The Blind Side

The Blind Side isn’t a football movie. It did phenomenaly well at the box office, so it wasn’t a failure of marketing, but I was under the impression walking in that, since this was a story about a football player, based on a book written by a sports writer, that there might be football. There is all of seven or so minutes of football. The rest of the movie focuses on the true story of Baltimore Ravens OT Michael Oher and how he came to live with a rich, white family in Memphis during high school. It’s a wonderful story and it’s heartwarming. There’s nothing wrong with the movie and I appreciated seeing Christianity depicted in the movie as a force for good and not a punchline or oppression. What I don’t get at all is WHY it’s such a huge it, why it was nominated for best picture, and why Sandra Bullock beat out Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep to win an Oscar for this role. It’s not bad. It’s a good movie. But it’s good and not great. I won’t remember much about this film more than a week from now. Bullock is great-for her. I didn’t sit there thinking I was watching Sandra Bullock just do the same thing she’s always done, but there’s no comparison between this and some of the other roles from last year. It’s a nice movie, uplifting, and the photos of the real people that play over the end credits are an especially nice touch. Great rental, but don’t go in expecting any more than that.
7.0/10

Superman: Braniac


I don’t like Superman. Or, rather, I did not. Until recently he’d been completely uninteresting to me as a character. I had tried him, don’t get me wrong. I’d seen all four increasingly horrid Superman movies. I watched the 1950’s TV show. I watched the 1990’s animated series. I’d read stacks of comics. I even hung with Smallville until about the time Kristen Kreuk got possessed by a ninja (oh it happened, people). The character was boring. The problem with a man so super as to be invulnerable is that you make him unrelatable. You don’t believe he’s ever in danger. He always does the right thing. He’s consistently depicted as a near-Christ figure with the emphasis on the “super” rather than the “man” he was raised as.

The first time the character completely resonated with me was in Superman Returns. I’ll never understand why the movie fared as poorly as it did because to me it was absolutely perfect. It remains one of my favorite comic movies of all-time, and only the fact that Chris Nolan is mentoring the next film assuages my grief that we won’t get more of Brandon Routh’s Superman.

Geoff Johns is a miracle worker of a writer. He’s literally writing half of DC’s universe right now and writing all of it well. Not just well, brilliantly. The smartest thing DC has done in 10 years is make him Creative Director of the company. He’s had seminal runs on JSA, Flash, and Green Lantern (still ongoing and something I must rave about here soon), and he teamed with James Robinson and Greg Rucka on the last few years of Superman. This particular trade, Superman: Braniac, collects a five issue arc that has to be my favorite Superman story of all-time. Johns takes Braniac and makes him the most relevant, the most hateful, and the most daunting foe in Superman’s history. As a threat, he makes Lex Luthor nearly laughable by comparison. The way Braniac is woven into Superman’s past and the impact he has on his present is so status quo changing, that no appearance of the villain will ever be the same again. It’s as shattering as when Alan Moore had the Joker cripple Barbara Gordon. The story is quite simply Superman faces Braniac truly for the first time, and if that sounds simple, it’s because Johns ideas usually are and it’s the execution where details lie and brilliance is buried. From the opening to the heart-rending last page, the script is perfect.

Just as perfect is Gary Frank’s art. Frank draws a Superman that has an uncanny resemblence to Christopher Reeve, which is startlingly vivid. Really, though, for an entire generation, Reeve IS Superman, so it’s a familiar iconic depiction that I find a lot more powerful than the Superman bursting with muscles. He’s only empowered because of the way his biology reacts to our sun. He should look otherwise like a normally fit man. Frank’s art has to carry the completely silent epilogue and captures every nuance and emotion perfectly. This is a graphic novel to hand to anyone. It’s a perfect representation of the best a super hero story can be.
10/10

Renaissance News Vol. 2 Issue 9

Odds are, as you are reading this you are sick. You are very sick. You are sick in the kind of lung-busting, phlegm-hucking, watery eyes way that is featured in most Dickens novels. I base this solely on the control group that is my workplace where everyone is hacking and wheezing like some kind of truly awful scat choral group. Here be bits of tid to cheer thee up:

