(Note: I'm not going to say what the movie's about in this review. Chances are, if you're reading this review, you already know.)

Okay, so I'm a bit late to the game here. Color me skeptic. I first started hearing about this movie a few weeks back when my students were begging me to watch the trailer (read: let them watch the trailer) on the YouTubez. Honestly, I thought it looked lame; I didn't find the trailer even remotely scary. And then I started hearing the reviews about how it's the scariest movie ever made, et cetera. The last time that comment was made, it was for Hostel... and we all know how craptastic that movie is. So, yes, I wasn't really psyched about it.

But the reviews kept coming. Of course there were the naysayers who went with my thoughts that the advertisement was just full of lies and propaganda to get people to see a lame movie. However, even these reviews were vastly overshadowed by the glowing reviews of scariness. So I caved. It came to my town this weekend, and I figured what the heck? At least I could leave the theater and be able to say that I'd seen the movie. In other words, I went into the movie with almost the lowest possible expectations (though there was that want to be proven wrong).

So... what'd I think? Was it the scariest movie in the world? No. But was it scary? Yes. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the movie. Sure, there were some really stupid/lame moments (the 'staring at him sleeping' bit, for instance). But for the most part, the 'night' scenes were actually really creepy. Of course, they start off as nothing and as the movie progresses, it gets crazier and crazier. And by the time it gets to, say, Night 15 or whatever, you're going "Oh God, what next?" (in a good way, not a sarcastic way). However, am I gonna be scared to go to sleep tonight? Does the movie leave me with what I like to call the "after-scare"? I don't think so.

On a horror movie level, it's very old school. It works with shadows, footsteps, and lights, and slamming doors. It really isn't until the end when things start getting physical. And it's all done to really good effect. The handy-cam really added to it all. It was a good use of it. However, it also goes through every horror movie cliche in the book. Cocky boyfriend? Check. Scared lead female? Check. Look in the attic where the demon leads you? Check. Don't get in touch with the authorities that you should be getting in touch with? Check. Do exactly what the authority you did talk to tells you specifically not to do? Check. The list goes on.

The movie also had a surprising amount of humor, though, too. Pretty much all of it came from the boyfriend. My theater was laughing every time he went to go pick up the camera to document whatever terrible thing was going on. Or just a lot of things he said, too. I was almost surprised during the "attic" scene. I thought they were gonna break the cliche when he says a really funny line, but of course they don't. Still, the line was funny (albeit ultimately pointless).

Overall, it was a surprisingly good movie. Maybe it's because my expectations were so low. I don't know how I would have liked it had I bought into all the hype beforehand. I'm not too easy to scare (to be honest, this movie was more creepy than scary. I'd say there were only a handful of truly scary moments. Most of the time, I was just really creeped out). But a lot of people these days are scared easily. Half of my theater was screaming its lungs out at any little thing (like a shadow on the door, or the ceiling tile being slanted to lead into the attic). So who knows?

I Am McLovin!


It's here... LAMBcast #3!

(And no, that isn't me. It's Dylan AKA Fletch of Blog Cabins.)

What's in store for this episode?

We talk about some zombies! My specialty. We also get into a few other types of monsters (vampires and werewolves, specifically). There's also another round or two of Last Man Standing, as well as a bit of Trailer Talk. We also discover that Fletch still can't say "Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob" without slipping up. Mike shames himself (again) for never having seen either 28 Days/Weeks Later, but bites back with a few counters of his own yet again. And, of course, I'm the ultimate champion of zombie debate with my totally awesome skills in intellectual conversation (see: quote in above picture).

Also joining the fray (besides myself and Fletch)?

* Tom Clift of 
Plus Trailers,
* Mike Mendez of 
Big Mike's Movie Blog,
* Jason Soto of 
Invasion of the B Movies.

Additional sites mentioned during the podcast:

Matte Havoc

You can listen by playing it in the widget in the sidebar. Also, you can find us on iTunes; just go to the Podcasts section and search for "LAMBcast."

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, we'd love to hear them.



Warning: While there are no major spoilers for this installation, there are some mild spoilers for the previous 5 films in this review.


Anybody who keeps up with this blog knows I'm a fan of the Saw films. I'm one of the few dedicated fans who has yet to give up on the series (and also one of the fans still waiting for the return of Dr. Gordon). I've seen every Saw film on opening night, so I couldn't break the tradition now. I'm honestly not going to bother with a plot description or actor/actress notification, because 1) you should know the general formula of a Saw film by now, 2) if you've been keeping up with the previous films, you'll know where the story currently stands, and 3) the only recognizable actor (outside of the returners) is Family Matters' Darius McCrary, who really only has about less than 5 minutes of screen time anyway.

The last movie got slammed for being too slow. There weren't enough traps. It was too much backstory and too few thrills. So I guess that makes this one the yin to Saw V's yang. If anything, this movie didn't have enough downtime. For the most part, it was trap after trap after trap and very little breathing time. Is that a bad thing? Yes and no. One of the things I love about these movies is the continuing character development and brilliant continuity. Are there flashbacks that continue to show Jigsaw's past and how all the movies are connected? Of course. And actually, you get a better sense of why things happened the way they did through this film. I know you were curious what was in that letter to Amanda in Saw 3... or the box in Saw 5. Well, you find out both in this movie. And so much more. As an end to a second trilogy, this movie could have ended the series. It's not going to, but it could have. It did tie up a lot of loose ends, which was nice to finally have done. Though I'm sorry Gordon fans, he's not back yet. However, they are keeping him in the story by bringing him back up, which continues to make me think they're just keeping his memory fresh for the next film.

