My excitement for The Crazies elevated within just the last couple days when some pretty good reviews started to surface. So I was pretty hyped for the film before I went to see it. And I really need to go see it a second time... but not for the reason you think.

I had probably one of the most annoying theater experiences tonight. Let me explain. First, I'm sitting there waiting for the previews to start, and in walks the Crazy Girl. From those who don't know or haven't been around here that long, the Crazy Girl was one of my students from student teaching that drove me insane... mostly because she was. And I heard her say not long after she stepped in "I have to kill myself now," followed up soon by "I'll explain later." I know exactly what she was talking about. Once she takes a seat--right in front of me--the lights dim and the previews start.

Enter two of my most annoying (current) students rushing in, having snuck in to the movie (as it's rated R, and they aren't old enough yet). Girl #1 is one of my loudest, most annoying, and most offensive students. Every other word out of her mouth would make a sailor blush, and she tends to yell everything with not a care in the world for other people. Girl #2 is just strange--she's a weird mix of bubbly and obscene... again, with very little consideration for others. Now, these two girls also happen to know (and have probably slept with) half the movie theater staff. And they also have this love/hate relationship with a few of them (which I get to hear about every 5 seconds during class). These two girls decide to sit next to me. At first, Girl #1 sits right next to me and never shuts up. And about 5 minutes into the previews, declares "This is boring," and pulls out her mp3 player, holding it up for all to see its shine and blasting the music for all nearby to hear. Once the movie starts, however, they switch spots, and Girl #2 sits next to me. She proceeds to, quite literally, never take her hands or eyes off of her cell phone, texting the whole damn time (and then try to ask what happened during the movie that she's not paying attention to). And both of them have to comment, rudely, about every person that walks into the theater late, as well as every little movement that happens on screen.

This is when a few big girls brush past us and sit on the other side of me and be nearly as bad. They constantly talked at the screen or prepped themselves for scares like they had never seen a horror movie before.

Anyway, the two girls (my students) leave to go to the concession stand (mostly to bother the workers). That was a good 5 minutes or so. But then they came back and continue their never-ending annoyances. And outside the classroom, I couldn't really enforce anything or take up their electronics (though I could cuss at them). And they just laughed at me if I told them to put their stuff away or move somewhere else. It really wasn't until almost exactly the 1-hour mark that the security cop guy came in and pulled them out (as I later found out, after the movie, for harassing the concession stand guys, as well as sneaking in to an R-Rated film). So the last 40 minutes or so of the movie were about all I was really able to focus on.

This leads me in to my review. The movie is about Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant); his wife, Judy (Radha Mitchell); his deputy, Russell (Joe Anderson); and his wife's co-worker, Becca (Danielle Panabaker). After a plane crash into the local water system, Sheriff Dutton starts to notice people in town go a bit crazy. They zone out and get violent. And when the military shows up, it takes them double time to try to stay alive, as the military is after anyone and everyone, not just the crazies (who are after anyone, as well).

As far as I could tell, the movie was pretty good. I couldn't get into the atmosphere and mood of the film until an hour in, but that wasn't the fault of the film. And once the girls left, the movie pulled me in almost immediately (which isn't hard to do, when the first scene after they left is the car wash scene). The beginning of the film had me at a loss with its transitions, but--again--I do not think that was the fault of the film. I missed so much in explanation at the beginning, I'm lucky I understood as much as I did.

The acting was pretty good as well, especially from Timothy Olyphant, who almost always impresses. And I've noticed a trend. If you want your horror movie to be good, especially when it has everything going against it, cast Radha Mitchell. Seriously, think about it. Vin Diesel versus aliens doesn't sound like a winner... but Pitch Black is awesome. Video game movies hardly ever work, but Silent Hill is amazingly creepy. Remakes, especially of the horror variety, are rarely good... but this film worked. And all star Radha Mitchell.

The scares are good. It's not a gore-fest (there is blood, but it isn't excessive). There are some jump-scares, but it also goes old-school horror with people just standing in the background or playing at expectations. I particularly loved the car wash sequence--maybe because it's mostly when the movie truly began for me--but really because it throws you into that fear of the unknown. With the windows soaped up, you just caught glimpses. You really had no idea what was going to happen next. It kinda goes up there with Adam's Capture in the original Saw (the camera flash scene).

I can't say too much else about it. I really need to see it again, and I'm sure the score would be higher in that case. Really, it was such an ironic movie (at least with the title) to have this happen in. I went to see crazy people and they all flocked to me. But whatever. For now, it is what it is. And it was entertaining.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. Wasn't that hand/knife kill like... one of the coolest kills ever?)


Idol Chatter: The Live Blog #1.3.

[I wanted to do this last season, but I got the idea a few episodes too late. I do admit, I watch American Idol. I really didn't start until a couple years ago, though (my mom was a much bigger fan). Similar in style to the Live Survivor Blog over at Blog Cabins, Idol Chatter (pun and all) will be a play by play of the episodes and what I think of what's happening. For those that don't know, just continually refresh this page to get new updates as the show goes on.]

Here's the third live blog for this week's American Idol. Let's see who's going home and who's moving on. My personal guess is that, of the girls... hell, any except Ms. Bowersox, and I'd be fine (OK, and maybe not Lilly Scott, either). But the guys? Jermaine Sellers and Tim Urban. Let's find out...

7:00: Some fancy editing stuff here... all dramatic and hardcore.

7:01: Ryan: "This............... is American Idol!"

7:02: Wow... it's the first results show, and they're already pimping "Idol Gives Back." Give us some space, guys.

7:03: Ellen: "There were some surprises. I said I liked bananas. That came out of my mouth." Have I mentioned how much I heart Ellen?

7:04: The Top 24 is singing together for the first time. Singing "American Boy" by Estelle. I really hate this song. Like, so much. You don't even know. The singing is good in this version, but I hate the music and overall sound that goes with it. It's just annoying to me.

7:07: I just realized who Crystal Bowersox reminds me of. She's totally a pudgier version of Emilie de Raven (AKA Claire from LOST).

7:11: Girls in the hot seat (as Ryan says). Siobhan is up first. And she's safe. Le sigh. Haeley Vaughn now. And she's safe too. Bah. Now Michelle (who I enjoyed) is safe. OK. Come on, guys. Katelynn now. Poofy hair is safe. Leaving us with...

7:12: Katie and Janell. Who's going? Janell was awful. I say her.

7:13: Yup, Janell. No surprise there. She hurt my ears last night. And... no, no!

7:14: *crying* She's singing again. Hey, she's actually doing better tonight than she did last night. Not hard to do, really. I mean, don't get me wrong. She's still really, painfully bad right now. But it's still not making my ears bleed.

7:16: Scratch that.

7:21: Allison Iraheta! She was one of my favorites from last season. Liking the song. Nice outfit, too. You know, I loved Adam Lambert the most of everyone last season. But his debut CD, for all intents and purposes, sucks. But I would totally buy Allison's CD just based on that performance, and she came in 4th. But then again, a lot of the best singers haven't won.

7:25: Back to the ladies! Another is gonna leave now. Paige is up first. She's safe. Of course she is. She went first. Anybody before the final two are safe. Including the next girl, Lacey, despite Ryan's attempt at a fake-out. Lilly Scott will also be sticking around, as will Crystal Bowersox (thank God). So it's down to Ashley and Didi. I'm thinking Didi is going. And the girl going home is...

7:27: Ashley? Bah. Whatevs, yo. Let's hear her sing a song. She doesn't seem very thrilled (not even sad, but... angry).

7:29: Oh wow, I think my ears just exploded. This is like... infinitely worse than last night. Ironic song to sing, though ("I'm just trying to be happy").

7:35: haha... Tyler in a bathrobe and boots and socks during rehearsals the previous day.

7:36: Alrighty, one of these guys is going home. Big Mike's up first. He's totally safe. John Park's safe, too (yes!). His mom and dad are so cute together. Speaking of, here's Aaron Kelly, who's--of course--safe. Todrick's up next, which means he's safe, which leaves us with Tim Urban and Joe Munoz. Oh man, this is totally Tim. And it's...

7:39: JOE?! Double-you Tee Eff?

7:40: Tim looks about as flabbergasted as I feel right now. This was totally a pity vote. Joe is singing right now... he's doing pretty good (especially compared to Tim's abysmal performance yesterday). I guess, looking on the bright side, I'm not having to listen to Tim sing again right now.

