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So it’s been kinda slow recently, at least movie wise, and a bit busy elsewhere. I skipped everything that came out on the 19th (not a horror fan, didn’t see Red, behind on all the animated films, and I’ll rent RIPD eventually), and instead took my cousin to see Pacific Rim, of which I’ll add some additional thoughts below.

For now though, I believe it’ll be a lot of art house stuff and the few remaining big summer films to see (The Wolverine is forth coming, for example). I’ll try and start getting caught up on other movies too from earlier this year. Also, I’m slowly getting through season two of Deep Space 9, which is becoming a chore because it’s terrible but it’s Star Trek so I have to do it (and because I want to write about it anyway). I’m roughly two-thirds through now, so expect that Looking Back feature at some point in August.

Anyway, enough about random stuff. Here’s Arnie quoting one liners.

Why the heck did I miss this when it came out? Ugh I’m the worst.

It’s a good, fun film. Yeah, it’s B-movie all over, but holy crap it’s good. I haven’t seem Kim Ji-woon previous films, though I should check them out (he did The Good, the Bad, and the Weird if I remember correctly), since his American debut is good.

In short, Arnie plays Ray Owens, an old sheriff, in Somerton, Arizona, when a few unfriendlies arrive in town. They’re there to help a major cartel boss, Cortez, cross the border to Mexico to escape US authorities. Arnie finds out, and sets up the town, along with a few deputies, to block that crossing until the FBI arrive.

It’s as straightforward as it gets, and it’s great fun along the way. The writing is good, with Arnie getting the bulk of the amusing one liners, though Knoxville, who I thought would be annoying, is pretty hilarious in it, playing a gun collector with some sweet weapons in his disposal. There are a couple other characters in it, but they’re all decent, and they all stand apart as their own.

There’s a lot of action pieces scattered throughout the film, from Cortez escape from the FBI through the Arizona desert, to the stand off in Somerton and the final beat down on the canyon crossing. The sequence in Somerton is the highlight of the film, as Arnie and the deputies face off against Cortez getaway crew. It’s done well, with the action being kept strictly on the town’s Main Street and a few businesses that are along that street. It’s probably one of the better sequences this year.

So all in all, a good, fun movie with some great Arnie moments. I’m sad I missed it when it came out, but I’m glad I got to see it now. It’s out on VOD and DVD now, so definitely check it out.

I saw Pacific Rim a second time, taking my 12-year-old cousin with me.  He loved the film, and the first thing he asked about was about the kaiju and if they were men in suits.  Pretty perceptive in noting the design of the kaiju.

We saw it in 2D this time (opening night was IMAX 3D so we could get those awesome posters), and the main difference was the color, being a bit more brighter.  Oh, and the sound quality wasn’t as loud (this is IMAX we’re taking about; the volume just hitting you in the face hard).  My thoughts on the film didn’t change much: the story is still simple and relies a little too much on the Mako Mori drift scenes.  That Hong Kong sequence is still fantastic though, and probably the best action sequence this year in any film.

What it probably succeeds in well too was that it’s a perfect film for a 12-year-old, or any child with an imagination.  Raleigh Beckett said it perfectly early on, when they’re in the Jaeger, they can fight anything, including a hurricane.  It’s being able to not feel small, and being able to take on something larger and stronger than you with something large and strong for yourself.  But it’s also taking this film and finding a spark, something that’ll allow a child or teen to say “I can make this” and then learn how to make this kind of thing.  Hell, I find the 12-year-old in me wanting to learn how to make movies, and to make them enjoyable, but also to have something to say too, something about humanity.

This is probably why I loved Pacific Rim as much as I did.  If there weren’t so many things to see right now, I’d check it out a third time.  There’s always DVD though, and I’ll come back again and again when it does show up.


Jaeger VS Kaiju battle begins now!

It finally took over half of the summer, but we finally reached the big blockbuster that’s just as good as Iron Man 3, and probably better at times too.  Pacific Rim is massive, and it’s great and it’s fun.

The story is simple: kaiju have invaded Earth, and in response, humanity has built large machines called Jaegers, piloted by two people who are mind-melded together through a synchronization process called the Drift.  Humanity wins a lot of battles early on, but as the war wears on, the kaiju are getting bigger, and they’re adapting to the Jaegers.  The war has entered its twelfth year, with the Pacific rim countries building a giant wall to keep out the kaiju.  The Jaegers are no longer appealing, and the remaining four are moved to Hong Kong.