Anyway, on to the next subject: the traps. I have to be honest, these were some really inventive traps. The opening one is brutal. Two people separated by a cage with a scale in between them must offer up a certain amount of flesh or else the devices on their heads will drill into their skulls. There's also (my names for the traps) the "Hold Your Breath" trap, the "Hangman" trap, the "Steam Maze" trap, and the "Carousel" trap. And the big mystery trap, the "Acid Cage" trap. I don't think I missed any (besides a special one at the end), but still... they're pretty inventive and suspenseful.

Along with the traps, we gotta talk about gore. Yes, there is blood and guts. The heaviest bits are at the beginning and end, but there is some blood in the middle... just not as full-out as the other two parts. But gore-hounds will love it for sure.

And what's a Saw movie without the twist(s)? The first movie almost literally floored me with its ending. The second one started the multi-twist trend, where one or two twists are obvious, but they're mostly distractions for the "real" twist. The third one was the same as the second (one I figured out, one I didn't). The fourth just confused the heck out of me. And the fifth had a lame ending... because there was no twist. But this sixth one totally comes back in action. I'm not gonna spoil it, but let's just say one is so obvious you can't believe it's a twist, but I think it was really just a distraction for the other one... because that one actually caught me off guard. And I love it when that happens.

The overall movie is pretty good. The acting is average at best, mediocre at worst (with the exception of Tobin Bell, who continues to be outstandingly brilliant). The movie could have used with a bit of slowing down bits, too, to let us breath for a couple minutes. The whole thing had a very chaotic feel to it. One minute, we're seeing this, the next we're seeing something else, and it all zips and zooms around each other that, especially if you're not overly familiar with the previous films, you'll be utterly lost (at least in my opinion). But to me, none of that mattered come the ending. The ending completely made sense of everything, made me realize "oh, so that's what that was about." It's not just chaos for the sake of chaos. There's reason to the madness, which I guess is the theme of the movie. You learn a lot about why Jigsaw is doing what he's doing and why he chose certain people for certain things. Oh, and not to mention there's a really cool ending to it that breaks away from the norm just slightly (and also sets it up for the next movie). I'd say of the second trilogy, it's easily the best of the films (I actually might go as far as to say it's in the top 3 of all 6 films thus far). So my verdict? If the fifth one turned you away from the series, I'd say give the sixth a chance and see if it can pull you back in... at least a little.

A Keanu 'Whoa'


TV Review: True Blood - Season One.

So I finally gave in and started watching True Blood. I don't have HBO (at least at the moment), so I had to Netflix Season One. Of course, I heard the Twilight comparisons, but I figured they were just there because both are popular vampire stories right now. If only I had known.

The show follows the life of Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a waitress in a southern Louisiana bar/restaurant with the ability to read minds. In this alternate reality world, vampires have come 'out of the coffin' and shown themselves to the world after a synthetic blood mix known as Tru Blood hit the market. Sookie soon meets her first ever vampire, a southern gentleman named Bill (Stephen Moyer) who she immediately falls in love with, especially after discovering she can't read his mind. Of course, he, too, becomes enamored with her due to her unusualness from the rest of the human population, including her scent. (Sounding familiar yet?)

But then there are the other characters, including Sookie's vampire-hating and sex-craved brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten). Of course, he's wanting to bang every girl out there except for Sookie's best friend, Tara (Rutina Wesley), who has a thing for him. There's Sookie's boss, Sam (Sam Trammell), who is in love with Sookie, as well.

I haven't read the books this is based on, but I imagine that the show is similar to at least the first book, which was released back in 2001. I'm surprised that there hasn't been some kind of lawsuit (or maybe I just haven't heard about it) between Charlene Harris and Stephanie Meyer for the latter totally ripping off the former. Granted, with Meyer, the mind-reading switched to the vampire and the inability to be read switched to the girl, but the (plot) point remains. Of course, there's also the specific love triangle similarity, which is really suspicious on Meyer's part of being specific that they are more shape-shifters than werewolves... but I digress.

But besides the obvious similarities, everything is completely different. True Blood has more violence and more sex (lots and lots of sex). But this might not be a good thing. I mean, I'm all for sex in a vampire story, but there's a line between just right and too much, and the show constantly teeters that line (if not completely crossing it). However, still in comparison, the characters are infinitely better, the writing is infinitely better (at least show-wise), and even the setting is more interesting.

Sookie is actually scared of vampires and makes logical choices unlike Bella. Bill, on the other hand, shares a few too many similarities with Edward. Both are quiet gentlemen with an almost bipolar disorder when it comes to people being...untoward with their female counterpart.

Something else I like about the show is that, similar to shows like Dexter, the secondary characters are interesting, as well. Even characters that are only on screen for less than 5 minutes an episode are remotely interesting and fun. And I was so surprised and (yes) upset I (in the good way, I suppose) when the big reveal at the end of the season is shown.

It isn't just some vampire love story, either. There's an interesting murder mystery at the heart of the plot. Somebody is killing "fang-bangers," people (in this case girls) who like to get off with vampires. And Sookie is at the top of this list. Of course, her brother Jason is at the top of the suspects list, as not only does every girl he hooks up with end up in a bad state, but he clearly has a distaste for vampires.

That is, until a bit of character development comes about in the latter half of the season. I got a bit rocky with Jason throughout the season. For the most part, he was just kinda annoying. But then he started to redeem himself toward the end, although still making idiot decisions. But when he starts to bond with a certain character, it's great. But then he starts making stupid decisions again, and his final character twist of the season seems completely out of character based on the development he had just finished making.

