TV Review: Dragonball Z - Season Six.

The new season starts out with a bang--literally. Upset at the newest turn of events, Trunks blasts off a bit of energy. Pissed that he gained so much power but was unable to use it to defeat Cell, his anger is quite justified. But now Cell has officially announced the Cell Games, the reinstallation of the World Martial Arts Tournament, to be held in 9 days (after the announcement to the world, anyway).

Vegeta, of course, believes he's better than everybody else, and will take as much time as he can in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber to get the strength needed to defeat Cell all on his own. But Goku, who has just left the chamber with Gohan, seems to know better. He shares that Cell is still much stronger than him, but he's not worried for some unexplained-at-this-point reason (though we all know what it is). Instead, he would prefer to just relax... because living with friends and family is the most important thing in these dark days.

Unfortunately, this opens the beginning of the season up to more filler. While there is a fun inclusion of an old Dragonball villain (like, from the original series), it's mostly a wasted cameo in a wasted episode (he does come back for one more, but again... not important on the whole). There are little bits here and there that clue in to what's to come, but mostly, the filler is... well... filler--out of place and unnecessary.

Luckily, the unimportant filler only lasts a few episodes before trading off for what I can only describe as "important filler." In other words, the occurrences in these episodes are important, but you still feel like they're wasting time in getting to the point. Dende returns to the series as the new guardian of Earth and creates new dragonballs, and then Goku goes off to hunt them down. While it's essential to know he found them all, the actual journey shown is mostly pointless. There's also an introduction of a new character, Mr. (Hercule) Satan. He's almost purely comic relief, being the martial arts champion of Earth, which really doesn't mean anything. He's cocky and ignorant, leaving those who actually understand what's going on to blink mutely and call him an idiot (which they do... over and over and over again). And it's honestly funny the first few times they do it. But then they keep doing it. And he just keeps talking. And you finally get to a point where you want to punch the guy so we can move on with the story. It does this even after the Cell Games have already started.

But once Goku steps into the ring--aside from the Hercule/Mr. Satan, well, asides--the action picks up considerably (in comparison, anyway). It's a bummer that the first 1/3 of the season is mainly a waste of time, but the last 2/3 really make up for it.

Goku's fight with Cell is beyond epic, and ends in such an awesome move, you'd think it'd be the end of it. But alas, I knew better. Goku's had a plan all along, and it never included him being the one to defeat Cell. Also, the actual "tournament" portion of the Cell Games only lasts a couple episodes once Goku's fight begins, which is sad, but I suppose understandable (what evil super-being is going to restrain itself to the rules of a martial arts tournament and fighting ring?).

But this season was never about Goku. His time to shine has passed. Now it's all down to Gohan, who has matured greatly over the seasons, and is no longer the scared little boy from the beginning. He's an incredibly powerful warrior... who just has to tap into his hidden power and unleash it on Cell.

And once he does... we begin the greatest episodes of the entire series. Gohan never says much
after this point, but he doesn't need to. He lets his actions and demeanor speak for him. Everything about him has changed, and you can tell from the look on his face and the way he holds his body. And how else do they show his power? By changing up the style of fighting. Through the seasons, if somebody gets more powerful, they'll show it in a punch or kick that doubles the target over. It's one strong, focused hit. But Gohan's power is different. It's very minute, but you can see it if you pay attention. Instead of these "stationary" hits, Gohan will hit/kick hard, but also fast. His moves don't stick, if that makes sense. It's hard to explain in words, but you'd know it if you saw it.

Even Hercule/Mr. Satan gets a bit of development around this point and does something useful, and the news crew also gets on him about basically being an idiot. On a similar note, Chi-Chi's father also finally yells at his daughter for her whining and complaining about how Gohan and Goku are just mindless brutes and how "saving the world" won't get Gohan into college, etc. Though it doesn't mean much, as Chi-Chi stays her annoyingly stubborn self. But at least he did it. Somebody needed to.

But anyway, everything gets thrown on the table now. No more holding back. Cell shows his full potential, even to the point of showing off his "acquired" special moves one after the other. And then Gohan gets his first Kamehameha of the series. I personally would have saved it until a little bit later where it would have meant more, but oh well.

But it all culminates in what has to be the single best episode of the entire series, "Save the World." Everybody helps out for once, and both Gohan and Vegeta have the final character developments both characters have been leading up to the entire series. And in one move, we have my favorite moment on the show, as it mixes a change in Vegeta, Gohan proving himself as the ultimate fighter, great animation, and some of the best music on the show... all rolled into about a minute or so.

