Friday, December 30, 2011

Movies I've Seen This Year

Top ten coming soon. Ending 2011 with 95 films, though expect to add many more to that with screeners in January. But the pool my top ten will come from is below!

After the jump, natch :)

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Definitive Differences Between Tintin and Rin Tin Tin

Cross-posted on and commissioned by


With The Adventures of Tintin opening this week, I keep encountering lots of folks asking questions like, “What is it about? A dog? So what?! Who cares?!” “Yes, there’s a dog in it, but — stop — you’re thinking of Rin Tin Tin, aren’t you?” And I realized that way too many people actually don’t know the difference between Tintin and Rin Tin Tin. When I got to thinking about it, I didn’t really know the difference when the Tintin movie was first announced either. To add to the propensity for mixing the two up, a few months ago Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin biography was released to stellar reviews and jumped to the top of the best-seller charts. So we figured it was time to break it down so no one will ever make this mistake again.

-Tintin is a fictional boy who owns a fictional dog.
-Rin Tin Tin is a real life German Shepherd dog who played fictional dogs, and was succeeded by Rin Tin Tin Jr., Rin Tin Tin III, Rin Tin Tin IV … you get the idea.
-There is a lot of debate over where the name Tintin came from. It was a popular name at the time, and there are quite a few theories as to why the boy scout meets detective meets reporter ended up with the name he did. Some say it is an homage to Benjamin Rabier’sTintin lutin, others think it’s simply short for Martin or Augustine, and some believe the name signifies “nothing,” referencing Tintin’s purposeful blank slate and cryptic nature. A popular theory is that the name is not even the character’s real name, but a pseudonym used to protect his identity. But, fun fact: Snowy the dog was supposedly named after one of Herge’s ex-girlfriends.
-Rin Tin Tin was named after Rintintin and Nénette, the woolen dolls that French children gave to soldiers in the war as good luck charms.
-Tintin is from Brussels, Belgium, and was created in 1929.
-Rin Tin Tin is from Lorraine, France, 193 miles away, born in 1918.
-Corrected: From the comments section, Tintin was a comic, then 2 plays, then a stop-motion film, then an animated TV show, then another animated TV show, then 2 live-action films, then 3 animated films, then 3 more plays, then a video game, then a third animated TV show, then 4 more video games, then a sixth play, then two musicals, and then a mo-cap movie and accompanying video game. Also 2 short films and 3 magazines.
-Rin Tin Tin appeared in a series of movies and was the subject of three radio series. After his death, other dogs took over and one of these starred in a ’50s TV series entitled The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. Rin Tin Tin and his ancestry also had many the endorsement deal.

-Tintin was its most popular in the ’50s.
-Rin Tin Tin reached true popularity in the silent movie era of the ’20s — other German shepherds would later take his name and continue the tradition, but the true one, from a litter of shell-shocked pups found in WWI, only lived from 1918 to 1932.
-Tintin was translated into 80 languages and has sold over 350 million books.
-Rin Tin Tin was a huge star of silent film (and four color features!) and is credited with saving Warner Brothers from bankruptcy.
-Tintin solved the Secret of the Unicorn, found Red Rackham’s Treasure, and went to the moon. In Herge’s comics.
-Rin Tin Tin has a star on the walk of fame, a key to the city of New York, and was supposedly the true winner of the first Oscar for Best Actor by write-in vote. In real life.
-Tintin’s sidekicks were a terrier named Snowy and a drunken captain named Haddock.
-Rin Tin Tin had a variety of sidekicks in his films, but in life was loyal to one Lee Duncan. On television, Rin Tin Tin IV’s human companion was named Rusty.
-When Tintin creator Herge died in 1983 at age 75, he made it clear that the comic would not go on without him, but gave Spielberg his blessing to make a movie long before then.
-Rin Tin Tin allegedly died in Jean Harlow’s arms at age 13.
-Tintin can now be found on the big screen in The Adventures of Tintin, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, and Daniel Craig.
-Rin Tin Tin was buried in the famous pet cemetery in Asnières-sur-Seine, Cimetière des Chiens, and the current Rin Tin Tin is 12th in the line, the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the original. He still makes personal appearances.
It should also be noted that when pronounced with a proper French accent, Tintin *sounds* a lot more like any number of other words, but especially Tauntaun, a white furred biped native to the fictional planet Hoth, most famous for providing Luke Skywalker with a warm bed for the night after being attacked by a Wampa. While mixing up Tintin with Rin Tin Tin has become an acceptable reality, confusing Tintin with a Tauntaun is just plain silly, if not more aurally accurate. To diffuse further confusion, Tintin should also not to be confused with Tun Tun, who is known as the first woman of Hindi comedy; Tenten, a popular supporting character from the manga series Naruto; Tonton, a muppet in the Jordanian version of Sesame Street; or, your number one stop for indoor tanning lotion, dark tanning lotion, sunless lotion, and self-tanner!
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Geek Gingerbread Creations

I have the most awesomely geeky friends.

Battlestar Galactica Themed Creation by me and @thedanifesto

Game of Thrones Themed Creation by @scarletscribe
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

December at the Movies

Cross-posted on and commissioned by

Well folks, this is it. The last month of 2011. In which we are bombarded with dozens of movies and told each one is the best of the year. So which of the vast variety of films being released in December should make it on to your radar and which should you leave behind? Take a look at our preview below.

A Break From Oscar Madness

A Warrior's Heart (Dec 2nd)

I don't even want to tell you, I just want you watch the trailer. Is that mean? Okay, fine. This is a film about a kid acting out cause his dad died in war, so he gets sent to Lacrosse camp. It stars Kellan Lutz as the slightly normally named Conor, Ashley Greene as the slightly ridiculously named Brooklyn, and Chord Overstreet as the okay-who-wrote-this-named Dupree. The quote ON the official apple trailers page is "Twi-hards out there are going to love this!" from PEREZ HILTON. Oh and the movie is rated PG. Gold. It's all gold.

