Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Hobbit

(2012) ***1/2

There were definitely times Jackson captured the magic of the story, some of the effects were spectacular, and the cast is fantastic, but I did find The Hobbit slow and "padded out" in the beginning, and the whole movie was less rigorously faithful to the book than the LOTR movies were.  Mr. AC liked it better than I did; our friend who had seen the LOTR movies but hadn't read any Tolkien was fairly unimpressed and found it "silly" at times.  We saw it in regular ol' 2D; maybe the 3D version is more impressive?  Who else has seen it, and what did you think?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Snow Rhino is a big hit

50PageMcGee stopped by with a present for Zack last night. "I don't know, has Zack moved past stuffed animals?" he said on the phone. The answer is a resounding NO; Zack is way into his stuffed animals these days. So while Zack slept, the rhino got wrapped, and was opened this morning to big smiles. "What is he?" Zack asked me, the stylized Michelin Man form being a little confusing. "He's a rhino," I replied, "see the horn?"

"He's a SNOW rhino!" Zack said. And thus Snow Rhino joined the fam.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve, folks! Can you believe those pesky Mayans tried to ruin Christmas?

Thanks Marc!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Apocalypse Day!

Well folks, that's it. Been nice knowing you all. If today's end of all things is getting you down, do what I do: hold up a comically small parasol in the face of the giant meteor shower. I saw a coyote do it once and he bounced right back.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The perfect stocking stuffer

While we're all out searching for last-minute gifts (or for some of you, biding your time until Christmas Eve hoping to discover the perfect present for the special people in your life), consider sharing a heavy metal Christmas with none other than the prolific, well-respected, and 90-year old Christopher Lee.

Here he is discussing the quality of symphonic metal. You've just got to love how he keeps it real and relevant with this kinda stuff.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Great Pumpkin

Here's a Peanuts parody that I think works better... a lot of the same jokes, too.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Octopunk sees Wolverine! Sort of...

If you click this image for bigness, you will see that the red rectangle in the center has a podium on it, and there's a guy standing at the podium. Prepare to be thrilled, because that tiny man is none other than the actual Hugh Jackman, accepting his new star on Hollywood Boulevard. Isn't he dreamy?

Backstory, you ask? I was in an office on the 11th floor of the building across the street, my Lego freakery nabbing me a last-minute job for an ad firm with a peachy location. The event above is in front of Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, and while there's about 15 of those in the world, right next door is a more unique location:

That's Grauman's Chinese Theater, which you may have heard of (that patchwork of cement in the forecourt is made up of famous footprints). This block is like the Times Square of Hollywood (the Oscars are held a few doors down), and the street noise is constant. I would've had no idea what all the screaming was about if I hadn't been parked in the empty office with the best view; the regular employees kept popping in for a look and they told me the deal. One of them had spotted Scarlett Johansson when they were downstairs, and I got to hear this hilarious exchange:
Guy employee: "I am so over all of this stuff."
Girl employee: "No you're not, that's bullshit."
Guy employee: (pause) "Yeah, you're right."

That pretty much sums it up. When you live here, celebrity doings are largely inconveniences; I didn't go downstairs for a look because I didn't want to deal with gaining re-entry to the high security building. But dang if I didn't take a lousy picture just to show how I rub elbows* with the stahs.

(*Margin of elbow-rubbing error: a couple of hundred feet.)

Geek bliss! "Pacific Rim" trailer shows giant monsters fighting giant robots!

Friday, December 14, 2012

'A Good Day to Die Hard' poster: Meet the McClanes

From ew, Fresh off that great poster with the tagline that hopefully earned somebody from the marketing department a well-deserved promotion, the new poster for February’s A Good Day to Die Hard opts for a tagline-free look at the McClane boys — papa John and son Jack — holding identical really big guns and staring off-camera. Maybe they’re staring at a helicopter they’re going to shoot at. Maybe, given the movie’s Moscow setting, they are staring at President Vladimir Putin, and Putin is saying something like “Do you really sink you heff a chawnce against us, cowboys?” (Putin has a German accent, for some reason

Review: 'Hobbit' a sluggish misadventure with a TV sheen

(CNN) -- They say the longest journey starts with a single step.

