Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Review's Summer Movie Preview!

I cannot believe it is finally that time of year again. Summer movie season is finally upon us! As is usual, I feel like it is my job to give a rundown of all of the big Summer releases that are coming up, detailing the ones I think a good Summer moviegoer should look out for, the ones that they should probably avoid, and the ones that could surprise. There's a lot going on here, so let's keep the excitement moving with my first looking at the movies you should be lining up to see opening day!

This Summer has many big, banner movies coming out, and there are many that I have great enthusiasm for. First, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 2, the final installment in the wonderful Harry Potter franchise, and I mean, come on, this is the last time you'll get to see Harry on the big screen, so why not see it in theaters? This finale is shaping up to be an epic, action-packed, two hour thrill ride with non-stop action from start to finish, not to mention the movie has played the best for test audiences out of any of the eight Harry Potter movies.

Next, is Super 8, director J.J. Abrams' latest original work, about kids in small town America who while making a home movie witness a train wreck, and see some sort of alien, escape from the train. There are hints of the great Spielberg blockbusters of yesteryear, but also the undeniable charm of Abrams' previous work seems to be at play here, plus it is an original film in a Summer of so many remakes and sequels. All of this is followed by the superheroes, Thor, First Avenger: Captain America, and Green Lantern. All have shaped up nicely, with Thor getting good reviews, indicating that it may successfully kick off the summer movie season next week. And what more can I say about Green Lantern, the space policeman, so to speak. He has always been one of my favorite superheros, and I will be lining up to see it. Now on to those movies that I think a Summer moviegoer should wait till DVD.

As it is with each Summer, there are those movies that it seems they have everything going for it, then there are those others that just seem as if the studios threw away hundreds of millions of dollars. I can probably go ahead and say most chick flicks will probably fall into this category (Something Borrowed, anyone), as is per usual when the Summer is driven by movies targeted more so to little boys. With that said, I don't even feel like spending forever here. Cars 2 (a sequel to the weakest Pixar film, no thanks), The Hangover: Part 2 (cause a sequel was necessary here, right?), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (a sequel to an unwatchable sequel), Conan the Barbarian (no one can replace Arnold), and Zookeeper (cause, does anyone still find Kevin James funny? Unfortunately, probably). There are always so many more, but those are the ones that I am getting the worst vibes on right now. Now time to do the fun part. Time to try and predict the films that have the potential to surprise and be the gems of a hot Summer!

There are so many movies with question marks over them, as with any Summer, but this Summer seems to have so many movies that have the potential and the talent behind them to succeed, but they are all wait and see films for me. The first is the other superhero movie not mentioned above, X-Men: First Class. Personally, as long as the movie fulfills its promise of showing how the two friends, Professor X and Magneto, become enemies, then this one may be worth seeing. Then, there is Cowboys & Aliens. I don't know what to think of this Wild West, Sci-Fi mash-up, but it is a unique take on these two genres that has never been seen before, and having a cast that features Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, and my favorite actor of all-time, Harrison Ford, never hurts.

As for Pirates of the Caribbean on Stranger Tides, the first Pirates is still a worthy swashbuckler that is a lot of fun to revisit, but the two sequels left a lot to be desired. With a completely new crew, new cast (save for Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush), and a somewhat simpler direction for the story, perhaps this fourth installment could recapture the magic that made the first one so special. Then there is Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which I personally was blown away by the first trailer. The Planet of the Apes franchise is still one of the greatest in movie history, but let's be honest, we've all wanted to know how those darn apes came to take over the world and overthrow humanity. I just hope it will allow room for real human characters and not just ape carnage.

Moving on into kid's movies, Winnie the Pooh is Disney's attempts at trying to rekindle the old magic, by going back to the beginning and making a more "faithful" adaptation of A.A. Milne's original stories. It doesn't hurt that in a Summer of CG-animations, it's a joy to see a traditional hand drawn flick hitting theaters. Then, there is Mr. Popper's Penguins, a movie based on one of my favorite children's books of all-time. It tells the story of Mr. Popper, who keeps penguins for pets in his New York penthouse, as he tries to teach them how to dance. The trailer promises to offer up a modernized take on the story, while keeping its core in tact, with a potentially funny role for Jim Carrey. As long as the filmmakers can keep this from being a cheesy Garfield-like movie that forsakes genuine comedy for stupid bathroom humor, we may be in store for a good time at the movies.