Am I seeing it? Under no circumstances.

New Year's Eve (Dec 9th)

It's like Valentine's Day, but on New Year's Eve! And somehow, even knowing what Valentine's Day was and being fully aware of its (lack of) quality, 137,000 major stars still signed on. Some folks even RETURNED, like Jessica Biel and Ashton Kutcher. This time around though we get some Seth Meyers and some strange Zac Efron/Michelle Pfeiffer May/December action, so all is not lost. Oh wait, I forgot Lea Michele is in this. Yeah. All is lost.

Am I seeing it? Let's be honest. I saw Valentines Day opening weekend. So. Yes.

The Sitter (Dec 9th)

Inspired by the 1987 classic Adventures in Babysitting, but with a hard R edge, this comedy follows Jonah Hill on a wild night of babysitting. It's also the last film Hill shot before beginning his journey towards massive weight lost, so enjoy it while you can, folks. I love Pineapple Express, but am still pretty burnt from Your Highness, so I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this latest offering from David Gordon Green.

Am I seeing it? I've been terrible about seeing raunchy comedies this year, so probably not in theaters, but I wouldn't be against a rental down the line.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Dec 16th)

These just keep happening, don't they? I haven't seen one yet and I probably never will (although The Chipmunk Adventure from 1987 is awesome), but man do kids LOVE these. In this, the third in the new Chipmunks series, the Chipmunks and Chipettes get stranded on a desert island and inevitably, wackiness ensues.

Am I seeing it? Why no, I am not.

Thrilling Thrillers!

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Dec 9th)

British espionage thriller set during the Cold War, based on the novel by John le Carré, which was also the source material for the 1979 mini series starring Alec Guinness. It stars a collection of fantastic actors featuring Gary Oldman being awesome in the leading role, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, and more. Oh and the director is Tomas Alfredson aka the genius behind Let The Right One In.

Am I seeing it? Oh yes, loves me a good spy movie

More after the jump

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide: Music, Book & Theater Edition

It's the giving season again! And if you're a procrastinator like me, then you're still trying to get your holiday gift shopping list together. So let me help you expedite that process! Here are my top gift recommendations for the art lovers in your lives:


Florence + The Machine's Ceremonials

Florence Welch is a rock-pop machine and Ceremonials is one of my favorite albums of the year. While lacking the raw, punk-like energy of the bands first album, Lungs, the new album is a more polished and whole achievement. All the songs sound connected and they flow to form a broodingly beautiful album that still makes you want to dance and sing along with at the top of your lungs. It's my wonderfully odd dark, upbeat soundtrack to the upcoming winter season. I couldn't recommend it to you more--buy it as a gift for yourself and your moody loved ones!


The New York Times Magazine Photographs

Aperture and The New York Times Magazine present this awesome photo book that surveys the photography published by the magazine over the years. The New York Times Magazine Photographs is this holiday season's ultimate coffee table book.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

From the Pulitzer Prize winning author who gave us Virgin Suicides and Middlesex comes a new novel about Madeleine--a 1980s college student deconstructing 19th Century English novels with marriages at the center of their plots. She finds herself examining not only fictional marriage plots but also modern love and relationships. As an English major, this is the book I bought as a holiday gift for myself to read over my winter break. But if it's anything like Eugenides' previous novels, I suspect that it'll be popular with a diverse range of readers.

Theater Tickets:

Tickets to live shows make for the best gifts; you're giving entertainment and helping to create singular memories. So this year, consider giving the gift of theater! Already seen Sleep No More (a few times)? Looking for another off-Broadway gem? Go see New York Theatre Workshop's production of Once, a musical based on the film of the same name. This insanely popular show has been recently extended to January 15th. Get your tickets before they sellout!

Based on the Film Written & Directed by: John Carney
Directed by: John Tiffany
Book by: Enda Walsh
Lyrics by: Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová
Movement by: Steven Hoggett
Featuring: David Abeles, Claire Candela, Will Connolly, Elizabeth A. Davis, Steve Kazee, David Patrick Kelly, Cristin Milioti, Anne L. Nathan, Lucas Papaelias, Andy Taylor, Erikka Walsh, Paul Whitty, J. Michael Zygo

For tickets, performance schedule, and more info, go here. See full post

Monday, December 5, 2011

Exit Carolyn at The Drilling Company Theatre

Sans A Productions and the Drilling Company Theatre present Exit Carolyn, a new play about loss and grief.

Lorna and Julie, lifelong best friends and current roommates, are coping with the death of their mutual best friend Carolyn in extremely opposing ways. Lorna masks her sadness by overworking and obsessively multitasking, while Julie wallows in hers by wasting her time away getting high (and a little fat) on the couch. Lorna fools herself into believing she's ready to move on from Carolyn's death, as Julie feels she's too paralyzed to do anything because of it.

As the play's plot unfolds, we discover that Carolyn was the middle, conjoining member of their group, and that Lorna and Julie both individually loved and depended on her charisma and strength. Without her they must reexamine their lives and decide who they are outside of their broken threesome (and if they even want to stay friends with each other). They must decide if they want to merely fill her void or truly deal with their grief and learn to live with themselves in Carolyn's absence. In the midst of Lorna and Julie's grief and dilemma, we're introduced to Carolyn's brother Matthew who is dealing with the immensity of his sadness. Matthew brings up some insightful questions as to the authority of grief; he wonders if it's appropriate for a brother to be so sad at the loss of a sister or if only parents and female loved ones (like Lorna and Julie) have the right to be as upset as he is.

Exit Carolyn captures the strange and chaotic layers of grief, while still managing to be a comical and warm show. The one outsider character, Avery, played by the freshly expressive Lauren Blumenfeld, offers some quirky lightheartedness. Laura Ramadei wonderfully embodies Julie's simultaneously funny and tragic slobbish couch-ridden state. For a play dealing with such a heavy theme, Exit Carolyn does a solid job of striking a believable balance of drama and comedy.

