
Flash forward to the present...Where Logan is hiding out in the wilds of the Yukon and it's obvious that our angry, unhappy, super hero, hasn't been intimate with a bar of soap for a long time.   
After getting into a bar fight, (3 guesses who won) Logan is approached by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) a mysterious Japanese girl...(aren't they all) with a message from the soldier.  He doesn't have long to live and wants to finally repay Logan.   
At first Logan declines the offer...He's not too big on flying, even if it is in a private plane...but it's hard to resist a beautiful girl with flaming red hair, who also happening to have killer fighting skills.  So off they go to...
Tokyo, where Logan visits the soldier, (Hal Yamanouchi) who's now very old and extremely very wealthy.  It doesn't take long for him to discover just how the dying man wants to repay him.
It also doesn't take long for Logan to find himself on the run with a beautiful heiress, (Tao Okamoto) using his claws to fight Samurai swords, Yakuza guns, black clad Ninjas' arrows and finally, one very large, very dangerous metal robot.
And if that's not bad enough, Logan's encounter with a female mutant, appropriately named,  Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) leaves him...MORTAL...That's right folks...Our guy can bleed...and does, a lot. 
'The Wolverine' written by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank is filled with lots of action, stunts, fight scenes, hand to claw combat, great chases, a super fast train ride and even a couple of love scenes. 
The film shot in 3D is a mixture of tones...It's part Samurai, part super-hero, part crime drama, with lots of father/daughter/illegitimate son conflict thrown in. Is that a good thing?
Well yes and no.  It is a bit of a hodgepodge, but in the end, I did find it entertaining...For that reason, I gave 'The Wolverine' which opens in theatres, Friday July 26, 2013, 3 bagels out of 5.
Check out our video for John's bagel rating and for more of our thoughts about this film.

Please SUBSCRIBE to our youtube channel and LIKE us on our facebook page.
Thanks everyone and let us know what you think..
]]> Fri, 26 Jul 2013 02:17:13 +0000
<![CDATA[Pacific Rim (2013 film) Quick Tip by Creamtrumpet]]> This is a film painted in broad, operatic, comic book strokes with a very pulp sensibility. While many modern blockbusters these days tend to be cynical, calculated and dour, Pacific Rim has a genuine warmth, enthusiasm and honesty. It reminded me very much of the kind of fun, imaginative and innovative movies I grew up with in the 1980s. Not a perfect film by any means, but it's a brilliantly crafted, highly entertaining, thrilling and even occasionally touching piece of movie making. If I'd seen this as a ten year old, I think it would've blown my mind.
If you have any love for Japanese anime, monster movies and sci-fi, or you just love to be entertained, be sure to catch this one. The most fun I've had in a cinema for a long time.]]> Mon, 22 Jul 2013 22:16:54 +0000
<![CDATA[ Guillermo Del Toro's Love Letter to Japanese Mecha-Anime and Kaiju Films!]]> Cronos”, “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Devil’s Backbone” have made him to be one of the better storytellers in the horror and fantasy genre that he became one of the more influential names in Hollywood. While his American films have been a mixed bag with films such as “Hellboy” and “Blade 2”, you would be very hard-pressed to find a cinema fan who could deny that despite their flaws, his movies always carried a style that made him stand apart from the rest.

                    Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi in "Pacific Rim."

Surprisingly, Del Toro now appears to have made a love letter to Japanese Mecha-Anime with his latest film “Pacific Rim”. The film’s core plot (that he also co-wrote) is admittedly pretty thin. The film begins with a quick narration as to how legions of monstrous creatures that had come to be known as Kaiju, come rising from the sea. This brought forth a war with millions of casualties that would consume humanity’s resources for years on end. To combat something that conventional weaponry have little effect on, the world creates gigantic robotic warriors called the Jaeger, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. The massive robots manage to hold their own for awhile, until the Kaiju begins to evolve into more powerful, bigger and more dangerous monsters. This brings the Jaeger forces on the verge of defeat, that they must hatch up one final push for victory. And somehow, only a former Jaeger pilot, Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) may be the last chance to turn the tide and claim victory.


             A scene from "Pacific Rim."

With nods to Japanese anime, yet none of its imagination and depth in storytelling, “Pacific Rim” boasts of stellar visual effects and impressive robot-monster fights that have not been made before by American filmmakers (nope the Transformers franchise does not count). Del Toro handles the material quite well and I do have to say that the film was competently directed. The life of “Pacific Rim” stems from the action set pieces and the battles between machine and monsters. The viewer could easily feel the impact, the crunch of metal against monstrous flesh, the intensity of the explosions because the battles were incredibly shot and executed. From a live-action standpoint, “Pacific Rim” may be one of the most awesome robot battles ever shot on film (but not in animation). Del Toro knew how to shoot the scenes and it was easy to follow what was going on on-screen, the screen never felt confusing or too busy and maintained its intensity with creative angling, close ups and posturing. The viewer could really feel the 'hugeness of the designs" that the film was very impessive from a technical standpoint. It was obvious that the director did his research in shooting such robotic-monster battles, as several shots looked like they were ripped from Japanese Mecha-Anime. The intensity, the power and the excitement were all there, the viewer could easily feel the power of the blows that made them carry an exhilarating tempo in the struggle.

I felt like I was watching a live-action film of Japanese mecha-anime, as Del Toro channels the excitement of the battles in the anime hit series “The Big O”, “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, “The Heroic Age” and sometimes even “Broken Blade”. Even the look of the machines, even though not entirely obvious, had the influences of Japanese anime. But as tough and cool as the robots looked, they lacked the personality of their Japanese anime counterparts. See, what made mecha anime special is the way that it makes the machines characters, rather than simple machines of war. I thought the film could’ve done a better job in defining the strengths and the weaknesses of the robots, and just how man and machine could really become one; with their strengths and weaknesses. Don’t get me wrong, the robots in “Pacific Rim” were insanely cool, but with the way they were defined in the narrative, such details would’ve made them even cooler and they would been crucial factors to advance its plot.

           Rob Kazinsky and Max Martini in "Pacific Rim."

           A scene from "Pacific Rim."


I do have to admit that while I thought the monster designs were clever and one even had a homage to “Godzilla” (the one with the illuminated scales-spikes), they looked rather familiar. I am sure with Del Toro at the helm, that influences of his works with “Hellboy” would come to bear, and they do. The colors and the textures used were undoubtedly meant as something inspired by those films. The monsters do look formidable in their own way, but they also lacked personality. They seemed to have the same approach to their attacks, save for the one that could fly and the one that spit acid, the creatures were simple brutes with hardly any intelligence or differences in attack. I also thought that the so-called “Level 5” monster should have been a lot more intimidating, but it was just a bigger one with more of the same. Huge roar and incredible strength, the battles could’ve been a lot more suspenseful if it took the time to develop both monsters and robots so that strategy and smarts played more of a factor than just trying to pound each other into dust. I mean, this is the beauty of Japanese Mecha-Anime, it gives the villains a personality by creating them to have weaknesses and a way of attack, while the robot tries to find those weaknesses and plan accordingly; and sometimes plans work and often they don't. It would've brought a lot of suspense into the mix. (viewers of Japanese anime would know exactly what I am trying to say)

I know, the screenplay in the film wants to take the viewer right in the middle of the action, but here lies the weaknesses in the screenplay. I thought the characters in the film were mere caricatures to those anime series; they lacked the depth, the dimensions to make the narrative much more compelling. The potentials were there, but they were merely imprints of what they were supposed to be. The former warrior (Becket), the problematic trainee (Kikuchi), the determined commander (Idris Elba) and even the two technical specialists (played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) were all staples of anime, but this time, they lacked the essential dimensions to bring a much stronger narrative. Despite their challenges and personal issues, the characters weren’t exactly as compelling as I had hoped for because of the way the story was structured around the robots. Ron Perlman does provide some needed humor even with his limited screen time.


              A scene from "Pacific Rim."

I know some of you may be thinking that I have a lot of possible negative comments, but really, “Pacific Rim” is awesome if one is looking for raw entertainment. The film’s intention was to bring forth astonishing giant machines against gigantic monsters and on this part, it was impeccably executed. If you look deep into its plot, you would realize that it had a lot of missed opportunities, but really, once Del Toro has you by the neck with the incredible battles, you would easily forgive the shortcomings in its screenplay. It kicked the “Nuts” off Michael Bay’s “Transformers” franchise, and proves to be a step in the right direction if America wishes to adapt Japanese Mecha-Anime in the future. “Pacific Rim” may feel a little superficial, but hey, what it wanted to do, it did very well. It is awesome popcorn entertainment. Guillermo Del Toro scores “Huge” that “Pacific Rim” gets a Recommendation from me. [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

              A scene from "Pacific Rim."

Poster art for "Pacific Rim 3D." Poster art for "Pacific Rim 3D."

                                       Poster art for "Pacific Rim 3D."


 ]]> Sat, 13 Jul 2013 06:49:38 +0000
<![CDATA[ Loud, fun and silly beyond all reason]]>  
In 2012 a riff opened up at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean through which monsters of enormous size called Kuaji entered the earth and wreaked havoc on our major cities. First San Francisco was destroyed. Six months later, Manila. As time went on more and more Kuaji emerge from the riff to wreak havoc on our shores. In response to this threat humanities governments rallied together to create the Juager program (perhaps after taking too many Juager Bombs) and begin construction on a series of giant robots to battle the Kuaji. And for a while it works. More and more monsters come out of the riff with less time between attacks, and every time they are destroyed by the Juagers. But things have changed. The Kuaji are coming more and more frequently, and the Juagers are being overwhelmed. Twelve years after the initial breach humanity has placed all its hope in a gigantic sea wall around all its shores (which is exactly as stupid an idea as it sounds) and given up on the Juagers. With only four Juagers left operational, and extinction knocking on humanities doorstep, a last ditch effort is made to close the breach once and for all and end the Kuaji threat for good.
What follows is a disjointed, cheesy, fun as hell mess of a film that at the same time is one of the corniest films of the year and one of the most entertaining. Let me get the negatives out of the way now, and please hold off on the crucifixion if you can. The movie spends way too much time focusing primarily on the characters in the film, which would be great had there not been such terrible character development. Okay, that's a bit harsh. They aren't THAT terrible, but with so much time and effort given to them when we could have been watching a giant monster bash the very least Del Torro could have given us was compelling characters and convincing acting. A character driven story of the world’s desperate fight against unstoppable odds is not a bad idea, in fact it was done quite well when it was called Neon Genesis Evangelion (for those of you who don't know, it’s an anime mech series that has achieved legendary status), but Pacific Rim doesn't even do a passable job in developing its characters into people we’ll care about. We do get a couple of touching moments, esp when it comes to female lead Mako Mori (played by Rinko Kikuchi) but all that is done in flashback and very little is done with her adult self. All the other characters are cheap one dimensional card board cutouts with no depth, little personality, and nothing at all compelling about them.
“But it’s a monster VS robot movie!” you say. “Why would you go see this film if you wanted three dimensional characters?” Well, you have a point.  I didn’t go to the movie to see a character driven film. And that’s the problem. Pacific Rim tries to be more than that and does focus on its characters a lot more than other movies of this type. It TRIES to be more then Star Trek, or Iron Man, or any of the other mindless summer fare we’ve seen this year. It just fails at it, and fails badly. EVA this is not. The script is full of pointless tension, cheesy one liners, and wasted characters. It really needed to go through another draft or two before they started filming.
Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s get on to what the film did right. For a film like this they really only had to do one thing right and one thing only, and that’s the fights. And yes, I’m glad to announce that what fights they did have were actually quite good. Though I do have quibbles with how the monsters were designed, that was quickly forgotten the first time a Juager punched a Kuaji in the face. Such scenes of epic awesomeness are just too much for the human brain to comprehend. The robots are amazing, reflecting their countries of origin in both design, functionality, and tactics. Whereas the Russian Juager is built like a tank and fights in similar fashion, the Chinese Juager is a lot sleeker and uses its speed and many bladed weapons to their advantage. The tech is also interesting as well as the Juagers require two pilots to operate as it would kill a lone pilot. It may seem like a stretch to give a movie three stars for fight scenes alone, but come on. It’s a giant monster movie. THIS is what people are paying for, so this is clearly the most important aspect of the film. And Pacific Rim blows it out of the water. I’ll call it right now; Pacific Rim is the best live action American movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters. Hands down.
So is Pacific Rim worth seeing? If you want to see robots battle monsters in one of the most epic battle royals of the year, then yes. If not, nooooo. It’s a fun movie, with a good deal of action to keep people entertained for a long time. Though the silliness, the bad character development, and the cheesy script hold this film back it does the battles right and that’s all people really wanted from this film anyway. Is it a masterpiece? No, not even close. Is it a fun romp of a film with fun battles and amazing effects? Hells yeah it is.
Replay value, high. ]]> Sat, 13 Jul 2013 00:31:01 +0000
<![CDATA[ 'Pacific Rim' awesome robots, vicious monsters almost make it work (video)]]>

Here's all the important things you need to know about director Guillermo del Toro's sci-fi, action film, 'Pacific Rim'...