7:46: Oh joy... a break for some Idol Gives Back. And more stuff about Haiti. And Kris Allen, last year's (surprise) winner.

7:48: Kris sings. Video footage of destroyed Haiti and Kris helping out there. Tons and tons of pathos. He has water bucket-filling skills. Kid-lifting skills. Piano playing skills. Singing skills. Money-making skills. Girls only like guys with skills! GOSH!

7:50: Would it be inappropriate for Black-Eyed Peas to come in during the middle of Kris repeating "Let it be" with "Imma Be, Imma Be, Imma Imma Imma Be..."?

7:54: Alright, the last guy is about to go. Casey's up first, which means he's totally safe (Hell yeah!). What? Jermaine is up second? No way, that means he's safe? Bull! Who the hell is going, then? Lee's up next, so he's safe. And he knows that (you can see it in his smile). Next is Andrew Garcia, so he's safe. Again, thank God. So that leaves Retro Rocker Tyler and Mullet Rocker Alex Lambert. I'm thinking Alex is going. And the person going home is...

7:57: *sigh* Tyler. I think Tyler's cool. He says "I don't think I got that much constructive criticism during Hollywood Week, and what I was given now was a little too late." The camera goes to Simon, who you can see saying "Good point." Haha, wow.

8:00: Tyler sings, but the show's running over. Of course, the one guy I'd like to see sing again is gonna get cut off short. And he's actually putting more charisma in it tonight than last night. Of course.

Final Thoughts: Total shock... at least for the guys. I think America got it wrong. Tyler and Joe were no winners, but they shouldn't have been kicked off before Jermaine or Tim Urban or, hell, even Todrick. But whatever. It is what it is. Casey James, Andrew Garcia, John Park, and Crystal Bowersox are still on, so I'm happy. So stay tuned next week for Idol Chatter #2 (and its derivatives).


Idol Chatter: The Live Blog #1.2.

[I wanted to do this last season, but I got the idea a few episodes too late. I do admit, I watch American Idol. I really didn't start until a couple years ago, though (my mom was a much bigger fan). Similar in style to the Live Survivor Blog over at Blog Cabins, Idol Chatter (pun and all) will be a play by play of the episodes and what I think of what's happening. For those that don't know, just continually refresh this page to get new updates as the show goes on.]

Here's night 2! It's time for the guys, which I'm more excited for anyway. The guys have been much more interesting to me than the girls this season (except for maybe Ms. Bowersox). So let's get this rolling! It's time for the Top 12 Guys.

7:00: Haha, nice fake-out. Ryan: "This... is... Simon, stop talking!"

7:02: Randy: "The girls really blew it out last night!" ... Did we watch the same show? I mean, really... Randy, last night was terrible.

7:04: Todrick Hall is up first! What's he singing?

7:05: "Since You've Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson. Wow... singing a girl's song. And he's totally changed it up. This is pretty cool, actually. He's made it more, I don't know... hip hop or funk. I'm digging it. Good stage presence, good voice, great mix of the song.

7:06: Ellen: "Singing wasn't the greatest, but I love that you took a chance." Randy: "You don't want to take a song and completely obliterate it." Kara agrees. Simon: "It was verging on stupid what you just did." Wow... these... um... I disagree. They beg these singers to change up songs. They praised Adam Lambert last season for doing just that. Now they're lambasting Todrick (old school puns... gotta love 'em). Whatever.

7:14: Up next... the youngest contestant, Aaron Kelly. He'll probably be this year's David Archuletta. What's he singing? "Here Comes Goodbye" by Rascal Flatts.

7:15: Not a big fan of country, but Rascal Flatts is OK. Not too impressed so far, though. Good voice for a 16-year-old, of course, but it's still a bit shaky. Nice good note toward the end. Though it was almost like a Jonas Brother trying to sing country. A bit strange.

7:16: Simon: "Bearing in mind it was your first live show, it was quite a good performance." But he needs to be more confident. Kara likes his rawness and naivety about said rawness. Randy likes him, despite a bit of shaky moments. Ellen loves his humbleness and thinks he's great. For the most part, I agree. I think he'll get better with more confidence, but this was just OK.

7:24: Here comes Jermaine Sellers the church singer. He's singing "Get Here" by Oleta Adams... his singing doesn't seem to match up with the music. I mean, he's not bad. He just seems off from the music. Ouch... that note hurt me. His voice is slightly annoying. At least in this song. And it was waayyyy pitchy.

7:27: Ellen didn't think he felt the song and overdid it, trying too hard. Randy and Kara thought he tried to do too much with his voice, and the song is too old for him. And Simon didn't like it. I'm with them.

7:35: Tim Urban is up next... Tim Urban is replacing somebody else who was cut because of a previous contract. And... I'm not sure I know who he is. But let's see how he does.

7:36: "Apologize" by One Republic. I like the song; let's see how he does. He's changed it up slightly. This song is easy to mess up on due to its strange vocal keys. And... I'm honestly not sure what I think of this. He's going the 'soft' route. He's not really pounding it out, and he's going for a ton of high notes that sound like they're painful for him to hit.

7:38: Simon: "Congratulations for coming back. Having said that, I think we made the right decision the first time..." in reference to cutting him from the Top 24. Kara: "The music overpowered you." Randy: "The wrong song." Ellen: "You couldn't hit those high notes." I completely agree with the judges this time.

7:46: Aw... they faked me out. They said Casey James was coming on, but then they went to Joe Munoz. I love Casey. But let's see how Joe does. He's doing "You and I Both" by Jason Mraz.

7:48: Good vocals. Interesting take on the song. So far the best of the night, I think. Which doesn't really say that much.

7:50: Ellen: "Great stage presence." Randy didn't know about the song choice, but liked it. Kara digged it, though not great. Simon "kinda" agrees. I thought he was good, best so far... but again, that's not saying too much.

7:53: Tyler Grady! They haven't shown too much of him, but from the little I've seen, I dig him. He's very retro and entertaining. And he's going for... "American Woman" by The Guess Who.

7:55: Very entertaining thus far... except for that one iffy note. Owns the stage. Vocals not 100%, but still fun. Totally retro rock.

7:56: Simon thinks he's a big cliche. Kara agrees (too "Jim Morrison"). Randy: "It was very style over substance." I agree... great way to put it. Ellen: "You're going through the motions, but lacking the charisma." Again, I agree.

8:03: Up next, Lee Dewyze. This dude looks so familiar, but I can't pinpoint how. He's alright. But it seems they're saving my favorites for the end. And he's singing...

8:04: "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol. And he's on the acoustic guitar. Nice. And he's changed up the song a bit. Wow, this is really good. A couple flat notes here and there, but still really good. I bet the judges are gonna like his changes (Poor Todrick).

8:06: Ellen liked the song choice but thought he screamed a bit. Randy didn't like the song choice (not hard enough rock, apparently). God Damnit, Kara ("you made it almost too unrecognizable"). THANK YOU, SIMON! He says the best performance of the night. He wants to do what David Cook did and take a song and make it his own, which is what he did. I agree. Completely.

8:14: John Park! I love this guy. They really only showed him sing once throughout the tryouts and everything, but I really dug it. So let's see how he does.

8:15: "God Bless The Child" by Billie Holiday. Great vocals. Kind of a slow song, but still... amazing vocals. Completely the best of the night so far.

8:16: Simon: "You have to have an incredible voice to sing that song, and you haven't." Shut up, Simon. Kara agrees. Shut up, Kara. Randy and Ellen didn't like the song, but liked his voice. I can see what they're saying... the song was slow and a bit 'blah', but his voice was great. But in no way flat, Simon.

8:20: Big Mike! Big guy with a big voice. Come on, Mike. Be good and let me agree with the judges on this one. What are you going for?

8:21: "This Love" by Maroon 5. Not a song I can see for this guy. But he's doing pretty well with it. Sounds kinda nasally, though. But good.

8:22: Ellen thought it was a great song choice, and he has a great personality. Randy agrees (and uses the word 'gregarious'). Kara thought it was depressing in the place until Mike showed up. Though kind of a backhanded compliment with the "if we'd had better acts tonight, we might have been harsher with you." Simon says he was like the opening act to a bigger act. I mostly agree with the judges. It was good, but not great.