Exit Carolyn
Written by: Jennie Berman Eng
Directed by: Adam Knight
Featuring: Lauren Blumenfeld, Jake Loewenthal, Anna O’Donoghue, and Laura Ramadei

The Drilling Company Theatre for New Plays
236 West 78th St. (between Broadway & Amsterdam)
New York, NY 10026

Performance Schedule:
December 8-11 at 8pm
December 15-17 at 8pm

For tickets, go here.
And for a limited time, catch Thursday performances for just $10 (enter discount code: Danish)! See full post

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What Should Be Considered A Spoiler? Musings From A Spoiler-Sensitive Blogger.

Cross-posted on and commissioned by


What sensation just went through your body reading that word? For me 12 years ago, it was a sensation of excitement. Now, it's a sensation much closer to terror.

In my youth, I loved television and film just as much as I did now, but I wasn't concerned in the slightest with the element of surprise. Knowing what was coming never bothered me. I eagerly awaited the next installment of Watch with Wanda (now Watch with Kristin, on Eonline), would read plot summaries of episodes of Buffy and Felicity well ahead of when they aired, and would religiously check soap spoilers to see if this would finally be the week that Mike and Carrie on Days of our Lives would make love. (What? I was 13.) To me, spoilers were just an elongated version of "Next time on____" that prepped me for what was to come and filled me with anticipation.

Now, however? Completely different story.

Maybe it's because television has changed and Buffy was certainly a part of that (when I hit high school, I started skipping over the Buffy spoilers in Watch with Wanda), with mystery and development of story becoming a more integral part of television than simply being entertained. Maybe it has to do with the internet being so willing to reveal twist endings at the drop of a hat. But something has shifted. Over the span of 12 years, I've gone from a 13 year old who lives for spoilers to a 25 year old who lists "spoilers" as a legitimate fear when pressed. But maybe the difference is that spoiler means something different nowadays. With endless avenues of communication, constant advance screenings and screeners, and the weight that is now put on experiencing something fresh in order to have an honest opinion, the tiniest bit of information can now affect us as much as reading an entire, multi-page plot summary of a film we haven't seen.

Very often I get into arguments on Twitter about spoilers. Bloggers have gotten better about not straight up revealing plot points, but I, and bear with me here, happen to consider pre-release discussion of themes and lengthy, detailed opinions spoilers too.

Whaaaaat? I know. This is a little extreme. But listen.

The rest after the jump

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Cameos, Music, Puns, Oh My: Dissecting The Tropes Of The Muppets

Crossposted on and commissioned by

Before the fantastic reviews for The Muppets came flooding in, the concerns among fans included questions like, "Will this be the Muppet movie we've been waiting for" and "Will this be a real Muppet movie?" Even if the movie is indeed great, there are still certain elements fans will be keeping an eye out for - the elements that actually make a Muppet movie a Muppet movie. So what are the tropes that define these films and what notes does the new one have to hit to fit in properly with the Muppet movies of yore? We took a look at each of the six theatrical Muppet releases and created a refresher for you. Take a look below for the results.

The Muppet Movie (1979)
The first, the original, the classic, featuring the stellar tunes of Paul Williams and all star cast featuring every single person who was famous in 1979, The Muppet Movie is widely considered the best of the bunch. Perhaps the darkest as well, the film features a villain whose goal ends up being to KILL Kermit. This first movie sets up the foundation of what makes a proper Muppet movie, including meta jokes, puns, the aforementioned celebrity cameos and an ultimately heartwarming message. This story of Kermit deciding to go into show business not for fame or fortune, but to make people happy, and refusing to sell out in the process, is still poignantly relevant, and combining motifs from westerns, 30s gangster flicks and 60s road movies helps add to the films timelessness. All the original muppets are in the house for this movie about a movie about a movie, including a couple brief appearances from Crazy Harry, the muppet who has an affinity for explosives, who was more or less put into forced retirement over the next several films. Self-referencial, violent, and sweet without being saccharin, The Muppet Movie is a rare gem.

Cameos: Everyone was in this. From Steve Martin to Richard Pryor to Johnny Carson to Mel Brooks to Mr Television himself Milton Bearle, the list goes on and on and on until we get to the final cameo of the film from Orson Welles. Can't handle it.

Meta Humor/Breaking the Fourth Wall: Tons of it. It does feature movie within a movie within a movie after all, framed around the Muppets watching The Muppet Movie at a cast & crew screening. Perhaps the best use of breaking the fourth wall in the movie within a movie is Electric Mayhem following the script to know where they are supposed to pop up next. A narrative paradox!

Puns: Tons, perhaps my favorite being when Fozzie declares "drinks on the house!" and all the shady bar patrons run up to the roof, this classic from Kermit - "That's pretty dangerous building a road in the middle of the street. I mean, if frogs couldn't hop, I'd be gone with the Schwinn." or of course, the visual pun of an actual fork in the road.

Heartwarming Message: Making people happy, not selling out, staying true to you and your dreams will come true. This film perfectly meshes subversive humor with a genuine message.

Running Gag: Several here, all fantastic. The best appears three times, the first at the very beginning, Bernie: "You, you with the banjo, can you help me? I seem to have lost my sense of direction!" Kermit: "Have you tried Hare Krishna?" The second time it's mentioned, Kermit even *refers* to it as a running gag. It finally appears on a sign in front of a church, reading "Lost? Have you tried Rev. Harry Krishna?". Another great running gag is the classic Carol Kane "Myth" "Yeth?"And of course Sweetums chasing after the group of Muppets to go with them to Hollywood.

Sesame Street Cameos: The original and the best - Kermit and Fozzie run into Big Bird on the road, and offer him a ride, but he tells "No thanks! I'm on my way to New York City to try and break into public television!" Brilliant.