Planet Earth has been invaded by the Kaiju...Super sized monsters that have risen from a portal underneath the ocean...Millions of earthlings have died and things are not looking good for humanity.

Our only hope for stopping these monstrous creatures are the Jaegers...a special type of robot which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots, whose minds are synched via a neural bridge, called 'The Drift'. 

Unfortunately, the enemy grows more powerful with each attack, so even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju.

And lastly, like in most sci-fi action flicks, everything comes down to one or two dudes (or in this case, one dude, one dudess) who will try to save mankind.

So to sum up...It's monsters vs robots...and that's it.

Yes, the plot as well as the characterizations are thin...The film is all about the special effects and they are spectacular.

In fact, the visuals are so spectacular that they make it worth the price of admission...Especially if you are a teenage boy/gamer.

However, even though I'm very far away from that demographic, I really enjoyed this film. It was very entertaining and well cast...

Charlie Hunnam, (t.v. show 'Sons Of Anarchy) Rinko Kikuchi ('Babel'), Ron Perlman, Idris Elba ('Thor), Charlie Day ('Horrible Bosses'), Rob Kazinsky, Max Martini and Clifton Collins, Jr. do an excellent job bringing their thinly developed characters to life.

For that reason, I gave 'Pacific Rim' which opens in theatres, Friday July 12, 2013, 31/2 bagels out of 5. Oh and definitely see it in 3D...

Check out our video for John's bagel rating and of course, for more of our witty banter.

Please SUBSCRIBE to our youtube channel and LIKE us on our Two Jews On Film facebook page.

Love to know what you think. Thanks everyone.

]]> Thu, 11 Jul 2013 00:40:26 +0000
<![CDATA[ Have fun and enjoy the view]]>
With that said, I was actually not expecting much. I expected all flash and little to no content. What I saw was something else.

Yes, the visuals were stunning. I saw it in 3D, so I got to experience all the effects at their full effect. However, even if one does not see it in 3D the colors pop out at you, but do not distract from the story. In general the effects are there just to get your attention, but are blended in to fit the story line. The costumes and sets were also amazing. They fit each scene well and I did not feel overpowered the actors.

I will also admit I came in with no assumptions of what was going to happen. Yes, I do know the story of the original movie, but I left that in the background in my brain. My reaction to parts of this movie that were similar to the original was usually, "oh so that's how that came about."

As with any movie they do take liberties with science and technology. However, I do think they did a good job of showing how the "Wizard" knew how to use his knowledge of science and technology to appear magical and then utilize the tinkers as well as the other townspeople to make his plan happen.

I did like the way that the various themes were intertwined in this movie sibling rivalry, con man sort of turned into good, and the "Wizard" realizing he is more than he thinks he is. I thought the writers did an incredible job of putting the two characters who had the least self-esteem together, The "Wizard" and Theodora, then showed how each ended up on two completely different paths because of who they met up with later in the movie. Theodora unfortunately just had her evil sister who played on Theodora's insecurities. The "Wizard" ran into characters who pushed him to get out of his comfort zone to do more than he thought he could. Ironically Theodora was the first of these.

I will be honest, if one is going to this movie to find a deeply spiritual film or high art, they are in the wrong place. The acting did feel forced with the "Wizard", James Franco, at times, as well as the live action portions Zac Braff did. It was a surprise to see this with both actors as they are both well seasoned. It might have to do with the script. I will have to say that the actresses playing the witches were excellent. Rachel Wise showed cool and classy, yet and evil undertone. Michelle Williams played a soft and sweet character who was funneling all of her inner strength for her people and to rally the "Wizard" to show him he was more than he thought he was. I have the highest praise for Mila Kunis as she did two completely different characters in this movie and did them well. We could see how vulnerable and sweet she was in the beginning, then felt her pure anger after change. I also thought both the live acting and voice acting of Joey King was very good. She did not overplay her part as the girl in the wheelchair at the beginning of the movie and she put sass, sadness, and vulnerability in her voice acting where it was needed later in the movie.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie greatly.  It is a great way to spend time for both the adults and the kids if you want to get away from the real world for a few hours.]]> Sun, 31 Mar 2013 17:12:50 +0000
<![CDATA[Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013 film) Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>
Highly predictable plot and more of a movie for kids than adults. Still, I was pleasantly entertained!]]> Sat, 16 Mar 2013 15:31:15 +0000
<![CDATA[ Magical Visuals, Uninspired Plot Equals a Family Film?]]> Alice in Wonderland”. It is what Hollywood does when it opts to put modern visual style and great performers in favor of storytelling. “Oz the Great and Powerful” is what it defines as a ‘family film’.

I do have to admit that I became interested with this movie once I heard that Sam Raimi was at its helm as director. Sure, the director had some misfires, but most of his successful movies often have one uniting formula; and that is its main character comes out of his shell and ends up finding himself and realizing just what is in his heart. Raimi’s Spider-man movies have expressed this message and even with his Ash character from “Army of Darkness”, it is about a hero who emerges to find his soul in the face of a challenge and becomes a true hero.

                            Rachel Weisz and James Franco in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

                            Mila Kunis and James Franco in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

                           James Franco and Michelle Williams in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

The film begins in a black and white (non-widescreen) opening act to try to inspire viewers to see its relation to the 1939 classic movie. It was a clever touch that I do have to admit carried that Raimi style in camera work. It introduces us to Oscar, a small time circus magician who is known by the name of Oz. He is selfish, narcissistic and egotistical. He is also a con man and a ladies’ man and that gets him into trouble that he had to flee from the circus muscleman in a hot air balloon. Little did Oscar know that this balloon will be caught in a tornado which would take him to the colorful and enchanting land of Oz. He quickly runs into a charming young witch named Theodora (Mila Kunis) who instantly sees him as the Oz of prophecy. Led by her to Emerald city, Oz is introduced to Theodora’s sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz) as he also becomes motivated to fulfill this ‘prophecy’ due to the promise of gold and kingship. Oz must face and kill the wicked witch (Michelle Williams) with his new found friends, Finley the flying monkey/bellhop (Zach Braff) and a porcelain girl from “Chinatown” (Joey King). But things are not what they seemed, as the con man himself had been ‘conned’.

Not really sure, this Sam Raimi flick is definitely restricted as it is a prequel to the 1939 film, and it just shows. I mean, the set pieces and designs are impressive, it succeeds in bringing the viewer into this magical world, but the limitations were so obvious that the characters had very little space to grow and expand. The plot is so standard and linear that it fails to bring a necessary build up to its encounters, and it is just so restricted that it could not explore new narrative ideas in the land of Oz. Such is the weaknesses of prequels, you have already limited your options and one has barely started.

                     James Franco as Oscar Diggs and Mila Kunis as Theodora in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

                    James Franco as Oscar Diggs and Mila Kunis as Theodora in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

                     James Franco as Oscar Diggs and Mila Kunis as Theodora in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

Standard to Disney movies, it presents a ‘feel good’ atmosphere with the use of familiar devices that speak ‘family and friendship’. Oz, China Girl, and Finley were all designed to create such dynamics. They do succeed as unit somewhat, but it was a hard sell to connect with James Franco’s Oz, he was already unlikable in the beginning and putting such standard elements to expand on him was just doomed to fail. I did not feel that connection as I have with other types of characters. I also thought that the final encounter seemed to be a little too underwhelming, and even with the ‘modern ingenuity and gadgetry’ used against magic kind of deal, it was just something done so much better in Raimi’s “Army of Darkness”.

I also felt that the greatest flaw of the script was the fact that it made Theodora and Evanora much more interesting than the protagonists. The antagonists drove more of the essence of the story, leaving the Oz character left with little room but to play the bumbling oaf who reaches redemption. Sure, the Theodora and Evanora dynamics carried the usual stereotypes as in a ‘woman scorned’ and the manipulative wicked sister, but they were better written than Oz. Kunis and Weisz were convincing in their roles and credible with their performances. Weisz worked really well with Kunis and they formed excellent chemistry. Franco was miscast as Oz, he lacked the needed charisma to sell his character. It was a good thing that Michelle Williams plays Glinda, the good witch and she was believable, despite the fact that the script did not give her much room to grow.

                       Finley voiced by Zach Braff, China Girl voiced by Joey King and James Franco in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

                      James Franco and Rachel Weisz in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

                      Finley voiced by Zach Braff and James Franco as Oscar Diggs in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

To try and immerse the viewer, Sam Raimi tries to rely on its visuals to do favor to the land of Oz. The story and characters certainly fails to do so, but Raimi does manage to bring the viewer into this magical land. After the black and white opening act, the viewer is taken to a land (shot in widescreen) with vivid colors and stunning set designs. I could imagine how this movie would look in 3D, an enhancement I usually skip since I always favored storytelling to gimmicks. It almost felt cartoon-like and it yet they all looked so solid and real. The camerawork emulates what I could imagine the novel from which it was based on. Sound was terrific as well, that the young viewers would no doubt be impressed and enthralled.

Perhaps I was over-thinking this movie since family movies are not usually my kind of thing. Perhaps I was expecting a little too much with Sam Raimi, and “Oz the Great and Powerful” did not have a person like me in mind. I could certainly see how it could charm children, but really, I do still believe that movies such as “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Hugo” would be a better fit to charm the young and young at heart alike. “Oz the Great and Powerful” had a uninspired plot, and while it can say that it was restricted due to the fact that it was a prequel, I just feel that it could’ve been much better. It just could not offer anything new, and it was just an exercise how screenwriters can be limited down to pursue a very narrow path. Franco’s Oz struggled to sell the character and the underwhelming intended ‘epic’ climax feels incomplete that it did not deliver. Raimi thankfully manages to keep things modestly controlled, that I think it can be entertaining to the right viewer in mind. RENTAL [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

                    Michelle Williams in "Oz: The Great and Powerful."

Poster art for "Oz: The Great and Powerful." Poster art for "Oz: The Great and Powerful."]]> Sun, 10 Mar 2013 01:30:39 +0000
<![CDATA[ 'Oz The Great And Powerful'...Not Great But Loads Of Fun For The Family (video)]]> 'We're off to see the Wizard...The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz'...except...

In Sam Raimi's 'Oz The Great And Powerful' he's not exactly wonderful or a wizard.

In fact he' Oscar Diggs (James Franco) a 3rd rate circus magician/con artist who escapes from Kansas in a hot air balloon, only to land in the beautiful, magical Land of Oz. 

There, Oscar meets the beautiful witch Theodora (Mila Kunis) and her older sister, Evanora, (Rachel Weisz) who rules over the Emerald City.

When the sisters mistake Oscar for the wizard who the prophecies foretold would one day come and save Oz, he thinks he's struck gold.

Well actually he has.  Seems Oz is filled with gold...a lot of gold, enough to make Oscar a billionaire several times over.

Of course nothing is simple for our con man...It doesn't take long for the sisters to become suspicious of him.  Now, in order to to claim the riches of Oz, Oscar must figure out how to save the inhabitants from the dark forces waiting to take hold of them.

Lucky for him, he has the help of Glinda, aka The Good Witch (Michelle Williams) who winds up showing Oscar just what kind of man he really is. 

 'Oz The Great And Powerful' written by Mitchell Kapner,and David Lindsay-Abaire imagines the origins of the beloved wizard character first brought to life in author L. Frank Baum's book 'The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz.

Shot in 3d, the film also introduces new characters as well, adorable porcelain child called China Girl (voice by Joe King) and Finley (voice by Zach Braf ) a winged monkey who accompanies Oscar on his journey through Oz; serving as his sounding board and conscience.

I really enjoyed 'Oz The Great And Powerful' which opens in theatres Friday March 8, 2012 and for that reason gave it 4 bagels out of 5. I thought it was fun and a wonderful family picture.

Check out our video to for John's thoughts and his bagel score. Also love to know whom you agree with
Please SUBSCRIBE to us at and LIKE us on our Two Jews On Film facebook page.]]> Fri, 8 Mar 2013 00:13:28 +0000
<![CDATA[ The reader will not go wrong with this one]]>
Sam Bixby is your average nine-year-old. His parents have been divorced for most of his life. The concern and uncertainty that comes with divorced parents comes back to Sam when Mom asks him to live with her in California. Sam and Dad live near Seattle. On a camping trip to northern Minnesota with Dad, Sam explores an abandoned farmhouse (the kind that children should not explore alone). He falls, and hits his head, and he wakes up in a very strange land.

An elderly human sage teaches Sam the ability to change into whatever he wants (bird, animal, etc.) simply by thinking about it. Sam meets a talking squirrel who is searching for his father. Squirrel Dad has been on the run for a number of years because of a botched robbery. Sam meets talking blueberries who are proud of their color, and streams of water that give Sam fits of laughter even on the worst days. Through it all, no one knows just how Sam can get home, but they suggest that a magic pool of water in a nearby city is the place to start.

Sam also meets several human/animal hybrids, including a pair with human bodies and the heads of crows. They really want the secret to Sam's transformation ability. While Sam is a bird, they trap him inside a bird cage until he gives up the secret. Will Sam spend the rest of his life as a bird? Will he ever be reunited with his father?

This book is made to be read to children, perhaps as a multi-part bedtime story. It's nice and weird, and many children can identify with Sam. The reader will not go wrong with this one.]]> Tue, 5 Mar 2013 23:18:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ Give Me the Lobotomy, I'd Rather Forget]]>
The 2012 version of Total Recall gave me a sense of two things I didn't ask for and never particularly wanted. The first was a sense of my own age. When I first started enlisting for consumer websites to write reviews, I was a 19-year-old recent high school grad who had only just picked up on the fact that he could turn a few clever phrases with a pen. Now I'm a 31-year-old student-to-be with a ton of real world experience under my belt who became a victim of the economy a couple of years ago. When I got serious about my writing, the first Total Recall was around for a decade and everyone thought they got it right that time. The second thing was a sense of just how bad action movies had gotten since Arnold Schwarzenegger - who starred in the original version - decided to go politicking in California. Since then, The Matrix introduced the most annoying and overused directorial fallback since the secret twist ending. Michael Bay became MICHAEL BAY. Movies became either too serious or too juvenile, and the stars too stoic or unbelievable.

Total Recall is a remake of the 1990 sci-fi classic with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It is NOT a revisioning of the old Philip K. Dick story. Neither of the movies were based on the Philip K. Dick story. They were merely inspired by it - a subtle idea on the outside, but it becomes supremely important when you really think about the difference between inspiration and homage. The original short story, called "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale," revolved only around the initial setoff sequence - that is to say, it went up to the scene where the main character went to get his mind hacked and was discovered by the spies. After escaping, he spent the rest of the story - only a handful of pages more - bargaining with them, successfully, for his life. There's your first clue that Total Recall 2012 had nothing to do with Philip K. Dick and everything to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger and original director Paul Verhoeven. Even so much as acknowledging the difference in the main character's name - in the short story, it was Quail as opposed to Quaid in both movies - would have given it some distance!

Total Recall 2012 the kind of crap we see when people who are obviously bereft of ideas want to make a point-by-point remake of the original while also trying to soften it for the audiences of today. It replaces much of the excitement of the original movie with slogging intensity while wimping out at all the worst possible times. Right from the very start, Total Recall gives itself away. Now, I'll grant that Colin Farrell, who plays Quaid, gives off a better everyman persona in the start than Arnold Schwarzenegger ever did. That's important, because Farrell is believable in the start when he learns what he is. Unfortunately, he never allows himself grow out of it, and he always seems to be carrying a look of shock even after performing all his superhuman stunts. I have to figure that after a shock, most people would continue to surprise themselves but generally just go with it. We really needed Arnold back. Sure he can't play an everyman, but that's so little of the movie that we don't even think about it, and when the action stuff begins, Arnold jumps right in as you would expect a secret agent to. Anyway, like the original, there's a dream sequence in the beginning. The dream features Jessica Biel, playing Melina. Then Quaid snaps awake and the girl in his bed clearly isn't Melina, but Kate Beckinsale as Lori. Although the original movie also featured a woman in the dream sequence, her character wasn't being clearly defined in it as it was in this one.

Every change writers Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback make to the original is for the worse. They apparently had a need to keep Lori around right up to the last scene in the movie, and for my life I can't figure out what that need is. This apparent mandate against killing Kate Beckinsale wasn't present in the first movie. Even though Lori was played by Sharon Stone, she was still knocked off when her usefulness wore out. She had a collective total of 15 minutes of screen time, which was more than enough. Beckinsale quits playing her part long before the movie ends, but since nobody has the guts to kill her off, she hangs around to be one of those stupid final menace killings in the end which try - and ALWAYS fail - to bring an extra element of danger into the main character's life. The "wake up" scene in the middle was given the worst alteration possible. In the original movie, it took place between only Quaid and a doctor who had shown up out of nowhere. He played an act, and he played it well to a character - and an audience - that had no idea whether he was being honest or trying to pull one over. In this version, the scene plays out in front of a Police brigade. Melina is with him the whole time, and the person doing the fast talking is Quaid's friend Harry. The scene is horrid because the suspense is now from two people screaming at each other, with the absurd reluctance of Melina to end it by shooting Harry - or vice versa, because Harry takes Melina's gun at one point, and instead of finishing, he GIVES IT BACK.

The setting change removes any sense of urgency. The original involved a corporate honcho on Mars actually cutting off the peoples' air supply to punish them. This Total Recall is set between the United Federation of Britain and The Colony (Australia). The rest of the planet is uninhabitable. Wimmer and Bomback could have easily made the original go into this vision, but instead they chose to stage it around an invasion. The original also fleshed out a lot of its minor characters to such an extent that we worried about their fate once the air ducts were closed and we saw them start suffocating. None of that here - not just because the invasion and prevalent air don't warrant it, but because the people in the cities just appear as faceless blobs. Although director Len Wiseman pays homage to the infamous three-breasted prostitute, she makes an appearance and disappears and, unlike the original, we never think of her again.

The action sequences are done pretty well, and are largely thought out well to boot. Even devoid of any humor, they serve to give Total Recall the precious little bit of life that exists in it. Unfortunately, the way the non-action scenes are done does this movie in. Wiseman tries to streamline the entire movie with a kind of intensity which didn't do much except remind me of how good the original was. In nearly every scene, Wiseman can't get around playing the bad parts of Alfred Hitchcock, and he directs every scene apparently trying to give off the impression that anything could happen at any second. It got to be tiresome after awhile, and the endless stoicism of the actors made it unbearable sometimes.

I'm glad Arnold Schwarzenegger returned to the theaters. If any kids of today want to know why we think action movies lost their way, take them to see The Last Stand, then take them to see the 2012 version of Total Recall. Then explain that Arnold Schwarzenegger was the star of Total Recall 22 years ago. Then if they're old enough, show that version to them, and they'll hopefully understand - that is, if Sam Worthington isn't yet their idea of a proper action star and they haven't completely warped into that way of thinking.]]> Fri, 22 Feb 2013 15:45:33 +0000
<![CDATA[ Enchanting Mix of Japanese Lore and Ancient Greek Myth]]> 5 Centimeters per Second” and “The Place Promised in our Early Days”, Shinkai’s “Children Who Chase Lost Voices” is his longest animated feature and may have just as well been made by Studio Ghibli. The style, the character designs and set pieces appear to mimic Ghibli’s other works such as “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Nausicaa“. Still, Shinkai does not appear to be a minor copycat, and he finds his own set of uniqueness that made this film stand out.


Like many of Ghibli’s creations, the heroine of this film is a young girl named Asuna (Hisako Kanemoto) whose mother works long hours that she often fends for herself. She goes to school, does her own cooking and laundry and one thing she always does is go to the top of the mountain, using a radio to listen to music with a crystal-like stone as a conduit. This is Asuna’s routine until she encounters a huge creature along the train tracks and meets a young boy named Shun (Miyu Irino) who saves her from the creature of magic. Things begin to change around her life, as Asuna now finds herself wondering, and she goes about her daily routine, meeting a new teacher named Morisaki (Kazuhiko Inoue) who shares a story about resurrecting the dead. But it seems like that story can become much closer to reality, and she now finds herself in a very unusual situation with Morisaki who seeks to enter a hidden world that her only hope may lie with Shun’s brother Shin (Miyu Irino).



I have often said that Asian movies often ask you the motivation rather than spoon-feed you its motivations. Such is the way the narrative of this film, it is rather a slow burn as the world of Agartha becomes revealed for its viewer. Shinkai who also wrote the screenplay brings forth several themes that go around Japanese folklore as well as adding some devices that may have been inspired by the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. It is about a distraught man who sought to resurrect his dead wife. One could easily see the themes of the film, even as the plot becomes developed, the world of the Agartha becomes even more revealed, creatures of the night called the Izoku stalk those who are children of both the human world and this world of magic. Guardians of the gate called Quetzelcoatl also come into play, and the certain areas of this mystical land have similarities to the world of Tartarus, something Shinkai obviously wanted to emphasize. It was a subtle way to communicate just how mythology from different cultures can often come under a common ground.

At its heart, “Children Who Chase Lost Voices” is a film that attempt to define the pain of the loss of a loved one as represented by the Morisaki character. He was an adult when he lost his wife, and as such he feels every bit of the pain that such a loss would come from. Asuna is a young girl whose father had passed on before she even reached maturity. As such, she never felt such pain and perhaps this makes her wonder. Such young innocence often find a way to shut out such feelings since they Asuna was probably too young to know her father well. Asuna’s involvement in Morisaki’s goals may have been born more out of curiosity and the hope that Shun is actually Shin in disguise. It is for Asuna to find out about the meaning of a loss, and this film may be seen a something that brings her ‘to age’. Shin is the one character that seems to operate within his own set of rules. He listens to his heart and acts on them, whether his heart causes him to rebel against established rules, he would do what he sees as ‘right’.




The film is exquisitely animated. The set pieces are fantastic; from the details of a simple fan, to the landscapes, wooden textures and the things in the house, the work was superb. I found it curious that the colors appear to be a little restrained, they weren’t as bright as I would’ve usually expected from a film like this. There is just something that feels melancholic to the atmosphere of the film. The beauty of its designs have that look that exudes irony that complements its narrative. The film also has its scenes of exciting chases and fights, that the film also comes forth with a more adventure-like tempo.

Be that as it may, the film is not perfect. The film did suffer a little bit when it comes to pacing. I thought that the film could’ve been edited better. It also misses on some areas, I know the intentions were probably to define the characters along with the world of Agartha, but I saw several missed opportunities that could’ve made the film much more stronger. It leaves several questions unanswered, and as gorgeous as the film looked, that it was easy to be enchanted by its production values, some parts of the script were a little cumbersome.


Still, Shinkai’s “Children Who Chase Lost Voices” is a good film that contains adventure, romance, action and tragedy that proved to be a fine anime piece of work. It certainly deserved all the accolades it had received, and despite it feeling a little too much on the Studio Ghibli side, that isn’t really a bad thing. It had a simple story whose rewards come from its journey. It casts an enchanting spell that is sure to grab anime fans. There are still anime storytellers out in Japan who believe that the magic of anime comes from a compelling story, and that computer generated effects are not needed to enthrall an audience. Makoto Shinkai may be no Hayao Miyazaki, but his heart certainly is at the right place.

Highly Recommended! [4 Out of 5 Stars]


             ]]> Mon, 18 Feb 2013 06:03:48 +0000
<![CDATA[ Well-done piece of writing]]>
The Monsterjunkies live in a walled compound on the coast of Maine. Talon, the father, is a crypto-zoologist who specializes in rescuing animal species thought to be extinct, with the intention of returning them to the wild. Pandora is his wife, and their children, daughter Indigo and son Crow are students at the local high school. Because they are "different," both children have been noticed by Rutherford, the school bully. Crow wants the bullying to end, and Indigo wants the family to start being a little more trusting of outsiders. No one is allowed on the property, and the family doesn't talk about it, which leads to the expected rumors of monsters on the property.

Indigo invites Winter, a friend from school and a budding artist, for an overnight sleepover, and shows her what is really going on behind the walls. Crow becomes friends with a trio of boys from school who attempt to sneak onto the property to see for themselves. They are stopped by an actual sasquatch, who, they learn later, is intelligent and is named Beauregard. The visitors are also introduced to a pygmy elephant named Thunder who loves marshmallows, and an actual sea serpent named Sybil who can't eat enough squash.

At school one day, the group publicly humiliates Rutherford, in front of a bunch of girls. Naturally, he is not going to go away that easily. Does the Monsterjunkie family get "outed" prematurely? Does the bullying stop, once and for all?

This is an excellent YA novel. It has a very strong environmental and anti-bullying message. It is a well-done piece of writing that is recommended for all young people (and adults, too).]]> Mon, 11 Feb 2013 14:58:43 +0000
<![CDATA[ Surprisingly bad]]> Four unrelated vignettes involving tourists, newlyweds, and quirky locals play out in Rome.  The characters are neither sympathetic, likable, interesting, nor memorable.  The plots are like fantasy daydreams but still manage to be incredibly tiresome.  I was so glad when the movie was over.

On the plus side, the photography is exquisite.  Rome is filmed in a warm, golden light that makes it look like a fairytale city for lovers.  Some very good actors get stuck with trite material and writer/director/star Woody Allen is still playing the same loser character he's been doing for forty years. 

Terrible movie.

]]> Fri, 25 Jan 2013 05:41:44 +0000
<![CDATA[ South Korea Sees Plenty of 'Doom' In Our Future]]>

By their very nature, anthology films are a mixed bag.  They’ll contain two or three or four smaller stories – essentially ‘shorts,’ cobbled together into one complete film – usually connected by one central theme.  The upside is that, if the theme is flexible enough to support multiple interpretations, the audience is treated to an insightful exploration from different (and differing) perspectives.  The downside?  There can be several, not the least of which is the viewer ends up stuck in a loop supportive of that main idea where nothing all that original unfolds not once but twice, or thrice, or … well, however many installments the producers managed to cram in there!
(NOTE: the following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters.  If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment.  If, however, you’re accepting of a few hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Since DOOMSDAY BOOK is a collection of three short films, I’ll break them down individually for clarity.
In the first chapter, “Brave New World,” a brand new virus incorporated into the food supply by way of food recycling brings the city of Seoul to the brink of social collapse by turning its victims into zombies.  The short is bookended with the tale of two young people who find one another on their first date – once the chaos begins, they’re forced by circumstances to go their separate ways; as fate requires, true love will find a way, and our lovers are re-united in the segment’s closing moments.  In between, the story develops its satirical themes, showing us in some rather comical fashion, how civic leaders de-evolve while the rest of the world looks on.  Technically, it’s all very accomplished with some impressive effects, but, in the end, I found much of it fairly routine ‘stock’ for a zombie picture.  On my five star scale, I’d give it a strong three stars.
The second chapter, “The Heavenly Creature,” a temple’s service robot supplied by the UR Corporation experiences an epiphany, leaving the monks to believe they’ve found the latest incarnation of Buddha.  The narrative focus for the tale explores the confusion experienced by the service technician sent by the company to diagnose whether the android is reparable or needs a system recall.  This segment – from start to finish – is nothing short of brilliant; it’s chocked full of exceptional, probing dialogue with questions by real people trying to understand these curious circumstances and what it means for mankind.  Also, there’s a wonderful little bit involving a debutante and failed her mechanical dog that explores humanity at its most crass.  Technically, it’s exceptionally staged and photographed with some images – the sight of the droid locked in prayer – that’ll stay with you long after the story ends.  On my five star scale, this one easily earns the highest praise with a perfect score.
In the last chapter, “Happy Birthday,” a little girl hoping to please her father logs on to the web and orders him a new eight ball for his pool table.  Two years later, an unidentified meteor is heading straight for a collision with the Earth, and, to her surprise, she learns what role she may’ve played in mankind’s impending demise.  This installment is a weaker satire than the first chapter, mostly because there’s little substance to the grand ‘reveal’ (which I won’t spoil); instead, the story takes a rather serpentine route to deliver the audience to its destination, and it ends up being relatively routine.  I do think, however, that “Happy Birthday” could’ve been stronger with more focus on the comic characters – it’s a family, and they all clearly love one another despite their respective quirks.  In this anthology format, there just wasn’t enough time for it all to mean that much.  On the five star scale, I’d give it a middling two stars at best.
The single greatest strength to DOOMSDAY BOOK in the three-story format is that the audience doesn’t spend too much time with the lesser sections, making most of it feel fairly benign.  The weakness – as I prescribed in my first paragraph – is that the directors delivered three stories of vastly differing appeal.  Yes, they’re all sci-fi, giving us a glance at possible (but not all that probable) futures, but when the first and the final chapters feel more than a bit incomplete, I come away not feeling I’ve seen the best these stories had to offer (with the exception of “The Heavenly Creature”).
Still, I’d strongly argue that each of these ideas had great foundation for fuller pictures completely on their own.  Granted, a full 90 minutes dedicated to the eradication of mankind by a magic-8-ball (not the game, but a legitimate 8-ball from a pool table set) may not seem all that revelatory, but you have to take it in context.  I would’ve loved to spend more time in each of these visions, especially one where a robot uncovers its desire to pray, and that’s something to think about.
DOOMSDAY BOOK is produced by Gio Entertainment and Timestory.  DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by Well Go USA Entertainment.  As for the technical specifications, it all looks and sounds impressive, and each chapter boasts some very solid performances by all of the players.  Also, I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t point out that the feature won the 2012 Fantasia Cheval Noir Award; and was an official selection of the 2012 Hawaii International Film Festival, the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival, and 2012 Fantastic Fest.  Sadly, there are no special features to speak of.
RECOMMENDED.  You like zombie films?  Check!  You like thoughtful heart-tugging science fiction flicks?  Check!  You like end-of-the-world tales told with more than a hint of irony?  Check!  Certainly, each piece of DOOMSDAY BOOK is solidly produced; but, as can happen all too often in anthology films, these stories end up wildly mixing influences and producing varying results.  It’s safe to say that I would have rather seen each installment expanded and turned into its own feature – the zombie short had some solid ideas but methinks some of its dark humor was lost in translation, and the disaster from the heavens could’ve been elevated by more exploration of its decidedly quirky four main characters – because, in their present format, there just wasn’t enough.  Only the middle chapter – the robot who found enlightenment – was strong enough to stand on its own, but I would’ve loved to have spent more time in that inspired, thought-provoking reality.
In the interests of fairness, I’m please to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA Entertainment provided me with a DVD screener of DOOMSDAY BOOK for the expressed purposes of completing this review.]]> Thu, 24 Jan 2013 10:58:35 +0000
<![CDATA[ Not Up to the Hype]]>
This movie did have good points.  As always Michael Cane continued his role as the best Alfred ever and Christian Bale did put in a good job as the reclusive Bruce.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was excellent as a cop who identifies with Batman in that he was also an orphan and he could tell that Batman was an orphan too.

The movie was painfully too long and there was a big part of the movie devoted to an underground prison.  You wonder how this prison gets regular supplies and something that really bothered me about the prison is someone escaped from it without it being explained (I can't go into more of what I am referring to without causing a spoiler).

Then we have the bad guys that follow Bain.  You wonder why they would especially when you know what Bain plans for Gotham City.  His army is greater than any army of bad guys that was ever in a Die Hard flick with a lot more weaponry.

Overall I grudgingly give this film three stars and am glad that Nolan did not plan on a fourth.  In this series the first film was excellent as well as half of the second film.  It was all downhill from there.]]> Mon, 21 Jan 2013 20:37:32 +0000
<![CDATA[ Two Directors. Three Tales of the Future. One Story of Humanity's Self-Destruction]]> Hansel and Gretel”, Im Pil-Seung and the director of two awesome-st films “A Tale of Two Sisters” and “I Saw The Devil”, Kim Ji-Woon have joined together in directing a trilogy of stories under the film “The Doomsday Book”. This film presents three unique stories of the potential for humanity’s self-destruction in this modern high-tech era. It sees the modern age as insusceptible and as a result, it seeks to present an alternative form of genuine humanity.

The first tale “Brave New World” follows a young man named Yoon Seok (Ryu Seung-Beom, Arahan) who is left behind in Korea while his family goes abroad. He cleans up and comes across a rotten apple which then finds it way to the food waste disposal system. Soon, Yoon-Seok and his date, Yoo-Min (Go Joon-Hee) discover that the world is under siege by an undead pandemic brought about by rotten trash?

Kim Ji-Woon brings in to the fold (also the director of Hollywood’s The Last Stand) “Heavenly Creature”. A tale that follows a young technician named Park Do-Won (Kim Kang-Woo) employed by the RU robotics company to check out a robot (Park Hae-Il) who had been employed in a Buddhist monastery. This robot called RU4 has become a Buddhist and many have claimed that it had reached enlightenment. Park gives the robot a clean bill of health, but his superiors (Song Young-Chang and Kim Seo-Hyung) see things differently...

The last story called “Happy Birthday” brings us a family who are trying to survive a destructive asteroid headed for Earth. Min-Seo (Jin Ji-Hee) with her parents and her uncle (Song Sae-Byok) set up in a basement that they have retrofitted to become a bomb shelter. But as the asteroid approaches Earth, Min-seo soon discovers that the huge asteroid may have something to do with a billiard “Eight Ball” she had thrown away years ago.

“The Doomsday Book” is a different undertaking created by two talented Korean directors. I do have to admit that it feels to be a different flavor, and it feels more like “Twilight Zone” episodes than a Korean movie. The three stories are heavy with symbolism immersed with several philosophical themes. All three tales fall under the themes of human neglect and carelessness, fear of the unknown and just how our own perceptions can limit us. The film certainly wanted to make an impact, and it does. Themes of spirituality and how over-reliance on technology can blind us to a truth. Things that we see and things we ignore bring about our own destruction.

Yes, this trilogy is all about different visions of an apocalypse, but it also brings forth a message that every end may be the beginning of something new. The film comes out swinging, and the two tales by Im may feel rather more light-hearted and subtly humorous, Kim Ji-Woon’s “Heavenly Creature” is darker and much more powerful in what it was trying to say. There is just something about a machine reaching a state of Nirvana, and a state that have eluded most humans. Kim’s direction was strong, and despite the fact that the robot called In-Myung looked uncannily similar to the robot designs of the American film “I-Robot”, I had no issues connecting with the story.

Im’s “Brave New World” and “Happy Birthday” are simple stories whose message comes across easily and yet the script itself felt a little cumbersome in its delivery. “Happy Birthday” moved more like a fairy tale with a message geared towards humanity while “Brave New World” feels more like a sci-fi horror movie until you reach its last act. Im also creates links to the media and just how politics can play a part in an apocalypse. People take advantage of any situation, and the media can definitely influence the people’s opinion.

All three tales of “The Doomsday Book” are superbly acted. The film is a very handsome undertaking, the set designs and the costumes are real neat, and the careful methodical use of its camerawork certainly spoke a lot of its quality. The one issue I may have is the fact that it may well be a little over-reaching with its intended themes, and limits itself with its own screen time. It strikes a chord and yet, it feels a little incomplete. Not to say that it was lacking, but it may feel a little too heavy-handed to the casual movie viewer and may come off as poignant for the experienced movie fan. I do feel that it may require multiple viewings to truly understand what it is trying to say. Yes, “The Doomsday Book” may not be a film that truly reached the plateau it aims for but it is a film worth checking out.

Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

]]> Thu, 17 Jan 2013 02:02:26 +0000
<![CDATA[ Weapon of Choice]]>
Up Your Arsenal, the third Ratchet and Clank game, realizes the full potential of the series and corrects a bunch of glaring flaws from the first two games, Ratchet and Clank and Going Commando. It also expands on those two games in some very fun ways while removing some of the riffraff. Those hard as nails space dogfights and motorcycle races from Going Commando are gone.

Up Your Arsenal features the grand return of our two favorite characters from the first game who weren't named Ratchet and Clank. I'm talking about Dr. Nefarious and Captain Qwark. The story introduces us to our two titular heroes, Ratchet and Clank, living a pretty good life. They're still good friends, but all Clank's attention lately seems to be getting the better of Ratchet. It's Clank who's the face of the two by playing the James Bond wannabe on some camp show called Secret Agent Clank, while Ratchet gets the undignified role as Clank's limo driver. Clank is awesome and everything, but Ratchet is still feeling a little left behind, a justifiable thought considering he did all the dirty work in saving the universe while Clank pulled his weight as a backpack. In the meantime, Dr. Nefarious has returned and is now bankrolling an attack on Ratchet's home planet by some gullible warrior race called the Tyhrranoids. His ultimate object is to wipe out all organic life. The Tyhrranoids, by the way, are organic life forms, so in helping Nefarious out, they're also future winners of a Darwin Award. Long story short, it's up to Ratchet to play the universal hero again, gather an arsenal or weaponry which would make Mad Max plotz, and nuke Nefarious back to the age when the deadliest weapons were sticks and stones.

The weapons in Up Your Arsenal are bigger and more explosive (read: fun) than ever before. You want military assault guns? You can leave the M-16 and AK-47 at home for this one. Up Your Arsenal gives us BFG after BFG with names like the N60 Storm, Spitting Hydra, Lava Gun, Shock Blaster, and Annihilator! And yeah, they'll all be blowing stuff up REAL good, too! The Mine Glove attacks any enemy who gets too close. The Agents of Doom run around the battlefield dismantling anything they can get their tiny, scuzzy little hands on. The Spitting Hydra locks onto enemies before giving them a knockout dose of lightning, and the Annihilator launches rockets at whatever it's locked on. Provided you have one of the older Ratchet and Clank games on the same memory card you're using to save Up Your Arsenal to, you can also grab some of the older weapons from those games. Some of the weapons are better, more useful, and more powerful than others, and some are just plain obsolete by the end of the game. And when Slim Cognito offers Ratchet a deal on the Plasma Coil, you're best off picking it right up because without a powered-up plasma coil, the final battle against Dr. Nefarious is going to be a much longer and more drawn-out affair than it needs to be.

The weapons even gain experience and become more powerful the more often you use them, like in any standard RPG. While this is a nice little addition that adds a little bit of replay value, I don't think Insomniac (the developer) went far enough in developing it. The N60 Storm is a nice little basic blaster which packs a sizable wallop in the early goings. It also holds the most significant ammo reserve in the game, with 300 shots, making it a good fallback weapon when the bigger, fun guns are bereft of all projectiles. And, no matter how much you work to get that sucker juiced all the way up, it's still going to do nothing more than maybe tickle your enemies come the game's halfway mark. The effect gets magnified if you happen to really enjoy plugging bad guys with the Omniwrench - Ratchet's default weapon - and the Plasma Whip, which are the only weapons in the game suited more for melee combat than distance battles. They're also outdated early, which makes it a pain later if you get surrounded by little nuisance enemies because most of the guns in Up Your Arsenal are of the one-shot-per-enemy type.

The level designs…. Ah, who cares? We all know the weapons are why people love to play the Ratchet and Clank series. Some of the levels are slight retreads from the first game, like Blackwater City and Metropolis. Still, though, well, first you'll be glad to know there's no real water level. There's swimming in the game, but nothing in the way of water which can really be said to hamper the game. You'll be stopping by a lot of the planets more than once, and it's a good idea to keep dropping by other planets in order to make money. In one level, you can gather crystals which are worth a black market fortune. In others, you help the Galactic Rangers in one of their various missions in restoring peace and order to the galaxy.

The difficulty of Up Your Arsenal took me off guard, probably because I've spent many years now softening myself up through a million video game scavenger hunts in which the only challenge was finding every item. But as far as 3D games go, this ain't your kid's 3D video game. Levels are linear, and in the grand tradition of the old 16-bit era, you actually have to start at one end and you get stuck traversing the same path until you get to a designated end point. In your way are enemies. Not token road block creatures which happen to get in your way sometimes and can be knocked off in one shot, but ENEMIES. Bad guys who either charge you or start firing away on sight, knock off giant chunks of health, and are programmed to kill you in faster, better ways as the game goes on. Some of these guys are in inconvenient places, and they're not privy to just letting you by. You need to do some serious weapon cycling and experimenting to learn which weapons are best suited for those situations.

Up Your Arsenal even has bosses, and they're not tokens, either. They're big, they're bad, they have long and absorbent life bars, and they're not going to let you by until you've shot them enough times. The boss battles are unfortunately one of my problems with Up Your Arsenal. Remember what I said a few paragraphs ago about how outdated weapons won't do much more than tickle enemies in later levels? Well, that's the way it goes in EVERY boss fight. A lot of these boss battles are turned from simple fights into wars of attrition because of that. You walk up to them, avoid getting hit, and blast them as much as they can take being blasted. A powered-up gun can help, but even so, most bosses will be able to withstand the onslaught of nearly everything you can throw. I've fought boss battles in this game which ran over 20 minutes, and that's just inexcusable.

At least you get to start over at any boss you made it to after dying, and that's more than I can say for the rest of the game. Again, this was a 16-bit mainstay so I shouldn't be complaining, but it's still painful to fight your almost way almost to level's end, or at the very least the halfway checkpoint, then die just when you're close enough to smell it because you have to start the whole level all over again, with all the dead baddies resurrected, right in the same spots they were in last time they killed you. Up Your Arsenal could have used the less torturous system of letting you pick up right where you died, thus saving a lot of frustration. What's worse is that, terrible as it is being brought back all the way at the beginning of a level, all the ammo you expended that didn't find its way into robot steel isn't resurrected. You have to visit the vendor and buy a whole new stock. The sections with Clank don't give him any weapons other than a banana launcher which is there only for puzzle-solving. Clank has to walk up to every enemy and hit them with his fists. He only has a handful of hit points, and every time he dies, he has to start his section all the way from the beginning. Good luck with that.

At least the obstacles aren't overtly painful to navigate this time. There are no real tricky jumping puzzles or rushes to use a ledge-creating gadget however many times in a row before you get any time to collect your bearings.

Up Your Arsenal presents us with playable Captain Qwark comics, which are essential to the plot and which function as fun games within a game. The last comic you have to play, featuring a boss fight against Dr. Nefarious, is one of the most annoying scenes I've ever played out in a video game, but all in all the comics are a fun addition and a dash of uniqueness to the game and a welcome break from the action when it gets too hot.

The graphics and sounds in Up Your Arsenal are as perfect as in the rest of the series. Voices are loud and crystal clear, and the graphics perform smoothly while pushing the Playstation 2 to its limits. A lot of action is capable of happening onscreen at the same time, both in the background and foreground. There's nary a whiff of graphic slowdown which tends to infect the Playstation 2 normally when it tries to do the things Up Your Arsenal does; no pop-up problems, smooth camera, beautiful colors. The voice-over work is extremely well-done, and the cast includes veteran character actor Armin Shimerman. Geeks reading this will recognize him as the actor who played Quark on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And no, while the names Quark and Qwark sound exactly the same, Shimerman doesn't portray the cowardly sellout Captain Qwark in Up Your Arsenal. He actually voices Dr. Nefarious.

The controls are as perfect as can be. There are parts where the game is reluctant to let you really get a good look around with the camera, mostly when you're leaning against walls and such. There are also points where it's a little bit too easy to misjudge the distance of a jump, but that's hardly Insomniac's fault. One feature I like is that at the weapon selection menu, you can press R1 to get an alternate selection of weapons, which makes life a little easier when deciding what to place into the quick select.

If you're the kind of gamer who likes to just toss in the cartridge (kids, a cartridge is what we dinosaurs used to play video games on. They didn't have any loading time, but when you played one often enough, you would have to blow on the data chips inside them to clear the dust off to get them to work) and start blowing up everything in sight, Ratchet and Clank is your series, and Up Your Arsenal is the best game in it.]]> Sun, 13 Jan 2013 13:23:06 +0000
<![CDATA[ Worth reading for everyone]]>
Zeddy lives with his parents, Zane and Zadie. The world is under the control of the fascist International Government. All citizens have to check the computer each morning to see what new laws have been imposed overnight. Instant adherence to all new laws is expected. The penalty for non-adherence is to be taken away by the International Police, and never seen again.

One day, while walking the dog, Zane vanishes. He is a scientist who recently completed several months of work for the IG, so the first thought is that they have kidnapped him for reasons of their own. Zeddy shows great math and science abilities, which the family keeps quiet for the same reason. Any smart children are taken by the IG for their own purposes, and never seen again.

Zeddy asks Zadie if they really are free in this society, and is taken to a secret room in their house, which he never knew existed. It is filled with books, the possession of which is very illegal. Zadie reads Zeddy the story The Count of Monte Cristo. A neighbor, who happens to be a witch, tells them that they must undertake a harrowing journey to be re-united with Zane. Fake travel documents are provided; one wrong move and the International Police will make them disappear, permanently. A local professor is asked to go with them. He is in trouble with the Police because of a previous "accident", from whom they barely escape.

This is a really good Young Adult/dystopian story, akin to "1984." It is worth reading for everyone, young and old.]]> Tue, 1 Jan 2013 20:09:41 +0000
<![CDATA[Dark City (1998 film) Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]>
Thanks to the extremely hokey acting (Kiefer Sutherland's Peter Lorre impressions alone will make anyone cry tears of blood), bland characters, totally non-scary villains, silly plot devices, and liberal ripping off of elements from movies like Akira, Total Recall, Metropolis, Batman (the 1989 movie), and The Addams Family, I was nearly bored to the point of falling asleep when I watched this. The unintentially funny scenes with the "Strangers" (the bad guys who look like bad Uncle Fester clones) kept me from passing out.

