Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon 3-D Movie Review

The first Oscar nominee has just been released. It is How to Train Your Dragon, and I predict it will be nominated for best animated feature. Like Beowulf (2007) this movie makes the best use of 3-D technology. For some reason, computer animated films do much better in the 3-D area than the mix of live action and CGI. Perhaps, it's because there is more of a conscious effort of the director and the computers to realize every shot in 3-D or maybe there are just more "money" shots, i.e. shots where objects are coming at you. Regardless, when you see How to Train Your Dragon, in 3-D you'll marvel at the hairs on the fur or the texture of a dragon sticking out.

Special effects and 3-D technology can't make a good movie. It requries a good story, direction, script and acting. How to Train Your Dragon has all of these. Based on a children's novel by Cressida Cowell, it's the story of young viking named Hiccup. (Jay Baruchel) His village is at war with dragons, who have the tendency to ocassionally seize their sheep. Hiccup's father, Stoick, (Gerard Butler) is leader of the village. To show his father, he's become a man, Hiccup attempts to kill a dragon, the elusive night fury, so fast a dragon, that no one has seen one. You see dragons come in all different kinds. See video below. Hiccup's plan is to use a special machine that he has built to bring one down. During an attack Hiccup does bring a night fury down. The next day, Hiccup goes to find the dragon and see that he has trapped it with a net. He makes an attempt to kill the dragon but when the night fury looks at him, Hiccup realizes he cannot.

Hiccup decides to befriend the dragon. He loses interest in dragon killing to the chagrin of his father. So he enrolls Hiccup in dragon fighting class run by Gobber. (Craig Ferguson) Now Butler and Ferguson's Scottish accents are in full bloom. I didn't know that Vikings were Scottish. And the filmmakers are making Scandanavian barbarians into lovable people. Really? I mean the real vikings were not like the NFL Minnesota types. Anyway, while Stoick is on a crusade to find the dragon nest, Hiccup is trained in the way of dragons. At the same time, he's making a friendship with the dragon, which he now calls Toothless. It's this friendship, a kind of boy and his dog story, that teaches Hiccup that his people have it all wrong when it comes to dragons, from their weaknesses to their actual threat to the village. It's a well done message in tolerance that teaches as well as entertains.

The special effects are astounding. Yes, the flying sequences are as good as Avatar. The 3-D is worth the extra dough you have to pay. There's depth and like good 3-D, there are multiple "money" shots. John Powell's score also deserves kudos. I can see it capturing a nomination for best score. His writing emotes the burgeoning friendship. It captures the soaring wonder of Hiccup and Toothless' flights. The direction is crisp. The writing does not dumb down the material for little children. Baruchel, Butler, Ferguson and America Ferrera as love interest Astrid are excellent and make you belive that these characters actually existed.

How to Train Your Dragon is the first excellent film of the year. See it in 3-D. See it again in IMAX. In my town, there are limited IMAX theaters, so Alice in Wonderland is still playing. That's going to be a problem with the upcoming 3-D movies coming out. Regardless, How to Train Your Dragon is an action packed, funny, and warm film. The grade is A.

Here's the trailer.

Monday, March 29, 2010

No No Ocho

Chad Ochocinco took a step backwards today on "Dancing With The Stars." He did the fox trot which is a very romantic dance and he looked stiff. He kept staring at the sky rather than look at his partner! Chad, dancing is an art. Emote. Let it loose. The worst that can happen is that you miss a step. He will need to do better if he survives to win this.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Roger Ebert blasts 3-D

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert has blasted 3-D as a "juvenile abomination" used to justify higher ticket prices. Check out his tweet. I've also criticized 3D or 3-D. Until there is a way that you get the feeling of something happening to the side and back of you, it's not a big deal. You do get a better 3-D experience with IMAX.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Who Will Be The Bengals First Draft Pick?

Ah, it's spring. There's less than two weeks till baseball's opening day. Xavier is in the sweet sixteen. So it's time to think about ... the Bengals draft! Yes, the big event takes place April 22. Before I predict who the Bengals will pick with the twenty first pick let's go over the five biggest weaknesses on the team.

You should also run out and pick up your copy of Pro Football Weekly's 2010 Draft Guide. You won't have to order it online, get it at your newsstand. Why? Because if Bengals owner Mike Brown had followed PFW's 2008 review of WR Jerome Simpson, the Bengals could have picked the much higher rated and playmaking DeSean Jackson instead. Here's what PFW said about Simpson's weaknesses. "Faced marginal competition. Runs lazy routes and rounds off too many breaks." (2008 Draft Guide, pg. 49) Even though he was a second round pick, that's too high for this type of bust. Simpson can't get on the field. Luckily, the Bengals didn't miss on the first round of that draft with LB Keith Rivers.

Here are the needs in order of importance. Some may be filled by free agency though the market is starting to dry up.