So that's my Summer Movie Preview! Enjoy!

Friday, April 29, 2011

"Smallvile" Top 10 - Number 4

I am beyond stoked, not only is my birthday less than two weeks away, but so is the Series Finale of Smallville. While I will be sad when it is all said and done, let's be honest, for the Smallville faithful, this two hour Finale will be what all of us have been waiting for since 2001! With that said, it is another Friday, another week closer to the Finale, and time to reveal my 4th Favorite Episode of Smallville of All-Time!


"Rosetta" from Season 2

"Rosetta" is infamously known as the Christopher Reeve episode, the episode being the first, and most memorable of Reeve's two appearances as Dr. Virgil Swann. In the episode, the key to the spaceship has been calling to Clark, causing his powers to get out of his control, burning a Kryptonian symbol into the Kent barn. When the picture of the symbol is seen by Dr. Swann, he sends a message to Clark, addressed for Kal-El, wishing to meet with him.

What makes "Rosetta" such a rich experience, is that this episode is Smallville's own version of Clark discovering the truth about his home planet of Krypton (about its destruction and his being its last son) and the truth about his heritage, where at the end of the episode Clark and Jonathan finally insert the key into the spaceship and misinterperet a message from Jor-El, thinking he sent Clark to Earth to be a conqueror.

There is so much at play in "Rosetta," with the story of Clark's search for his own identity and his sense of loneliness, mirroring the ordinary teenage attitudes that many teenagers go through when they're fifteen. Let's be honest, fifteen is just a bad age, when most kids don't know who or what they wanna be when they get older, and many of the kids feel misunderstood, much like Clark in this episode. Of course, aside from all of that, it's always fun as a fan to see Tom Welling interact with Christopher Reeve, giving a sense of passing on the torch between two Supermen, just adding to the awesomeness that makes this one of my favorite Smallville episodes of All-Time!


Tune in next week for Number 3!

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Smallvile" Top 10 - Number 5

Today is another Friday closer to the Series Finale of Smallville, and time for me to reveal for Number 5 pick for My Favorite Episode of Smallville of All-Time!


"Fragile" from Season 5

A girl with the power to shatter glass, Smallville had me at, "Hello!" In this Season 5 episode, coming shortly after the death of Jonathan Kent, this episode not only gives us a glimpse into the softer side of our favorite Big Blue Boy Scout, but it also serves as a good episode in allowing Clark to grieve and move on in his life.

Maddie is a little girl who hasn't talked since her mother's death, bouncing around from foster home to foster home due to odd events involving shattered glass. Lo and behold, Clark Kent comes in to save the day, taking Maddie in when her latest foster parent bites the dust, due to an odd glass explosion in the house. Clark manages to break through Maddie's shyness with his good ol' charm, learning she has the meteor power to shatter glass, but Clark believes that she was not responsible for her foster mom's death. So Clark sets out to get to the bottom of the mystery, so that Maddie wont be wrongly convicted of her foster mom's murder.

"Fragile" is just a great episode that plays into all of the things I love most about Smallville. Young people with super powers. A mystery with a twist. And hints at the future Man of Steel. The way Clark deals with Maddie is so reminiscent of all of the great, father-like moments that you see between Superman and little kids in the comics. This was a smart choice on the behalf of the writers of this episode, coming so soon after Clark's dad's death, it allows Clark to use many of the same lessons that Jonathan taught him in trying to raise an adolescent with super powers, and how to properly use those powers for good. This angle allows Clark to reflect on his father's passing and realize that he is the man his father raised him to be, even without his father there for guidance.

Actor Tom Welling is charming as Clark, and he exposes that lovable side of the Man of Tomorrow that shows why children all over the world still adore the character. Not to mention Welling also directed, marking his first time in the director's chair, and this is still his best work on the show to date.


