Friday, February 9, 2007

Factory Girl Review

Is this shallow art or is there something deeper that begs to be discovered?

I went into Factory Girl with no expectations whatsoever. I had read a few reviews beforehand but nothing to influence my mindset before entering the theatre. Even with a blank slate in front of me as I took my seat, I left the cinema with a sour taste in my mouth.

The film, which was directed by George Hickenlooper (Dogtown), stars a determined Sienna Miller (Layer Cake) as Edie Sedwick, a art-school dropout who moves to New York with aspirations of fame. There she meets the unconventional artist Andy Warhol, who is played by the versatile Guy Pearce (Memento), and he sets her on the path towards stardom.

What bothered me most about Factory Girl is how it would stop and focus on an idea or subject, only to skip away quickly before the audience could grasp what Hickenlooper was trying to get across. While the plot is easy to understand, the movie is quite confusing because you aren't sure what the director is saying about the subject matter. Hickenlooper also fails to flesh out the story in certain situations, often trying to narrate the story through the weak dialogue instead of visually, or both. Now, I respect a film that doesn't spoon-feed its audience, but I felt that Factory Girl was a poorly done narrative with little substance or grip.

Another thing that got under my skin was the way Hickenlooper treats the characters in his film. With the exception of Edie and Warhol, all the characters are portrayed as flat and undeveloped. Some get a chunk of film's running time but we never get to see them evolve, making them easily forgettable.

Now, both Sienna Miller and Guy Pearce try their best to save the film but it's unsuccessful. While they both do a good job, it's the static characters played by the likes of Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), Jimmy Falon, Edward Herrmann, and James Naughton that ruin the illusion and bring you out of the film. They aren't necessarily bad actors, it's just that the subject matter they're working with isn't the best.

While some will enjoy Factory Girl as a period piece or for it's gratuitous nudity, I can't overlook the previously mentioned mistakes. It's not a bad film, just one that could have been developed more through a better script and director.

Have you seen Factory Girl? Let me know what you thought, leave a comment.


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FILM: Borat Sequel May Be a Possibility

Yesterday Rupert Murdoch, chairman of 20th Century Fox, announced that Sacha Baron Cohen has signed on to do a sequel to the 2006 hit Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. No details were announced on where the film would be set or any of the plot points as Murdoch claims they are still in the "idea stage."

Sources are saying that Cohen will go shoot Bruno for Universal Studios before beginning production on the Borat sequel. Fox didn't comment on when the sequel would enter production.

I'm glad that they are making a sequel to Borat. I'm a huge fan of the character and it's great to see him doing well on the big screen. Sacha Baron Cohen deserves everything that he's earned for himself and it's good to see him working his way up the ladder.

I'm sure that it will be harder to shoot both Universal's Bruno and Fox's sequel to Borat because of all the media attention the first film attracted. More people are in on Cohen's joke this time around and won't be duped as easily. Then again, there are always going to be ignorant people who haven't heard a whisper about the British comedian or his skits.

What do you guys think about a sequel to Borat? Will Sacha Baron Cohen be able to pull it off?


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Ultimate Spider-Man #105 Review

The conclusion to the clone saga. How will Brian Michael Bendis mop up this mess?

Maybe I'm a bit harsh calling Bendis' take on the infamous clone saga a "mess." Sure, the arc has been convoluted and all over the place, with so many details and characters being thrown around that it's hard to keep track of, but I've thoroughly enjoyed it. An homage to the original clone saga wouldn't be complete without a bit of confusion anyhow.

Well, issue 105 hit the shelves on Wednesday and provided, in 32 pages, a chance for Bendis to wrap up the enourmous number of events that have occured in this 8-part story-arc. When I say there were an enourmous number of events I'm referring to Peter getting cloned, clones going crazy, Peter's dad coming back from the dead, so did Gwen Stacy, Aunt May having heart attack, MJ turning into a wolf-beast, Doctor Octapus ending up out of jail, the Fantastic Four gotting involved, Shield getting involved. Am I missing anything? Probably. It has been a crazy arc and an entertaining one.

Now, unlike my Spawn 164 review, I don't want to give too much of this issue away. Ultimate Spider-Man 104 ended with the Fantastic Four giving Peter the question of a lifetime: continue as Spider-Man or let them take away the burden of his powers. Now, this question takes the entire issue to answer but is broken up by some key plot developments. We find out Nick Fury's reasoning behind sending all those spider-mechs to Peter's house in Queens. Peter also gets closer to Mary-Jane than he has since they broke up and must choose between MJ or Kitty Pryde. Peter must also deal with Aunt May who is recovering in hospital. She now knows her adopted Son is Spider-Man and Peter doesn't know if she will be able to cope.