But with "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," the first in a trilogy adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien's first novel, Peter Jackson has taken a different approach: He's gone two steps forward and three steps back.

In the process he's undoubtedly made himself a whole lot richer. "The Hobbit" is dominating screen space across the globe this weekend, and will certainly be among the biggest moneymakers of the year. But he's also jeopardized the legacy of his own "Lord of the Rings."

Fans won't want to hear it, but "An Unexpected Journey" is a major comedown, a muddle-headed and cumbersome piece of filmmaking that betrays Jackson's mercenary motives -- Tolkien's book, too. "The Hobbit" is far lighter work than what followed, and at approximately 350 pages, hardly crying out for the 10-hour magnum opus treatment (but three films are so much more profitable than one!)

Stars reveal Tolkien power wish list In just shy of three hours, "An Unexpected Journey" takes the story up to chapter seven -- about 140 pages in my paperback edition.

Jackson has shown his elephantine tendencies before, in the bloated and indulgent extended editions of the "Rings" films. But in the earlier trilogy -- which I admired and enjoyed, incidentally -- he clearly showed he had the measure of the material and understood both Tolkien's moral convictions and the books' darker forebodings of impending death and destruction.

Even if it's something of a dry run for Frodo's odyssey, "The Hobbit" is a different beast. There's so much less at stake in the story of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) joining Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a band of dwarves in a raid on a dragon's mountainous lair.

This is an adventure story, a caper with elves and goblins. And yet Jackson gives it the same portentous, heroic swagger; the same doomy menaces. It's just that this time the action is spooned out in thimbles. The rest of the running time is given over to dwarfish humor, endless, unfunny comic bluster and banter interspersed with duff warrior dirges and desperate close-ups of Freeman mugging.

"Sluggish" doesn't begin to do justice to the way Jackson has padded out his narrative. But there's worse, far worse, for anyone tempted to check out the movie in its 3-D, 48 frames per second incarnation (showcased in approximately 450 premium screens across North America). The theory behind this cutting edge technology -- which doubles the 24 fps that has been standard in movies since the silent era -- is that the faster frame rate allows more luminescence, counterbalancing the loss incurred in 3-D. It's clearer, brighter and more immersive -- in theory. In practice, it's clearer, brighter, and utterly alienating.

I haven't seen the movie screened at 24 fps, but at 48, the grain of film has been replaced by the gloss of high definition video, which gives everything and everyone a fake, plastic sheen.

"An Unexpected Journey" may look sharp in TV showrooms or on your PS3, but in the movie theater the picture's clarity comes at the loss of texture, shading and consistency. Shifts from exteriors to dark interiors are especially jarring. Look also at the dull, flat orange taint that is meant to approximate candle light in numerous scenes, and compare that with the glow you find in "Barry Lyndon," or "Fanny and Alexander," or your own birthday snaps.

Did Jackson embrace 48 fps to keep himself interested, because he knew he was retreading old ground? Is he really blind to the limitations of this technology at this stage of its evolution? I won't say it has no future, but for now this emperor has no clothes. It's a colossal misjudgment. He's put his name to the ugliest film of the year, a $270 million three-hour epic that looks like a TV show ("Teletubbies" was the first to pop into my head, and "Doctor Who" was the most flattering comparison I could come up with.)

In fairness, there are redeeming features: The movie does sputter into life in the last 45 minutes, especially during a lengthy battle of wits between Bilbo and Gollum. And Ian McKellen miraculously, alone among the cast, transcends the picture's artificial surface and imposes himself on such drama as he can find.

In my book that's not enough return for three hours at the movies, or whatever inflated price they're charging for your ticket now.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Johnny Sweatpants' 2012 Wrap Up

This was my 2nd attempt at pumpkin carving. I chose one of those weird looking pumpkins in an attempt to depict an awkward looking pimply faced teenager. I learned that that these kinds of pumpkins are extremely difficult to carve. 