Musical Numbers: ALL great. Music by Paul Williams and the world's introduction to karaoke staple The Rainbow Connection, though my personal favorite is Moving Right Along

Dark Moments: Pretty dark in general, with Charles Durning wanting to kill Kermit, Mel Brooks trying to lobotomize him and so on. But rather than just one or two moments, the whole film has an edgy vibe.

Piggy fight scene: Piggy takes Kermit by utter surprise and beats up all of the bad guys. Amazing.

Slapstick Humor: In the bar, Kermit and Fozzie getting violently thrown around, Gonzo gets lifted by balloons and drops onto Fozzie's Studebaker, etc.

The rest after the jump!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Super 8 Blu Ray Review

Crossposted on and commissioned by

Oh Super 8, when I think what you might have been … although I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of this movie and appreciated the sentiment behind it, ultimately I don’t believe the film accomplished what director JJ Abrams and executive producer Steven Spielberg set out to do. Consequently, it’s a bit of a failure. As much as I love the cast of kids and their moments together, none of the emotional payoffs with the adult characters are earned, and in the third act, when all begins to reveal itself, logic goes straight out the window. Super 8 is a pale imitation of the movies it was inspired by, filled with unmet potential. The idea initially came from Spielberg and Abrams talking about making a movie about kids making movies — *that* part of Super 8 works. Combining it with Abrams other idea of a train crashing while transporting something from Area 51 is where the film falls flat on its face. Super 8 feels like two movies thrown together because it is. Yes, E.T. was developed this way as well, but the difference is, in E.T. it worked. In Super 8, the marriage is clunky and undermines an otherwise lovely story. I’d definitely say the film is worth seeing, in case it speaks more to you than it did to me, and especially because of this impressive group of preteens, all of whom I hope go on to long and fulfilled careers; I just personally found it to be a mild disappointment.

Audio Commentary with JJ Abrams, Bryan Burk, and Larry Fong
Analysis of certain moments, instances of where Spielberg was more or less of a tangible influence, anecdotes, memories, the usual. This is where you can actually hear about cinematographer Larry Fong shooting in anamorphic, the sound effects, which sequences were shot on a sound stage versus on location, motivations behind the actors (as far as Abrams knew them to be), how they worked around puberty, and more. Plus, Fong does one of his famous magic tricks during the commentary, and the gang collectively composes emails to Steven Spielberg. Even though we can’t see either, it’s still fun to know they’re going on. One of my favorite fun facts is that because they got the actors for such little time, anytime you see a reverse shot of one of the kids, it’s a stand-in. Overall, the commentary is thorough and engaging and well worth the listen if you have the urge to learn more about the film.

The Dream Behind Super 8 (1080p, 16:28)

Shot stylistically, almost as if this were a short documentary rather than a standard featurette, this piece takes a look at where the idea for Super 8 came from, and features extensive footage of Abrams on set interacting with his cast and crew. We learn the history of JJ Abrams and frequent collaborators Burk, Fong, and Matt Reeves, and see clips of their childhood Super 8 films. Also elaborated on is the relationship between Abrams and Spielberg over the past 20 years and how they came up with the idea for Super 8 together. My favorite bits are a shot of Abrams’ face while Elle Fanning nails the emotional scene wherein Alice talks about her dad, and his speech to the crew upon wrapping, where he offers “Let me know when I can do anything for you because you’ve done so much for me.” I know secondhand at least what a good guy Abrams is, and it’s neat to see him living up to that reputation on set.
The Search for New Faces (1080p, 17:46)
A look at the six leads of Super 8, from the audition process to wrap, featuring audition tapes of and interviews with the collection of young actors, thoughts from the casting directors, and footage of the kids engaged in behind-the-scenes antics, Abrams directing them, and best of all, the final day of shooting where an emotional Elle Fanning says goodbye and thanks to the crew for all their hard work. Watching the actors hug Abrams, knowing their journey together had come to an end, actually brought tears to my eyes. Favorite moments include learning that Abrams called each kid personally to offer them the part, a funny on-set moment where lead Joel Courtney doesn’t know how to use a rotary phone and Abrams teaches him, and when the cast reminisces about Riley Griffith’s contagious laugh. Since the kids are easily the best part of the movie, this featurette is my favorite, no question.
More after the jump
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kinect Disneyland Adventures: A Magically Addictive Exercise In Wasted Potential

Crossposted on Gaming Blend

Because apparently, there's no such thing as muscle fatigue, someone decided to create the very first open world game for Kinect. Fittingly, since the last time I was at Disneyland I lost the ability to feel my feet, this game is Kinect: Disneyland Adventures.

The premise - you're at Disneyland! And that's about it. During your day at Disneyland, you can experience up to 20 attractions, talk to over 40 characters, go on over 100 different "adventures" assigned to you by the various characters in 8 different lands, take photos of landmarks, hidden mickeys and characters, and interact with just about every item in the park. Completing every adventure, earning every pin for doing well on attractions, getting every autograph, and casting a spell on all 2000+ magical items will take you well over 50 hours. Is it worth the time and money? Let's take a closer look.

After creating your child avatar, which, much to my chagrin, is only allowed to have brown eyes, the game begins. The first thirty minutes to an hour of Disneyland Adventures is dedicated to teaching you how to control the game and understand the essential structure of gameplay through interactions with the main six Disney characters: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Pluto, and Goofy.