1. Tight End. A pass catching tight end who can block is essential to the Bengals passing attack. Once Chris Henry was hurt, teams could double Chad Ochocinco. While a deep threat from wide receive would help, a tight end will give QB Carson Palmer an outlet who can get in the seams of the zone. Reggie Kelly is coming off an Achilles injury and is a free agent. Chase Coffman can't get on the field. Hopefully, he's not a Jerome Simpson bust. So there is great need here.

Top Three TEs in the draft: 1. Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma. Coming off surgery for torn knee ligaments, he's still the number one choice. 2. Rob Gronkowski, Arizona. Coming off serious back injury, it's likely he's going to drop, bringing up the next two. 3. Ed Dickson, Oregon. (tie) Anthony McCoy, USC. I like USC's pro style offense.

2. Defensive Line (Defensive End, Defensive Tackle) Yes, the Bengals resigned Tank Johnson but a foot injury hampered him. I still don't trust the character issue. Good defensive tackles are hard to come by. And yet the Bears and Cowboys gave up on him. As for defensive end, Antwan Odom is coming off an Achilles injury. Michael Johnson was a rookie. Some depth here could put the Bengals over the top. After all, defense wins championships. And the game is won in the trenches.

Top Three Defensive Tackles: PFW rates this position as "A" so look for the Bengals to get a DT somewhere in the draft. 1. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma. Will be gone way before the Bengals pick. 2. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska. Ditto. 3. Jared Odrick, Penn State. Ditto when the Bengals pick again in the second round.

Top Three Defensive Ends: 1. Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida. 2. Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech. 3. Brandon Graham, Michigan.

3. Wide Receiver. The loss of Chris Henry allowed opponents to ignore any deep threat and focus on Ochocinco. The Bengals need a deep threat to force teams to play them honestly, i.e., stop double teaming Ochocinco. While the Bengals recently signed Antonio Bryant, he's not the deep threat that Henry was. He's had one great year since 2002 and clashes with former coaches. Doesn't build confidence, does it? The Bengals should take a bold move and trade for Denver's Brandon Marshall. But bold and Mike Brown are two terms that are an oxymoron.

Top Three Receivers: 1. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State. Will be gone by the time the Bengals pick. 2. Arrelious Benn, Illinois. 3. Golden Tate, Notre Dame. UC fans watch this one. By the time the Bengals pick again in the second round, the top three should be gone. But Mardy Gilyard will likely be there.

4. Kicker. I like Shayne Graham. Nice guy. Very accurate kicker when the game is not on the line. Remember the heartbreaking missed extra point against Denver in 2006? And then the missed two chip shots during the Bengals playoff loss to the Jets? You're not going to franchise this guy again. And you're not going to give the job off to journeyman Dave Rayner without competition. Again, there's a reason why this guy can't land a steady job. The Bengals should look for a long term solution here. How about former Bengal Neil Rackers?! Well, at least he can't complain about the soggy field because it's all artificial now. By the way, don't look for the Bengals to draft a kicker earlier than the sixth round.

Top Three Kickers. 1. Aaron Pettrey, Ohio State. Mikey loves Ohio State guys so this is possible in the later rounds. 2. Brett Swenson, Michigan State. 3. Dustin Keys, Virginia Tech.

5. Safety. Both Bengals safeties went down last year. And while Chris Crocker came back, Roy Williams did not. Williams has resigned with the team but watching back up Tom Nelson was painful. Some depth and look towards the future is in order.

Top Three Safeties. 1. Taylor Mays, USC. 2. Eric Berry, Tennessee. 3. Earl Thomas, Texas.

Now it's time to predict who the Bengals will select with their first round pick. And with the twenty first pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals will pick... drum roll....


Why? By the time the Bengals pick, WR Dez Bryant will be gone. So will the top two defensive tackles. The other two top wide receivers would be good here but the need at tight end is too great. That's why the Bengals signed free agent Antonio Bryant. Gresham will float down to the Bengals because of the injury which cost him his senior year. But remember in the NFL, rookies regularly contribute and if Gresham learns the playbook he's going to be running wild on the Ravens, Browns and those bums from Pittsburgh. Let's look at some Gresham highlights to whet our appetite.

Chad Ochocinco Will Win Dancing With the Stars

Bengal Nation, we don't have to wait for the football season to start to win a championship. Chad Ochocinco will win Dancing With The Stars. All Chad needs is more polish and emotion. Those are two things he can exude. Chad, it's an art. The one thing he does have is the athletic skills. I'm not alone in predicting victory. Entertainment Weekly has forecast him the champ. (March 26, 2010, page 42) My Bengals fans, let's vote for him. Meanwhile, check out his cha-cha.

Monday, March 22, 2010

She's Out of My League Movie Review

It looks like it's the spring of Jay Baruchel. Baruchel is the voice of Hiccup for the upcoming 3D animated tale How to Train Your Dragon and the lead in the romantic comedy She's Out of My League. Both are fantasies.

Fantasies? Yes, one movie is about vikings and dragons. The other is about a total dweeb named Kirk (Baruchel) who snags the gorgeous Molly played by the stunning Alice Eve. This would never happen in real life. It only happens in the typewriter of a Hollywood screenwriter. Still don't' believe me? That's Barachel right. And check out Alice Eve. Enough said.