And on a smaller note, this is The Unicellular Review's 500th Post! Party!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Quick Reviews: "The Cape," "No Ordinary Family," and "The Illusionist"

Being behind on reviews is never a good thing, so I decided to catch up on the reviews that I have been meaning to do for some time. There are two TV Show reviews and one film review, with most of these reviews being at least a month after I had watched them. I'm going for a paragraph for each, so let's get going:


T.V. Review: "The Cape - Series"

A show a lot better in concept than execution, NBC's attempt at a superhero action show just fell into cliche and comic book cheesiness. The story really tried to create a complex superhero mythology, with our hero, Det. Farrady framed as a criminal kingpin. Farrady gets away, believed to be dead, he sets out as a vigilante known as the Cape to bring the man who set him up to justice. The story had Farrady falling in with an odd ring of criminal circus performers who train him to be an acrobat utilizing a cape using old stage magic tricks to fight crime. Kinda cool, but where the show falls apart is in how melodramatic and over-the-top the showrunners played the relationship between Farrady and his wife and son. I know sometimes in TV subtlety has to be substituted, but the entire series just seemed to rely too much on hitting everything on the nose, and it was hard to ever get involved when you are constantly being told what to think or feel.

I give The Cape an F!


T.V. Review: "No Ordinary Family - S1"

ABC's No Ordinary Family started off promising, but started falling apart midseason as the show seemed to be torn as to which sort of direction they wanted to take the story. The story follows the Powell family, who on vacation in South America survive a plane crash to emerge with super powers. The first few episodes were very reminiscent of early Fantastic Four comic books, and the showrunners did a good job of creating an intriguing mythology that actually works for episodic television, but also feels as if I could have been reading it in a comic book. Where the show often comes apart is when it flips back-and-forth from really fantastic familial, superhero drama (like the first few seasons of Smallville), to this odd sort of sitcomish style dealing with funny scenarios involving their super powers. There was a lack of consistency from episode to episode in terms of tone, style, and even writing, with certain episodes feeling more like a filler than anything. Regardless, No Ordinary Family's first season was enjoyable enough for me to want to see where the story will go from here, I'm just hoping the showrunners can keep an air of consistency in Season 2.

I give No Ordinary Family - Season 1 a C!


Movie Review: "The Illusionist"

Sylvain Chomet's latest animation, The Illusionist, tells an emotional tale of an aging magician and this girl, who believes that the magic he does is real. The movie examines thoughts of loneliness and disillusionment, mirroring the aging aspect of the film's protagonist. The imagery is symbolic, beautifully hand drawn, and it is so charming to see the fluidity and naturalness of movement that still, only hand drawn animation can create. Like Chomet's Triplets of Belville, this movie is void of dialogue, playing more like an old Charlie Chaplin silent film than anything, with the humor similar in tone to City Lights. Without dialogue, in a generation where we are so dependent on quick moving images and fast talking dialogue, the stillness of The Illusionist will turn off many potential viewers. I will be honest and say that near the end I was checking the time on my phone, with the movie feeling as if it drones on for a touch too long. Many ideas are revisited over and over again, to try and I guess hammer home the idea, and it feels a little repetitious. Perhaps, the film may have been more effective as a thirty minute short and not a feature? Regardless, The Illusionist is an acquired taste, so give it a shot and see what you think.

I give The Illusionist a C+!


So that does it. Hope you enjoyed this excursion!

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Smallvile" Top 10 - Number 6

It's Friday, again, meaning one more week closer to the Series Finale of Smallville. With just five or six weeks left, my Smallville fever is at the highest it has probably ever been in the show's ten seasons. Today, I'm continuing my series revealing, "My Ten Favorite Episodes of Smallville of All-Time," counting down to number 1, on May 13th, the day the Series Finale will air. Today, it's number 6:


"Jinx" from Season 4

In Smallville's first four seasons Smallville High School was a fixture in the show, with nearly every episode having at least one scene taking place at the greatest of the All-American high schools. With Season 4, it was Clark's Senior year at Smallville High, so this was the producers last chance to show Clark in as many high school situations before he graduated. "Jinx" is the best of these Season 4 high school episodes, with Clark on the football team, competing for the State Championship, while also having to stop a new foreign exchange student who just happens to have the ability to make people do whatever he says.