8:31: Wow... a guy named Alex Lambert. You can't get much closer than that. I'm not even sure I've heard this guy sing. I just recognize the name. And he's singing...

8:32: "It's a Wonderful World" by James Morrison. Interesting tone. Has kind of a James Blunt tone. I hate James Blunt.

8:33: Simon loathed it (thought it was uncomfortable). Kara wants to give him a hug. They say he sounds like James Morrison. Whatever. It's still a James. Ellen points out that he's also rocking a mullet. Another reason to be annoyed with him. And she compares him to an unripe banana. I love Ellen.

8:40: About freakin' time! Casey James! This dude is like my favorite of the guys. And he's singing...

8:41: "Heaven" by Bryan Adams. And his playing acoustic. And he's doing fantastically. I honestly have nothing bad to say. No bias, either... this guy was great.

8:43: Kara has a crush on Casey, so she has an awkward start. Ellen is funny and loved him. Randy liked him. Kara comes back seriously and says she loved it. Simon makes a funny joke ("we were both cursed with good looks"), but goes more serious... great song choice, best singing from you thus far. This was all great. Loved it.

8:50: Finally... Andrew Garcia. He's my next favorite after Casey. He actually reminds me a lot of Danny from last season. So what's he doing?

8:51: "Sugar, We're Going Down" by Fall Out Boy. And boy, has he changed it up. And I'm digging it. At this point, I have no idea how the judges will like the changes. Regardless, great vocals, and I actually really like the changes. It's almost reminiscent of Richard Cheese and something he would do.

8:53: Simon was disappointed. Figures. Says too serious, too indulgent, and not original enough. Not original? That was completely changed up. Kara thought it was too strange. Randy agrees. Ellen agrees. But I don't get it. During Hollywood week, he totally changed up a Paula Abdul song and made it his own, and they loved it. So he completely changed up this song and made it his own, yet they want him to completely change up songs and make them his own like he did with the Abdul song... yeah, that doesn't make any sense whatsoever. These judges are on crack.

8:56: Here's the recap. Todrick was worse than I remember... so was Aaron. Jermaine was still terrible. And Tim. Joe Munoz looks like a Mexican Sylar (from Heroes). Tyler is still retro. I still like Lee. And John Park. Maroon 5 is still an odd choice for Big Mike. Alex Lambert is rockin' that mullet! Casey (love him). And I still like you, Andrew. I don't care what those judges say!

Yay! Allison from last season is gonna be on tomorrow! I loved her.

Final Notes: My guess is that Tim Urban and Jermaine are going home. We'll see tomorrow. See you then.


Idol Chatter: The Live Blog #1.

[I wanted to do this last season, but I got the idea a few episodes too late. I do admit, I watch American Idol. I really didn't start until a couple years ago, though (my mom was a much bigger fan). Similar in style to the Live Survivor Blog over at Blog Cabins, Idol Chatter (pun and all) will be a play by play of the episodes and what I think of what's happening.]

Alrighty! The first official episode of American Idol season 9 has begun (by official, I mean episodes where the Top 24 begin performing and people can start voting)! Tonight it's the Top 12 Girls. So let's get it started.

(By the way, if you're not familiar with how this works... just keep refreshing this page for updates.)

7:00: "And this... is American Idol!"

7:02: Despite the controversy around his dad dropping the news too soon, Big Mike (not Mendez) is still on the show. Good.

7:03: Simon says a girl will win this year. I disagree... but we'll see.

7:05: Ellen: "Simon... wants me." God, I love Ellen DeGeneres.

7:06: Paige Miles (who?) is up first. She's singing "All Right Now" by Free.

7:08: Dear God, this is terrible. The music seems muted, emphasizing her singing, which is like horrible karaoke.

7:09 - 7:11: Simon says she has the best voice of all the girls... but the song sounded wedding singer-ish. Kara disagrees and loved it. Randy loved it. Ellen is hilarious. These judges are crazy.

7:16 - 7:19: Ashley Rodriguez is up next. Wow does this girl look like Rosario Dawson. She's singing "Happy" by Leona Lewis. Starts off quiet but picks up. Doing a good job. Couple shaky notes. Overall not impressed, but much better than the last girl.

7:19 - 7:21: Kara didn't care for it and thinks she should do something that... isn't her. Randy agrees. Ellen agrees. Simon agrees ("clumsy"). These judges are crazy.

7:26: Janell Wheeler is up. Crossing my fingers... please be good, please be good... And she's singing...

7:27: "What About Love" by Heart... and she's doing really well.

7:28: Eh... I spoke too soon. The song picked up, and her voice started falling apart. Ugh... I think my brain just convulsed from that note.

7:29: Randy didn't like the song. Ellen liked the song choice. Simon says she started off well but then fell apart. Thumbs up. And Kara? Didn't like the song. I'm with the judges on this one, finally.

7:31: Randy: "You know what I'm sayin?" Janell: "Yeah..." Me: *blinks and shakes head*

7:36: Up next? Lilly Scott. I like this girl. She's quirky. You can tell by her white, wig-like hair. (Seriously, though, I do like this girl... to a degree) And she totally has a singer name. What's she singin?

7:37: "Fixing A Hole" by The Beatles. Starts kinda shaky... but picks up. Wasn't sure her loungy style fit the song, but it's working out well. Finally, a good song tonight. Now Season 9 has started for the girls. I liked this one quite a bit.

7:39: Ellen: "That's what we're talkin about." Simon: "Best we've had so far." Kara: "You come from your heart." Randy: "You're more like a real indie artist." Is that like an oxymoron? An Indie Idol? Anywho... good stuff.

7:46: Next is... Katelyn Epperly. Big hair. And she's singing...

7:47: "Oh Darling" by The Beatles. And she's doing wonderfully so far. In fact, this is even better than (the wonderfully named) Lilly Scott. Though it's hard not to stare at her hair... there's just... so much of it.

7:48: Simon thought it was screamy and messy (but he likes her)? Ugh. Kara thought she switched up the song nicely, but doesn't like the make-over. Randy liked her tone and/or vibe (and "make-up thing"). Ellen liked it a lot, though maybe kinda forced.

7:52: Kara: "I know what her thought bubble was: 'bitch'." lol.

7:53: Oh God... Haeley Vaughn. She's singing "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles. This girl gets on my nerves. I've never liked her voice, and the judges over-rate her. First off, she has a lisp, and it bugs me when she sings. I mean, she's not terrible (in general). Her voice is just irritating. And she's dressed like a hippy, slutty nurse or something. And this particular song was just bad.

7:55: The judges say she's unpredictable (mostly in outfits and song choice) and she has presence... but her voice is crap.

7:58: Did she say her high school team are the "Pooters"? I don't care much for sports, but I'd totally go to cheer on the "Pooters." I mean, you'd have to be entertaining with a name like that.

8:02: Ryan: "All songs from tonight will be available on iTunes." Why, God, why?

8:03: Lacey Brown! I like this girl, too. Let's see how she does. She's singing... "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac.

8:04: Ugh... really bad start. Seems terribly off key most times. I do like the song arrangement, though. It's mostly the same, but she did change a couple notes here and there. Random note: They just showed the guys sitting off the side. Jeez, Big Mike is... well... big. Seriously. He takes up like two seats. Pure muscle.

8:05: Randy thought it was terrible. Wow, even Ellen hated it ("if you're back next week..."). Simon: "I actually thought it was quite depressing." el oh el. Need I say it? Kara didn't like it. But they love her eyes! And I agree with the judges. She wasn't good... and she has pretty eyes.

8:13: Ryan's just killing time... let's get to the singing. Up next? Michelle Delamor. What's she gonna sing?

8:14: "Falling" by Alicia Keys. Wow... doing well (though not doing well in breaking the stereotype of black girls on this show only being good at singing songs by other black singers). But yeah, finally... another good song tonight. I think this makes 2 now?

8:16: Ellen: "That was fantastic... but you can do better." Simon thought it was too close to the original, but she'd done enough to get through. I just really noticed Kara's dress. I think it's trying to swallow her like a Graboid or something. Anyway... Randy wants her to take risks. In other words, you're a great singer, but go further than those stereotypes!

8:19: Next girl... Didi Benami. Probably the strangest name of the girls. "That Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson. A girl with a weird name chooses a song by a singer with an equally weird name. And the singing? Kinda, well... weird. But in a strangely good way. Though not sure I would have chosen this song. Nobody will be able to connect with it. A bit boring. Still, the singing was pretty good.