There are only a few more episodes after this (strangely enough, they split up the episodes onto two discs, putting only 3 on each, which is a total waste). Personally, I feel this would have been the best place to end the series. Vegeta's had his redemption, every fighter has shown his worth, character development for everyone has reached its peak, and Gohan has taken Goku's spot as Earth's hero. It even gives an ending to Future Trunks' story and original purpose. Everything is perfectly smoothed out and given a peaceable ending. There couldn't possibly be anywhere else to take the show... right?

Wrong. With not one, not two, but three seasons left, Akira Toriyama apparently saw a lot of places to take the story (and with it, only about half its audience). By the time these final sagas aired, the majority of the show's original audience had grown up and out of it--another reason they should have just ended with Cell. And for whatever reason, maybe to try and find another core audience--who knows?--the show changes drastically in feel. This season ends with a tease about "Otherworld," but besides that, there's no real inclination of where the show would be going. I know a little bit, of course, but not everything. Let's just say that of the following sagas, I've seen very little. I know of only a few things and how they turn out (some big, some not so much), so the bulk of the following three seasons is going to be mostly a surprise to me.

So with that said, until next time...


Short Review: The Protector.

Premise: After an elephant is stolen, a fighter/protector must travel to Australia to retrieve it and fight anybody who gets in his way (including a very Cruella Deville-type villain).

Starring: Tony Jaa.

My Reaction: This movie is beyond ridiculous. Looking at that premise, you have to think "Is this a parody/comedy?" But it isn't. It takes itself very seriously. The worst part about the movie was its awful editing. It would jump from one thing to the next without any transition. And then even within scenes, it bounced around. It was so distracting and terrible. I've never seen a worse editing job in a movie. And then you have the weird subbing/dubbing issue. A third of the time, characters are speaking their natural language and the movie is subtitled. Fine. Another third of the time, you have white characters speaking English as per usual. Also fine. But then the other third of the time, you have the Thai characters speaking English, but their voices have been dubbed over. And not that they were speaking English and they just got a different voice. But you can clearly tell they were speaking their native tongue and somebody dubbed over in English. It's so freaking weird, mostly because the movie already relies on subtitles and also already has English-speaking actors, so to dub over others is mind boggling. Now, I've also seen Tony Jaa's Ong-Bak, which I felt was also disappointing, but not to this degree. Though it had a lot of technical issues as well. But the two share one thing in common: they both have some pretty great action. And that's the only thing that helps it. Does it save it? No. The editing is too awful for even the action to save it. If it weren't for the editing, I could have looked at it like a really crappy B-action movie with a ridiculous story and bad dubbing/subbing issues. But I can't. I fell asleep about halfway through and didn't care enough to finish it this morning before sending it back to Netflix. And I should have figured as much when the credits start and I see "Quentin Tarantino Presents..." Outside of maybe Jet Li's Hero, any movie he "presents" is awful. If you were gonna watch this movie for anything, it would be the action. Otherwise, just... skip it.

The Zed Word


Book Review: "Cell" by Stephen King.

I haven't done a book review in a while, and I felt this one would be a good one to review, seeing as I have quite a few feelings on it.


Cell is my first Stephen King novel (second attempted... I tried reading the first book of his Dark Tower series and was so bored to tears that I eventually just gave up). I've heard different opinions of this book. Some call it superb and anybody, King fan or not, will love it. Some call it a hack job and just a mishmash of previous works (particularly The Stand). As I've said, I've never read a previous King work (I've seen movie versions), but even I could tell this was piecemeal.

Let's start with the story. Clay Riddell is in Boston selling his first graphic novel, Dark Wanderer. But suddenly, everybody on their cellphones, or even people listening in on cell conversations, just start going crazy. They become somewhat reminiscent of 28 Days/Weeks Later's Infected. They're fast. They're dangerous. They're angry. They're insane. They'll do anything to cause destruction. During the madness, Clay meets Tom, who didn't have his cell because his cat had accidentally knocked it off the counter and broken it that morning. And not long after, they meet a teen girl named Alice, whose mother just attacked her after turning into one of the "phone-crazies." Eventually, the group heads off to Maine, where Clay is from, to find his son and ex-wife (but moreso his son). They meet others along the way, and they all realize that things might not be that easy (...or is it?), as the phone-crazies begin to evolve.