So how do you function in an open world kinect game? Move your left or right arm forward to move, hold your arm out all the way to the side to turn, wave to interact with characters and attractions (the quicker and more childlike the wave, the better), and once you master opening your item inventory, which involves holding your right hand up at a 45 degree angle until the menu opens, then selecting the item you need (I promise, it's nowhere near as easy as it sounds), you use your left hand exclusively to walk and your right to control various items. Wave it to cast a spell with your magic wand, hold your hand over a target with your blaster to shoot, hold your arm straight out to take a picture, and so on. As the game progresses, items in your inventory will include those, along with a fishing rod for catching random fish (I still haven't found one), baton for conducting musical groups across the park including the singing statues at the Haunted Mansion and any jazz band hanging around New Orleans Square and more. This beginning section also clues you in on the gameplay structure of meeting characters, receiving tasks, accomplishing these tasks, then reporting back to the character.

Once you learn the basics, you can go off and do whatever you want. This virtual map of Disneyland is an exact recreation of the Anaheim park, to a frightening degree. The attention to detail is astounding. I kept having moments of "I bought a corn dog at that stand!" "I sat on that rock for 20 minutes when I was exhausted!" "I threw a coin at that waterfall!" and so on. One of my favorite things about the park has always been how the trash cans are themed to each land, and the same holds true here. You could lose hours and hours just taking in the accuracy of everything around you. And that's *before* you're gifted a magic want by Cinderella. Once you have the wand, count on spending triple the time wandering around the park. You'll be able cast a spell on anything you see that sparkles. And there are A LOT of things that sparkle in Disneyland, you guys.

Each of the 8 lands has over 30 sets of magical items, and each set has 3 to 35 magical items within. So, aiming low, let's say that's an average of 10 items per set, that would mean a minimum of 300 items per land which means there are 2400 MAGICAL ITEMS TO CAST SPELLS ON IN THIS GAME. NOT including the 8 or so landmarks to take photos of in each land, the 30 something hidden mickeys to find in each land, the couple of blaster mini-games in each land land and so on. For a completionist who has major OCD when it comes to video games, the constant messages that I've completed "2 of 20" or "8 or 36" over and over and over, almost drove me out of my mind and kept interrupting me as I made my way to talk to characters or play attractions. This makes it great for irresponsible parents who need to keep their kids occupied for long periods of time and horrible for OCD ridden game reviewers. In that way that you need to open every drawer in Bioshock, you will need to cast a spell on every single godforsaken magical item in Kinect: Disneyland Adventures.

If you forget about using the items in your inventory to earn both in-game and out-of-game achievements, Disneyland Adventures boils down to meeting characters and going on attractions.

Meeting characters is simple, you wave to begin an interaction, then say autograph for an autograph (they will tell you to put your hands out to get one - don't do it, go with the stellar voice command system, save yourself the headache), bow to dance, high five to high five, hug yourself to hug, and put your arm out to take a picture. Although it should be noted that you can only get an autograph and picture if you have earned enough money through picking up coins in the park and completing attractions to go to a store and buy autograph books and photo albums. You heard right - the game encourages you to buy things from the stores at Disneyland! Sure, it's all part of the proper Disneyland experience, I suppose, but I haven't purchased anything but water from Disneyland for as long as I've understood that Disney eats money, and that's been longer than you might think. Better yet, you can only buy photo albums for each land in a store in each land, and you can't unlock the store until you go on an attraction. So it's impossible to just go from character to character, collecting everything you need. You MUST make money, go to the store, and play the attraction mini-games. You also need to have the brain capacity to understand this. I'm looking at you, tiny children. Who are clearly reading this right now.

The characters also give you a series of "adventures' which reminded me of the missions in Fable 3, where in order to make a friend or gain a lover, you had to waste time running around grabbing items and delivering messages. It felt pointless in Fable 3 and feels pointless here. And yet I COULDN'T STOP. To become a Lost Boy for Peter Pan, you have to play through Peter Pan's Flight, then gather his shadows around Fantasyland, then buy and wear a Lost Boy costume. Stich sends you to find him five hamburgers, and then to find a picture he lost of Lilo. Cinderella has you find sewing items, and then gives you the general mission of finding spools of thread around the park. Aladdin needs you to impress the genie with your magic. Some character named Duffy Bear I've never heard of before needs you to find stuffed Duffy Bears, but because he doesn't speak, you don't know that until you accidentally stumble upon 1 of 10 Duffy Bears. These go on and on and on. 

More after the jump. Yes, there is more.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Win A Copy Of Griff the Invisible!

We here at All Things Fangirl are giving away one DVD and one Blu-Ray of the Australian indie romance, Griff The Invisible. It was in theaters in the US for about 30 seconds, so if you missed it earlier this year, now's your chance to catch it. If you're unsure whether or not this a movie you should be interested in, check out my Blu-Ray review here.

To enter, just follow these steps:
1. Send an email to allthingsfangirl at gmail with your name, mailing address, whether you prefer a DVD or Blu-Ray, and why you're interested in this film
2. If you're on the Twitter, give a follow to your ATFG editors, @loquaciousmuse, @eruditechick and @castling
3. Wait and see!

The contest ends one week from today, on November 22nd. Best of luck! See full post

Blu Ray Review: Griff The Invisible

The Movie
An instant favorite of mine in the everyday superhero sub-genre, Griff The Invisible is the story of a mild mannered, oft-bullied office worker who leads a secret life as a vigilante superhero. His existence is thrown through a loop when he meets his brother's not-girlfriend Melody, a loner scientist with fantastical interests & aspirations of her own, including figuring out how to walk through walls. The connection between the two presents itself after Melody reveals her multiverse theories to a stumped Tim and fascinated Griff during an unexpected visit. The romance that unfolds is sweetly off-beat and combats any predilection towards the twee with a unique sense of humor, strong chemistry and genuine portrayals of of these innocently unhinged people. We root for their impossible dreams to come true and most importantly, root for them to pursue these dreams together.

With a seamless blending of fantasy and reality, clever knack for storytelling, pitch-perfect casting and soundtrack, and unique take on what is now a somewhat tired subgenre, Leon Ford shines in his directorial debut. The Blu-Ray, giving 16mm the 1080p treatment, looks fantastic, maintaining the gritty nature of the 16mm film without sacrificing clarity. If you’re a fan of Kwanten’s work as Jason Stackhouse on True Blood, this is an easy recommendation, but I believe this indie romance has an appeal that reaches far beyond the fan base of its lead. Maeve Dermody almost steals the show and it’s baffling that this unearthly beauty with such a precise and honest talent hasn’t yet been discovered on this side of the world. Patrick Brammall, as Griff’s obnoxious but caring brother who displays slightly more socially acceptance oddities in his personality, shows a great handle of comedic timing, obvious especially after watching the extras and hearing his contribution to the commentary.

For any of us with secret fantasies, whether they are walking through walls, saving the day or something even closer to the plane of reality we are familiar with, Griff The Invisible is meant for us. It’s a love letter to our potential and finding someone to reach it with, no matter how difficult life becomes or how much the outside world may fight against us.

Special Features

Commentary with writer/director Leon Ford, producer Nicole O’Donohue, and actor Patrick Brammall
This is where the meat of the Blu-Ray really lies if you want to learn about the shoot. We learn where the idea came from, how Kwanten got involved, insights into the music choices, including Lenka and Lykke Li, shooting locations, set dressing, which scenes were used to audition the actors, actor Toby Schmitz’s hair, how certain effects were achieved, and more. One of my favorite bis of information, since the special features left me craving a look at the technical aspects and design of the shoot, was learning about “Hero Mode”, the shorthand for all departments noting the moments when Griff becomes the superhero version of himself, with blue and yellow lights, wide, comic book-like camera lens, Ryan in the suit, and more. Brammall keeps the commentary light and littered with jokes between the anecdotes, and technical dissection.

Featurette (4:08)
Begins with the trailer then jumping to a standard featurette, featuring Kwanten talking about his connection to Griff (with an endearing confession), the leads on acting together, info on the suit and how the story was formed, and more. Short but sweet.

Anatomy of a Scene  Opening Sequence (3:16),  All-In-One Shot (2:16), Anyhoo (2:00)
Dissection of three different scenes, from storyboard to final cut, with some behind the scenes footage thrown in, including the director figuring out how to tackle one scene on location and a couple shots from the rehearsal process. Opening Sequence is very much about the action, a complicated sequence. All In One is particularly super cool, cause I wondered about they shot it myself while watching (so much simpler than I assumed it would be!). I won’t get into details so as not to spoil the moment, but you’ll see when you get there. Anyhoo is more about the actors and moments, showing on set footage, and Ford watching the monitor, and an ADR session with Patrick Brammall.

Appear Calm: Diary of a First Time Director Pre-Production (1:25), The Shoot (3:11), and Post Production (2:42)
A short self-made piece documenting Ford's first time making a feature film. Divided into three sections, pre-production, the shoot and post, it's mostly comprised of his thoughts, recorded with a webcam, paired with behind the scenes footage. Pre-Production is about a minute long, just a quick bit about beginning the rehearsal and read through process. The Shoot picks up after the first day, where we see a genuine reaction from Ford, impressed with the work of the actors across the board, and picks up again the Sunday before the final week. In Post Production, we see shots of the editing room and gain insight into the tedious process. We see him deal with needing to cut the film down, screening to producers, then holding screenings, finishing the final sound mix, getting picture lock, figuring out how to compromise and his journey to utter exhaustion.

While this feature doesn’t go particularly in depth or anything, but it’s still nice to hear tidbits about the shoot and hear from the man behind it all. Things get blurry the further you get from them, so it’s nice to have interviews filmed with only himself in the room, done *at* the time. I like some authenticity in my Blu-Ray extras.

Rain Stops Play (1:16)
During a pause in shooting while it was raining, Brammall and Ford jump into a improvised comedy bit that is genuinely hilarious. Or maybe it’s just cause Brammall's accent reminds me of New Zealander Rhys Darby that I think he's so funny, but this featurette was enough to make me research whether Brammall is well known comedian or anything, so well done Patrick Brammall!

Patrick’s Set Tour (1:24)
Patrick Brammall takes us on a brief but humorous tour of the set.

Deleted Scenes (7:36)

Here we see another clip showing Tim’s mild idiocy (and complete lack of connection to Melody), more of Griff’s scheming, Melody being awkward, many elongated scenes, including one in the office, one of Melody with her parents, and one of Griff with her parents and a sweet scene between Griff and Melody, getting to know each other, which was perhaps the only one that I wondered about being cut.

Music Video: Don’t Give Yourself Away by the Shadow Bureau
Oddly, one of my least favorite songs of all the music used in the film, which is overall incredibly strong, but it gets to be the official music video for some reason. The lyrics have a relevant and nice message, so I guess I see it, but of all he songs I was dying to hear in their entirety, this one was at the bottom of the list.

Overall, the features are fun, but I would have liked a lot more behind the scenes info, especially on the acting process and design elements. The film is so stylistic and specific, I would have loved to learn more about the way it was shot and put together. Commentary is definitely the place to go to for even a taste of this information, but sadly won't illuminate anything as far as acting is concerned, as the two leads do not participate.

Film: B+
Extras: B
Buy, Rent or Skip? Buy. It's a wonderful little movie that I can't help but think could use our support. I'm giving two copies, so if you're interested in winning the film, just head here and enter the contest. See full post

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Strangely Sweet Connection Between Kid With a Bike and Fringe

Light spoilers for Kid with a Bike and One Night In October, episode 4.2 of Fringe

One of my favorite movies at AFI Fest Presented by Audi last week was Kid with a Bike, from the Dardenne Brothers. I loved the movie on its own, with no qualifying or explanation necessary to know how much, but there was some information revealed in the Q&A that brought the story a little bit more into this world, and the world of one of my favorite television shows, Fringe. Buzzuh, huh, what now?