8:21: Simon says everybody's trying to sing like Adelle and Duffy, and it was kinda dull. I agree. Kara talks, but Simon interrupts: "Nobody's going to remember that." I agree again. Randy: "No star power... a bit sleepy." Ellen: "A song for the first night to get millions of people to reach for you ... for that first impression, a little too low key." My thoughts exactly.

8:29: Siobhan Magnus the Glassblowing Apprentice. I take back what I said about Didi.

8:30: "What's being a dark horse mean?" And she's singing... wow, I don't even know (I missed it), but this song is horribly annoying. Her voice isn't bad... but, wow... that was kinda annoying.

8:33: Judges really liked it. Imagine that. Simon: "You really are a funny little thing, aren't you?"

8:36: Apparently the song is "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak. Yeah. Don't care to hear that song again. Anywho...

8:39: Finally! Crystal Bowersox! AKA Bad Teeth Girl. "Hand in my Pocket" by Alanis Morissette.

8:40: Playing the guitar... and the harmonica... and singing really well. Seriously, this girl is one of if not my favorite(s) of the girls. And... wow, she whitened her teeth. Great all around.

8:42: Randy really liked it. Ellen is a fan. Simon really likes her, but wants her to do something... less like her (ten bucks that next week they'll tell her to be more herself). Kara liked it, too.

8:49: Katie Stevens. The last of the night. 17 years old. Uplifting family story. Let's get to it. What are you singing?

8:50: "Feeling Good" by Michael Buble. She has a lot to live up to, because Adam Lambart rocked this song last year. Really liking it so far. I feel awkward. She's 17 and trying to be sexy for America. Overall, not nearly as good as Mr. Lambert's, but still pretty good.

8:52: Ellen thinks it was a bit too old for her. Simon agrees and adds in an "annoying and pageant-y." Kara says pitchy. Randy agrees overall and ends with a wise "You can only be 17 once," because singing an old song makes you stop living your life.

8:55: Oh God, the recap. I think my eardrums might explode. Lilly Scott, Michelle Delamor, and Crystal Bowersox were the best of the night.

Final Notes: This was a terrible first night. I so hope the guys are much better than the girls. But I love the guys this year. And seriously, Simon... you think one of those is gonna win this year? Yeah, I doubt it. What a bad way to kick off the voting portion of the season.

So, thoughts on the episode? The singers? This new feature?


LKMYNTS: Pontypool.

I'd heard about this movie here and there, but I didn't know anything about it beyond the title. But recently I was looking for a new movie to check out that I might enjoy but hadn't exactly heard all about. A Little Known Movie, as it were. And that's when I stumbled upon this film. And I'm so glad I did. The best way to describe it is as a zombie movie... without zombies. It follows a controversial radio host, Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie), who had just been recently fired from a big job and is now working in the small town of Pontypool. He works along with Sydney Briar (Lisa Houle) and Laurel-Ann Drummond (Georgina Reilly) at this tiny station. But not long after they start their day, they start getting word of a riot at a doctor's office... and then how the rest of the town starts going crazy and killing each other. They slowly learn that there's a virus being transmitted by the English language using trigger words that turn people into crazy, murderous beings. So now they're stuck between going over the radio and figuring out what's going on or staying off the air in fear of transmitting more of the virus.

The movie could easily be split into three parts. The first part, which is the first 20 or so minutes, is kinda boring and could have been maybe 5-10 minutes shorter. It introduces us to the characters, which is nice, but then it just keeps going with nothing of importance happening. But if you can make it through the first 20-25 minutes, you're golden.

Because that leads into the second part, the middle 40 or so minutes that is a lot of the best parts of the movie. This was inspired by Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast hoax. No visual horror is shown during any of this, and it's some of the creepiest stuff in the whole movie. It forces you to use your imagination by just listening to people calling in to the radio station and describing things. There are totally intense parts during this segment, even if you never see a thing.

Then you have the third part of the movie, the last 30 or so minutes. This is where the actual visual horror comes in. The crazy people show up at the radio station, there's a small amount of gore, and it shows all the survival and hiding and all that. This part of the film is pretty good, as well, especially the ending.

Now, you can't call these things zombies. Even the writer and director both said they aren't zombies. They call them "conversationalists." These things go through stages of forgetting words, then incoherent babbling, and then all-out destruction. And I love the reasoning behind what can cause the virus with the language and all that. And it's great when you know a couple trigger words, but you see certain characters not hearing the words because they're focused on something else going on at the moment.

There's some good comedy in the film, mostly from Stephen McHattie, whose character is a bit of a douche, but in an endearing kind of way. And I loved his voice--perfect for the radio host. And apparently he's reprised his role from an actual radio transmission that they did in the UK a la War of the Worlds (via Orson Welles). And that transmission is actually included on the DVD, which is pretty cool. So if you've got an hour to kill, you can actually just play the audio of the radio play and listen to that (it's pretty much the movie, but without the other bits not broadcasted).

Overall, the movie isn't perfect, but it's still really good. I'd definitely recommend it, especially if you like a more old-school imagination-necessary type of horror film. It's a very talky film, but it keeps you engaged. Good movie, good acting, good suspense, good creepy factor, good ending... and even the credits are cool, because over the credits you hear radio broadcasts and whatnot have the after-effects of the Pontypool outbreak. Though after the credits, there's a very strange and seemingly unrelated clip that really doesn't make any sense, especially in the context of the movie. But besides that, the movie is really good.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. I actually just realized this movie was directed by the same guy who did The Tracey Fragments, which I just finished watching via Netflix maybe a week ago... review forthcoming... but a completely different type of film (this one's better).)

The James Cameron Formula: Why'd We Expect Any Different?

As I was (only partially) watching The Abyss last night, I started wondering... why is everybody riffing on Avatar so much? Really, what did they expect it to be coming from James Cameron? Plus, all it really promised was a change in the visual style of movies, which it delivered on. I know it didn't deliver on deep characters or anything, but let's look at Cameron's older movies for a minute.


- Woman wants to save child from alien race while others want to blow them up.
- Little girl must live like the aliens to survive.
- Static bad guys.
- Commended for visual effects.

The Abyss

- People want to make contact with and learn about alien race with other want to blow them up.
- Alien acts like humans at times.
- Static bad guy.
- Commended for visual effects.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day

- Robot wants to save human from robot race to stop the world from blowing up.
- Boy teaches robot how to be human.
- Static bad guy.
- Commended for visual effects.

True Lies

- Double agent wants to save wife and stop terrorists from blowing things up.
- Like I said, double agent.
- Static bad guy.
- Commended for visual effects.


- Guy pretends to be upper class to fall in love with rich girl before boat, well, starts to explode and fall apart.
- Guy infiltrates upper class and teaches rich girl how to be poor.
- Static bad guy.
- Commended for visual effects.


- Guy pretends to be alien race to learn their ways and help them stop bad guys from blowing them up.
- Aliens teach human how to be alien.
- Static bad guy.
- Commended for visual effects.

So, seriously, what was everybody expecting? It's the same formula that Cameron has used in practically all his other movies. People were promised outstanding visual effects... well, he tends to deliver on that, and he did. Really, the only movie that doesn't follow this formula is the original Terminator (which is why it's not on that list), except for the 'static bad guy' and 'commended visual effects' part. But that one was made before all those others, so it's not like it interrupted the formulaic flow.

I think somewhere in translation the promise of "amazing visuals" turned into "original story" and "greatest movie ever made," which shouldn't have happened. Because, really, looking at the previous films, I wonder how people would have thought he'd do something any different.

OK, I'm done. You can now hit me with "Well, Cameron himself stated..." and "He had 10 years to work on story" and "well, at least those other movies had memorable characters" all that other stuff :P . Honestly, I just wanted to point out similarities. All in good fun.


LKMYNTS: Cypher.

While he hasn't done that many movies, Vincenzo Natali is quite an underrated director who needs a big break. But then again, I'm not sure how (or if) Hollywood would appreciate his odd style. Like many people, I discovered Vincenzo with Cube. I then went to Nothing, which was almost too strange and out-there. And then I heard about this film, which is probably the closest he's gotten to mainstream (mostly due to having an ending that actually has closure and isn't mind-bending).