She's Out of My League is the story of Pittsburgh native Kirk who works for the TSA. He has dreams of being a pilot. Ah, Pittsburgh. It's the city of the Penguins, the woeful Pirates, those Steeler bums and romance. Romance? Really? But worse for America, is that the TSA has employed a loser like Kirk (Baruchel) to protect us against terrorism. Yikes. Anyway, Molly (Eve), an event planner forgets her phone at Kirk's security check in and he returns it to her at an upscale party that she is working at. She invites him to a Penguin game. Love ensues. The rest of the movie is about Kirk and his three male buddies' attempts to court Molly even though they are working class and she's a yuppie. Get it? Not only is she physically out of Kirk's league but she is also in a different class.

The movie follows the romantic comedy formula that we've seen over and over again. But the major problem is it's not all that funny. You get the three male buddies like The Forty Year Old Virgin but unlike the buddies in that film who were hilarious, these guys are bland. Maybe it's because the movie is set in Pittsburgh. Kirk is not someone you really like because he's a bore. A couple of ribald gags can't save the movie since most of the other jokes are flat.

Yet, one cannot hate this film. It's innocuous. At times, it's funny. And let's face it, you do wish this "Beauty and the Beast" tale would come true. The grade is B minus.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Basic Rules of Romantic Comedy

With the recent release of "She's Out of My League", it's time to discuss the basic rules of romantic comdey. Now, I do not endorse these rules, I wish writers and directors would break them since almost all romantic comedies follow them. One classic romantic comedy "When Harry Met Sally" comes close. Perhaps it's my love of jazz and standards that shades my view on "When Harry Met Sally" but it's still considered a great movie. Here are the rules.

1. Boy meets girl.
2. Boy and girl fall in love.
3. Boy and girl have happy times, usually depicted by a montage with upbeat music.
4. Boy and girl have a fight which breaks them apart.
5. Boy regrets losing girl. Depicted in a montage with sad song, usually a stupid soft rock ballad with lyrics that describe the emotions that boy is feeling. Like we really need to know this.
6. Boy realizes mistake and chases after girl.
7. Boy and girl get together for a happy ending.

Got it you future screenwriters? Now go out and break these rules because when you've seen all the romantic comedies that I've seen, we need some fresh ones.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This movie looks like it's going to "Kick- Ass."

I was surfing on XBOX Live when I saw this movie trailer for Kick-Ass. It looks like a comedy about teenagers who want to be super heroes. I have no idea if it is going to be good. It looks funny though. And is that McLovin'? See on this blog you get a review for the poetry themed Bright Star and you get a trailer for Kick-Ass. That's what I call being eclectic.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Funny or Die's Ad for a Faux Woman's Product

Funny Or Die takes on a man's habit of staring at a woman's breasts with this hilarious ad. Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard stars.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Academy Awards Show Review

Let's review last night's Academy Awards Show. Using a title from a famous Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, here we go.

1. The Good. Even though the show went a half hour longer than scheduled, it did have a nice, brisk pace. Let's face it, the commercials make this show too long. The decision not to have the best song nominees was a great idea. Songs performed in past shows usually killed the program with boredom.

And while I hate having ten best picture nominees, the voting system that calculates a majority of having more than fifty per cent worked. The Hurt Locker rightfully won. I preferred Up but The Hurt Locker is the type of film excellence that deserves the award. Thankfully, the Academy avoided giving best picture to Avatar.

2. The Bad. Hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Martin's jokes were flat. In fact, Tim Robbins jokes during his introduction of Morgan Freeman were better. And Alec Baldwin was awful as Martin's straight man. Next year, bring back Billy Crystal. He can sing. He can dance. He's a funnier guy than Martin. Or have Robin Williams host the show. He's unpredictable.

Who wrote the cliched introduction for Matt Damon before announcing Best Documentary? The reason why I'm complaining here is that all the films from the category had a message. Were they afraid of a Michael Moore moment? Sorry, that's why they made the films. You can agree or disagree with their message, but you don't' honor this category by making it vanilla. None of these filmmakers were afraid of controversy and neither should the Academy. When The Cove won, thankfully, one of the honorees unfurled a banner to support dolphins which is what the movie was about.

The John Hughes tribute. Really? Look, I liked Ferris Bueller too but his movies are not going to stand for excellence in filmmaking. He was no greater than some of the others in the industry that died just more popular. And don't call me a hypocrite for agreeing with the honorary award to "B" movie king, Roger Corman. Corman gave many of today's top directors their start.

3. The Ugly. Okay, this one is easy. It was the chubby, geek dancer with Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. Brought out to dance to snippets of the best score nominees, a geeky dancer was the main focus during the Hurt Locker section. He did what could be best described as a hip hop routine and it looked so bad that it was funny. Next time, just show clips.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Jon Stewart takes on Chatroulette

Chatroulette is a new online craze which allows Internet users with webcams to talk to random web surfers. Of course, this is great fodder for Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. This riotous clip demonstrates why the Daily Show has won so many Emmy Awards. Enjoy.