First, let's start with the most important aspect of the story: the "phone-crazies," "phoners," whatever you wanna call them. Just don't call them zombies, because they aren't. How can people call this a zombie story? Hell, in comparison, I'd be more likely to call 28 Days Later... a zombie story faster than I'd call this one, and if you know me, that's saying a lot. First, they aren't dead, undead, or anywhere close to not being alive. Second, they're not cannibals. They don't yearn for human flesh or any other part of the human body. They eat twinkies and vegetables and who knows what other common foods. Third, they attack anything (human or animal) and anybody (including their own kind, which zombies really don't do... but I can let this one slide a bit). And not to mention their psionic tendencies (telepathy, telekinesis, etc.). Yeah, you heard me right.

The story starts off great. It's suspenseful. The characters have, well, character and personality. But once they leave Boston, and once the phoners begin to evolve, the story begins to devolve. The characters are hardly ever in any danger, and they do more watching than anything else. And once they realize when and how to travel, the danger zone all but disappears, as the threat basically becomes nonexistent. In other words, outside the first quarter or so of the book, there is almost no "horror" or "suspense" in this "horror/suspense" novel.

And then we have the characters. After the Boston scenes, Tom loses all personality and he and Clay are damn near interchangeable. And outside of being (sometimes irrationally) focused on getting to his son, he's a boring lead character. He doesn't really do anything. Alice starts off as an interesting character, and then she gets that little sneaker. It wouldn't be annoying if the book didn't go out of its way to explain how annoyed your POV character gets at her obsession with it. And then she, too, starts devolving from a teenage girl into just another cutout of the rest of the characters. She doesn't act or speak (which I'll get to momentarily) like any normal teenage girl, or much like she did at the beginning of the book (which is what happened with Tom, too). And then we have other characters, like Jordan, Ray, Dan, and Denise, the latter 3 feeling so random and out of place and so underdeveloped, it was crazy. Jordan  (a 12-year-old boy computer whiz) wasn't really developed, either, but he did have grown men (gay and straight) fawning over him and wanting to cover him in kisses... which is just awkward. In other words, everybody just acted strange, like Stephen King forgot how people act around each other.

And then we have the dialogue, which even in the Boston scenes feels awkward and poor. None of the dialogue felt realistic for any character, and by the end, everybody sounded exactly the same--trying to see who could drop the f-bomb more (from the once-meek Tom to the 12-year-old Jordan). I have absolutely zero problem with language, but some of it in this book was just plain gratuitous and out of place with the rest of the scene or whatnot. Or there will be times when somebody will make a (really bad) joke (sometimes I wasn't even aware it was supposed to be a joke), and all the present characters will start laughing so hard they have tears coming out of their eyes. Not to mention some of the dialogue is just weird or doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

I wouldn't necessarily say the book is off-the-charts boring as some reviews I've read have proclaimed, but there is a whole lot of nothing going on. And almost nothing is explained. What caused the "Pulse" in the first place? Who was behind it? Why was "this" or "that" mentioned (sometimes repetitively) though never brought back up again in any significant way, if at all? Why are the main characters labeled as "insane"? What's with the whole "virtual stage" thing? And then you have more logic-driven questions: Are the phoners actually evil, or are all these characters just idiots? If there's even a glimmer of hope that the phoners could be cured, why isn't it brought up sooner and why do the characters keep going out of their way to attack them and make them angry? Why bring up the main characters' importance to everybody if what you want is to not bring any unwanted attention their way? Why do their actions in the climax not make any rational sense, especially compared to their reasonings earlier on in the book? And, most importantly, why the hell did the book end the way it did? The entire last section of the book was completely unnecessary and an incredibly boring waste of time.

Seriously, I don't usually mind open endings, but this one is just ridiculous. On top of unanswered questions, logic problems, bad dialogue, little suspense, and flat characters, you won't even give resolution? Lame. There were many obvious segments in the book that were clearly put in because King had some writer's block and didn't know how to get the characters where he wanted them to go (for instance, the "shoes on the porch" thing felt like an excuse to keep them walking until they reached Gaiten Academy, especially since it was never bothered with after that moment).

Another random issue that I found was... how is it that every "normie" calls the phoners by the exact same thing? I find it a bit farfetched that complete strangers will meet up and both call these attackers "phone-crazies" or that the groups of them are "flocks." It's way too coincidental.

Overall, the book has a good premise. But it's marketed as a horror/suspense/zombie novel, and it really has none of these things. It's full of holes, logic problems, unnecessary descriptions, awful dialogue, unrealistic actions, undeveloped and unrealistic characters, unanswered questions, and almost no suspense. Though it's in the process of being made into a TV mini-series, and I'll probably give that a watch, assuming at least half of these issues are changed in the process of transferring it from page to screen.