Overall, though, it was a captivating show. I can see why people are into it, and if I had HBO, I'd definitely DVR it. Once I can get my hands on season 2, I'll do so. It's so much better than that other vampire story that's popular right now. I loved the setting, the characters, the music... it was just a heck of a lot of fun... even if every other scene dealt with sex.



I was always interested in seeing this movie, but when I found out it was written by Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium), my attention was caught even more. And on top of the good reviews its been getting, I knew I had to see this sooner than later. Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is a good, law abiding citizen. Then his wife and young daughter are brutally murdered. Now a broken man, Clyde puts everything into the case to put the two men who broke into his house in the lethal injection chair. But instead of taking any risks, Clyde's lawyer, Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), makes a deal with the one who actually did the killings that would get him out in about 4 years, but put the more innocent of the two on death row. And after 10 years, when it's time for the one to die, something goes wrong, which starts a string of events that lands Clyde in jail. But that's not the end of the murders. Somehow, Clyde is still killing people from inside the high security prison, and it's up to Nick to see through the mind games and figure out how to stop him before it's too late.

This movie is intense. In the first 3 or so minutes, we're already witness to a brutal slaying. And it only gets crazier from there. But it's not all dark and gritty. There's a surprising amount of humor to be found, albeit dark humor. But it was interesting to find yourself cringing and laughing in the same scenes at times.

Another interesting note about the movie is that there really isn't a good guy or bad guy. Both Butler and Foxx play both roles. At times, you feel Butler's pain and wonder if he'll get away with it. At other times, you're like "this dude's insane." On the other hand, you can see Foxx's corruptness, while also seeing his softer family/friend side. It's one of those rare instances where you're not sure which guy you want to win or lose, or if you really want both to win in some form or fashion.

There's really not much to say about the movie. Outside of the premise, which the movie pulls off well, it's your basic (though pretty imaginative) thriller, so you know what you're in for going in. It kept me on the edge of my seat and guessing, which is more than I can say for a lot of other thrillers these days. I do admit to, at one point, having thought I figured it out, only for minutes later to be disproved.

The acting is good, the writing is good... it's all good. The cinematography isn't anything to cry out in the streets about, though there is a particularly beautiful (short) sequence in the climax involving fire that I thought was brilliantly shot. But yeah, if you're into thrillers, and don't mind a bit of brutality here and there, I really recommend it.

A Keanu 'Whoa' 


Why Haven't They Made This Yet? #3

[Do you know what I find even more annoying than the constant wave of remakes, reboots, sequels/prequels, and comic book and video game adaptations? People complaining about remakes, reboots, sequels/prequels, and comic book and video game adaptations. Seriously, all I ever hear these days is 'waah, why aren't there any fresh ideas? Everything is (see above) nowadays!' And frankly, I'm getting really tired of it. So instead of joining the ranks, I'm going to embrace all said types of film, and I will be celebrating it in a segment I like to call... "Why haven't they made this yet?"] 

Man, I haven't done this in a while, but I was inspired today while watching the original (especially so close to viewing Where The Wild Things Are) that I had to do it. 

Title: Labyrinth.

Type: Remake. 

About: Almost everybody remembers this trippy classic. It was the film that pretty much launched the career of Jennifer Connelly. As a fantasy (on a magical realism level) full of puppets and a pseudo-musical (with everything written and sung by David Bowie, the film's antagonist), Labyrinth works on many levels. A lot of its visual effects don't hold up today, and with what modern cinema has at its fingertips, this movie could be redone as a modern classic... if done right.

Film Possibilities

Genre: Similar to the original, it would be a trippy, puppet-driven fantasy/pseudo-musical for children and/or young adults.

Why This Movie Could Work: Where The Wild Things Are. If anything was outstanding in that recent film, it was the puppetry and men-in-suits work. Movies have come a long way in the realm of realism and puppets, and if the same people were involved as were with "Wild Things," this film could be outstanding visually. 

Story: Similar to the original, a spoiled girl named Sarah is tired of having to give up her time to babysit her baby brother so her parents can go out. So in a fit of anger, she offers up her brother to the Goblin King, but immediately regrets it. She travels to the Labyrinth and discovers she has 13 hours to get to the middle, through the Goblin City, and to the castle to save her brother before he's turned into a goblin forever. Along the way, she makes friends who help her find her way through the dangerous maze.

In the remake, though, I'm sure there would be the want to detract the magical realism and make Sarah freak out about the whole thing instead of act like everything she sees and experiences is as common as rain. I'd hope that would stay in to keep with the fantastical feel of the story. At the same time, though, maybe the remake could add a bit to the characters of Sarah and possibly the Goblin King to make them more rounded and relatable characters. 

Director: My first instinct, of course, is Spike Jonze (as long as he stays away from Dave Eggers in the script department). For the most part, he did good things with "Wild Things." I could also suggest Tim Burton, who would take this already whacked-out story and, dare I say, make it even crazier and more surreal. Plus he's had the experience with musicals (Sweeny Todd). But he'd probably cast Johnny Depp as the Goblin King, and I have other ideas for him. But I'm gonna go out there and say that I'd like to see another artistic take on it by hiring Guillermo del Toro. He's done his own puppetry work (Hellboy I and II, Pan's Laybrinth). And especially with the aforementioned "Labyrinth" film, I know he could make one heck of a magical realism/fantastical film. 