Brian Michael Bendis does a good job wrapping up the story while leaving some of the story open for conclusion later on in the title's history. I think he did an excellent job with the Clone Saga and was able to throw so much at the reader without losing them (too much). I'm always in awe of how Bendis is able to really capture the human quality of things in such an action packed book. As much as I enjoy his fight sequences and the battle royales, I always appreciate the conversation scenes that much more. Sure, some of the stuff is corny and cheese fluff, but it works well in the book.

Mark Bagley is also up to his usual standards in issue 105. His compositions are top notch as usual and he does an excellent job nailing his characters' emotions in this issue. I don't think I'm saying anything new when it comes to Mark Bagely's art. He's done 105 consecutive issues on the title, the man knows how to draw AND meet his deadlines, something some of the best artists aren't able to do these.

I thought Ultimate Spider-Man 105 was a great issue and I'm looking forward to seeing what Bendis and Bagley can do with their next issue: Daredevil.


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TV: Muppets Reality Show In the Works

Muppets set to the tune of The Office. I'm in.

Hoping to bring the Muppets back into the limelight, Disney has decided to develop a mini-series featuring the fuzzy puppets set to spoof reality TV. Shot in a similar style to NBC's The Office, the show will follow the muppets as they set out to create a new show. Rumours have also been circulating stating that, if successful, the show will be a launchpad for new full-time TV series.

This is huge news for me. I've been a fan of the Muppets as far back as I can remember and I'd love to see them start making a comeback. I'd cut off a toe to see Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and the rest of the gang back in action in a full time TV series. In fact, just thinking about these guys makes me want to pull out all the old Muppet shows I have recorded on VHS in some dusty closet somewhere.

There's no doubt in my mind that the mini-series will be a success. The muppets are known for their banter and their wit and throwing them into a setting similar to The Real World would only amplify that.

If green-lit by Disney, the mini-series will most likely hit the air in the late fall or in early 2008.

Is bringing the Muppets back a good thing or a disaster waiting to happen? Tell me what you guys think.


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Thursday, February 8, 2007

FILM: Toy Story 3 Confirmed For 2009.

New Toy Story will be fully financed by Pixar.

Over the past few years there has been more than a bit of tension between the folks at Pixar and the executives of Disney. Pixar threatened to leave the company and in return Disney threatened that they would release a crappy quality, straight to DVD, third Toy Story film (something along the lines of Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea). Now, Pixar didn't want their prized franchise being flushed down the toilet by greedy Disney executives, so they decided not to leave (along with other reasons).

Now things seem to have settled between the two studios. Disney calmed down and was able to acquire the animation studio without too many hassles. Pixar was then able to place powerful people in high enough positions inside of Disney to create Toy Story 3 under their own creative control.

John Lasseter, the chief creative officer at Pixar, has made it clear that Toy Story 3 will be done right and that the animation studio will put all of it's resources towards the feature film.

For starters, Lasseter announced that his Toy Story 2 co-director, Lee Unkrich, will direct the third installment of the trilogy. He also announced that Oscar-nominated writer Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) will write the thing. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are also set to return along with the regular voice cast (except for Slinky Dog, Wheezy the Penguin, and Lenny the Binoculars due to voice actor deaths).

I'm fairly excited to see what Pixar and Disney can pump out here. While I may not be a fan of 3D animation flicks I respect what Pixar was done with the first two Toy Story films. While other studios pump out celebrity driven 3D garbage every few months, Pixar keeps their heads and (usually) releases well thought out films.

What do you guys think of a third Toy Story movie? Is it a good thing or are they just milking the cash cow for all she's worth? Post a comment, let me know.


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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Dark Tower #1 Review

The Marvel produced, Stephen King directed hype machine has finally arrived. Does it live up to its anticipation?

I was hesitant to pick up Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born today. Sure, it's been getting A LOT of attention all over the net and many are saying this is the comic book event of the year (It also achieved the first ever midnight comic book launch), but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about before I blindly dropped down $4.50 Canadian on the title. Well, I'm glad I picked the book up, in fact, I'm tempted to go search out the variants and snap them up as well, but I'll probably restrain myself.

The comic tells the back story of Roland of Gilead, the protagonist from Stephen King's The Gunslinger novel. Roland is the son of a dead gunslinger and must prove himself to earn his pistols and his pride. Now, at first I thought this plot seemed cliche and tired, but it's handled very well in the first issue and looks as if it's going to get better as the book progresses.

It's being written by Peter David (X-Factor), which is a plus, as the writing has a strong narrative style, but it's well done and not too over the top. Jae Lee (Namor the Sub-Mariner) has the pencil duties, with his layouts then being painted by Richard Isanove. The art is just flat out amazing. Extremely tight compositions and great use of blacks and shadows. It's just a pleasure to look at.

I can't wait for the next issue of Dark Tower to hit the shelves of my comic shop. Marvel seems to be doing a great job with this title and it looks like it has lived up to the hype, at least so far.

Let me know what you guys think of The Dark Tower. Leave a comment below.