Cypher is about Morgan Sullivan (Jeremy Northam), an average man who gets a job with a high-tech corporation called DigiCorp as a spy, changing his name to Jack Thursby. They send him around the country to boring conventions to spy on their rivals, Sunways. But at these conventions, he keeps running into a sexy femme fatale named Rita (Lucy Liu), who begins to show Morgan that there's more to this than there seems. She warns him that he must remember that he is Morgan, not Jack Thursby, and she gives him help in the form of both advice and other (medication, shots, etc.) that help him see what's really going on with DigiCorp. And what follows is a twisty, turny espionage thriller (with a twist of sci-fi) about mind control where you can never be sure who to trust and who is telling the truth.

This movie is a total mind-freak. It's slow to start, but interesting enough to keep you involved. But eventually, it just starts going all-out and you have no idea what the hell is going on anymore (I mean, the film is completely understandable, it's just you're never sure who to trust, much like Morgan himself). There are so many twists and turns in this film, it's ridiculous. Is DigiCorp really evil? Is Sunways good, or are they playing Morgan just like DigiCorp? Who is Rita? And is her boss to be trusted, or is he yet another person he may or may not be able to trust? Needless to say, it's almost literally an insane ride.

The acting is really good, too. At first I thought a couple parts were questionable, but as it turns out from what you discover later... well, let's just say even the acting makes sense in how it was done. Jeremy Northam looks like a strange blend of David Duchovny and Tim Blake Nelson (and one more I can't place). He plays well going from the giddy new spy to the 'wtf have I gotten myself into' guy. Lucy Liu was great as the femme fatale, as well. Quite a bit different than what else I've seen her in as of late. And then there's David Hewlett, who is to Vincenzo Natali as Johnny Depp is to Tim Burton (except without being too over-exposed). He does really well as usual... sorry I can't be more specific here, but his role really isn't that huge. It's fun, though.

For such a low budget film (for its genre, anyway), as are all Vincenzo Natali films, the special effects were really good. I swear, Natali needs to teach filmmakers how to do more with less, because he's mastered it. From Cube to this, he can make completely engaging films with so little budget (this film was only made with 7.5 mil).

Overall, I really recommend the film if you're into spy thrillers, 'near-future' sci-fi, identity confusion, or just mind-freak films in general. It's certainly one heck of a ride. There are a ton of twists, some easier to see than others, and a satisfying ending.

A Keanu 'Whoa'



I've been pretty hyped for this movie for a while, mostly from a mystery/thriller standpoint more than a Scorsese standpoint (I'm by no means a Scorsese aficionado or anything). Now I'm just wondering if I went in with my expectations a bit too high. Shutter Island tells the story of U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his newly appointed partner, Chuck (Mark Ruffalo). They are sent to Shutter Island because it houses an asylum for the criminally insane, and one of its patience has just escaped. But everything isn't what it seems. The doctors, nurses, and orderlies, and security--including Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), Dr. Naehring (Max Von Sydow), and Deputy Warden McPherson (John Carroll Lynch)--seem to be in on some kind of conspiracy, and it's up to Teddy to figure out what it is, to "blow the lid off this thing." The movie also stars the likes of Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, and Elias Koteas.

Even after I was already interested in the movie, I was told it had this epic twist to end all twists--one of the best twists in modern literature (since it's based on a book). Well, I wonder if the book is any different, because I was able to figure out the basic twist within the first 3 minutes of the movie. But just the basic part of it. All the other details, I was never able to figure out until they were revealed at the end. Interestingly enough, whenever there were clues to the ending, it felt like a giant flashing sign saying "look at me, I'm a clue!" But while I was easily able to discern the clues that would inevitably add up to the twist, I wasn't able to put them together and make sense of it before it was revealed. Of course, it all made sense afterward, but still. Oh, and they never explain the "rule of 4" thing, unless I just missed it. Because they find this letter that mentions the 'rule of 4' and 'who is 67'? They explain the latter, but never the former...

The acting, for the most part, was good. But there were times when I was like "OK, Leo, right now I'm just seeing Leo trying to play a cop." They weren't frequent, but they were there. And I worried about the movie at the beginning, wondering what I was getting myself into for 2+ hours, as it really wasn't very gripping, and it seemed to be exposition central.

But the movie does pick up after a while. What helps the movie the most are its visuals. Scorsese does good things to set the mood--the rain, the smoke, the shadows--and he runs with it. There's good cinematography here to really help with the atmosphere, not to mention some really great shots in general.

I also noticed, primarily towards the end, how much symbolism there was in the movie. There were a lot of fire and water motifs, as well as smoke. And the storm/rain acted as a great symbol to the chaos of the situation, as well as to the self-destruction of mankind.

I really don't know what else to say. It was really good, but not "OMG I need new pants" great. Maybe I had hyped myself up too much for it or something. I might not buy it when it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray, but I'd definitely watch it again if I saw it on TV. Because, while it was good and the mystery engaging, I can't see myself sitting down wanting to watch it over and over again. Definitely see it in the theater, though. Just hope you don't get an audience like mine where a woman laughed at all the parts that were supposed to be disturbing and/or unsettling (or, with... like... the one jump-scare in the movie, calls out to the entire theater 'Oh, that scared me!'). So... yeah.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. Though I have to admit, the last line in the movie is excellent.)


Better Late Than Never: The Hurt Locker.

[I think this will be a new review-type feature where I review popular movies from a while back, anywhere from last year to many years ago.]

This movie had a lot to live up to by the time I saw it. It's been called the best movie of the year, one of the best war movies of the last 25 years, the Platoon of the Iraq War, amazing, brilliant, and any other super-hyped-up adjective or description you can muster. So my expectations were, needless to say, high. But at the same time, other reviews I've read said it's merely OK. And on top of all this, any movie that is overly preachy or tends to shove things down your throat (such as patriotism), I have to check my gag reflex and eye rolls and heavy sighs at the door. Then add a 2+ hour time frame and apparently very little plot, and I start to worry (not to mention I just don't care for war films in general to begin with). So I have high expectations and already expect it to epically fail. What a paradox.

So what did I think? This was one of the best damn movies of last year. I mean, the movie really has no plot. It's just a group of guys who belong to a bomb specialist group for the Army and their random missions. But it's mostly a character study. Jeremy Renner gives an outstanding performance as Sargent Will James, a character that borders that line between brave and insane. And not just insane for what he can put himself through without much fear, but certifiably insane. There are just little things here and there and make you question him, such as threatening to maim or kill someone before stating "just kidding," or going to bed with his safety helmet on, or even pressing a knife harder against his neck when a bout of horseplaying goes a little too far. He is a character that is always right... at least in his own mind... and when he isn't, it's usually worse for everyone. To compare Renner's character to Albus Dumbledore (which, I swear, you'll probably only ever see on this blog), Dumbledore once said that because he is smarter and cleverer than most men, so his mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger. The same could easily be said for Renner's Will James.

The other two main characters are that of Sanborn and Eldridge. Sanborn is like, to use an English term here, Will James' foil. He's more calm and collected and can't understand James' wildfire persona. Eldridge, on the other hand, has some psychological issues and is always focused on death by worrying about his own. Sanborn was really a fascinating character (after James), as his slow evolution throughout the film is shown juxtaposed against James' mental degradation. There were also a few other minor characters, such as Ralph Fiennes' commander, who is only on screen for maybe 10 minutes. But he's a pretty good character, too. Just not much to say about him.

I also want to talk briefly about the cinematography. I can see how it was nominated, but I don't think it should win. Why? Because while it's brilliant, it isn't consistent. I knew I was in for a treat from the very first bomb explosion and the rocks slowly raise off the ground. But the next time anything like that remotely happens again, it's been a whole hour later. Granted, there's not a whole lot you can do in a desert, but it just felt inconsistent (or maybe too infrequent would be a better way to say it) with its great shots.

The action sequences were great, too. They weren't your typical balls-to-the-wall action sequences. They were very subdued, very slow builds. Just the opening scene alone... you know something is gonna happen, you just don't know when. And the other scenes (like the car bomb when he can't find the wires), you just don't know what's gonna happen. The movie really moved fast for a 2+ hour film. It was completely engrossing. I wonder if the suspense holds up in subsequent viewings, though, but I'm assuming it does with its huge following.

All in all, it has great acting, great (if infrequent) cinematography, great suspense, great pacing... just great all around. And if there's really anybody out there who haven't seen it yet, I do highly recommend it. In fact, the more I think about it after-the-fact, the more I like it.