Otherwise, I probably won't read it again. Was it the worst book I've ever read? Not even close. I did finish it, after all. But it was mainly a good premise that wasn't handled well after the beginning. After they leave Boston, it goes from good to decent and stays that way for about half the book (with a few dips here and there, usually involving character). And then it just starts to go downhill fast. Maybe if you're a hardcore King fan, you might enjoy it. But let's just say it didn't win me over to King.


TV Review: Dragonball Z - Season Five.

As usual at the start of any major battle on this show, Goku is out of it for some reason. This time, he's still under the effects of the fatal heart disease. But different than other seasons, this show starts off full-out and doesn't look back.
The season starts off brilliantly. The first few episodes play out like some horror movie mystery. Something has come back in time in Trunks' time capsule, even though he has the only time capsule in existence with him. And not long after that discovery, something is going on in a nearby town, where all the people have mysteriously disappeared, leaving only their clothes behind. It's all very intriguing and suspenseful (even though I know what's going on from seeing it already).

To counter this new threat, Piccolo finally merges back with Kami, being a Super Namek--apparently even more powerful than a Super Saiyan. And I must say, the animation around this point is pretty cool. And I'm thankful that his reaction to his new power wasn't as silly as it was when he merged with Nail a few seasons ago.

But even when everyone start sensing this strange creature, the questions continue. Why does it feel like Goku, Vegeta, and Piccolo, among others--including even Frieza and his father--are all together... fighting Piccolo (You heard me right)? Turns out, Dr. Gero wasn't all about creating Androids 17 and 18. 

He wanted to create the ultimate weapon, a being so powerful that it is actually made up of the cells of the greatest fighters Earth has ever witnessed. This creature's name? Appropriately, Cell. And Cell is on a mission, to absorb the powers of Androids 17 and 18, as doing so will make him complete--perfect. And he'll also absorb the powers of anybody who gets in his way. But this is not the Cell from their current time, rather the Cell from an alternate future, having come back in time to absorb the Androids, as Trunks had already found a way to defeat them in his own timeline.

So now the fighters must decide whether they must go after Cell, who is much more dangerous than the Androids, or go after the Androids and destroy them before Cell can absorb them and become nearly impossible to defeat. And the Androids themselves are no easy task. But meanwhile, the Androids--16, 17, and 18--are still on their search for Goku, who is still incapacitated from his heart virus, and destroy him as Dr. Gero programmed them (or at least Android 16) to do. But Vegeta, the next most powerful after Piccolo and Goku (as far as we know at this point, anyway), refuses to do anything until he can train enough to transcend the power of a Super Saiyan. And (Future) Trunks must find a way to talk Vegeta into letting him train along side him. Not to mention Gohan, who is stuck at Master Roshi's with everybody else (including his mother), has to train in private, as Chi-Chi refuses to let him do anything but study his academics. Still following?

And then comes the episode where Goku wakes up. It's not the greatest episode in the world (there's some horribly cheesy voice-overs and a really pointless flashback sequence from Trunks). And it takes a bit to get rolling again from that point. Goku realizes they'll all need more training if they want to beat Cell, so he gathers up Gohan, Vegeta, and Trunks to take them to the Hyperbolic Time Chamber at the lookout tower. The chamber allows for anybody inside to experience an entire year in only a day... so everyone can get in a year's worth of training in no time at all. Unfortunately, only two can go in at a time, and Vegeta (of course) demands first entrance with Trunks tagging along. So we have an excuse for Goku (and Gohan) to basically sit around doing nothing.

Meanwhile, Cell is still terrorizing the world, and there's not much anyone can do to stop him. There's trying, of course, including a cool fight sequence at an empty airport and on an airplane (as I've said before, it's always refreshing to see fighting in places other than large expanses of nothing).

Piccolo eventually fights with some Androids while Cell finally catches up to them. Piccolo is thus forced to fight alongside the Androids. I particularly like this bit because it's like a merging of two completely separate yet parallel storylines for the first time. Though the fighting does return to the 'large expanses of nothing' at this point. I can't comment much on this, as I watched it during some pretty rough personal-life issues that were going on, so my head wasn't fully in the show. However, I can say that if you've enjoyed the action of the show thus far, there's nothing to disappoint here.

