I have been way too busy to blog lately. Blame the whole school-career-ending thing if you’d like. Or you could also blame my staggering incompetence if you’d prefer, but I have to be honest; my feelings would be hurt just a little if that was your choice. You meanie.
The point is, now, all of my schoolwork is done, and I graduate tomorrow (yikes), so I can turn my attention to this post that I meant to write a month and a half ago.
See, when I went home for Easter Break earlier this year, just about the very first thing I did was get a haircut. It was long overdue.
The very second thing I did was walk from the haircut place to FYE to peruse the used DVDs. And the very third thing I did was blow all of my spending budget on three DVDs. Then I did a bunch of other things, and eventually came back to campus, and did even more other things, then left campus a few other times for internship training stuff and the general cultivation of a nomadic lifestyle, and came back to campus again, and did Senior Week stuff like minigolf and Hershey Park that was a lot of fun but would be really boring described in LiveJournal form. Somewhere amidst that, I finally found time to watch and review the DVDs.
Note: This post contains spoilers. You’ve been warned.
This is Ricky Gervais’ first lead role in a feature film, and it most certainly will not be his last. He’s more Andy Millman than David Brent here, more comically misanthropic than fumblingly insensitive, leading to speculations from some that he’ll be “the new W.C. Fields.” I certainly see the connection, and it will be interesting to see where his career goes from here. (As if he needs to work, after “The Office” is in the process of being remade by every single country on earth and some portions of Neptune.)
Structurally, the film reminded me a bit of “Bruce Almighty”–character played by popular comedian hates life, meets supernatural guide, gains powers but remains selfish, finally uses powers selflessly, gets hit by a large vehicle, then comes back to life, loses the powers, but finally lives happily. This, however, is a much more solid film than the Jim Carrey vehicle (there’s a phrase you probably DO hear every day), and could easily have been played as a straight drama. Gervais is every bit as excellent as you’d expect. Greg Kinnear and Tea Leoni are both good in their roles, although I don’t think I’d call either one of them superb. Kristen Wiig has a hilarious…I guess it’s a supporting role, but it feels like an extended cameo. And Alan Ruck gets a nice bit of screen time as one of the ghosts, which is nice, as he always struck me as the “Ferris Bueller” cast member most deserving of a long career.
Even though a lot of the plot elements are by-the-numbers, this is a perfectly enjoyable feel-good flick, and actually allows David Koepp to show some versatility. He should do more movies like this, instead of cranking out drafts of blockbusters with cheesy dialogue.
Comic Book: The Movie
I’ve long been curious to check out this passion project of Mark Hamill’s. He directs this mockumentary and plays Donald Swan, a high school teacher and comic book aficionado making a documentary about the history of his favorite superhero, the fictional “Commander Courage”, now updated for the 21st century as “Codename: Courage”.
I’m not a huge comic book reader, but I am a geek (and a fan of voice actors), and this movie is a huge celebration of geekery (and voice actors), with just a dab of self-deprecation. However, it is fairly unfocused, and a bit poorly-paced.
For me, it was a lot of fun to see voice actors in onscreen roles. Jess Harnell’s character of Ricky the Camera Man, for example, is a bit one-note, but it’s a note he plays very well. Daran Norris (whose interpretation of King Graham in “Mask of Eternity” is just one of many things I mock about that game) is pitch-perfect as Swan’s actor friend hired to portray the golden-age superhero. Billy West is entertaining as the creator’s grandson who never quite knows what’s going on, partially because he fades in and of Philip J. Fry’s voice a bit. Tom Kenny’s character doesn’t add a whole lot to the story, but he and his real-life wife and son have some of the scenes with the greatest potential for comedy, even if they stop just short of full-on hilarity. They’re amusing, but a lot of it is sort of like giving us the setup for a joke and letting us fill in the blank for what the punchline is. We’re amused by what we anticipate, but we don’t get to experience the payoff.