Cast: I'm gonna stick away from the voice actors for now, though I dare say del Toro should hire Doug Jones for a lot of the men-in-suits bits. Boy that would be a nice paycheck, wouldn't it? My main concerns are the protagonist and antagonist: Sarah and the Goblin King.

First, who would take over for the classic Jennifer Connelly role? There aren't a ton of young actresses who I could see taking the role. Dakota Fanning is too young. I could suggest the hot up-and-comer Emma Stone for the role. I'd say it's what she'd really need to break out, but I think Zombieland just did that. Plus, I'm not sure if she could grab the emotion of the role too well.

That's why I'm going controversial. I'm gonna say the role should go to Kristen Stewart. I know, her Twilight role makes her look like she has the depth of a teaspoon, but I know this girl can act (see: Speak or Adventureland). She can also be the dark, broody girl required of the part. Plus... she actually kinda looks like Jennifer Connelly did at that age.

Then we have our villain, the Goblin King. Famously portrayed by David Bowie, the character needs to be able to sing. The actor should also have an androgynous feel to him, as well as not look ridiculous in eyeliner. I really only had two suggestions. If we were going the "older" route, I'd say Anthony Head. We know the guy can sing (see: Buffy's "Once More With Feeling" or Repo! The Genetic Opera). And he's no stranger to the fantasy realm. But I sincerely doubt they'd go that risky and pick a guy that 1) isn't overly attractive, 2) isn't well known by the mass population, and 3) isn't a draw for the young crowd.

That's why I think the perfect person for this role would be recent American Idol almost-winner Adam Lambert. He can do the falsetto. He can dress up in tights and eyeliner and still look good (he did it every week on Idol). He already has the hair for the role. And he falls into the young, attractive, and popular crowd. He'd certainly draw in the big bucks. Not to mention (in my opinion) he has a great voice.

And that's pretty much all there is to this edition. Thoughts?



If I could summarize my feelings on this movie in 4 words, it would be: I blame Dave Eggers. To get it out of the way, I haven't read this beloved children's book, so I'm not familiar with the source material. That being said, let's get into the movie. Max (Max Records) has a crappy life with a mother (Catherine Keener) who loves him and a teenage sister who acts like a teenage sister with friends who apologize when they accidentally upset him. This, of course, is all reason for Max to go ape-s*** and be as rude as possible, including demanding fresh food, biting, and immediately running away when told he's acting out of control. Finding a strange boat, Max travels to a far-away island where he finds giant creatures, including the angry Carol (James Gandolfini); his partner, Douglas (Chris Cooper); the paranoid downer, Judith (Catherine O'Hara); her partner, Ira (Forest Whitaker); the bullied one, Alex (Paul Dano); the shy bull (Michael Berry Jr.); and the outcast, KW (Lauren Ambrose). Max pretends to be their king so they won't eat him, and, in the process, destroys their relationships further. Sounds like a grand time to me!

Before I can explain why I blame Dave Eggers, I must divulge the positive. The movie has wonderful visuals. Between the creatures (a mix of animatronics and CGI), the cinematography, the locations, and just anything to look at in general, it was gorgeous and gorgeously shot. Especially once Max gets to the island, it really does seem like a world unto itself.

There is also the great acting (and voice acting). Max Records does a brilliant job holding the whole movie on his shoulders. He's essentially the only human actor in the majority of the film. And for a child actor (hell, even in the realm of adult actors), he does one hell of a job. I also felt that the voice actors fit very well with their roles (the only awkward one was Lauren Ambrose as KW. I don't know why, but the voice seemed too young or light or something to me).

There's even the good soundtrack to match with the film. Now, outside the film, would I love the quirky soundtrack (like I did for, say, Juno)? I'm not sure. But it sure felt good and natural in the context of the film.

All that being said, with my liking of just about everything of the movie... why does the film leave me so... blah? I figured it out as soon as the credits started rolling and I saw the film was co-written by one Dave Eggers. And then it all clicked. I pondered the tone early on in the film, but I was sure of the issue as soon as I saw the name. You see, a while back, I attempted to read Eggers' memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. With a promising title like that, plus ecstatic reviews talking about the humor, plus a really promising introduction in the book, I expected a lot from it. Then I started reading chapter one. It was one of the most depressing things ever. Sure, he tried to mix in some humor here and there, and sometimes it worked, but for the most part, it was just uncomfortable and awkward. There were some major tonal problems that made it hard to keep reading (which I didn't).

I feel the same issues followed him here. Again, I'm not sure how the original source was, but this didn't feel like any beloved children's book to me. It was too dark and adult to be for kids, but too--how can I put this--crazy and adolescent for adults. It's hard to describe. In particular the crumbling relationships between the "wild things" made it very adult with some deep undertones. Not to mention the beginning of the third act is essentially a horror movie.

It doesn't help that I was never sure who to root for or who to hate. There is no good guy or bad guy, essentially. But it was really hard to buy Max's dilemmas and empathize with him, because he mainly came off like a selfish brat. And Carol wasn't much better (granted, I'm aware they're mirrored characters... actually, I'm aware all the Wild Things are mirrors to Max's emotions, but still). When you don't really have any full-out likable characters, it's hard to enjoy a movie. And that's even worse for a supposedly children's movie.

There's also a strange transition between worlds. The beginning (which takes almost too long to get going) tries to set everything up as reality. Then it's just like BAM, we're in the boat heading for the island. Is it a dream? Is it real? Who knows? Then, when the ending comes (which isn't nearly happy enough for a children's movie), it isn't much better.