Two things that never disappoints no matter what, though? First, any time the show likes to experiment with its animation style. Every now and then, the animation will do something totally different than it usually does (usually in action scenes), and it looks really awesome. I can't really explain it, but you'll recognize what I mean if you've watched the show. Second, any time Vegeta fights... his music is awesome. There's just something about any of Vegeta's music that I love. And once he starts fighting here, he gets some new music (along with the classic stuff) that's really fun to listen to.

One thing that's getting a bit on the annoying side, though, is scene changing from episode to episode. It's happened in the past from time to time, but now it's nearly every episode. What I mean is that an episode will end one way, but then the next episode begins with the ending of the previous episode... and it changes it almost completely. The dialogue is different, and even reactions to things are different. I complained about this once before at the end of Season 3 with Vegeta starting crap and then flying away at the end of one episode, but then being perfectly fine and with the others the next. One particularly jarring (and recent) case I can give an example for would be after Gohan and Goku enter the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. At the end of that episode, Gohan sees the expanse of nothingness and gets excited, and Goku plays along. But at the beginning of the next episode, everything is super serious and Goku tells Gohan to go check out the nothingness for the first time (which didn't happen before... Gohan called Goku over before). And this time when Gohan sees it, he freaks out. In other words, I wish it would just go one direction and stick with it, instead of continually doing things twice and with opposite actions.

But to counter that, you have incredibly awesome things like Ascended Trunks (well, at least he's awesome in looks). Though Trunks, while cool, comes with his annoyances. For instance, almost any time he talks, he has to reference what happened in the future. We get it. The Androids destroyed it. You're vengeful. You don't have to tell the story over and over and over again. But then there's the Hyperbolic Time Chamber training with Goku and Gohan, which is always fun.

On a more physical level (I suppose), the DVDs themselves do something... strange. About halfway into the season, the discs go from having about 6 episodes per disc to 3. And that's a total waste. The reason they did this is so they could give the Cell Games (probably the best thing in DBZ) it's own season... at least, that's what I'm assuming. We'll see when I watch Season 6, which starts with the Cell Games stuff.

Overall, despite its faults, I'd say this is the best season yet, probably only to be overtaken by next season, because the Cell Games (from what I remember) are awesome. Unfortunately, the Dragonball universe is like one super-long story, so you can't just pick up here and expect to understand everything. Basically every season requires that you have the knowledge of at least the season before it. And many things in DBZ recommend knowledge of the original series, Dragonball. Though at least with that, there are plenty of flashbacks and explanations so that if you don't have pre-existing knowledge of the original show, it fills in the blanks for you. So what I'm getting at is, although this is a really good season, you really can't start here and expect to understand the characters or what is going on (at least to the capacity that you should).

So I guess I'll leave it at that. Until the next season!


Short Review: Nothing.

Premise: Two friends whose lives are falling apart very quickly suddenly wish it would all go away. And then it does. Literally. 

Starring: David Hewlett and Andrew Miller. 

My Reaction: As a huge fan of Vincenzo Natali's Cube, I had to see this. Directed yet again by Natali and starring two of the actors from Cube, I figured I was in for something special. Well... I suppose you could call it special. This is probably the exact opposite of Cube in every way imaginable. Whereas Cube was claustrophobic and dark, Nothing is very spacious and light (because, well, it's a comedy). And I do mean spacious. The two guys end up in just a blank white space of nothingness with just their house and pet turtle. Getting straight to it, I felt the movie had so much potential that mostly went down the drain. It had some fun moments here and there, especially once they figure out what caused things to disappear (at about the halfway point of the film). But how do you end a movie like this? There's no plot. It's basically a character study of how these two guys would react to such a situation. I feel the way they did go about ending it was just too... weird. It turns from strange comedy into a cartoonish farce in the blink of an eye, much so that this could have easily become an entry in "WTF Did I Just Watch?" The movie isn't bad by any means... it just falls short of my expectations and isn't really outstanding based on the amazing premise.

Stop Saying Okay! Okay.


Manic Movie Madness Spectacular Bam Wow!

Because I waited too long after seeing most of these movies to write a review, I really can't remember many details about them (or I just don't have much to say about them in the first place). Therefore, I'm gonna get them all out of the way all together as... Manic Movie Madness Spectacular Bam Wow!

The Title: Paprika

The Skinny: After so much hype, I was expecting something mind-blowing. Instead, it's just relatively weird, confusing, sometimes pretty, but mostly strange.

The Score:
Feed Me, Seymour!