And that’s true of the whole movie. It’s never laugh-out-loud hilarious, but there’s a lot that’s amusing. It lacks the focus and drive of a Christopher Guest mockumentary, with scenes feeling like they’re there for their own sake, instead of for the sake of driving the story or the humor. Bruce Campbell’s interview, for example, should have had an effect on the plot. We should have seen the repercussions of Swan convincing Campbell of the superiority of the old school costume–Campbell meeting with the executives, etc.
The flick also raises some of the typical mockumentary questions–how did they get *that* on camera, why is Ricky the only cameraman who talks, etc. But overall, it feels more like a real low-budget documentary than most Guest flicks or “Office” episodes. (The fact that it’s genuinely low-budget and shot 30fps certainly helps the low-budget feel.) Indeed, it’s enough to make you wonder if a DVD of Mark Hamill’s Comic-Con Video Diaries, without the confines of a fictional plot, wouldn’t have been just as interesting. That said, the integration of factual comic book history with the fictional history of Commander Courage is pretty clever, such as Kevin Smith telling his “Superman Lives” story as a tale of an unmade Courage movie.
All in all, this movie certainly will not appeal to everyone, but anyone with a love of comic books, or anyone interested in seeing voice actors get their due, would probably find something enjoyable in it, or in the DVD features. The voice actor panel featurette is a lot of fun, although people who follow the careers of these actors (i.e., me) may have heard most of the stories before. But watching these voice celebrities interact and goof around together is a blast.
Sold Out: A Threevening with Kevin Smith
Chances are, if you’re a Kevin Smith fan, you enjoy hearing him tell stories. If you’re not a fan of his, you probably find his Q&As obnoxious and self-indulgent. Either way, you already pretty much know what you think of “Threevening”.
Me, I enjoyed it. Sure, he used up his greatest stories–”Prince World” and “Superman Lives”–and his greatest audience-interactions–getting tickets for the guys outside, using people’s cell phones–in his first DVD, but this is still plenty of fun. The highlights for me were his account of filming “Live Free or Die Hard” (particularly since I had just recently seen the movie for the first time) and the tale of Mewes excitement over the motel accommodations while filming “Clerks II”. Other than that, the DVD is exactly what you’d expect. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to you, but for me, it’s definitely entertaining.
After finally plowing through those DVDs, I watched things that weren’t DVD purchases, including:
Lord of the Rings fanfilms are rare, partially because Zaentz is far more protective of copyright in this area than Lucas is, so any LOTR fanfilm would probably be an exciting prospect. Now, due to the nature of the story of this film (adapted from the appendices), it feels like a collection of deleted scenes, with not a lot of new revelation or interesting twists.
The good thing is, for the most part, it also looks like a collection of deleted scenes.
Not all of the shots are flawless, but we have mostly good special effects, with some excellent orcs, a few great Middle-Earth shots, and a more-than-just-decent Gollum. (Hell, ANY Gollum is impressive for a fanfilm.)
I didn’t buy Adrian Webster as being Viggo Mortensen, but as it went on, I grew to buy him as this particular portrayal of Aragorn. (Granted, after Ralph Bakshi’s version, standards for accepting an Aragorn have gone way down.) All in all, it was quite excellent. Not perfect, but passionate, and a whole lot of fun, which is all you need from a fanfilm.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture That’s Simply Called “Star Trek” And Not “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”
This movie was fun. Not perfect, but fun. I don’t have much to add that hasn’t already been said elsewhere on the internet by people who know a lot more about Trek in general than I do, so I’ll just say that I’ll probably see it again and I look forward to the sequel.
Scrubs: “My Finale”
I was just glad to see the show end on a relatively high note. Other thoughts of mine on the subject are here.
And that’s the extent of things I viewed recently. Tomorrow: graduation. Sunday: home for a graduation party. Monday: flying to LA for my first internship. Look out, Rest Of My Life, here I come!