Royale With Cheese


Hollywood Darwinism: What Makes An Adaptation Good?

"Charlie Kaufman: The book has no story. There's no story.
Marty: Alright. Make one up."
~ Adaptation.

After recently seeing (and enjoying) The Lightning Thief, despite it's massive changes from the book, I started to think. Most people loathe movies that aren't faithful to whatever it is originally based on (books, video games, other movies, etc.). But this first Percy Jackson film has been getting pretty good reviews all around, despite its changes. So that brings me to the question: what makes an adaptation a good one? Some might argue it has to be exact. Others will say an exact replication is boring. Some might argue that you can forget the plot as long as it keeps the spirit of the original. Others will argue that the spirit is nothing if it misses the point of the plot.

So throughout this article, I want to delve into what I feel makes a good (and bad) adaptation, whether it be from a book or something else.


"Charlie Kaufman: Okay. But, I'm saying, it's like, I don't want to cram in sex or guns or car chases, you know... or characters, you know, learning profound life lessons or growing or coming to like each other or overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end, you know. I mean... The book isn't like that, and life isn't like that. You know, it just isn't. And... I feel very strongly about this."
~ Adaptation.

Before we can talk about what makes an adaptation good, we gotta see what makes one bad. And why not start with some of the worst? Most wouldn't say the book version of Eragon is high literature. It's hardly high fantasy. In fact, Christopher Paolini was probably just high when he wrote it (after watching Star Wars in between readings of Lord of the Rings--yeah, yeah, I know, the Monomyth and all that. I'm an advocate of that as well. I just wanted to throw in a 'rip-off' joke. Everybody else does). Point being, while it's not the best book ever written, it at least deserved a better film than what it got. I mean, I felt bad for the guy after seeing that travesty of a film.

So why was it so bad? Well, whatever they didn't cut, they changed. The movie cut major characters, changed others, and diminished the role of one of the only interesting characters in the story (like... from half the book to 15 minutes of screen time). They merged scenes, rushed the plot, and destroyed everything else left behind. In other words, it took out the good and left in the bad (and made it worse) of what was already a mediocre book.

But that's pretty much a given. You take out the good and leave the bad, and you end up with a bad movie. And this can happen mostly in trying to cram an 800 page book into a 2 hour movie (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had a similar 'cram-tastic' issue, but at least that one didn't have the cut/change-for-the-worse extravaganza). That's pretty straight forward. So what other kinds of problems can make a bad adaptation? Well, completely ignoring the source material, or reading a misinformed Wikipedia entry of plots and characters can really damage your adaptation.

For instance, look at either Dragonball Evolution or Super Mario Bros. When you can go "WTF is this? These aren't the characters I know" every 5 minutes, you know you have a problem. I mean, every Dragonball fan knows Goku started as a teenager in high school interested in girls, or that in the classic video game, Mario (Mario) and Luigi (Mario) went to an alternate dimension created by a meteorite where dinosaurs turned into humans and, even scarier, Dennis Hopper.

One step down from ignoring source material is not even knowing the source material enough to ignore it in the first place. Thus is Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. This movie tanked so badly that Squaresoft went bankrupt and had to merge with its rival, Enix (thus becoming Square-Enix), just to stay afloat. Its problem? It had absolutely nothing to do with the Final Fantasy video games. Sure there was a guy named Cid, but they even managed to mess that up by spelling it Sid. In other words, they just slapped the FF title on there to make some money, and it backfired utterly and completely. Granted, the movie isn't bad in and of itself. It's terrible as a Final Fantasy film adaptation... but as a film, it's actually decent. But since we're talking about adaptations, we'll go with the former for now.

A step up from the "ignoring" dilemma, however, would be the "Close but No Cigar" dilemma. Such is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Is it stylish and good to look at? Heck yeah. Is it darker and more adult than the first two films? Totally. Does it take the spirit of the book, at the very least? Sorta. Does it pass the adaptation test? No. No it doesn't. And why? Because it missed the point of the plot. The plot of the book was written for two main reasons--both backstory reasons--and both are completely missing from the film. In other words, the movie totally missed the purpose the book was written to begin with, making the film pointless in essence.


"Charlie Kaufman: Okay, we open with Laroche. He's funny. Okay. He says, "I love to mutate plants." He says "Mutation is fun." Okay, we show flowers and... okay. We have to have the court case. Okay, we show Laroche. Okay, he says "I was mutated as a baby. That's why I'm so smart." That's funny. Okay, we open at the beginning of time. No! Okay, we open with Laroche. He's driving into a swamp."
~ Adaptation.

So we've looked at the bad, but we can't look at the great just yet. So what about those adaptations that are just good? They aren't the best adaptations in the world, but they didn't completely screw it up. At the very least, they left it entertaining. However, there's something about them that stops them from being great.

First I wanna talk about a rare case: the source material just wasn't all that good to begin with. Such is Twilight and New Moon. I've always declared that the films are better than the books for a couple main reasons: first, it takes away the terrible writing and just gives you the story as-is (and is also forced to get rid of the pointless scenes... which is a lot of it). Second, it adds much-needed action that was very lacking in the books. So are these by any means good movies? Not particularly. But they are good adaptations, capable of making the stories actually bearable. So that's why I included them here.

But then there are the movies that stick a little too closely to the books. Normally this isn't a problem, but when you have a sometimes word-for-word 2.5 hour movie, it can drag. Especially when you substitute substance for style. This is the case with the first two Harry Potter films (Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets). Putting the page to screen, these are excellent. There's very little that was cut, and what was cut wasn't really anything major. However, where Chris Columbus took some insane liberties with Percy Jackson, he took almost none here. The movie isn't very stylish (outside of Quidditch, which is even outshone by the time we get to Half-Blood Prince). The colors are bright, the clothes are stuffy, the landscapes are flat... visually speaking, compared to the later movies, the first two are boring. Sure, they are adapted nearly word-for-word, but only at the expense of risk-taking. In other words, sometimes being too close can have its issues.

But sometimes the details are what are needed. Sometimes the details are what made the books so good (not saying Harry Potter isn't all about the details... it is. But I'm getting at something different here). For instance, take films like Battle Royale or Blindness. The book version of Battle Royale is one of my favorites. Sure, it's roughly translated, but the level of character development is insane. So I was a bit disappointed with its film adaptation. It cut out all of the character development in lieu of a straight-forward action/horror film. Some say it's one of the greatest foreign films of recent years. I say read the book if you want a deep story with more developed characters. It's not a terrible movie by any means, but as an adaptation, it suffers from cutting out what made the book so good.

Blindness, on the other hand, was literally in the details. The book was raw, gritty, disgusting, and disturbing. The film seemed like a sanitized version. The book detailed how crap (literally) covered everything, how people looked ravished, and just all sorts of disturbing details. Not to mention the terrible situations these characters were put in, such as the rape. Now, the films conveyed some of this just fine, and I actually commend the film for doing as much as it actually did. I also enjoyed how they shortened the ending, which in the book seemed to drag endlessly. The movie just got right to the point.

Similarly, another thing that can make or break an adaptation is how they handle the source's ending. Sometimes they change it to make it more family friendly (Chamber of Secrets). But sometimes they have to change the ending for other purposes--controversy being a good one. Two good ones to talk about here? The Golden Compass and The Mist. Both are on opposite ends of the spectrum on the controversy issue. The Golden Compass changed its ending to avoid controversy. In fact, the movie switched around the second and third acts of the book and then cut the ending completely. There's no religious explanations, no portal into another dimension... none of it. Because of these massive changes, the movie didn't reach the expectations of what not only fans of the book wanted, but what the Catholic Church promised during its boycott. Therefore, the movie tanked. But it wasn't really all that bad.

The Mist, on the other hand, changed the ending from its original story to add controversy. This ending can make or break this movie for you. It can make you say "how original" or "this movie has balls" and think it's one of the greatest horror films in the last decade. Or it can make you hate the film with a passion. At the very least, it leaves your mouth agape like "did they really just do that?" Regardless of what you think, it was a bold move, and I believe more people liked this move more than hated it, so it's essentially regarded positively.