  • Thanks to the magic of voice actors with Twitter accounts, we know that three of the villains in Batman Arkham Asylum 2 (the sequel to my 2009 Game of the Year) will be Two Face, Mr. Freeze, and Talia ‘al Ghul.
  • The rumor is that Nintendo is looking at October to release it’s 3D hand held system: the 3DS.
  • There will be NO 3D for Batman 3. Let the people rejoice! The fad has escaped at least one franchise.
  • This is not the case for Men in Black3D (yes that’s the title). Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, and director Barry Sonnenfeld will all return.
  • As the biggest film of all-time lands on DVD, early news about Avatar 2 (or Avatwo as they call it on the interwebs). The sequel will focus on the oceans of Pandora and the original film will be re-released in August with six additional minutes of footage before a four disc special edition DVD hits in October.
  • Martin Lawrence says Bad Boys 3 is happening after Michael Bay finishes Transformers 3. Take that source’s veracity as you will.
  • The trailer for Jonah Hex will be attached to A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • MGM is up for sale and delays in finding a buyer have indefinitely delayed Bond 23 which was to be directed by Sam Mendes.
  • AMC has announced that the fourth season of Mad Men will premiere July 25th.
  • NBC has renewed Parenthood for a second season.
  • HBO has renewed Curb Your Enthusiasm for an eighth season.
  • Among the many Wizard of Oz projects being passed around, Sam Mendes (recently freed up by the Bond delay) is looking at one that would cast Robert Downey Jr. as the Great and Powerful Oz.
  • There will be a new Star Wars animated series focusing on the adventures of the main characters post-Return of the Jedi. No word on if the stories will follow the continuity set up in the novels/comics that take place in that time period.
  • Don’t look for Leonard Nimoy in the next Star Trek movie. The actor has retired officially (this time he swears it will stick) from acting.
  • DVD Release Dates:
    Alice in Wonderland, June 1st
    Crash: The Complete Second Season, July 27th
    Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, June 22nd
    Shutter Island, June 8th
  • Aziz Ansari (Parks & Recreation) will be hosting this year’s MTV Movie Awards.
  • Look for an announcement very soon about Star Wars coming to Blu Ray.
  • Peter Jackson says the second of the two Hobbit scripts is finished and he expects filming to begin in October or November.
  • Box Office
    1. Kick-Ass, $19.8 million
    2. How to Train Your Dragon, $19.6 million
    3. Date Night, $16.7 million
    4. Death at a Funeral, $16.2 million
    5. Clash of the Titans, $15.4 million
  • Best Selling Video Games
    1. Pokemon Heart Gold, DS
    2. Wii Sports, Wii
    3. Wii Fit Plus, Wii
    4. New Super Mario Bros., Wii
    5. Just Dance, Wii
  • Rolling Stones Top 5 Albums
    1. “My World’s 2.0” by Justin Bieber
    2. “Raymond V Rayond” by Usher
    3. “Slash” by Slash
    4. “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum
    5. “Now 33” by Various Artists
  • New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestsellers
    1. Changes: Book 12 of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
    2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
    3. Caught by Harlan Coben
    4. The Walk by Richard Paul Evans
    5. A River in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters

Dragon Age: Origins

I don’t really need to wax rhapsodic (how did that even get to be a phrase?) about how outstanding a company Bioware is. If you want to hear me go on and on about their fantabulousness (oh oh, so THAT’s not a word? grammar is so fickle) just look up my Mass Effect 2 review. How they managed to release the two best RPGs in the last three years is completely beyond me. Dragon Age excels in creating an immersive world with a complex history. The extent and detail of the story are so fascinating that a large part of the game is devouring the codex entries you’ll find throughout the world.

There are six, count ’em six, different openings to the game depending on the race you choose (human noble, magi, dwarf commoner, dwarf noble, city elf, wood elf) and each of them lead you to the same story point, but are 2 hour completely unique openings. I played the first one and found it so interesting that I couldn’t choose based on just one. So I played all six on separate saves before finally settling on the human noble based primarily on the fact that he gets to have a war hound (which, yes, I named after my pug). The fantasy world in the game, Ferelden, is under attack by a dark plague of evil beings called Darkspawn. The best hope against them is an ancient order called the Grey Wardens, which your character will join after the opening.

You’ll spend the majority of the game rallying the different races and factions of Ferelden into a massive army to face the Darkspawn threat, gathering to you a diverse and memorable party of compatriots. The dialogue interaction with them is even better than Mass Effect 2. Each conversation has an effect on that relationship with the member and the higher the relationship level, the more skills that member contributes to the party. Combat is satsifying and leaves the party blood spattered afterward (in a realistic turn you stay blood spattered for a bit after a battle). There’s a lot to do and tons of sidequests that will take to 50-60 hours to complete and it’s worth it to take in the fantastic story and interact with your party (in a nice turn, party members will talk to each other as you’re wandering the land and those conversations are not just entertaining, but offer insight into how you should converse with them yourself).

Dragon Age completely consumed me. I played it for 10 hour plus at a time. It ate whole weekends. I read both tie-in novels. It’s my screensaver at work. It’s not perfect; however. The problem-really the only problem-is that the graphics are not outstanding and are downright buggy in places. Compared to Mass Effect 2, the game looks two or three years old. Dragon Age 2 has already been announced for Feb. 2011 and if they can maintain the level of story and gameplay while updating the graphics engine, this could be Bioware’s best franchise to date.

9.25/10

Movie Reviews, Trailers, Polls, Lists, and More!!!

%d bloggers like this: