Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Welcome to Mooseport

Welcome to Mooseport (2004) ** out of 5 asterisks
Director: Donald Petrie (Grumpy Old Men, Miss Congeniality)
Starring: Ray Romano, Gene Hackman, Maura Tierney

I really wanted to like this movie. It had some good things going for it, like having a comedy-savvy director and a cast known for comedic roles. But either something went wrong during production or maybe it was just a bad script to begin with. This film is simply not believable -- it's contrived and dull. It's described as a comedy, and there are indeed some comedic moments thanks to the cast performances. But most of the movie you feel like you're waiting for a punchline that never gets delivered. My advice: skip this one and watch fan-favorite episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond or NewsRadio (starring Romano and Tierney, respectively), or some of Hackman's better comedic performances in Heartbreakers and The Birdcage.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Netflix Is a Naughty Word

Here's a fun little exercise for you Netflix subscribers out there -- a guaranteed laugh, and I believe I am the first person on the web to discover this:

Step 1. Login to your Netflix account.

2. Click "Movies You'll Love."

3. Click "Your Reviews."

4. Next to your profile image where it says "Enter a brief bio here" click "Edit."

5. Type "Netflix."

6. Click the "Save" button and discover the instant hilarity at the pop-up message that follows.

Update: 11.30.2010, 6:45 am -- Thanks to HackingNetflix.com for featuring this post on the frontpage of their site. I'm honored.

Review: Beast Machines - Transformers: The Complete Series

The new series Transformers Prime officially premiered on The Hub (formerly Discovery Kids) in November 2010, and advance hype for the series used such buzzwords as "groundbreaking," "cutting edge," and "epic." Hasbro also described the show as an "intense... drama" with "heavy metal action" and "nail-biting suspense." Time will tell whether the series genuinely delivers such a big bag of promises, but I'll grant it's been entertaining so far. I'll review the 5-part mini-series event once the other three episodes have aired.

In the meantime, I thought I'd take a look back at an earlier Transformers' series which delivered all of the above in what I believe to be the most unique series in TF history since the original "Generation 1" (or "G1", as the fans call it) animated series first premiered back in 1984: Beast Machines, the continuation of the fan-favorite Beast Wars saga which helped to revive the Transformers franchise in the 90s.

This is one of my capsule reviews I pulled from Netflix after they dumped their community features. I might expand this review later with individual episode reviews, but the following is an opinion I find myself repeating often on Transformers fan forums -- trying to persuade both passive and devoted G1 fans to at least give the series a try. So many fans have dismissed it and even criticize it openly without having watched it, and some outright refuse to watch it which I find a little ridiculous. Like the saying goes, "Don't knock it until you've tried it."

Beast Machines - Transformers: The Complete Series (1999) **** out of 5 asterisks
Produced by Hasbro/YTV/Mainframe Entertainment
Voice Cast: Garry Chalk, David Kaye, Scott McNeil, Ian James Corlett, Venus Terzo

You'll find mixed opinions on this series among Transformers fans, and unfortunately they tend to be largely negative. But as both a Transformers fan and long-time animation critic, I believe this series to be a shining example of great storytelling and characterization, and also possibly the darkest cartoon series ever produced for kids. It was, in fact, the most adult show I've ever seen made for kids as it included rich character development, philosophical themes, an overall dark tone, and it's an all-around high-quality production in terms of the voice cast, writing, and animation.

While there were elements of the show I didn't care for -- like the annoyance of Nightscream (TF's first emo character), a transforming flower (I'm not kidding!), and an ending that left my inner child dissatisfied and disappointed -- this series still captured my attention and kept me in eager anticipation all the way to the end. If you're a hardcore Transformers fan (aka "G1-er") AND you're a nitpicker, you probably won't like it. But I believe if you watch it as I did with an open mind as a stand-alone series, you'll find it epically entertaining. And even a decade later the CG animation still holds up too.

I've read many fan opinions on Beast Machines, and the other most common complaint (besides something in Cybertron's past that, to reveal it here, would spoil a major plot point for those who haven't seen the series) is that fans felt betrayed and confused that just within the first few minutes of its premiere Beast Machines changed... nay, challenged, revolutionized and even shattered EVERYTHING fans loved about Beast Wars. After all, the show's epic third season was incredible and a very tough act to follow.

And initially I dismissed Beast Machines for the very same reasons.

But then years later I found the DVD box set pre-owned for $12. Even though I didn't like what I'd seen of the show, it was too good of a deal to pass up. So I decided to give the series another chance, and this time try to view it objectively as if it were some sort of "Elseworlds" alternate-universe story that was connected to Transformers by name only.

And I was pleasantly surprised to find that -- despite its flaws and my fanboy tendency to nitpick -- it was really entertaining. I hope that other Transformers fans do too. If you can look beyond what fans have long perceived to be the series' core continuity problems, inconsistencies and character flaws, you might just be able to see the series for its compelling storyline, deep character development and overall entertainment value.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: It Runs In The Family

It Runs In The Family (2003) ***1/2 out of 5 asterisks
Director: Fred Schepisi (I.Q., Roxanne)
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas

There's not much "plot" to this movie and it moves along at a snail's pace; however, it's a nice slice-of-life drama about how a family copes with tragedy and does so in a realistic, familiar way. It also has three generations of the Douglas family in it -- Kirk and his ex-wife (Diana), son (Michael), and grandson (Cameron) -- and the reality of their relationships is portrayed beautifully on screen. And Kirk Douglas' performance is outstanding. Recommended if you enjoy character-driven dramas.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Review: Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming

Stir of Echoes: The Homecoming (2007) * out of 5 asterisks
Director/Writer: Ernie Barbarash (his other directorial credits aren't worth mentioning)
Starring: Rob Lowe (and some fairly unknown supporting cast not worth mentioning)

Bleah. Yuck, even. This follow-up to the 1999 horror/thriller starring Kevin Bacon is a waste of film. Even the "star power" of Rob Lowe can't redeem this low-budget, sub-par thriller... and it's a stretch to even call it a "thriller." It's like they intentionally ignored and gutted everything that made the original film entertaining just so they could make this piece of blatant anti-war propaganda.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

To the moon, Alice...

 Another entry in my T-Shirt Design Travesties series,
only this one isn't so much a "travesty"
as it is unintentionally amusing:

Surprisingly, only a few parents were reluctant to send their kids 
to outer space for the class field trip.

Shirt photographed Jan. 2010 at a thrift store in Duluth, GA.