I had soup bowls of fun this October thanks to the recommendations from my fellow 'Thonners. Here's my wrap-up: 

Worst MovieThe Sinful Dwarf. I honestly wish I never watched this one. On the plus side there is an amusing bonus feature on the DVD where a grown man describes how The Sinful Dwarf ruined his life and he pleads with the viewer not to watch it. 

Best Hidden Gem MovieTargets. I stand in awe at the way Peter Bogdanavich concocted such an enthralling movie with the limitations he had to work with. Every time I think about this movie I feel an overwhelming urge to watch it again.

Most Avoidable Death: Antonio in At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul. Coffin Joe is pure evil personified. His "friend" Antonio should have kept a safe distance. 

Best Looking Monster: Mr. Boogie in Sinister The movie hardly blew me away but the images of Mr. Boogie in the background were delightfully spooky.

Best So Bad It's Good MovieKiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Honestly, whether or not you're a Kiss fan this movie is worth seeking out. It's so very, very bad... but good! Paul Stanley is simply a HORRIBLE, self conscious actor. Everything that comes out of Ace Frehley's mouth is pure comedy. The plot is utterly ridiculous, the writing is inane and the action sequences are wholly laughable. It is a bonafide train wreck that nearly destroyed what little street cred the band had in 1978. I have watched it annually since the early 90's and I always find something new to laugh at.

Most Disturbing MovieThe Poughkeepsie Tapes. *shudder* Just thinking about it brings me to a bad place.

Most Memorable Death: Nothing can prepare you for the bizarre worm sex death of Taaffe O'Connell in Galaxy of Terror

Hottest Hottie: Taffe O'Connell in Galaxy of Terror.

Scariest MovieKidnapped was so intense and well crafted it kept me on the edge of my seat for 2 hours. I cared about the characters and felt constant fear for their wellbeing. 

All-Around Favorite Movie: I probably watched more quality horror movies in 2012 than every other year combined. Though I absolutely loved Kidnapped, Severance, Targets, Race With the Devil, At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, and Santa Sangre, my heart belongs to Rabies

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Johnny Sweatpants' Review Bomb

Before I post my Horrorthon '12 wrap-up I first need to get these off my chest. Octopunk's review bomb inspired me to address the movies I watched but didn't review this year. I'll keep this short and totally sweet!

Severance (2006) ****

A group of co-workers on a retreat in Hungary experience murder and mayhem in the forest. Worthy of attention! I loved Severance and intend to write a proper review down the road. I am very discriminating when it comes to humorous/satirical horror movies but this one found that magical balance. The promotional tag The Office meets Friday the 13th does not do it justice.

Cabin in the Woods (2011) **1/2

Conversely, Josh Whedon rubbed me the wrong way with his pop culture references as well as the overall tone of Cabin in the Woods. I respect Whedon but I don't consider him a legit horror director. However there is a lot of Horrorthon love for this movie so I feel the need to give it another chance.

Slugs (1988) **1/2

Slugs is everything you would expect based on the title and its 1988 year of release.

Lady Frankenstein (1972) **

The monster pictured above is pretty sweet but the movie is long and boring, as 1972 horror films tend to be. JPX wouldn’t last 10 minutes.

Splice (2009) ***

He's a gifted actor but I frankly don't understand Crystal's obsession.
Please peruse the reviews from Julie, Octo and Crystal because they're great and I can't be arsed to write a summary. Splice entertained me, particularly the scene where Adrien Grody got what was coming to him...

Audition (1999) *****

A wealthy widower falls in love with a beautiful woman with a mysterious past. Bad things happen in Takashi Miike's cult gem. I watched this for the first time in 7 years and loved every minute of it. This is fantastic, must-see, J-Horror at it's best. Even better than I remembered!

Inferno (1980) ***1/2

Dario Argento’s sequel to Suspiria flows more like a bad acid trip than a movie. I love it, but it's definitely not for everyone.