Overall, the visuals (in every aspect, including creature effects)? Oscar-worthy. The acting? Brilliant. The music? Good. So I blame the writing, mostly. The tone is too out of whack. I didn't really care about much, and I found myself constantly looking at my watch. I've read reviews saying that the magic of the book has been removed, and I could see how that's possible. I've also seen reviews saying themes from the book have been ignored, which I can also see possible. For such a beloved children's book, I know something had to be lost in translation. Because on all the technical levels, the film works outstandingly. But on a story/writing level, it really needed some polish. At least that's my opinion.

I Am McLovin! 

(P.S. Confused by my scoring? Don't be. While the review was a bit negative, I did enjoy things about it. It's just that the two sides balance out and bring it down to this level).



I finally got around to seeing this movie... but because pretty much everything you really cared to know has been said about it already (and partly because I'm about as lazy as the people in the movie), I'm not gonna do a full review. Instead, I'll just pretend that I'm a surrogate for one of the "Haiku Review" blogs out there. If you want a review in one line, it would be: "I should have gone with my gut and seen Zombieland again." Otherwise, here's a review in 5-7-5:

Acting was awkward
It was too predictable
Good idea, bad script

Stop Saying Okay! Okay.

(P.S. And anyone else totally confused by the entirety of the third act?)


LAMBcast: The LAMB Podcast... With Me!

Yeah, that's right. I'm on a podcast. I was supposed to be on the first episode, but they held the recording on a Sunday night/Monday morning, so I couldn't make it. However, I'm on the second episode, and I hope to be a regular from this point on. Others that are on:

* Dylan AKA Fletch of Blog Cabins,
* Tom Clift of Plus Trailers,
* Mike Mendez of 
Big Mike's Movie Blog, and
* Paul Rodgers of 
Careful with that Blog, Eugene

We talk about a plethora of topics, from the Top 10 Best Film picks to how horrible of movie fans everybody is (except Mike, though he hasn't seen a single Nightmare on Elm Street, so pshaw). We play a game... it's a fun time.

Other sites named on the show:

You can listen to it in the sidebar, or you can go to iTunes and search for LAMBcast. The second episode is around 50 minutes long, longer than the first (which was only around 35). But it's well worth it. So go check it out! Leave comments. Let us know what you think.


TV Review: Dragonball Z - Season Nine.

So the final season is finally coming in, and it starts off hardcore. It picks up where the last season left off: Hercule Satan has made friends with Buu and their new puppy, B. But a couple murderous a-holes shoot B and nearly kill him, though Buu brings him back from the brink of death. Then Mr. Satan gets fatally wounded (and, surprisingly, I was upset by this. I guess as annoying as he can be at times, you still care for the guy). This drives Buu over the edge, fighting his internal rage and sadness. After reviving Mr. Satan, Buu splits into two: Good Buu and Evil Buu. And, eventually, Evil Buu defeats Good Buu and becomes one ultimate Evil Buu.

And Evil Buu is one scary mofo. Seriously, out of all the villains of the show, none have ever creeped me out as much as Evil Buu (the ultimate pink one, not the weird brown one that is around for about half an episode). From how he stands or twists his neck, to how he talks or screams, it's just terrifyingly creepy. He eventually finds his way to the Watchtower and kills everybody on the planet (save Mr. Satan, Chaotzu, Tien, and all the guys on the tower), demanding to fight the super warrior Goku had promised him a while back (this being Gotenks). But Goten and Trunks aren't ready, and need to do a bit more training in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, so Piccolo does some distracting, which is difficult with a highly impatient Evil Buu.

Of course, once the fight starts, Gotenks tries to show off as usual, wastes valuable time, and basically destroys all hope for Earth. But then he shows a new trick up his sleeve, which I won't spoil. But I do want to bring up one note that bugs me: The Hyperbolic Time Chamber. It's stated earlier in the series that only 2 people can be in the Chamber at a time. Yet, these rules are clearly broken when not only Goten and Trunks are in there, but Evil Buu and Piccolo join them later on. And even after Goten and Trunks fuse into Gotenks, that still leaves 3 people.

Things are also a bit predictable by this point. If I didn't already know a few things about how it ended, I still would have been able to figure it out. Every season does specific things: main characters die, at least one character reaches a stronger level of power, the bad guy goes through 3 stages and gets stronger each time (I count Radditz, Nappa, and Vegeta as the 3 stages of the first season), and one of the bad guys becomes a good guy (going back to the original Dragonball series and going through now, Piccolo, Tien/Chaotzu, Vegeta, and Android 18 were all bad guys turned good... and even Yamcha started out as a jerk thief, and Krillin was Goku's rival).

By this time, it's Gohan's turn to return and save the day. But he's too powerful to return this early in the season, so you know what that means! Yes, that's right, another transformation. Evil Buu absorbs Piccolo and Gotenks and becomes Super Buu, so that after being whooped by Gohan for a while, it's Gohan's turn to get beaten down. So we need another hero. Just in time for a couple plot twists and the return of two former heroes (well, three, but I don't really count one because he's one of the weaker fighters and lasts all of 10 seconds). Not to mention there's a new, easier (though more permanent) way for fusion introduced. And right when you think it won't be needed, as the Gotenks fusion wears off within Super Buu, the new and improved Gohan gets absorbed and a new and improved Super Buu returns.