The characters are all pretty good, with enough background details and distinctive personalities to distinguish themselves from other characters.  Raleigh Becket is the retired pilot of Gipsy Danger, called back into service one last time.  Stacker Pentecost leads the Jaeger program and devises a plan to end the war.  Mako Mori is Pentecost’s assistant and a rookie when it comes to piloting.  Dr Newton Geizler and Dr Hermann Gottleib work with the program to study how the kaiju operate.  Hannibal Chau is a black market dealer of kaiju organs and body parts.  And Herc and Chuck Henson are the father-son team of Eureka Striker, the Australian Jaeger.  Each of them have arcs that resolve in one way or another.  Everyone playing them is great, especially Charlie Day, who, as Geizler, is not as obnoxious as you’d expect him to be.  Mako Mori, played by Rinko Kikuchi, is probably the strongest realized female character this summer, though it doesn’t get to be that way until a little late in the film because of how certain reveals were handled.  The story does focus on her a lot though, especially during her first Drift synchronization.  It’s here that certain things are learned, which again, could have been explained a bit sooner.

The action, of course, is the big draw, and it doesn’t disappoint.  There are really only three major Jaeger/kaiju sequences (Gipsy Danger vs Knifehead, the Hong Kong attack, and the final battle), but they’re all staged wonderfully.  The Hong Kong sequence is definitely the best in the whole film (and probably one of the best action sequences filmed this year[1]) and perfectly captures both how the Jaegers and kaiju move and fight, but also how any major action sequence should be done.  There is no lost sense of place or scale with the fighting, especially when it moves into Hong Kong itself and Gipsy Danger first takes on the kaiju Leatherback, and then Otachi.  There is a lot of destruction, but people do escape in shelters when an attack occurs (there are a couple times that I recall that there is talk of, or people actually going to, underground shelters to escape the attacks).  Compare that to other films this summer and the careless disregard for human life; it’s almost refreshing to see that some characters do give a damn.

I loved this film.  It isn’t dark and cynical and it doesn’t actively hate its audience.  It’s simple and straightforward, and not a convoluted mess of a film.  It knows the story it wants to tell and it does it well, and it has important things to say too.  But most importantly, it’s fun, and along with Iron Man 3, probably the best blockbuster film to show up this summer, and the most fun you’ll have too.  And I think that has been missing a lot this summer, the grand sense of fun that everyone should enjoy.

This is a movie that I will gladly see two or three times in theaters.  It’s that damn good.

[1] Iron Man 3 actually has two or three really good sequences that are also some of the year’s best.  All hail Shane Black.

The Dude abides.

The Ambler Theater, one of my favorite local theaters, runs a Hollywood Summer Nights series during the summer months, highlighting great films past and present. The big highlight during the summer is the annual Little Lebowski Nite. The night in general is great fun, with a quiz, costume contest, and then the movie.


The quiz was entertaining, as the associate director of the theater, Chris, asked a series of questions based on the film. He asked a broad range of questions in the hope of stumping the audience, but from what I remember last year, he wasn’t that successful. This year though, he got an intern for a few questions, and he got the audience on a couple of freeze-frame moments (one of them being: name a song from the Autobahn album), much to his delight.

The costume contest was a hit, with eight people lined up on stage in various dress. There was only one Dude this year, but there was also a Jesus, a couple of Strangers, Smokey, a Jackie Treehorn, and a Walter. The far and away winner though was Saddam, and his costume was amazing.




After that, the film. This was the second time I’ve seen the film in its entirety (the first time being last year’s Little Lebowski Nite), and it was a lot funnier than I recall it being. I laughed a lot harder than I normally would in a movie theater (well, that seems to have changed in general with some recent stuff like This is the End and Frances Ha). In case anyone has never seen it, it involves an unemployed loser known as the Dude getting involved in a stupidly complex plot involving a kidnapped model wife, a crippled millionare who shares the same name as the Dude (Jeff Lebowski), an avant-garde artist, a trio of nihilists, and a porn producer. Oh, and all the Dude wants is to get his back. It’s all pointlessly absurd, and it’s great.

If anyone is in the Philly area next July, I highly recommend getting tickets for this event. They run “achiever” level tickets for the event, which includes a T-shirt (this year’s design is great) and your choice of a White Russian or sarsaparilla. It’s a fun way to spend an evening at a great theater.


Oh, and just a few Dudes enjoying the film. (Picture from Ambler Theater; pictured: myself, Kim, and dad)


For more info on the event, click here:

Hey, lookie, it’s probably the best film so far this year!

I’m not really sure how to express that properly though, as being one of the best films that have come out this year.  But I’ll try.

This films succeeds largely on the shoulders of Greta Gerwig, who gives a marvelous performance as the title character.  She’s a fun character, she’s engaging, and she’s enjoyable.  She’s also sporadic and frustrating, and can’t easily tell the truth.  She’s like any twenty-something who is trying to figure life out but ends up making stupid decisions that affect her, but there’s also things that end up largely out of her control and there’s nothing she can do.  Then there are the moments when she has complete control, and instead of taking it, she sidesteps it for no explicable reason (there was one moment during the film that I wanted to yell my frustration at the screen).