Then you have the open ending. Sometimes the open ending can work. Sometimes they just don't make sense. Two good examples here are Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Both (loosely) based on video games, these films show both sides of the open ending. Resident Evil, while hardly close to the games, has an open ending that leaves the film open for a sequel (which turned out to be a little closer to the games). And this particular ending worked. How? It introduced the character of Nemesis, adding some depth to an otherwise mindless monster. And it worked in the sequel. It was a hint to and an expansion of the games that was mostly ignored throughout the rest of the movie.

On the other end, Silent Hill was pretty close to, at the very least, the atmosphere of the games. In fact, I'd say it's one of the few excellent video game adaptations... if it weren't for the ending. I'm no hater of open-ended movies (I love Cube), but this one just didn't make sense. It tries to be a clever twist ending, but it's just weird and left me staring at the screen like "Um... alright then." The ending nearly ruined what was an otherwise really good adaptation.


"Robert McKee: I'll tell you a secret. The last act makes a film. Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you've got a hit. Find an ending, but don't cheat, and don't you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them. Do that, and you'll be fine."
~ Adaptation.

So what makes a great adaptation? Here's my opinion: it takes the spirit of the source material, takes the best parts of the source material, cuts the bad parts of the source material, and remains stylish and entertaining. I'd like to talk about five main movies that I feel are great adaptations.

The first two, of course, are Harry Potter films (since they've been in the other categories). Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is considered by many fans as the worst book of the series. Why? Because it's 832 pages of absolutely nothing. There's no plot, and it takes 800+ pages to get to a plot point that takes maybe 50 pages to explain (the prophecy). Sure, there are important aspects of the book, but these important aspects are, like the rest of J.K. Rowling's books, very subtle and unknown until the last book. So what does the film do? It removes all the unnecessary bits (like Quidditch, which is the majority of the book) and manages to take a much-disliked portion of the book (Grawp) and turn it into an endearing moment in the film. In other words, it keeps the spirit, keeps the important scenes, removes the unnecessary bits, and remains stylish. It also added a line that the book didn't have that I felt should have been there ("Sorry, professor... I must not tell lies.").

I might get arguments here, but I also believe Half-Blood Prince to be an excellent adaptation. Yes, it cuts out a ton of Voldemort's memories. Sure, it cut out the funeral (which was only a couple pages anyway). But most people forget that Half-Blood Prince is mostly a comedy full of the romantic goings-on of the students. There's a decent balance between the light and dark, and the movie captured that perfectly. Does it go anywhere? Not really--it's just a precursor to the final book by introducing Horcruxes. But the film adequately portrays the book, not to mention looks beautiful from a cinematography level. And there are so many clues toward the last movie, you can really tell they thought ahead as they were making this. Some might not like the ending, but it was exactly how the book ended, and I felt it worked just fine. You say "maybe a book can end like that, but this is a movie." I say... segue!

Sometimes the ending of a film wouldn't work if it stayed exactly the same as a book. Prime example... Watchmen. The biggest controversy around this adaptation is its ending. Squid vs. Squidless. Personally, I found the "squid" ending of the graphic novel to almost ruin the entire story. However, it was salvaged by the Rorschach's journal ending. Now the movie completely removed the squid ending, but kept the Rorschach's journal ending. And everything else besides that was nearly panel-for-panel of the book (and equally as stylish). Therefore, I found the movie to be a nearly perfect adaptation.

To tie in the quote at the beginning of this section, you must "wow" the audience with the ending. No adaptation has done that better in recent memory than Speed Racer. Now, I've discovered that most people either love this movie or think it's incredibly stupid. I personally love it. It keeps with the "cheesy and quick" spirit of the original show. It's stylish (in a crayola kinda way). But I have to admit, the movie finalized its brilliance with me in its climax. The final sprint to the finish line was like a kaleidoscopic orgasm of awesome.

But nothing beats what I can only say has to be on of the best adaptations ever: The Princess Bride. In a rare case, I actually read the book after I'd seen the movie (so that might have affected my thoughts). But still, I had trouble getting through the book. Some characters bordered on painful, while the book itself kept a steady line of women-hating, antisemitism, and racism. I'm pretty tolerant when it comes to offensive jokes. But this book was almost too offensive for me at times. Thankfully, they cut all of this out in the film. And this is how the film shines. It cuts out the bad, keeps the good (and sometimes makes it even better), and maintains the overall spirit of the story. There were only a couple instances where I enjoyed what was in the book more than the movie (expanding on character backgrounds and such), but besides that... the movie was far superior.


"Charlie Kaufman: The script I'm starting, it's about flowers. Nobody's ever done a movie about flowers before. So, so there are no guidelines..."
~ Adaptation.

So I guess that answers my question. With Percy Jackson so different from the book, why did I like it so much? I'd say it falls under the "decent" category because, while it maintains the spirit of the book and even enhances the story at times, its third act annoyed me too much. And as we've discovered, it's all about the third act.

To wrap things up...

Bad: Nothing like the source, wrong types of changes, too 'cram-tastic', missing the point

Parts better than (or at least close to) the source, missing some details, risky endings

Stays in spirit, takes the best of the source, cuts the worst of the source, remains stylish

And... that's that.



Being a fan of the books, I've been pretty excited for this movie for a while. It's been an interesting little journey, however. First the casting was announced, and there was an uproar. Annabeth not blonde (and/or being played by AnnaSophia Robb)? Grover is black (and/or being played by Brandon T. Jackson)? Percy is 16 and not 12? Really... Pierce Brosnan as a Centaur? Uma Thurman playing a minor character that's supposed to be a elderly middle eastern woman? Ares is uncredited in the credits? Where the hell is Clarisse? There was just one thing after the other. But I pushed it all aside because the trailers actually looked decent. Then I started hearing how the movie is nothing like the book, and I started to worry a little bit. So what did I think about all these things? Annabeth still should be blonde (and/or played by AnnaSophia Robb). Brandon T. Jackson proved himself worthy of Grover. Apparently it doesn't matter if Percy is 16 or 12, because the prophecy isn't even hinted at. Pierce Brosnan... pretty good. Uma Thurman is a bit cheesy, but OK. Ares and Clarisse were sorely missed. And the movie is almost nothing like the book. But it kinda works in its own weird way.

The plot of the film is as follows: Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) and his friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) are students at Yancy Academy. But after a skirmish on a field trip, Percy discovers via his teacher Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) that 'they' have found him and that he's in trouble ('they' being the Greek gods and goddesses, who are real and whatnot). So Grover, his protector, is forced to take Percy home to grab his mother Sally (Catherine Keener) and run off to Camp Half-Blood where he'll be safe. But Sally is kidnapped by a minotaur sent by Hades (Steve Coogan), leaving Percy officially parentless. At camp, he meets Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, as well as Luke (Jake Abel), son of Hermes, and learns to fight. But when he discovers his mother is still alive and being held in Hades (the place, not the person), he must go on a road trip, along with Grover and Annabeth, to find the pearls of Persephone (Rosario Dawson), which will help them escape Hades after getting her back. Oh, and they gotta do all this because Percy has been accused of stealing Zeus' master bolt, and they only have about 2 weeks to get it back (after they find it and the real thief, of course).

If you've read the book, you'll probably have given a double take at that second-to-last sentence. Yes, they change the plot almost completely after the first act. But strangely, a lot of it seems to work. I actually really enjoyed the idea of traveling across the country to find the pearls rather than them just being randomly given the pearls during a much less interesting plot of them traveling to L.A. to get to Hades (which was the book's plot).

However, one upsetting factor because of this change is that some of the big fight scenes in the book were cut (like the chimera). But these were replaced with other bits not in the book (like the hydra... at least, I don't remember that in the book). And the fight scenes in the movie are really cool. And the few things they left the same, such as the Lotus Hotel, are really brilliant, not to mentioned better explained in the film than in the book.

I could drone on and on about the changes and cuts from book to film, but I don't want to put all my focus on every little detail, or we'd be here all night. Instead, I want to focus on two different types of changes/cuts: the ones that might seem to screw over future movies, and one change that just annoyed the crap out of me. Let's look at the first type first.