It's kind of interesting that after all the talk of "the old heroes must stand back and make way for Earth's new heroes," the only hope is two old heroes using non-Earthling capabilities (in more ways than one). Yes, Goku and Vegeta come back to Earth (Goku given new life, and Vegeta just given a momentary reprieve). And they must fuse together if they have any chance of defeating Buu. Granted, it goes back to the previous theme later, but still...

And then, once Vegeto is born, Super Buu gets his butt handed to him. But right now, I want to discuss something else besides yet another fusion character. Instead, I want to bring up what has to be a few of the strangest episodes of DBZ ever (and that's probably saying a lot). So at one point, Super Buu comes up with a plan to destroy Vegeto once and for all by turning him into candy--a coffee-flavored jawbreaker, to be exact. But it doesn't end there. Once Vegeto is candy... he still maintains his powers and ability to speak. So for the next bit of the episode, we have Buu versus a piece of talking candy. And then, in the next episode, Buu absorbs Vegeto, which leads us into DBZ: The Educational Episode. Vegeta and Goku, for whatever reason, unfuse. And then they travel throughout Buu's body, mainly his digestive system. And during this time, we get such wonderful lines from Vegeta like "Great galaxies! If I know my anatomy, that hole leads to the southern exit!" and "Son of a Namek!" Seriously. Not to mention that, minutes later, the two are attacked by what a first looks like a giant turd, but is actually a carnivorous worm that (for some reason) lives in Buu's body.

I'm really not making any of this up.

The following episode doesn't get any less weird. The giant worm turns out to be a child worm with a brother, and the father worm comes in and yells at the two boys for being idiots and apologizes to Goku and Vegeta before pointing the way to where the others are located. Then, eventually, Buu goes inside himself to fight the two guys.

This eventually brings us to the big turning point of the season. After finding good/fat Buu hooked up in Buu's head with the others, and after Vegeta dislocates him from the pod thing he's in, Buu starts transforming. Around this time, we get a bunch of specific backstory and flashbacks of how Buu originated. Apparently, his fat form wasn't his original, but a transformed version from a fusion with a former Supreme Kai that was quite innocent and benevolent (which is why the fat Buu was so childlike and potentially good). But here's my question: if fat Buu separated from himself earlier in the season to become Good Buu and Evil Buu, why didn't this "original form" appear instead? I mean, the "Good Buu" was no longer a part of Buu's form, like what happened here, so why change into "Kid Buu," the original form, now? It almost feels like they're making it up as they go along.

Anyway, Kid Buu is like the ultimate chaos and evil, even more crazy evil than Evil Buu. In fact, within minutes of returning to this form, he actually destroys the Earth. I mean, of course, it's the final season and all bad guys have been wanting to do that. So why not actually let one of them? However, instead of saving the newly released Gohan, Goten, Trunks, and Piccolo from an exploding planet, Goku grabbed Dende and Hercule Satan (and by extension, B), and saves them instead. They go to the Planet of the Kais, where the eventual final battle for the universe will be held.

You know by Mr. Satan being the last human left and constantly being saved and brought back in and all that stuff that he's going to do something important. At the very least, it was worth doing it simply for this bit of dialogue when the others evacuate the Kai planet, accidentally leaving Hercule and B behind in the middle of the danger and fighting between Goku, Vegeta, and Kid Buu (paraphrasing here): "Oh no, we left that man and his dog behind!" "Poor dog."

But seriously, Mr. Satan does garner major importance in a couple different ways. At one point, Goku is trying to gather energy, Vegeta (after another one of his "redeeming moments" that he likes to have ever so often) attempts to stall Kid Buu for a minute to give him that time. Of course, Vegeta is too weak, and he knows it, and Kid Buu is about to finish him off. That's when Mr. Satan steps in to buy more time. That inevitably brings back out the Good Buu (the fat one) to fight Kid Buu and buy even more time. That's when Vegeta comes up with the ultimate plan to finish off Buu once and for all... and it's a classic. I won't spoil it, but let's just say Mr. Satan has a major part (which you see coming a mile away) in helping out.

Around this time, the show gains some incredibly obvious religious undertones. Granted, the show has always had religious undertones, but there's some hugely obvious ones here (voices talking from the sky, the people doubting it, others deciding to go out and spread 'the word' as truth, etc.). Though at the same time, I'm agreeing with Vegeta in that the human race is shown as so idiotic that I wondered if it deserved saving. But I digress.

I also wanted to quickly note that, during the Kid Buu battles, there are fun bits where they go down to "Hell" and show all the previous villains of the show watching the battle. It's fun to see/hear their reactions, especially Frieza, who at one point was supposed to be the strongest being in the universe that anyone had ever heard of (great way to think ahead, writers! (that was sarcasm, in case you didn't catch it). Oh, and before I get any flamers, I know it was a manga, I know only one person wrote it, and I know the series was originally planned to end after the Frieza Saga. It's just a joke. Calm down).

Anyway, the last 5 episodes are the "how everybody has moved on" episodes, mostly to wrap up the entire show, seeing this is the last season. The first few kinda drag, but then they jump ahead in time a bit, and it gets a bit more interesting. Gohan and Videl get married and have a daughter named Pan who, coincidentally, becomes a strong fighter. Bulma and Vegeta apparently have another kid, a girl, but her name is never spoken (though by other methods, I discovered it's "Bra."). Goten and Trunks become ladies' men, while Gohan is a professor and has given up fighting. Good Buu lives with Mr. Satan and helps him keep his champ title by beating everybody else and then purposefully losing to him in the championship match. As a side note, I have to say that while Hercule Satan was annoying at first, he really grows on you. In fact, towards the end, I wanted to see more scenes with him to see how he would fare.