Here's a movie that thanks to the totally false and misguided praise by irrelevant film critic Roger Ebert, has gotten an undeserved status as a "lost classic."

I'm not joking, I'd rather watch Battlefield Earth instead of Dark City because at least BE has a hilarious RiffTrax commentary to go with it.]]> Sat, 29 Dec 2012 01:50:15 +0000
<![CDATA[ Concerning Hobbits...]]>
To put things into perspective, Bilbo Baggins is telling the tale.  The Hobbit is a pretty simplistic story in and of itself.  The Dwarves have found themselves driven out of their home by the evil dragon Smaug.  As a result they have no place to go and decide that perhaps they should fight to get their home back.  That's the basic plot of what The Hobbit boils down to.  It is not, however, what the movie in and of itself is about.  In fact, the movie seems to happily forget about Smaug after the prologue.  Instead we find ourselves witnessing a story about a bunch of Dwarves who have issues with orcs who are pursuing them throughout.  Smaug is very much an after thought.  That, and the Hobbit does quite a bit to try and set things up for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Including bringing familiar faces to us as well as making certain allusions to Sauron and the like.  The moment when we see Gollum drop the ring is enough to bring shivers to the audience in and of itself. 

Which is one of The Hobbit's smallest problems.  The fact that were it not for Lord of the Rings you... probably wouldn't care about some of it so much.  That's not to say the story is bad, it's only to say that the film's strongest moment (that is the meeting with Bilbo and Gollum) only has any sort of significance if you're a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  And if you're watching The Hobbit, chances are you enjoyed those movies.  The meeting here is easily some of the best and most tense the movie has to offer.  It's a great little thing to see in a lot of ways--and it doesn't just come off as fan service.  Although you do get more sense that Peter Jackson is trying to put more emphasis on being a prelude to The Lord of the Rings than telling any sort of story at hand.

It's a good thing that the elements that work with the hobbit work really well.  In particular, watching Bilbo Baggins grow throughout the journey is most appreciated.  We're ready for adventure.  Particularly because he's also a very charming character (albeit, it's a text book example of The Hero's Journey).  The film is also a wonder on the eyes.  So much so that you'll appreciate the set pieces and battles quite a bit.  But again, a lot of what you see in some parts, relies a lot more heavily on your fandom of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, than having nearly anything The Hobbit does stand on its own two feet.  It's almost as though Peter Jackson is trying to remind you, much of the time, why you loved him in the first place.  I hate to bring comparison to George Lucas's Star Wars prequels (though this is a great deal better than those) but this is part of what Lucas went for when making The Phantom Menance.  A lot of the film relied quite heavily on your love of Star Wars to sell it.  It's very similar here.  Bringing back familiar faces, artifacts and locales.  For fans of the LOTR trilogy this is all wonderful stuff. 

On the other hand, The Hobbit suffers from a few glaring things that's really hard to overlook.  The most obvious is the fact that the movie is just too damn long for its own good.  The Hobbit was (for Tolkein, at least) a really simple book.  It was also just one book.  A story this simple and one that lacks the complexity of the Lord of the Rings really doesn't call for three films.  Particularly because throughout we don't even see Smaug because it's much more focused on getting us to The Lord of the Rings rather than telling its own self-contained story.  Since we know that this is leading to that the focus seems to be more about making The Hobbit connect than anything else, while also trying to repeat that success.  Again, I hate to bring comparison to the Star Wars prequels, but this is part of the reason those movies didn't come across so well.  They weren't interested in telling a story so much as they were interested in getting us to the story we all admired in the first place. 

This sounds like I'm telling you The Hobbit is no good.  But that's not the case.  It is.  But the way it's done makes you question what the actual purpose of making the film was... and why it was so damn important to split it into three parts.  In particular, the book itself just wasn't that long to begin with.  It was also so simple that even splitting it into two movies isn't exactly the best idea here.  On the other hand, at least there would be a bit more sympathy in two movies.  But it isn't even that, so much as it is that I fear each movie being three hours long.  Regardless of what anyone says... there simply isn't enough story in The Hobbit as a book to sustain three moves that are each three hours long.  Peter Jackson is going to have to add A LOT to the Hobbit for that.  And I'm guessing if he does a lot of it will be filler that is there for nothing other than making sure the two trilogies connect with one another. 

But the length of the movie has other problems.  Some parts of it are just downright boring.  And others are just trying to pad out the length of the film.  Pacing is not exactly Peter Jackson's strong suit.  It wasn't with the original trilogy either.  But he had to make it bigger and epic somehow (The Fellowship of the Ring was a terribly boring albeit, VERY well made film).  The Hobbit just has some moments that are too boring.  They don't all last for long but it's still there.  At the very least we're given more comedy and moments to laugh and enjoy than we were in say... The Fellowship of the Ring.  Where as The Fellowship of the Ring was more backstory driven, The Hobbit is more free to jump right into things without having to make sure the audience is on board with everything that's happening.  But again, The Hobbit has to sneak in that sort of stuff anyway.  It just can't help but make allusions to a story we've already seen. 

At least most of it works with The Hobbit.  What probably works the least are the set piece battles that accompany them.  And this is perhaps the most glaring flaw.  If there was one thing Peter Jackson was VERY good about in the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was building up some sort of tension in the battles.  That perhaps lives could be lost.  Or that the characters stood to lose SOMETHING.  Here, in what is most certainly an overpopulated film, there's never any real tension.  For Gandalf and Bilbo there's not much reason to be.  We already know they'll survive the journey, but the movie even seems to be afraid to put them in any real peril throughout.  This isn't something that really helps.  A cast of fifteen adventurers and at no point do they really get separated or find themselves at death's door.  Okay, let me rephrase, they DO find themselves at Death's door.  Multiple times.  But you never, at any point, get the sense they are ever in any real danger.  The Dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf come across giant rock golems, for instance... but even here--in a moment where the characters are literally helpless--we still never get the sense anything is ever at risk.  Do you remember when in the first Lord of the Rings when Gandalf stands off against Balrog?  Even if you don't remember, I can say four words that bring it to mind (YOU SHALL NOT PASS!).  Gandalf saves the Fellowship from what seems like certain doom, only to be dragged into the abyss with Balrog.  Granted Gandalf doesn't die... but the Fellowship loses a key member.  In fact, the movie ends with the fellowship being split up and having more problems than solutions.  There's a sense of worry the audience is able to feel.  You don't have to kill characters... you just have to be able to sell to me that THEY know they're in danger. 

The Hobbit simply doesn't have that.  There is perhaps one moment near the end of the film where Thorian confronts the head of the orcs. Aside from that many of The Hobbit's moments force you to realize that the set pieces are much more about being grand spectacle than adding to any sort of driving force (again, the rock golems really have no particular purpose).  It diminishes some of the love we could've had for some of these characters as a result.  There's even a moment where the characters literally ride a bridge down a chasm and NO ONE appears to be hurt or worried or troubled or anything.  They literally just walk away.  Again, not to bring comparison to Lucas's Star Wars prequels, but this sort of stuff is just really boring.  It's mesmerizing special effects but it doesn't do anything to make me care about the characters when you suddenly realize that if someone gets stabbed they'll just dust themselves off and continue on their merry way.  Simply put, The Hobbit is filled with mostly forgettable characters.  Great spectacle, sure, but not enough to get me to fear for the characters I'm watching on screen. And since there are so many of them I never felt compelled to.  Even if someone had died I'd probably have forgotten their name anyway; likewise, it's not as though you can spread out a lot of screen time and development among them all.  That still doesn't separate from the fact that none of them are in any real danger throughout the journey.

There's simply no real sense that they're in trouble.  And in the moments where it seems like they could be the film manages to conveniently do something to make sure that isn't the case.  In one scene Bilbo literally just ducks down while all the orcs walk by.  Granted the movie explains this before hand... but it's anti-climactic.  The movie makes up for it (a little) by making sure one does stick around to see him... and then you realize our character in question is Bilbo.  Since he has plot immunity in the sense of the story it's really nothing to fret over.  Again, I just never got the sense that I should be worried about anything which happens to the characters.  And because the story seemed to be that much more focused (in quite a few spots) on trying to make sure it ties to The Lord of the Rings the movie was mostly... well... there.  It's not bad.  And I actually liked it.  It was just hard to ignore those three particular things.  The movie is too long for such a simple story (and doesn't make up for it by sticking in character depth), it's constantly reminding you that this is leading up to The Lord of the Rings and the danger the characters find themselves in feels so artificial.

You get the sense that Peter Jackson is simply trying too hard sometimes.  It's as though he's saying, "Remember?  You all liked this stuff!" Without really grasping WHY we liked it.  Again, not to keep bringing comparisons to a certain prequel trilogy, but George Lucas kind of went into those Star Wars prequels with this same thing in mind and it didn't pay off.  It pays off a lot better in the Hobbit sure, but it never came across as though The Hobbit could stand on its own two legs.  It comes across more as Peter Jackson trying to reclaim his glory days.

That's not to say the Hobbit doesn't pay off, though.  It actually does.  It's still a good movie that's easy on the eyes.  Once you get past this idea that Peter Jackson is constantly saying, "Remember why you liked me?"  And once you get past the absurd length of the movie, it's really enjoyable.  The battle scenes are really well done.  Much of the dialog (read: All of the dialog) is REALLY well crafted.  And yes, you WILL be reminded of why you liked the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.  There are a LOT of good things about the Hobbit.  If you liked The Lord of the Rings you should definitely go and see this movie.  It might take a moment to get beyond some of those peculiar problems, but I promise that if you were a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies it isn't impossible to.

Remember, the other reason The Phantom Menance and the prequels failed was because they not only tried the fanservice route but also lacked good writing, acting, cinematography, set designs (that being, everything was in front of a green screen) and a coherent plot.  The Hobbit doesn't actually suffer from those issues at all.  The acting is brilliant, the dialog fully appropriate and the set designs are clever.  The cinematography has that feeling of epicness to it as well.  The Hobbit may have its issues that stick out like a sore thumb.... but the movie itself doesn't come with a big pile of them.  I was actually pleasantly surprised.  And while I pray to God that the next two movies aren't three hours long (and I doubt I'll get my wish) at the very least they could potentially be really good and wonderful... provided Jackson is willing to reach a little higher in terms of his characters and the danger they're placed in.  It's hard to see past some of the bigger issues.  They may be few but they're ENORMOUS, I feel. 

At the very least the trilogy gets off to a decent start.  Even if it's a little easy to feel like more could've been done beyond the spectacle to make it more satisfying.]]> Fri, 21 Dec 2012 06:52:17 +0000
<![CDATA[ Youthful, Lighter and Does Well as the First Movie in a New Trilogy]]> Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings trilogy” was ambitious, truly impressive in a technical sense and had a whopping over 9 hour combined runtime in movie theaters. Jackson found that the story even lacked several things that he made “platinum extended” editions of his trilogy that came to a near 12 hour runtime. Such an undertaking would have seemed audacious, but given the fact that the original material by J.R. R. Tolkien was a literary epic that had 1,200 pages, such an effort proved justified.

When it was announced that Jackson was going to make a prequel to his trilogy, based on another of Tolkien’s books (a mere 320 page book), “The Hobbit” many were ecstatic while many others became a little put off. Jackson had decided to make his prequel another trilogy as in Lucas’ prequel trilogy to the original “Star Wars” trilogy, many thought that the original material by Tolkien had so much less to work into a trilogy, that it became more an attempt at marketing and money-grabbing than actually about storytelling. In addition, this first film will have an obligatory 3D (please skip the 3D) and will be the first film to be shot at 48 fps (the usual is 24 fps). Now I cannot comment as to how it worked out in 48 fps or how the film fared in 3D, since I prefer to see it in regards to storytelling than all the technical (arguably unnecessary) additions.