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FILM: Trailer for Black Snake Moan Hits the Net

Sam Jackson has has been choosing some pretty interesting roles recently. His character in Black Snake Moan is definitely on of the more interesting ones.

Black Snake Moan, which is directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow), is a story about a troubled blues musician who takes in a young woman in an attempt to shelter her from her abusive lifestyle.

One reason I'm so interested in this film is because it appears to have such a heavy style. One thing that I've noticed about Craig Brewer so far in his early career is that he has a great sense of aesthetics and can really make a film look and sound great while adding to the general feel of the thing. While other directors add in effects for the hell of it, Brewer seems to know to only pull the effect lever when it will benefit the story being told.

Brewer also has a very strong sense of music in his films. Like Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan at times tells the story using on-screen musical sequences. Also, I should note, that Sameul L. Jackson did all of his own music for the film, along with guitar.

Another reason I'm pumped for this film is how off-beat the characters are from anything most people are used to seeing in a Hollywood film. Sam Jackson plays an extremely traumatized blues musician and alongside him plays a powerful Christina Ricci as, essentially, his female prisoner. Justin Timberlake also plays as Christina Ricci's boyfriend who has been shipped off to Iraq, and, while I've heard he did a fairly good job in Alpha Dog, I'm hoping he doesn't get much screen time.

You can view the trailer HERE and check out the MySpace page (along with some of Sam Jackson's tunes from the film) HERE.

The film comes out in North America on February 23rd, I'll post a review sometime after then.


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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

VIDEO GAMES: Microsoft Announces Gamerscore Rewards

Old Spice and Microsoft have teamed up to reward persistent gamers for their efforts.

Today Microsoft announced that beginning February 12th, gamers will have the chance to win some sweet swag for playing 360 games and earning achievements. Gamers will have two months to increase their Gamerscores by 1,500 points and will be rewarded according to this category listing:

-Gamers who have an annual Gamerscore between 0 and 4,999 at time of entry and add to their Gamerscore by 1,500 points will receive a game picture, dashboard theme, and Contra for Xbox LIVE Arcade.

-Gamers who have an annual Gamerscore between 5,000 and 9,999 and add to their Gamerscore by 1,500 points will receive everything in the first package along with 100 Microsoft Points and a contest T-shirt.

-Gamers who have an annual Gamerscore of 10,000 or above and add to their Gamerscore by 1,500 points will earn themselves the first package along with 200 Microsoft Points, a contest T-shirt, and a copy of Fusion Frenzy 2.

Gamers must have a valid Windows Live ID linked to their gamertags and be a resident of the United States and District of Columbia. Gamers must also log on to on February 12th to sign up for participation.

Unfortunately, as a resident of Canada, I can't participate in this contest but Microsoft has assured gamers around the world that future promotions will not be restricted to the 50 states.

This is a step in the right direction for Microsoft's Achievement program in my opinion as individual Gamerscores will no longer be just for bragging rights. What do you guys think about this? Winning free games for playing games has to be a good thing, right? Let me know.


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FILM: Iron Man Shooting in One Month

Jon Favreau's stab at a the superhero genre will start shooting principal photography in one month. Cast and details revealed!

Well, apparently Marvel plans to start shooting on their attempt at an Iron Man movie in a month or so. The film, which is being done by director/actor Jon Favreau (Zathura and produced independently by Marvel Studios, Elf), is set for a summer 2008 release and will most likely go head to head with Batman Begins for superhero flick of the summer.

Recently the cast of the film was announced and, to my surprise, it's actually quite a good one. Robert Downey Jr. (A Scanner Darkly, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) will play Tony Stark/Iron Man and the brilliant Terrence Howard (Crash, Hustle & Flow)will play alongside as Jim Rhodes. Gwyneth Paltrow has also been cast as Virginia "Pepper" Potts, secretary to Tony Stark, and Jeff Bridges has been hired and will portray a business associate of Stark Industries.

Now, while the cast is quite good, I'm not sure how well this movie is going to turn out. Marvel's recent superhero films, for the most part, have really dropped the ball. Fantastic Four was bad (the sequel doesn't look much better), X-Men 3 was a bit of a disappointment, and Ghost Rider looks like complete garbage. In fact, I'll go out on a limb to say that Marvel's only license that hasn't yet decayed into misery is Spider-Man, but even I have doubts that the third installment won't live up to the first two. Hopefully Iron Man can reverse this recent trend, but I have a feeling that, with it being the first film produced independently by Marvel Studios, it will not.

Also, I'm not sure how much I trust director Jon Favreau. He does seem to have a strong visual style and a good grasp when it comes to directing CGI and working with animation, but I'm not sure his storytelling is strong enough to keep the film afloat. Maybe I'm just being too critical.

Well, we'll see how Marvel's Iron Man turns out come summer 2008. What do you guys think? Will Iron Man be a hit or miss? Let me know.


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