The Dead (2010) **

A mostly forgettable zombie flick with a couple of standout scenes.

Zombie Diaries 2 (2011) *

I don’t remember a goddang thing about this movie even after reading up on it. It most certainly did not make an impression on me. Not worthy of a screen pic let alone a review.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) ****

Rare Exports is a dark Finnish take on the myth of Santa Claus. Believe the hype. I shall watch this every December until further notice!

A Horrible Way to Die (2010) ***1/2

I watched it based on the title alone and was pleasantly surprised to find an engaging indie drama focusing on a serial killer's stalker relationship with his ex-girlfriend.

Fausto 5.0 (2001) ***1/2

A bizarre story that cannot be summed up in one sentence. Catfreeek has been trying to get me to watch this for years and I'm thankful she was persistent. I promise to review it next year!

"It's a SpongeBob Christmas" airs again on Thursday the 6th with more footage!

For those of you who didn't see my last-minute post two weeks ago, or who just want more of a good thing, check out It's a SpongeBob Christmas again on Nickelodeon at 8pm this Thursday the 6th. And it will have more stuff! The full special includes a framing story starring a stop-motion Patchy the Pirate (below), in the style of the old Rankin-Bass specials (which had framing stories with a Burl Ives snowman or something like that, not a pirate).

There also might be some bumpers with the live-action Patchy the Pirate "on the set" of the special, which is really footage that was shot months later, and which at one point features ME in the background. Another couple of seconds for my fifteen minutes of fame (I doubt I'm even up to a minute yet).

I leave you with the immortal words of Laura Waterbury from Better Off Dead: "Christmaaaas. CHRISTMAAAAAASS!"

Interesting "Man of Steel" poster

Monday, December 03, 2012

A Very Crystal Mathy Wrap-Up

I'd better get this out before civilization collapses and we have to power our electronic devices via bicycle.

This year I set two goals for myself: beat JSP (last year we tied at 23 movies reviewed), and watch fifty movies. I'm pleased to say that I achieved both, watching 55 movies and reviewing 51 of them. Having said that, if Horrorthon has taught me anything, it is that watching scary movies is therapeutic. October has signified change for me in the last two years. Last year I was dealing with a crazy housemate and ended up moving out, and this year I quit my job teaching in the "blackboard jungle" of downtown Oakland and am reassessing the role I want to play as an educator.

Anyway, 51 movies seemed like the right number to review this year. It's exactly one movie more than my personal goal, and it's divisible by three. I didn't exactly follow a formula or theme other than I didn't want to watch a bunch of crap, but when it came to crunch time anything was game and that's how I ended up with Pighunt or Hunger.

So after much deliberation, here are my 2012 Horrorthon picks:

Best Overall Film: Targets
I could recommend this movie to anyone and I truly believe that its quality and affect on the soul surpasses anything that could be made (or remade) today.

Biggest Bloodbath: Splinter
The characters were stereotypical and potentially annoying, but the nature of the nastiness of this movie made me forget about it all.

So Bad It’s Good: Slugs
We've underestimated these garden pests for the last time.

Most Disturbing: Audition
There were so many surprising elements of this film, and after watching it I had more questions than before.

Most Obscure: Lady Frankenstein
I'm always on the look for campy titles and now I'm inspired to seek out Lady Dracula and other B-movie monster spinoffs.

Unintentionally Funny: ants!

Worst Film: The Wicker Tree (and how!)
There were so many screwy things that made this movie unwatchable.

Scariest Film: Poughkeepsie Tapes
Sandwiched between the "interviews" of FBI agents are some of the most spine-tingling images of this documentary-style horror film.

Scream Queen: Patricia Owens/Helene from The Fly (1958)

Hottest Hottie: Adrien Brody in Splice
He adds a sexy complexity to any character he portrays. I never knew geneticists could have such awesome taste in music and dress with such swag as he.

I'd watch!

The ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Teaser Poster