                      James Nesbitt as Bofur, Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Stephen Hunter as Bombur, Graham Mctavish as Dwalin, William Kircher as Bifur and Jed Brophy as Nori in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

Finally, the moment of truth is upon us, and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” has been released. The film begins with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) arrives to enlist the aid of a homebody called Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) for a quest. The goal would be to slay the dragon Smaug just so the land of the dwarves can be recovered. The two are joined by a company of 13 warrior-dwarves led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) and their quest will take them on an epic journey into the many realms of Middle-Earth; into the world of goblins, rock giants, trolls and elves as the band is also hunted by the forces of the white Orc.

                     Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Sylvester McCoy as Radagast in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

                    Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

This first chapter of the trilogy includes Bilbo’s encounter with a creature we have come to know as Gollum (Andy Serkis) and reveals the story as to how Bilbo came about the Ring that will be the main core of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jackson who co-writes the screenplay along with Guillermo Del Toro, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh, obviously had to make several deviations from the source material. I do not mind adaptations to have certain changes, since one needs to appeal to all viewers, including those who had not read Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”. Here, Jackson seems to have focused on making this new trilogy to directly be linked into his previous trilogy. Some familiar faces from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy make appearances. Prodo (Elijah Wood) is shown in a prologue, Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Elron (Hugo Weaving) also make appearances to drive the film’s plot development.

I do have to say that Jackson did show improvement when it comes to his directorial savvy. While it is to be argued that this film lacked a lot of the majesty that made “The Fellowship of the Ring” so impressive 11 years ago, Jackson does appear to be more confident. His shots feel more smoother and his action sequences feel a little more intense and in your face. The film also was able to generate a fair amount of suspense, and the pacing Jackson took into the film was more energetic that made the film go about a brisk pace. I noticed several pacing issues in Jackson’s “King Kong” and “The Hobbit” did not show such issues. For a 169 minute film, it moved very well and I never felt bored.

                      Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

                     William Kircher as Bifur, James Nesbitt as Bofur, Jed Brophy as Nori, Stephen Hunter as Bombur, John Callen as Oin, Graham McTavish as Dwalin, Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Mark Hadlow as Dori, Adam Brown as Ori, Ken Stott as Balin, Peter Hambleton as Gloin in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

                     Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen as Gandalf in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

Of course, much of the film’s burden was carried by Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage and Martin Freeman. McKellen is on familiar ground, and as Gandalf, his presence exuded the same familiar presence that fans of the franchise have grown to love. Martin Freeman brings several welcome notes of light humor and playfulness to help along the pace. Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) also gave good moments of whimsical personality. The company of dwarves connected well with Bilbo, the chemistry and the dynamics felt real, that they could be differentiated from each other. The film also had several moments of emotions, as the screenplay set its groundwork (no doubt for the next two films). This was a film built on what can be seen as realization, the beginning of a journey in which the journey itself is the reward.

Having seen the film in 24 fps, I have to admit that the film looked as good as the films in Jackson’s original trilogy. The costumes and make up were stellar as always, they gave the characters depth in a visual sense. Sorry, I choose not to spend extra $$ for unnecessary 3D. The set designs had that familiar style and the cinematography was as impressive as ever. The creature designs do feel a little uneven. I felt that the White Orc had the appearance of a video game boss-bad guy, but it was not enough to make me like the film less. The troll and goblin designs were as good as they were in Jackson’s first Tolkien trilogy while the moment of suspense with the rock giants was pure visual and aural flamboyance. The film had a good amount action and chase scenes, which aided in the film's brisk pace.

                         A scene from "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

                         Gollum voiced by Andy Serkis in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

Despite the fact that purists of Tolkien’s original book will say that most of this new trilogy is built on ‘fat and fillers’, I doubt anyone can really say that any additions felt or seemed as such things. Ok, it sure felt like a lot of marketing was built around it, but hey, which high-budget movie isn’t? To its credit, the plotting was steady and its flow went smoothly, it did not feel like a ‘long movie’ at all. I have to admit, I am one of those folks who always feel that an adaptation should capture the essence of its source material and to stay within its confines; but I found myself, not wanting to pass judgment just how faithful it is to Tolkien's book until the completion of this new trilogy. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is one film that made me curious that I look forward to its next chapter “The Desolation of Smaug”. The new adventure has began and I will be along for its ride.

Recommended! [4- Out of 5 Stars]

Comic-con promotional poster for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected journey." Poster art for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

]]> Sun, 16 Dec 2012 01:57:57 +0000
<![CDATA[ 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'...a 3D trip through Middle Earth at 48fps (Video)]]>
Shot in 48FPS, instead of the usual 24, as well as 3D, Peter Jackson has once again created a visually stunning, exciting, magical film that takes us on a journey through Middle Earth.

The film opens with an aged Frodo (Ian Holm) telling a story.  We are instantly transported to the dwarfs' kingdom known as Erebor.  It's here the little guys are living happily ever after with their gold and gem stones.. That is until they get a visit from a fire breathing dragon known as Smaug.  This is one nasty monster.

He not only destroys the Dwarfs home, but Smarf steals the Arkenstone, a beautiful jewel that holds great power. 

Okay so after this visually stunning opener, we are then transported to the home of a young Bilboa (Martin Freeman) The little hobbit is living a peaceful, orderly house in Bag End. But his tranquil existence is about to come to an abrupt end.

Out of the blue, Bilboa gets a visit from Gandalf The Grey (Ian McKellan) followed by 13 Dwarfs and their leader, the very sexy and very legendary warrior, Thorin (Richard Armitage).

Gandalf uses every trick in his arsenal to convince  the super relunctant Bilboa to accompany the dwarfs on a trek to find their stolen treasure and reclaim their homeland. 

Little did Bilboa realize that this journey would be an adventure of a lifetime...

One that takes him and the Dwarfs into the Dark Mountain where they encounter treacherous lands swarming with goblins, orcas, deadly Wargs, giant spiders, sorcerers...and of course...
A fellow named Gollum (Andy Serkis) and his Precious..

It's here, inside an underground lake, after finding a RING, Bilboa must discover the  depth of his courage, as the fate of Middle Earth hangs in the balance.

For those of you who can't get enough of 'The Hobbit' don't worry...This is the first in a trilogy.

Did I love this film as much as I did 'Lord Of The Rings'?...No...At times the comedy was a bit too much and bordered on corny.  As for the 48 FPS, I didn't mind it.  But I do know many people who absolutely hated it.

Also I would have liked to see more of Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Hugo Weaving (Elrod) and Christopher Lee (Saruman), but I'm sure their parts will be expanded in future films.

'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, opens in theatres Friday December 14, 2012 and I do urge everyone to see it, whether you're a fan or not.  It's a sensational piece of filmmaking by Mr. Jackson.  Not perfect, but really, really good.

Check out our video for our bagel rating and more of our witty banter.:  Hint: My score is much higher than John's.

Please SUBSCRIBE to our youtube channel.  Only need 35 more to reach 1000...And LIKE us on our Two Jews On Film facebook page.

Thanks everyone and please share your thoughts with us.]]> Thu, 13 Dec 2012 16:52:14 +0000
<![CDATA[ There's a man in the funny papers we all know, Big Dave, Big Bad Dave...Barry]]>
Two high school boys are playing a game called killer. The rules are to use their water gun and shoot a fellow student with a third student to confirm the 'kill.'

The target of this play 'kill' is Jenny Herk, the step-daughter of a man who is both a gambler and an embezzler. He picks the wrong people to attempt to steal from and a hit is place on him.

With the real and pretend hits at the same time, a hilarious mix-up occurs. There is no harm to anyone but the TV screen gets shot when one of the gunman shoots it just as the Herk's dog buries its head in the man's crouch.

Arthur Herk is embarrassed with his cowardice in front of his family. He goes to a bar that is really a front for buying weapons. He wants a missile he can use in revenge for the high school boy who made him look like a coward.

One thing leads to another and culminates in a wild chase to the Miami airport.

This is one of the funniest stories I've had the pleasure of reading. There are wonderfully developed characters and a setting that is easy to visualize.

Don't miss this one.]]> Thu, 13 Dec 2012 02:13:07 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Hobbit: How Are They Making This Book Three Movies?]]> The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is being broken up into three different movies. 

You may remember Jackson's last crack at the J.R.R. Tolkien books, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The series was near-perfect, and while the last movie had eight different endings his hard work was rewarded in the form of being named the Best Picture of the year by the academy. 

It has been nine years but Jackson has now returned to Middle Earth to tell the story that happened before Frodo set off to destroy the one ring. And while each movie in his previous trilogy was one movie set to one book he has broken the smallest book from this world into three different movies. For example Fellowship of the Rings was 400 pages and all fit into one movie, meanwhile the first Hobbit instillation covers the first 100 pages. Perhaps worried that he would offend Tolkien by leaving out a comma from the source material. To no one's surprise the movie does tend to drag a little. 

How does six chapters become a three hour epic, by adding tons of back story. The result is a lot of exposition that didn't need to be included. Jackson spent what seemed like the first hour of the movie having Bilbo answer the good 13 different times to introduce each dwarf that would be joining the journey. Each indistinguishable from the next, the only dwarf that seemed pertinent to the story was the dwarf king Thorin. 


He also adds characters to the movie, such as Frodo who never appeared in The Hobbit but somehow took up 10 minutes of screen-time to set up a frame story that was completely unnecessary. Jackson takes literal footnotes from the book and makes them the main antagonists when the story has a way better villain we never meet A TALKING DRAGON. For those who appreciate that kind of detail I expect you will love The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; but whatever you do, DON'T SEE THIS MOVIE IN 3D.

Peter Jackson chose to shoot the movie at 48 frames per second this allows the 3D visuals to pop more on screen. There are many in the industry who believe this is where film-making is going. But with any new technology there are a lot kinks to it and it takes a while for the audience to get used to it.

The shooting style makes the movie look more like a well-done video game. From the opening scene in the Shire when all the actors are standing and talking, it looks like the movie is on fast forward. None of the characters move naturally, its like they are all on five hour energies.

Jackson doesn't allow any of his scenes to breathe. You would think at that length a couple more minutes wouldn't matter. Shooting at this speed is supposed to help the action sequences but it just makes them all look like cartoons. This technique detaches the audience from the movie and that is the last thing you want in an epic at this length people checking their clocks.

If you can somehow get past these enormous problems you come to find the The Hobbit has a rich story with fantastic action and wonderful acting. Martin Freeman is the perfect Bilbo as he blends a charm with nerves to mail the character. He is a believable as a a hero just coming to terms with the task ahead of him. Ian McKellen returns a Gandolf the Gray and it seems to be more of the same from the original.

That is really where this movie fails from the first three. More of the same. No one was expecting the kind of world, the story arc that Jackson was able to craft in the original, it all came as a magical surprise. Here we already know what is coming and that leaves the audience wanting.

When the movie comes out to DVD you know what would be nice if instead of an Extended Director's Cut (which to me seems impossible there would be any scenes that were left out) it came out as an Editor's Abbreviated Cut. There is a good movie in here, it just needs a concise retelling and the special effects to be left out. If 2-D was good enough for Frodo, it should be plenty good for his Uncle Bilbo. C-]]> Tue, 11 Dec 2012 22:03:44 +0000
<![CDATA[ Very good]]> First, this is another great book for guys! It reminds me of I Hunt Killers but they are not similar. It’s just because of the point of view of a male character is so different from a girl’s… and I find that I enjoy it a lot more.

Shelter is a fast paced novel set around various mysteries that revolve around Micky so he hast to unveil them. After Micky’s father died in a car accident and his mom went to rehab, Micky comes to live with his uncle Myron in New Jersey town with an urban legend of its own. One night, Micky comes face to face with that legend, the Bat Lady, kind of turning his life and hopes around. 
Along with The Bat Lady’s mystery is the disappearance of Ashley, Micky’s girlfriend. One day Ashley is in school, the next day, and the next….and the next…. She is not.