Let's back up. Kid with a Bike is about an 11-year-old boy who gets dropped off an at orphanage by his father, who tells him he will be back in one month. After this month passes, the boy does everything he can to get in touch, but his father is gone, moved out of their apartment and has left no indication to where he might have gone. When the boy sneaks out of the orphanage to see if his dad really abandoned him, but perhaps even more importantly, to see if his dad left the boy's beloved bike behind for him in the apartment, he encounters a woman who ends up taking the boy in on the weekends, committing herself to showing this boy the love and affection he needs to lead a good life. The boy fights back, getting involved in bad situations, seeking acceptance in places where he'll never get it, and we are left to wonder when he will realize the love he so craves is right there waiting for him in the form of Samantha.

During the Q&A the Dardenne brothers, making their first ever appearance in Los Angeles, talked a bit about what drew them to tell this story.
Movies give another chance to these characters. One can say that they give these characters another chance because for instance, this story was born out of a story that we heard in Japan told to us by a judge for Juvenile Delinquents about a boy who was now a man who had committed murder. When he was a child, his father took him to an orphanage and told him that he would come back and get him and he never came back and the boy waited and waited and waited year after year after year…and fiction allows us to say "Is this child going to be able to escape the destiny which is prepared for him? Is he going to be able to have another destiny?" And that's what we're trying to tell with Samantha.
Essentially, the brothers created an alternate universe for this boy that they heard about in Japan. They created a world where a force intervened to steer him on a different path. Hearing this immediately brought me to tears. It's not like this Japanese man truly had his life changed, it's not like anyone went back in time and gave him a caretaker, but there was something so elegant about this source of inspiration and noble about the intention of the storytelling, I was moved.

It reminded me of the second episode of this season of Fringe. No, really. In One Night In October, we watch a man in the alt-verse, John McClennan, using a device of a fringe-scientific nature to steal happy memories from people and inject them into himself, in order to get a brief high, the difference being this method makes him feel what it is to remember true happiness, not create a false sense of it through substances. Basically, he is a serial killer with the pattern of seeking out happy people.

The Alt-Fringe team discovers that in our universe, John McClennan Prime is a renowned expert on serial killers and request bringing him on to investigate and help them find where Alt-McClennan might be hiding out. We wonder why in one universe, this man who clearly has homicidal tendencies, chooses to study serial killers, while in another, he is a slave to those impulses and becomes one himself. It is revealed in a confrontation between both McClennans that they share one very particular moment in their past - when their father discovered their collection of dead animals. Alt-McClennan was severely punished and beaten for his actions. McClennan Prime ran away, fell down, got hurt, and was rescued by a woman named Marjorie, who ended up caring for the boy in spite of what he had done, telling him "Even when it’s the darkest, you can step into the light." Jealous that McClennan Prime got to have the happy life, Alt-McClennan steals his memories, which leads the team to believe that the assimilated McClennan, without those memories, would become identical to his other worldly twin and morph into a serial killer himself. But the impact of this woman on his life is too great. While McClennan Prime's memories may be gone, the irreversible impact Marjorie had on his soul remains. The power of love isn't evident merely in memories. When we have amnesia, we don't forget basic language, or the accent we grew up speaking with - the things that are ingrained in us use a different part of the brain, and being truly loved is an essential aspect to our entire being, not one of a list of memories that can fade.

Ultimately, both Kid with a Bike and One Night In October are about the transformative nature of love, seen through two universes, the one where a boy from a bad place is forced to succumb to his fate, and one where an angel steps in and alters the course of his life for the better. Both are extremely effective in telling the same sort of story, but in completely different ways. One, a classically Dardennian drama, the other hardcore science fiction, proving the worth of their respective genres and mediums by showing two very different ways to come to the same conclusion.

Perhaps fans of a movie like Kid with a Bike and fans of a show like Fringe have more in common than we think, and if fans of either are reading this right now, I encourage you to make a point of catching the one you aren't familiar with and seeing for yourself. See full post

Friday, November 11, 2011

AFI 2011: Best of Fest #5-1

For #13-10 of our Best of AFI Fest presented by Audi, series, click here
For #9-6 of our Best of AFI Fest presented by Audi, series, click here

5. Footnote (dir. Joseph Cedar)
As a Jew who went on birthright this year, I have no qualms about calling this movie, Israel's official foreign Language selection for the Oscars, one of the most delightfully Jewish pieces of fiction I've seen in years. It's witty, intelligent, moving, and riddled with guilt and inferiority complexes. This story about a father and son, Professor Shkolnik and Professor Shkolnik, who both work at Hebrew University in Jerusalem studying the Talmud, asks the questions, when does a role model become a rival and the student become the competition, and presents the theory that in a battle of egos, he who realizes humility first is always the winner. Expect your loyalties to fly all over the place in this smart, whimsical, and ultimately tragic intellectual comedy from acclaimed director Joseph Cedar. Inventive storytelling, a jaunty score and top notch performances help elevate an already brilliant script (it won the Screenplay award at Cannes) to even greater heights. To delve too much into the specifics of why this tale is so riveting would be to give too much away, but it's an absolute must see.

Favorite Scene: All I can say is this: It involves Uriel (the younger Shkolnik) and a tiny room full of scholars and a lawyer, and is one of the only sequences in the entire film where the score drops out completely

4. Extraterrestrial (dir. Nacho Vigalondo)
"Something urgent is not the same as something important. That's my lesson." This part of director Nacho Vigalondo's introduction to his new film Extraterrestrial stuck with me throughout the whole genre bending screwball comedy. The film opens with Julio and Julia, awkwardly dancing around each other the morning after a drunken romp. Normal post-one night stand protocol is thrown out the window when the twosome notices that all communication lines are down and more alarming still, a giant alien spacecraft is hovering outside the window. In any other film, made in any other country, by any other director, Julia and Julio would then embark on an adventure of epic proportions, falling in love as their adrenaline from massacring aliens brings them closer together. But this is Nacho Vigalondo, making a character driven story "filled with bullshit" (his words), not a soulless big budget sci-fi extravaganza. So instead, Julia and Julio use the conventions of alien invasion stories to weave an elaborate web of lies to cover up their brief affair when a nosy neighbor, Angel, and her alpha male boyfriend with a penchant for heroism, Carlos, check in on her. The series of lies becomes more and more elaborate as Angel discovers their secret, and Carlos experiences an entire film of his own off camera, seeking out alien insurgents and fighting to take back the city. Or so he thinks.