The first issue I noticed was that Camp Half-Blood isn't guarded by Thalia's tree, but by a large gateway. This is really gonna mess up the second+ films. In fact, Thalia isn't even mentioned, which means none of Annabeth's backstory is mentioned, which means there's no real crush on or connection with Luke, which will really affect the later books in more ways than one. There's also no mention of Mist, which will kinda affect the character of Rachel Elizabeth Dare in future books... as well as Luke's mother, if and when they ever decide to go into his backstory. On a similar note, they also completely cut out the Oracle, so Percy instead finds out about his quest when Hades himself appears via fire in the middle of dinner (and I'll get to Hades later). But the lack of Oracle intro causes so many future issues, it's not even funny. Then there's the lack of Ares and Clarisse, which is similar to cutting out Lucius and Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter--it just shouldn't be done (they actually gave a couple Clarisse scenes to Annabeth, which was odd). Dionysus was cut out of the camp scenes, as well... and that mixed with no Annabeth background, that means there's no Grover background. Therefore, there's no mention of Pan; because of this, I have no idea how they're gonna do the next few movies. Finally, the last major "issue" change that I can think of right now is no mention of Kronos. At all. Let's put this into perspective, people. To do another Harry Potter comparison, cutting Kronos is like cutting Voldemort. I mean, imagine the first Harry Potter with Quirrel, but no Voldemort, so the reasoning behind the villainy is much more selfish and less grand-scale.

The other major change that isn't really a plot problem, but much more of a personal problem, is basically the whole third act. Once they start heading into Hades, they threw out all of Riordan's mythology research out the window. I first noticed a problem earlier on when they showed Hades (the god) as a demon-like creature. Then they continually referenced Hades as Hell. Then they get to the Hades entrance (which is different than the book, but I digress). Once they start going in, it's all fire and brimstone and, well, Hell. Charon the Ferryman even describes it like Hell. And that's just not true. Hades was the underworld, but it was by no means all fire and pain. There were different places in Hades, like Elysium, where good people went, as well. So they were mixing Greek myth with Christianity here, and it really irked me. But a big 'argh' moment was when they had Persephone living with Hades. In June. That completely negates the entire myth of Persephone. Persephone is not held hostage by Hades, as is described in the movie. She in fact does not even hate him. She is allowed to leave during the spring and summer to be with her mother, Demeter (the goddess of grain), but must stay in Hades with her husband during the fall and winter, which upsets Demeter and makes her lonely, which brings the 'dead' seasons of fall and winter. So to have Persephone in Hades during the middle of summer is ludicrous.

But anyway, that's enough ranting. I need to talk about some good points--and there were many, as long as you don't compare it to the book. One of my biggest worries was that Brandon T. Jackson wouldn't be able to pull off Grover. And he didn't. However, he made Grover his own and really stole the show. In fact, in a rare instance here, the movie actually improved on the mythology of the book, wherein Chris Columbus made the satyr a bit of a horndog (as satyrs are known to be). Besides the action, which I mentioned earlier, the movie had some good comedy in it. Of course, Percy's sarcastic humor is a bit lost in the translation, but it's still OK.

Anyway, if you can handle the fact that basically, whatever wasn't cut was changed, then you'll probably enjoy the movie. I know it seems a double standard here, since that was a huge issue I had with Eragon. But there's a big difference here--In Eragon, what they cut/changed was for the worse, not the better, as was typically the case here (with some notable exceptions, as already mentioned). It's almost nothing like the book, and the third act drove me crazy, but it's still an entertaining movie. Had I never read the book (and known very little about Greek mythology), I might have even enjoyed it more, because I was constantly falling back on that prior knowledge. But I think it says something about the movie that it can make these major alterations and still keep me involved (I didn't even think about looking at my watch once). I think if they can pull off the future movies and show me that a lot of these cuts/changes are workable, then my score might go up. But until then, I'm highly skeptical (I mean, without Thalia's tree, Grover's journey, the prophecy, the Oracle, Clarisse, and Ares, not to mention freakin' Kronos, the second book is damn near impossible). So... yeah. I know this review sounds negative, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.

I Am McLovin!


Blog Update.

If you'll have noticed, there's been a bit of an update on the blog. The "Movies," "TV Shows," etc. sections are gone and have been replaced with "pages" from blogger.

From now on, all reviews and articles, etc., will be posted on the main page. But I have 4 new sections, as well. There's the "Home Theater" section, which holds the reviews for all the movies in an alphabetical list, but also shows (via asterisk) if the review is postive/negative/whatever. The "TV Room" section holds the reviews for all the TV shows. The "Bookshelf" section holds book reviews. And "the closet" holds random articles and whatnot.

In other words, the other sections are just record keeping and easy access per category. I may eventually add an "About Me" or whatever, but not tonight. I've been working on these other 4 all afternoon/night and I'm tired :P .

There are a couple link issues here and there which I'll be resolving tomorrow (mostly in the book section, but a few movies. But for the most part, it's all good).

Anywho... thoughts on the new setup?


R2D2... The One With A Site Update.

I just wanted to update with a quick note about the blog. It's gonna be getting a minor makeover shortly due to blogger's advent of the "pages" feature. So over the next week or so, if you notice some errors or issues with the blog, it's because it's gonna be under construction for a little while. Just letting y'all know.



As an avid Luc Besson fan, I've been pretty psyched for this movie since the first trailer I saw for it. I'm a Besson fan from his directorial best (Leon) to his simply produced fair (Transporter). The only movie that hasn't really made me happy was Arthur and the Invisibles... but everyone has their misses, right? Now, it's been a little while since Besson has done a tried-and-true action-comedy, the last I can recall being Wasabi, which was a lot of fun. And now he gives us this one.

James Reece (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is like the grunt worker for the special ops--changing license plates for getaway cars or planting chips in government offices. He just tries to make it through the day with his girlfriend, Caroline (Kasia Smutniak), and hopes for a promotion to a full-out specials ops agent. Well, he gets his wish, but it's not exactly what he'd expected. He's teamed up with partner Charlie Wax (John Travolta) who has some strange methods in getting the job done. A bit gun crazy (or crazy in general), Wax walks a fine line between right and wrong, leaving Reece wondering whether their mission is legit or just some personal scheme of Wax's. But the deeper they get into the case, the more Reece discovers about both Wax and himself.

One thing that surprised me about this movie is its more intricate story. Besson, as of late, had seemed to give us pretty straight-forward plots: Taken--man fights to get his daughter back; Transporter--a driver stops bad criminals; District B13--parkour cops stop gangs; Angel-A--an angel helps a man pay back the thugs he owes. Don't get me wrong, I love these movies, but mysteries they aren't. You can pretty much figure out what's gonna happen in these films. From Paris With Love isn't super deep or anything, but it throws some twists and turns at you that you really don't expect. It zigs when you expect it to zag, in other words. It could have been your basic "buddy cop" movie, but it took it a step further.

Imagine if Training Day were an action-comedy instead of a crime thriller. Actually, there's a scene that's almost exactly from Training Day that clicked with me as it was happening (where Wax gives Reece an ultimatum--take drugs or get out of here and lose this newly appointed promotion). And speaking of other movie references, there's a great little Pulp Fiction reference about halfway in... not to mention Tarantino-esque dialogue about the grammatical use of mother-f***er, which introduces us to the character of Charlie Wax.

Wax himself is a great character. Sure, he's a one-note character. You don't really know much about him, and he doesn't really change throughout the movie. But he's freakin' fun and hilarious, and he's probably one of Travolta's best since Vince Vega (though that's probably not hard to do considering Travolta's roles since Vince Vega). I hope to see more of this character in the future, because listening to his quick talk, wit, and one-liners was the highlight of the movie.

The character of Reece was alright. Nothing exciting, especially juxtaposed with Wax, but he wasn't overly boring or anything. He was relatable enough to watch for an hour and a half. Though if I had any major negatives of the film, both would stem from this character. The first is that the first 15 minutes or however long it is before Wax is introduced is almost painfully slow. It's all necessary, but there's no action, no comedy (except maybe the gum/chip scene)... it's almost just a day or two in the life of this almost boring guy. The second is, well, a bit of a spoiler... so I really don't wanna get into it here. It deals with the major twist in the movie (which is a good one--there's just one aspect of it that irked me, coming from a comment made by Reece).

Anyway, overall, I really enjoyed the movie. It had good action, good comedy, and, albeit taking a few things from other movies, a good story. But the best part, hands down, was Travolta's turn as Charlie Wax. Now to get excited about Besson's next flick, one he actually wrote and directed (which he hasn't done since Angel-A... since I don't count the "Arthur" movies), and which literally looks like nothing he's ever done before. But for now, let's send some love for Paris.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. Gotta love that poster).