The Title: Kamikaze Girls

The Skinny: Think what would happen if you mixed Amelie with Ghost World (with a tone closer to the former). It's humorous, though not laugh-out-loud funny. There are some good visuals, though nothing mind-blowing. The movie is more character-driven than plot-driven. It lost my attention around the 2/3s mark, but got it back soon thereafter. Overall, a pretty good movie. 

The Score:
I Am McLovin!

The Title: RocknRolla

The Skinny: It's Guy Ritchie... what do you expect? It's fast-paced and sometimes difficult to follow. Though sometimes it felt like Burn After Reading with the pointlessness of it all. Or maybe I just wasn't grabbing the plot very well, which is likely (I had some difficulties following Ritchie's Snatch, as well). 

The Score:
I Am McLovin!

The Title: Heathers

The Skinny: Incredibly dated, but still a really good movie. The acting between Winona Ryder and Christian Slater (especially Slater) is fantastic, though Slater does drift into Jack Nicholson territory from time to time. Though the movie has one of the coolest (albeit a bit unrealistic) endings ever. My only major gripe is that the editing of the film felt choppy and rushed at times, and half the time I expected something to be a dream sequence, but it wasn't (which, to me, isn't a good thing). But still a really fun movie. 

The Score:
A Keanu 'Whoa'

The Title: Mind Hunters

The Skinny: I've been wanting to see this film for a few years now, though now I'm not sure why. The idea is a good one, but it just doesn't pull itself off in my opinion. There are a couple fun scenes, but the others are negated by the fact that the characters are supposed to be these smart profilers, yet act like some horror movie idiots. Not to mention the ending makes no sense whatsoever. They try to pull a double-twist that totally backfires because it's completely illogical in its execution. 

The Score:
Feed Me, Seymour!

The Title: The Onion Movie

The Skinny: Some funny moments, some 'okay then...' moments. The movie is basically long string of skits, about half of which involve running gags throughout. And then that half culminates together for a pretty fun ending. Otherwise, it's just a pretty decent comedy movie (if you can really call it a movie). 

The Score:
I Am McLovin!

The Title: Midnight Movie

The Skinny: Besides the fact that this movie had a useless appearance by the actress who played Daphne on Heroes, the movie was pretty much a waste of time. Most horror movies, even ones with 'unkillable killers' (Jason, Freddy), have rules to follow where the good guys can still win or get an upper hand. This one keeps making rules, changing them, and refusing to make up its mind on how the killer works. And in the end, they really do make an 'unkillable killer', which is pretty lame when it comes to horror movies. Oh, and of course, you don't really care about any of the characters... and it's likely that the one you want to die because of annoyances is the one who actually lives. 

The Score:
The Zed Word

The Title: Beowulf

The Skinny: In a movie with monsters, dragons, and a naked Angelina Jolie, you wouldn't expect to be so bored. The first half of the movie was drug out unnecessarily. And the random use of Old English was just weird. I like Crispin Glover, but I hated this movie's portrayal of Grendel. Totally unmenacing, and even marginally annoying. Grendel's mother was better, though, thankfully. And the dragon bit was really cool, though the way Beowulf takes it down doesn't make any sense (Spoiler: If he couldn't reach the heart with the extended reach of a sword, how the hell does he reach it with his bare hand?). Brendan Gleeson's Wiglaf was the best performance in the film, I thought. And his animation seemed to be the best. While on the subject, sometimes the animation was really good, and sometimes it just looked like crap. Oh, and "I. Am. BEOWULF." is equally as stupid in the context of the movie as it was in the trailers. 

The Score:
Feed Me, Seymour!

The Title: Knowing

The Skinny: Not Nic Cage's best film, but certainly not his worst. It had some good suspenseful moments and some decent CGI (some better than others, though). The 3 minute long shot is pretty cool, too. Though the son's need of a hearing aide was pointless, as he could still hear and speak just as well without it as he did with it. I'm not sure if I liked the ending, though. I went into the movie expecting a supernatural thriller, and only in the final act do you realize it's an apocalypse film... which totally changes the mood of the whole thing. It just kinda leaves you with a "well... that was pointless" feeling at the end. Still, the majority of it is entertaining enough. 

The Score:
I Am McLovin!

The Title: Fanboys

The Skinny: Mildly entertaining, though never really laugh-out-loud funny. Kristen Bell is hot, though, even as a brunette. Some fun Star Wars parallels. Decent acting all around. Though the film relies a bit too much on dramatic irony (where the audience knows something the characters don't), specifically that Episode 1 is bad. 

The Score:
I Am McLovin!