But then the final episodes come. There's another martial arts tournament, and Goku joins up only to fight a powerful human he can sense. Turns out the human is a reincarnated Buu named, imaginatively, Uub. The final episode is so rushed it's ridiculous. Goku and Uub's fight is good, I suppose, but then they stop fighting and Goku's all like "So, Uub, I'm gonna go live with you in your village and train you to fight so you can take my place as Earth's protector." So then, without even any proper goodbyes (besides, you know, telling them "see ya later"), he just takes Uub and leaves all his friends and family behind, possibly for years, to go train this kid. They don't have a goodbye party. Outside of Pan, he doesn't even hug anyone goodbye. They don't even finish the match. They just leave... and after a couple more minutes, that's it. I mean, seriously. That's ridiculous. I know they wanted to leave on a "the world will get a new hero and Goku goes on another journey" note, but they didn't have to rush it at that extreme, especially when it makes Goku look like an ass.

Anyway, I was kinda sad to reach the end of the series. I've been going through this for a long time now, and I've finally finished it. This final season, while weird at times (and despite the horribly rushed ending), was good. Strangely, I guess I found the best seasons to be 3, 6, and 9... all multiples of 3. And all 3 of those seasons were ones where the "final battles" took place for each bad guy arch (with the exception of the first season with Vegeta, but I don't count that). So yeah, I really don't have any major words of wisdom to wrap this up. I suppose it was a good end to the series. I know there's a Dragonball GT that follows, which doesn't follow any of the manga and apparently has a pretty bad rep, but I dunno. I might watch it eventually, but if I come back to the DB universe, I'm gonna check out the original series first. So until then, this is it for the Dragonball Universe! Sad to see it go, but it's time to move on, right? Right.


TV Review: Leverage - Season One.

If you're a long-time follower of this blog, you most likely know how much I enjoy a good heist flick. So when I first heard of a TV show called "Leverage," it immediately caught my interest. Of course, I first heard of it not too long ago, right before the second season premiered on TNT, the channel it airs on. Since I hadn't seen the first season, I couldn't really watch the second, but I did put the first on my Netflix queue. And now, it's finally coming in. And I have to say, I'm loving this show.

As anyone who watches TV knows, there are different kinds of TV shows in how its stories are told. There are the episodic shows, usually 30 minutes long, where very little (if anything) carries over from episode to episode (such as Spongebob Squarepants). Then there are the story-arch shows, usually an hour long, where each episode is just a continuation of the last, a perpetual "To Be Continued" until the season finale (such as Dragonball Z or Heroes). And then there's the mix of the two, where there's a continuing story, but every episode is centered around something different (which is most non-sitcom drama/comedy shows). This one is the latter, though barely. The underlying story isn't with any major heist or anything like that, but with the characters themselves. Although every episode is different from the last, the character development (either with each other or, for instance, the growing alcoholism of one character) is what ties the episodes together. There's also a subplot involving the tragedy of the main character's son, which builds through the season and comes together in the finale.

The show centers around Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton), a man who used to go around finding criminals and frauds and righting wrongs (he was an insurance investigator) until his son was screwed over by the insurance company Nate worked for and died from lack of payment for surgery. When he's contacted by a man to pull off a heist to steal back information that had apparently been stolen, a crack team is put together to pull it off. This team includes the muscle, Eliot (Christian Kane); the computer whiz, Hardison (Aldis Hodge); and the master thief, Parker (Beth Riesgraf). And eventually, Nate pulls in an old friend, a con artist/actress named Sophie (Gina Bellman). They discover that working together, though frustrating at times, is both fun and rewarding (both intrinsically and extrinsically).

The first episode is the big heist where most of the extrinsic reward comes in (getting a ton of money for themselves). After that, the show shifts gears a bit, and instead of being episode after episode of just robbing people blind for personal gain, it's more Ocean's 11 meets Robin Hood. And of course this makes sense. For a TV series, you can't have everything be personal gain or else you lose sympathy with the characters. When your main characters are anti-heroes, you have to make them sympathetic. Dexter Morgan (of Dexter) is a serial killer who kills serial killers. The men and women of Leverage are thieves who steal from the rich and corrupt and give to those who have been wronged to the point where no judge and jury could help.

And with shows like this, you have to have great characters. And the characters are tons of fun. The characters are usually at their best when they're interacting with each other (especially when they're doing what they do best). But a lot of them are also interesting alone. Ironically, the least interesting character is the main character, Nate. He's the brains of the operation, but in comparison to the others, his personality is a bit dull. When you put an ordinary (albeit highly intelligent) guy amid a bunch of quirky people, the ordinary is gonna stick out. He's not a bad character at all, though. He's saved by his intelligence. He's like Danny Ocean, but with less wit (and no Clooney charm). He grows on you as the show goes on, especially when he's actually in on a con and doing some fun character personas, but outside that, his main story is his alcoholism. 

Out of the others, though, it's hard to pick a favorite. Eliot has the bad boy appeal, like a less abrasive version of Lost's Sawyer. He's where most of the action comes from. But at the same time, he's not a total hard ass like you would expect. He's pretty friendly with everybody, and he's only rough if you get rough with him. It's always fun to see him get dressed up to do a character different from his personality (like a nerd or something).

Then you have the token black guy, Hardison, who's the "cool" nerd of the bunch. He's where a lot of (but not all of) the comedy comes from. And Parker is hot, yet very strange, like there's just a little bit missing up there, if you know what I mean. There's an interesting relationship (like, romantic) that builds between Hardison and Parker, but it isn't fully developed by the end of the first season.