There’s no real forward momentum in the film, such that life can be (one wakes up, go through the days events, then goes back to sleep, repeat ad nauseum).  It does cover about a year in Frances’ life and the things that happen around her: her best friend Sophie decides to move first to a more expensive part of NYC, then to Japan with her boyfriend; France moves in with a couple random guys who quickly find out how undateable she is; she wants to dance, but can’t get beyond the apprentice level.  She goes to several places in the film (Sacramento to visit her family, a random weekend in Paris, and a summer in her alma mater).  The ending goes well for her and a lot of other characters that show up in the film, though she doesn’t change one bit, which is fine.  There are occasions where characters don’t change at all in the course of a film, simply because this is a slice of life and there’s no real reason for them to change (Happy-Go-Lucky is one such example of a great film where Poppy doesn’t change at all).  I can’t tell if her ending is earned though, especially during the more frustrating bits of the film.  As short as the film was (only 86 minutes), it could have used probably one or two more scenes to connect things better.

This film has also made me wonder if I’ll ever get Noah Baumbach.  I saw Greenberg a few years ago and, at the time, hated it a lot because of Ben Stiller’s character and how much of a disruptive and unchanging asshole he was.  I’ll have to rewatch it again though at some point, mainly to see if my opinion has changed, because it seems like that’s the kind of characters Baumbach likes to write about[1].  That said, he does make really good films, and his characters, as frustrating they can be, are fully realized persons.  The writing is top notch too between Baumbach and Gerwig.  It helps that this movie is hilarious, and probably the funniest film of the year because everything clicks so well.  The monochromatic color scheme is interesting as well, with some pretty good choices in wardrobe and such.

I caught this movie at the tail end of its box office run, so it’ll be out of theaters really soon.  Definitely catch it though when it makes it to DVD and VOD.  I can’t recommend it enough.  Just see it.

[1] Then again, Core saw Margot at the Wedding and loathed it completely, so I don’t think I’m the only one who doesn’t get Baumbach.

So a minor confession to make: I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Star Trek series in its entirety before until this year.

Okay, so it’s a major confession.  I’m a Trekkie.  I grew up on Next Generation.  And I liked Deep Space Nine and Voyager when it came out.  I never did get very far into Enterprise though, and the Original Series, I’ve probably seen an episode here or there, but nothing all the way through.  But I’ve never watched every episode though, which is what one should do if they really like a show.

Some things should be corrected.

Back at Christmas last year I got a Kindle.  With the Kindle you automatically get a free month of Amazon Prime, which I’ve never had before.  After the free month it’s $80 for a year.  I didn’t know what was available – Core has one, but never got Prime since she didn’t find much she liked – but upon finding out that all of Star Trek was available for free, from TOS to Enterprise and all of the movies prior to the reboot, I was sold.  Eighty bucks for twenty-eight seasons of awesome [1]?  Sold!

So I went through all of Voyager first, in about three and a half months.  And I recalled a lot of it, almost all of it in fact.  I didn’t realize that I had watched most of the series when it originally aired, but I did.  I just had to fill in the missing pieces.  And it’s like any other serialized show: some good, some bad, all worthwhile.  The first two seasons meandered forever in Kazon space (just how much space did they cover anyway?), and the Borg, the biggest threat ever, were practically neutered by the end of the series.  There were some great episodes though, and some pretty good characters as well: Janeway was a pretty boss captain and had some tough decisions to make at times, Chekotay made for an interesting commander, and the rest of the crew were fun as well (though it kinda sucked that Kim never got promoted beyond ensign while Paris got busted out of jail, promoted, demoted, and promoted again in seven seasons).  That was probably when the show was at its best though, when it came to the characters.  Some of the plots, especially towards the end of the series were… lacking.  But all in all, it was a good series.

But enough about that.  I wasn’t sure what series I wanted to watch next, but then I came across this, and then I was sold: I was going to watch Deep Space Nine.  I tried to remember why I didn’t remember this series fondly (more on that shortly), and I even mentioned at least once or twice on Facebook that I wasn’t looking forward to tackling this.  One of my friends made mention that it gets really good from season five on (that was probably around when I stopped watching the series) while that article mentions that it gets really good from season four on, when the show really found its legs and just took off.

So I decided, “Sure, I’ll take this on next.”

And I figure, I’ll write about each season too as I get to them.  So after this long preamble, let’s begin the looking back of Deep Space Nine, season one.

This… this was a curious first season of Deep Space Nine.  The idea was interesting: put a crew on a station on the edge of Federation space, then have them find a wormhole that leads to the other side of the galaxy[2], before letting shenanigans ensue.