Half-Blood Prince is my favorite of the 7 books. I've been looking forward to this film for so long, and after everything I've heard recently, my expectations were super high. So I finally saw Half-Blood Prince at midnight last night. I went straight to bed after I got home (as I had to be at work in the morning), so I've had plenty of time to let things sink in. But you know what? My feelings are exactly the same as last night: This movie is brilliant and blows all the others out of the water.

The movie picks up pretty much where the last one left off, and Harry (Dan Radcliffe) is about to begin his 6th year at Hogwarts. But Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) shows up and takes him on a bit of a side-journey to have a talk with an old professor of Hogwarts, Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), to try and get him to come back. Later, Harry and friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) notice Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) up to something strange, beginning a bit of an obsession from Harry toward Draco. And then there's Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) who makes an Unbreakable Vow with Draco's mother, Narcissa (Helen McCrory) and Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) to help Draco out in his mission that Voldemort has set him. And this is all before they even get to Hogwarts. Once back at school, emotions run high as everybody is feeling romance in the air, including Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave), who has an enormous crush on Ron, and Hermione, who is starting to realize her feelings toward Ron, as well. And then there's Harry's growing crush on Ron's sister Ginny (Bonnie Wright). But not all is light within the school. As Draco continues his secret mission, Dumbledore puts Harry up to the task to get buddy-buddy with Slughorn for a very important reason.

I am a fan of the books and the films, so I'm going to try and make this as fair of a review as possible. I will try to review it both as a film and as an adaptation. Let's start with the actors.

Jim Broadbent's Slughorn, while looking nothing as described in the books, plays him perfectly. His acting, shifting between whimsical and serious, is spot on. Of course, we also have some of the more background players moving to the foreground, such as Draco, Ginny, and Snape (not a background player in the books, per se, but definitely has been given a smaller role in the films as of late). Tom Felton, though with few words, shows us Draco's internal struggle to do the task he has been given, and it's brilliantly played when push comes to shove and the moment finally comes. Ginny, as well, while having almost no lines in the previous films, really shows us that she can play Ginny just fine when asked.

But then we have Snape. Oh, Alan Rickman, how great you are. You've been the perfect casting choice of the entire series, and you still claim that throne. Although Snape appears to come to the foreground even in the book, he's honestly not in it as much as you probably think he is. In fact, I had a discussion just today that the person felt Snape wasn't in it as much as the book, but as huge of a role he plays in the book, he's actually not in it as much as it seems. It's kind of a "Jaws" effect. He's always around, and most things seem to center around him, but he's not always there. Is that to say he's not in the movie a lot? Absolutely not. He has a large role in the film, as well, and plays it to perfection as usual.

Then there's the Trio: Harry, Ron, and Hermione. This movie is downright hilarious, and most of it is thanks to these three (and Lavender, who was obsessively brilliant). But for the first time in a long time, I felt Emma Watson really captured Hermione again. When her hand shot up excitedly in the air to answer a question, I grinned wide. And there's even a fun bit where her hair gets all frizzy and bushy, which had to be a nudge to the fans. I also loved "drunk" Hermione (too much Butterbeer!). Then you have Rupert Grint who also, finally, found a great balance between comedy and loyalty. And then you have Dan Radcliffe, who had some exceptional moments, particularly the Cave scene and the Felix Felicis scene (which is just hilarious).

But the top bill... and I can't believe I'm actually saying this... has to go to Michael Gambon, who--for the first time--acted Dumbledore perfectly. Like Slughorn, there was a perfect mix of whimsy and serious. But the kicker? I think for the first time, I actually saw Michael Gambon smile. And boy, does that make all the difference.

Of course, there are other, smaller characters that did well, too, like Luna (who is great as always). And funnily enough, after my Flitwick complaint recently, he was actually given some dialogue in this film (although one of those dialogue moments was to mention choir practice... oh well). And McGonagall actually gets some decent screen time for once, as well.

Overall, on all the actors' parts, the movie was a great film of expressions. I mean, a lot of the parts (seriousness, heartbreak, fear, comedy) were expressed purely through facial expression, and expressed well, which really says something.

As an adaptation, besides the characters being acted perfectly, the movie does very well. Total purists might not like it for things cut out, but I felt what was cut out wasn't purely necessary to begin with (as long as they're able to include the missing information somehow in the final film, as some was important). For instance, there were three important aspects from the book that were declared cut that had some fans up in arms. These scenes were half the memories, the 'Battle', and the funeral. Let's take these one at a time.