So naturally, heartbroken Mickey tries to find out what happened to her. His expedition reminded me of Henry Griffin in the T.V. series “Unnatural History” (here my favorite character is Jasper). But like in this T.V series, Mickey has been around the world, knows martial arts and a few respiration, concentration and other useful tricks. 

What I didn’t like: the friendship of Mickey with misfits Ema and Spoon. Really? I’m not going to say more because that would give the book away but it does seem cliché to me…
Also, the novel comes with the typical hot and head to toe gorgeous, popular and cheerleader girl in every book…

I did really enjoy the book. A guy’s POV is so different and refreshing that I found myself reading every single word. 

The mystery and suspense was just right and kept me turning the pages and wanting to find out more. More about Ema, why she never lets Mickey walk her home?
Also, the Bat Lady mystery turned out to be quite an unexpected one that sets the basis of the next book in the series. 

Oh! And did I mention that Mickey is 6’4”! I mean, it seems to me that every YA hero out there is unusually tall. Is that the height of regular American kids? Because they are definitely absent here in New York :- ) 
]]> Sat, 1 Dec 2012 02:04:40 +0000
<![CDATA[ Okay story]]> The story is very interesting, especially because it was taken from actual events.
In a small town where everyone knows each other, Katelyn kills herself. The doctor rules it as an accident to spare the family the pain of thinking that they failed their only daughter.

For twins Hayley and Taylor the death of Katelyn is not clear and although they knew Katelyn had some emotional problems, they don’t think that would've been enough to make her commit suicide. So they take upon themselves to find out how Katelyn really died and make sure the responsible party gets punished. 

The journey they take to find out the truth and discover Katelyn’s real killer is sometimes dull. The story is good but sometimes I felt it was dragging. Hayely and Taylor have some kind of supernatural ability that I found to be silly but… it was what helped them to solve Katelyn’s death. I like the way Olsen writes though, very suspense building and emotive. I was kind of imagining it was ‘Mary Alice Young’ of Desperate Housewives narrating the story. It gave me that kind of mysterious yet fun vibe!

The story tackles a couple of issues all at once: cyber-bullying, family secrets, paranormal powers, and how far some people go when they want to “teach a lesson”. I won’t say more because it would be a spoiler :-)

There is also a mystery surrounding the twins. Along with Katelyn – now dead – they are the only survivors of a crash that happened ten years ago and of which they can’t remember anything and their parents refuse to talk about. 

didn't like the end though. The twins, so righteous about crime and punishment end up killing a reporter. Well, not actually killing but as accomplices of murder and agreeing to keep it a secret. That didn’t quite make sense to me! There was no point to the murder and they show no remorse whatsoever. But since this book is part of a series, maybe in future books the twins will be eaten wilth guilt and fess up. 

I also didn't like that super mini-Diva Starla didn't get a taste of her own medicine. She is that type that is so beautiful that she thinks the sun shines just to make her happy. I wanted to see some kind of retribution on her case but, as I mentioned above, maybe that was left for the next books. 

couldn’t stand the text messages!!! Is that they way Olsen thinks teenagers text? Cul8er for ‘see you later’ and other acronyms and all caps. Really, that was truly annoying so I just skipped it. 

I really liked the end. Although things ended up almost quite the way they were supposed to be but the way Katelyn died did come as a surprised to me. 
]]> Sat, 1 Dec 2012 02:03:01 +0000
<![CDATA[ Very good]]> I loved the story of The Taker but hated the back and forth between the past and the present!

The story starts in the present when Lanore is brought to the ER of a hospital in rural Maine and, just like that, she tells her life’s story to Luke, the doctor on service. I mean, what was the point of that? The story could as well start in the 1800s directly.

So back to the past, Lanore lives in a Puritan settlement, yes, that one where showing your ankles was a sin. Since she can remember she’s been in love with Jonathan. But Jonathan is no ordinary man as he has a beauty out of this world. And I’m afraid that is all there is to Jonathan, as he is ambivalent and has no personality of his own.

For circumstances that Lanore brings to herself, her family sends her away… and away she goes to discover a completely different kind of life next to Adair, a man obsessed with beauty. Adair introduces not so innocent Lanore to a live of parties and sex that even now I find difficult to believe. How can a modest girl in the nineteen century develop a liking for sadomasochism so quickly?

But regardless her new sexual experiences, Lanore’s love for Jonathan never dies and sooner rather than later she finds herself sharing an eternal bond with the only man she loves but that can’t love her back.

I love Katsu’s prose and style of writing. Given, I’m a sucker for that type of stories set in a time when looking directly to a man’s eyes was a transgression. Katsu delivers a gripping and enthralling story that I couldn’t put down… if only it wasn’t shifting between back and present!

I really didn’t see the point of this! Okay, I said that at the beginning already.

I was beginning to wonder if Jonathan’s extreme beauty had a point other than to make everybody stare at him when Katsu dropped its purpose. I was also confused in Adair’s search for perfection when Katsu, through Lanore, tied it all in. I must say that I didn’t see that one coming! It was truly surprising.

At the end, Jonathan chooses an easy way out; pretty much like his personality and actions throughout the book are. But the focus of the story is Lanore and she pretty much gave a huge leap in personality, language and behavior from what she used to be in her little village to what she became once she moved to the big city.

All in all, the story is wonderful and the 3-stars are because of the useless mixture of past and present and Lanore’s promiscuity!
]]> Sat, 1 Dec 2012 02:01:37 +0000
<![CDATA[ Too Obvious!]]> This book is too obvious! 

Cliché #1) Echo and Noah dislike each other. Echo thinks Noah is a jerk and Noah thinks Echo is frivolous and cold. 1+1 = 2.

Cliché #2) Echo needs a job and Noah needs tutoring. 1+1 = 2.

Cliché #3) Echo is beautiful and has a killing body but she thinks no guy is going to love her because of the scars on her arms.

Cliché #4) Noah doesn’t flinch at the scars.

Cliché #5) Echo hides her scars and one day decides to bare them. Everybody in the school laughs when they see her arms… really? In what State do high school kids do that? Not in New York!

Should I keep going? 


Cliché #6) Echo doesn’t like her stepmother but at the end realizes she’s been wrong and makes peace with her.

Cliché #7) Noah doesn’t do dating, proms, dances, etc. In fact, he’s never been in love and he plans to stay that way but…. After two talks with Echo he is in love.

Cliché #8) Echo had an accident (thus the scars on her arms) and she can’t remember what happened but at the end she does.

Cliché #9) Luke, Echo’s first boyfriend can’t handle her scars.

Cliché #10) Echo has a dead brother. She can't cope with his death.

Cliché #11) Beth, Noah’s friend is a bitch and she can’t stand Echo… for half of the book. Then she becomes her friend (or kind of). I believe book #2 has to do with Beht’s story.

I’m going to stop here. Those are all the issues I have with the book. Should I say I hate clichés? Yet I gave the book 3-stars because Noah’s emotions are really powerful. In fact, his life is such an emotional rollercoaster that at one point, when he stopped acting tough, broke down and cried, my eyes actually watered! 

Yeap, that scene felt so real that almost made cry.

I also like that McGarry acknowledges the weirdness of the name Echo and makes fun of it. 

Oh! And I almost forgot cliché #12) Noah is smoking hot! So they will make perfect babies :- )
Definitely read it if you want to be swept away by romance. 
]]> Sat, 1 Dec 2012 01:58:05 +0000
<![CDATA[ Okay Story]]> Ten high school students got invited to an exclusive weekend house party on Henry Island. It was supposed to be fun... until one by one they start showing up dead.

Think of the movies like Scream, Cabin in the Woods, Urban Legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer and those type of horror films where there is a killer and everybody dies.

Meg and her friend Minnie are also invited to the party but Meg doesn't really want to go because she is not a party girl but she is going because her best friend Minnie asks her too (cliche #1).

Also, Meg doesn't go to Homecoming with T.J., the guy she likes, because her best friend Minnie likes him... The picture here? Meg is the Sherlock of this mystery but at the same time she is so ridiculously manipulated by this best friend that I got to the point of almost putting down the book. 

Also, the book starts with the typical chit-chat about nothing just to introduce the characters and everyone who is going to die. It doesn't change much after that but the actually mystery of who the killer is turns out to be interesting.

What I liked: I wasn't able to figure out the killer! Some bloggers did figured it out right way (how, in the name of Zeus?) but I didn't. Thus wanting to know who the killer was kept me reading the book even if skipping pages :-)

What I didn't like: The predictable romance, how stupid our Sherlock girl (Meg) is even after her best friend tells her that they are not really 'best friends.'
]]> Sat, 1 Dec 2012 01:56:42 +0000
<![CDATA[ Boring to death]]> The Stone Girl takes a never-ending slow view on anorexia.

The only thing worth noting in this story is when Sethie finally admits to her mother that she might "need something" as in help because she doesn't eat. Other than that moment of almost becoming alive, it is like Sethie lives her life in denial of everything. 

She didn't even react when her "boyfriend" told her that he was seeing someone else and they had to end their "friendship." Forgive me if this is a spoiler.

Sethie never stands up for herself; in fact, she is an empty character that does nothing but contribute to more dead trees.

The books is lost in its lack of action, plot, intrigue, and... and... the lack of quality to make it interesting.

It was very exasperating reading "Sethie didn't think she was larking enough to wear skinny jeans," and "Sehtie thinks Janey must be faking." Sethie thinks... Sethie doesn't think... BORING!

Publisher think that ANY book revolving around anorexia and bulimia are worth printing BUT they are NOT!!!!! Especially not this one.

What I liked about this book? Mmmm... Let me see... The cover! However, this will be a book I'll never forget because of its sleep inducing pace. 
]]> Sat, 1 Dec 2012 01:55:16 +0000
<![CDATA[ Okay story]]> Why, in the name of Zeus, mix romance in a story where romance not only its not needed but it doesn't fit?

Many people compare The Forsaken toHunger Games but for me it was more like The Maze Runner.

Alenna lives in a world where Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are united under one nation called UNA. When Alenna turns sixteen, she is exiled to this god-forsaken island called The Wheel to live with "criminals" and the unwanted.

On the island, Alenna meets Liam and an impossible dumb romance is born. Firstable, Liam doesn't even give a hint that he likes Alenna and yet out of the blue, he tells her he likes her (how romantic). But Alenna tells him that she cannot allow her feelings for him because her friend Gayda (who she just met on the island) won't allow it and a relationship is not possible right now. What? Yes, it is as romantic and dumb as it sounds. 

Despite my prayers, Alenna and Liam hook up and love each other! When, how, why and where do this love emerge? They barely spoke three times!

Cliche #1) Alenna never had boys talk to her before; in fact she was invisible to them, and now hot, gorgeous Liam is interested in her!!!! Really? How can any girl be invisible to guys if she is skinny and beautiful?

On that note, when are they going to come with a "real character"? I mean, not 110 pounds and gorgeous?

Okay, I'll leave the stupid unnecessary romance alone. 

The island is ruled by a Monk that at the end turns out to be pathetic, not crazy and not frightening at all. And his followers seemed to exist and fight for not logical reason other than to cause trouble so Alenna can fight and try to become the next Katniss. And where do the Monk and his people get the black robes from? I mean, they are on an island without contact with civilization, how do they get the fabric and sew together these black robes they wear? 

On that note, how on earth can a truth serum be made? Where do they get syringes from? 

What I liked: I liked the concept of the book but the crappy love killed it for me. Also, the story was too fast in an attempt to cover too much in one book. This is a series so, why cover everything at once? I felt rushed. What are they going to base the next book on? Because it didn't end with anything interesting to make me read more about this dulled relationship between Alenna and Liam, not to mention the fall of UNA.

The book is good for emerging readers who haven't read too much dystopia yet and don't expect reason, coherence and logic.
]]> Sat, 1 Dec 2012 01:53:21 +0000