Extraterrestrial shows a masterful knowledge of every genre in play. No one could tell a story quite this humorously, this cleverly, without having a vast working knowledge of science fiction, romance, and classic screwball comedies, yet nothing about the film feels too well tread or unoriginal. Even with a straightforward narrative, a huge departure from Vigalondo's first feature, Timecrimes, the film keeps us guessing as we marvel at the absurd length these two people will go to, and at what end? With the world seemingly ending outside, how much does it matter if your boyfriend catches you cheating? It may have been more important to come up with a plan of survival, but the comically urgent human drama at hand took priority. Leads Julián Villagrán and the jaw droppingly gorgeous Michelle Jenner have incredible chemistry, which grounds the outrageous nature of the story.

Favorite Scene: A character makes a "confession" that is at once ridiculous and necessary, perhaps not to the physical survival of the human race, but certainly to the mental survival of the people involved in this comedy of errors

3. The Loneliest Planet (dir. Julia Loktev)
The winner of the Grand Jury prize, and for good reason, this story about the notion of what is masculine and feminine and the roles their fluctuation plays in our lives and relationships connected to me on a deep and immediate level. Nica (the charming Hani Furstenberg) and Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) are happily engaged to be wed and on a backpacking trip together in the republic of Georgia. She is goofy yet tough, he is strong yet caring, and they are the picture of perfection. While in the mountains with their tour guide, Dato, a moment occurs so small, so brief, so fleeting that if you look down at the wrong time, you *will* miss it, but so powerful that it dramatically alters the dynamic of this perfect couple perhaps forever. Guilt, shame, resentment and passive aggression swallow the second half of the movie, a sharp contrast from the light, adventurous beauty of the first half. A landscape which at once seemed so freeing and filled with potential becomes claustrophobic and uncomfortable. A film like this, with little dialogue and almost no action, could have easily crashed and burned in lesser hands, but Loktev's confident direction has you completely enraptured, aching for a satisfying resolution, but unsure if one could ever be possible.

Favorite scene: Directly after the "incident", Nica and Alex walk on opposite sides of the screen, a range of emotions hanging in the air, the only sound to speak of coming from the repetitive plodding of their shoes in the muddy terrain.

2.Kid with a Bike (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
In this hopeful fairy tale from the Dardenne brothers, a young boy abandoned by his father at an orphanage goes on a series of quests to find the familial love he has been so callously denied. In one particular instance of desperation, the boy, Cyril, sneaks out of the orphange and goes back to his old apartment to find his father, or at the very least, find his bike, an item so important to him, there is no question in his mind that his father would leave it for him. Here, he encounters a woman, Samantha (played with a delicate softness by Cécile De France) taken with his vulnerability, who becomes determined to give him what he needs in more ways than simply tracking down his beloved bike. Thomas Doret gives a heartbreakingly realistic performance as Cyril, seamlessly shifting back and forth between problem child and sweet little boy (a routine mimicked by a very different kind of child in our #1 choice below) as he seeks acceptance and worth. He is still too young to lose faith or sink into despair, and Samantha recognizes that if a glint of hope remains in his eyes, he can be saved. To awkwardly quote Shame, which also screened at AFI, he is a good person who came from a bad place, and it's Samantha's mission to nurture Cyril until he feels the love he deserves.

Favorite Scene: Cyril and Samantha go biking and share lunch. Simple, understated and a preview of their potential happy ever after.

1. We Need to Talk About Kevin (dir. Lynne Ramsey)
No amount of nurture seems to be able to bring the titular boy in Lynne Ramsay's bold return to the silver screen out of the darkness. This is a film so relentlessly upsetting that to even think about it is to rip a tiny tear in your soul. Tilda Swinton plays Eva, a mother dealing with her son's unquenchable thirst for destruction. Screaming non stop as a baby and staying in diapers till well into Elementary School are signs pointing to a defect in the boy, but all the doctors deem him normal. Still, Eva sees a side to him hidden from the rest of the world. The rot inside of him seems aimed solely at his mother and taking her down one notch at a time. But no matter how disturbed she gets by his actions, and how designed he is to ruin her, he is her son, she loves him, and nothing means more to her than his acceptance, no matter the cost.

Ultimately, Kevin may feel the same way about his mother, seeking a deeper connection to the person he felt never truly loved him, as he was initially unwanted and the reason why his mother's passion for travel had to come to an end. Because we see the film from Eva's perspective, we relate to her exasperation with him and it isn't until the movie is long over that we begin to think back on her mothering skills and wonder how much they may have affected Kevin's outcome.

Tilda Swinton bears her soul with the performance of her career, John C Riley does a fine job as her optimistically oblivious husband and Jasper Newell and Ezra Miller shine as Kevin. Both (along with Toddler Kevin Rock Duer) are stunningly beautiful and portray their up and down moments with a twisted believability.

Favorite Scene: Kevin gets sick to his stomach and for a brief evening, shows his mother the love she craves. Although he resorts to his cruel tendencies the next morning, their bond on that night has repercussions for years to come. Whether his behavior was genuine or part of a plan to upset his mother further is left to the viewer, as all dissections of the emotions running so high in this film are, but no scene better captures the heartbreak of a parents worst nightmare coming true, then this all too momentary look into what Eva's life could have been.
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