In the book, there are about 6 or so memories into Voldemort's past. In the film, there are 3 (one being a completed version of another). These memories are important in figuring out what Harry has to go after in the final story to help defeat Voldemort. With the memories cut from the film, Harry doesn't exactly know specifics on what to go after... but it works fine. Harry knows what he's supposed to be doing, and in the final book, there really wasn't too much of a need for Harry to know specifics. And if we're lucky, the Trio will just figure it out themselves, making them look much smarter and more important in this mission (because, as we know from the book, that didn't happen too often).

And then we have the cut 'Battle', removed because David Yates felt it might become repetitious due to the battle in the final film. And I agree. There didn't need to be a battle in this one, and the way they did it was just fine. There's still destruction (and one Auror does actually get blasted), but the stealth mode worked, and it will make the final battle that much more epic. As for the funeral, again, unnecessary. In the book, Harry pretty much pays little attention to it anyway, and it's over before you know it. And there's still a nicely done gesture anyway. The movie ends pretty much exactly the same as the book... the Trio talking about what to do next. Actually, I think this is the first time in the movies that the movie has actually ended exactly how the book did. And if the movie seems to just stop, that's because the book did the exact same thing. The movie, like the book, is basically just a setup to the final installment(s).

And speaking of setup, I loved the little nudges the film gave for those who had read the final book (especially the Harry snake-head thing when he touches the ring). And I'm also glad they didn't muck things up (Luna didn't actually see Harry with her SpectreSpecs... and expelliarmus is cast at the end of the movie (which I started getting worried about when it didn't happen immediately)). And there were also some fun in-jokes for those who are knowledgeable of the earlier books/films (Like when Slughorn asks if Aragog had a family, and the tone in Harry's voice when he goes "Oh yeah" is just great).

If I had any complaint about this film, it would be the downplay of the Half-Blood Prince subplot. The potions book really is downplayed in the film, but it was never really that important in the grand scheme of things even in the book, so it's not like it really mattered. It did what it was meant to do (and by God, the Sectumsempra scene was even better than I could have hoped). Draco's mission also became much more obvious in the film than in the book (though I'm not really sure I could say that since I had the book spoiled for me before I read it). But it was still incredibly obvious what he was trying to do. Though in the realm of cinema versus books, I'm not sure that's a bad thing, really.

Some might complain about all the romance, but the book was the same way... and I thought it worked particularly well (in fact, some of it I thought was better than the book, mostly because the book couldn't do the brilliant facial expressions like the film could, not to mention some brilliant lines not in the book). The romance is rarely at the forefront of any scene, but it's a part of a many of them. I even liked how they got around one of my only annoyances of the book, Tonks' moping about mysteriously, later for us to discover is about Lupin. The film? Just puts them right together and gets it over with. Smart move, I say. But if you complain about the love and relationships in Harry Potter, you're missing the point of the series completely. As is said at the end of the Half-Blood Prince book (paraphrasing), one should be proud to see a little more love in the world... because remember, in Harry Potter, love is the most powerful magic. And what better episode to center around love than the one where Dumbledore comes to the forefront? Plus... they're teenagers.

I know this is an incredibly long review, but how could I not talk about the music and cinematography? Nicholas Hooper's score is just beautiful. I gave it a listen before the film came out, and it's just as great in the film as it is out. And the cinematography by Bruno Belbonnel (Amelie and Across the Universe) made an outstandingly gorgeous film. Every shot was so beautiful, it really set this film apart from all the others in visuals, including Prisoner of Azkaban. I really can't stress enough how gorgeous the film is.

Overall, the film was near perfect for a Harry Potter film (Deathly Hallows might trump it simply because it has 2 films to tell its story). It was gorgeous. The music was beautiful. The acting was completely, by everyone, spot on. The movie was hilarious (much funnier than anticipated). There was a perfect balance of dark and light (and when it was dark, it was pretty dark, so I'm really surprised this movie got a PG rated... I'm still not sure how). As an adaptation, there were things cut out and some things added in, and a few things changed, but everything seemed to work. What most adaptations try to do is either be like the first two films and try to put every detail in or be like Goblet of Fire and try to be true, but make it really choppy due to things cut out. For the first time, I've really felt that a Harry Potter movie took the essence of the book and made it into its own creature--staying true to the story and the book, but doing other things of its own volition that separated the book and film and letting it work on a cinematic level. I could go on endlessly about this film, but I'll spare you. Let's just say I can't wait to see it again and again.

Royale With Cheese

(P.S. Did anybody else's heart skip a beat and/or breath get caught in their throat at that final "...Please." right before the occurrence?)