It wasn’t entirely successful.  All of the episodes were one-offs, which is fine (the first episode/pilot went for 91 minutes), but it didn’t get very far in terms of an overall plot.  The wormhole – such a big thing in the first episode – doesn’t get much action this season.  “Vortex” was the only episode that hinted at anything beyond just the one episode – the possibility of others like Odo – while others that dealt with the Gamma Quadrant were brief excursions and random anomalies that threatened the crew and station (telepathic beings, a hunting game, a board game, imagination beings, etc).  There were some interesting characters that did show up though: “Move Along Home” had the board game, with the visiting aliens being an interesting treat.

There were some recurring characters in TNG that showed up too: Picard was in the first episode, and Sisko was none too happy to deal with him[3], Q made an appearance (oh, add that episode to the “things that threaten the station” list), and Lwaxana Troi had a turn as well.  Out of the three, hers was the best appearance, as it expanded on her character exponentially beyond what she had, or from what I can recall, on TNG (I’ll get there eventually, don’t worry).  Odo had a great turn that episode as well – probably the best he was involved in during the first season.  Odo is a rather complex character in general too, having served both the Cardassians and the Federation as chief security officer on the station.  The moral ambiguities are amazing.

And the rest of the new characters? Well… they were mostly okay.  Some people didn’t break beyond their first introductions.  Doctor Bashir, for example, was hitting on every woman that walked by him.  He was young and naive, probably fresh out of medical school or the academy and didn’t know much of anything in regular life, so his antics were amusing, at least for a while.  They did take an interesting twist in “If Wishes Were Horses” (the imagination beings one), but he didn’t get much beyond that.

Dax is kinda bland right now, mainly because she really hasn’t done that much so far.  She has one episode, the trailer of which I’ll post below, but other than that, she’s more or less working in ops the entire time.  The Trill species does make for some interesting stories though, since the symbiote can inhabit both male and female trills.  The episode “Dax” (that trailer next) hints at some of the former lives of Dax.  It’s not exactly transgendered, but this was probably as close as any character got to being non-binary in any sci-fi series I can think of (though if people think of others, then by all means, comment away).

Major Kira was… I’m not sure, really.  She has a huge history to her before even showing up, as a freedom fighter on Bajor (much of the season revolved around how the Federation was protecting Bajor and trying to get it to join them).  As such, she spends a lot of time angry at a lot of things – mainly Cardassians – and not much else.  She does end up in the best episode of the season though, “Duets”, which, despite one or two too many twists, has some truly great moments between Kira and the arrested Cardassian, and the final scene is truly heartbreaking, and shows well how some things may never change between people.

Actually, here’s a mirrored clip of the final six minutes of the episode:

The Bajorans themselves… meh.  It’s what probably hurts the first season the most, because they’re just not very interesting.  I’m not sure if it’ll improve in the second season, but I’ll find out when I get to it.

Who else is here… O’Brien is much the same from his TNG days – grumbling about everything and everyone – though his responsibility has expanded since he has to make sure the entire station works, and a lot of times it doesn’t.  “The Forsaken”, for instance, has him yelling at the computer a lot, and it’s rather fun at times.  He’s a likable character, and fits well with the cast.

The Ferengis are a curious bunch.  I’m not a big fan of them – it’s essentially “we like females (without clothes)” and “greed is good” – but this set seem to break the mold on that a bit.  Quark is actually interesting at times, though the season spends far too much time on his shenanigans.  His nephew, Nog, is by far a most interesting character.  He doesn’t start that way – he takes on too much of the Ferengi personality – but pairing him with Jake Sisko and making him likable has made him a pretty good supporting character in the first season.

Speaking of the Siskos, the first episode pretty much set up what has to be the best relationship dynamic in the series so far, between Benjamin and Jake.  The Borg (under Locutus, hence Sisko’s dislike for Picard) killed Ben’s wife, and it could just as easily been Jake going “I hate station life why did you drag me here?”, but some of the things that do happen along the way (the station school, Jake and Nog’s friendship) help to solidify their relationship.  There’s a genuine love between father and son here, which doesn’t get explored often in a serious way in a sci-fi drama[4].

Benjamin Sisko is pretty much a badass the entire time though.  I find in every episode that he is one guy I don’t want to cross.  Case in point:

So, yes, a curious first season of Deep Space 9.  It doesn’t go anywhere, but there are a few nuggets to enjoy.[5]

[1]  Okay that’s a lie.  Not all of it was awesome.

[2] Other side of the galaxy being the Gamma Quadrant.  Voyager took place in the Delta Quadrant and were another tens of thousands of light years away from that wormhole.

[3] I never recalled Picard looking so disturbed by one man before either.

[4] The episode “Babel” is one really good example of their relationship.

[5] Episodes to recommend: “Duet”, “The Forsaken”, “Move Along Home” (just for the sheer, wacky fun of it all), “Babel”, “Dax”

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