There's some good comedy from her, as well. And then you have Sophie, the token British character, who is interesting, but only a few notches above Nate for me (ironic considering she's his love interest). Her main thing is to act as different characters, which isn't as interesting coming from her as it is with, say, Eliot or Parker (especially Parker, who can't con to save her life, but is an excellent thief). But she can do a ton of different accents, which is really impressive.

The heists are fun, too. With a show like this, you know they're gonna get away with what they're doing, but the fun is in trying to figure out how. And apparently, when the show was aired on TV, they played the episodes out of order, which apparently made for some strange character development scenes between different characters. But upon releasing the DVD, they put the episodes in the order that they were originally meant to be in. Anyway, the show loses a little steam after the first few episodes, but then picks up around halfway in. The reason is that the episodes focus more on straight-up conning rather than heists, and the episodes where they have to pull off a heist are the more interesting ones... at least to me. So really, the best ones are the first few, a few in the middle, and then the last couple episodes. But they're all entertaining and fun.

Overall, the show is witty, charming, funny, and fun. There's good action, thrills, and laughs (again, for those who follow my blog, you might know how difficult it is to get me laughing, and this show constantly had me going). If you're a fan of con or heist films (especially comedy heist films, like the Oceans trilogy), I truly recommend this series. I rarely go out and buy television shows on DVD, because I rarely go back and watch them again, but I actually went out and bought the first season after watching only the first 3 episodes (the first disc from Netflix). And for me to do that says quite a bit. I wouldn't recommend such an extreme for everybody, but at least give it a rent if it's your thing. So... yeah.



From the moment I first saw the first trailer, I was hooked. I've been anticipating this movie for so long, I can't even say. Any of my more ardent readers might be able to tell you that Shaun of the Dead is basically my favorite movie. And as this is supposed to be what is essentially its American cousin, it was a no brainer (no pun intended) that I would be going to this. In other words, I had expectations so terribly high that I was setting myself up for the ultimate disappointment. Fortunately, the movie met my unbelievable expectations... and then some.

The earth has been taken over by a zombie virus, turning it into what the main characters call Zombieland. And each of the main characters are (essentially) named after where the characters are headed (or from). Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is a worrisome rule-follower, having a whole set of rules that have apparently kept him alive in Zombieland thus far. But when the meek Columbus meets the badass Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), they form an unlikely friendship. Columbus is on his way to, well, Columbus, Ohio to see if his family is still alive. Tallahassee, on the other hand, is just enjoying the little things in life and searching for Earth's last twinkie (trust me, in context, it's not as ridiculous as it sound). Then the two men stumble upon a couple of con artist sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), on their way to Hollywood to visit a theme park so Little Rock can enjoy the little bit of childhood she has left.

And that's about it. The movie is more about the characters than the plot, really. Eisenberg plays his Columbus in his usual Michael Cera-esque nervousness. Emma Stone is just really freakin' hot (and sassy). Abigail isn't Little Miss Sunshine anymore, and has pulled in a bit of spunk. And the fact that Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin play con artists was just the icing on the cake, as (again) my readers should know how much I like con artist/heist films. And Woody Harrelson was born for the role of Tallahassee. Seriously, that man stole every scene he was in, which is a lot of them (though I was disappointed that the movie left out the line "I love the *beep* out of this song" from the trailer). I think the only times he was one-upped was during the much discussed extended cameo scene of a specific actor who anybody who knows anything about this movie, or has just looked at imdb, already knows about (but which I will not spoil for those who don't/haven't).

One aspect of this type of film that a lot in this genre (horror/comedy) have trouble with is finding a perfect blend of horror and comedy. Either they focus too much on the horror and the comedy feels off-putting (or they use the wrong kind of humor and it backfires), or they focus too much on the humor and the horror feels almost out of place. This movie found that balance. One of my favorite bits was the running gag of the rules for survival, as any zombie fanatic (like myself) just likes to come up with their own survival rules from time to time... or has read Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide.

But the suspense is there, too. Occasionally, they'll stop at a store or something like that, and they'll have to fight a zombie or two. But the best bits? Towards the beginning and at the end. The beginning bits with Columbus (both in his introduction and in the flashback sequence) is both funny and frightening. But then you have the climax, which has to be one of the coolest zombie action scenes ever... not to mention one of the best uses of a set-piece ever. They really did not waste any inch of that theme park during the climax. It was suspenseful and all-around brilliant. However, I do want to warn the squeamish, this movie does have a lot of blood and gore in it. Sometimes they pull away, but sometimes they don't pull away at all and you see every hit or bite. It's not torture porn-level or anything. It didn't make me queasy. But a lot of people have weaker stomachs than me, so just a head's up. On the upside, they mix in a ton of humor around the times of gore, so the grossness is often offset by the comedy (if that helps at all).

I really don't know what else to say about the movie. Not only is it both funny and suspenseful (and acted well), but it's shot stylishly, too. There's great use of editing, camera, and a bit of funny slow-mo in the opening credits (which are great in and of themselves). It's currently rivaling Shaun, though I'm not sure if it'll surpass it; I'll have to see Zombieland a few more times to make sure. And I will, too. Definitely. But it is now one of my favorite movies. I strongly recommend it.

Royale With Cheese

(P.S. There's a scene after the credits that's kind of an outtake between Harrelson and the aforementioned cameo star... so don't leave too soon!)