Complications arise when Clark trips on the football field and injures another player, the Coach thinking he is on steroids. Clark, who has never tripped before, claims it felt as if he had no control of himself. As usual, Clark's dad, Jonathan, doesn't want Clark to play in the State Championship, afraid Clark may expose his secret. Meanwhile, Clark tries to uncover the reason as to why he tripped, tracing it back to Mikhail, the new foreign exchange student, who happens to be the town's local bookie, who is trying to fix the football games with his powers of manipulation.

"Jinx" shows Clark wanting to be a normal teenager, but that no matter how much he wants to be normal, he never can be. Normal teens don't hit one another like Mack trucks when they trip. As well, no normal high school quarterback has to throw the winning touchdown in the State Championship while having to super speed right when you threw the ball to save your best friend from the baddie, then having to return to the exact same spot you were on the field so it looks as if you didn't move. This super touchdown is one of my favorite scenes in the show's history, and it always delivers in its awesomeness.

On top of it all, John Schneider and Tom Welling's chemistry really soars in this episode, as Jonathan tries to stop Clark from playing in the game, but Clark does so anyway. Plus, this episode is another fine example of how Smallville realistically approaches many of the characters from Superman lore, while keeping the core of the character in tact; as to how they transformed the Superman badguy, Mr. Mxyzptlk into a hard-nosed bookie, named Mikhail. "Jinx" is just a good, fun episode that is at times great familial drama, and at others it is Smallville at its most exciting.


Tune back in next Friday for number 5 in my countdown of, "My 10 Favorite Episodes of Smallville of All-Time!"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Best Movie Songs

Okay, so I watch American Idol, sue me, but tonight's episode got me thinking. The singers theme this week was to do songs from the movies, and I was overall disappointed with the songs they chose, feeling none of the songs were really great movie songs; they may have been great songs, in general, but to me a great movie song is a song that is so identifiable with that particular movie that you can't think of that movie without thinking of that song. I decided to list some examples of movies and songs that are so well synchronized that you will never be able to hear the song again without the film's images coming into your head.

First, "That Thing You Do!" the title song to the movie, That Thing You Do! It's catchy, played nearly every ten minutes in the movie, and if you don't come away from this movie without at least knowing the chorus, then you have the retention of a rock.

Second, "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca. This song found its way into Max Steiner's magnificent score, becoming not just Rick and Ilsa's song, but also the theme of the entire movie. Words or no words, the notes of the song take me back in time to the 1940s, to Rick's Cafe American, and to Casablanca.

Third, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" from Whisper of the Heart. I'm a Studio Ghibli fanboy, and this particular gem in their catalog would not be the same film without this song. Albeit Miyazaki changed some of the lyrics to make the song have meaning within the film, you also hear the original version during the opening scene and the credits.

Finally, "Singin' in the Rain" from Singin' in the Rain. Enough said.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Smallvile" Top 10 - Number 7

"Hidden" from Season 5

I've never been the greatest Clark-Lana fan, but this episode was so perfectly crafted that I can't help but love it. In "Hidden" a computer techie, named Gabriel, decides to infiltrate the forgotten Cold War missile silos in Smallville, Kansas, to nuke the town and rid it of Meteor Freaks forever. It's a high concept premise, but what gives this episode so much weight is that it comes at the point in Season 5 when Clark still doesn't have his powers.

In the episode, Gabriel shoots Clark and leaves him to die, powerless. The drama often dips into melodrama, such as when Lana watches the doctors rush in with the crash cart to fail at saving Clark's life, or at the end when a battered Clark returns from the dead and sweeps Lana into his arms. These moments of melodrama may seem too much for an ordinary dramatic context, but in the world of superheroes and high stakes villainy, this is just another day at the office, and I love it. I mean, let's be honest, a story about a guy who can jump up into the sky and disarm a nuclear bomb, only to survive, isn't your ordinary dramatic yarn. But I think the main reason this is one of my favorite Smallville episodes, is just because it is a stirringly mythic tale of tragedy, redemption, and heroism, that is often lost in majority of superhero drama.

Clark disappears from the hospital and awakens in the Fortress of Solitude, returned to life and powers restored by Jor-El, at the cost that someone he loves must be sacrificed in his place, leading to the ultimate tragedy in Clark's young life, when Jonathan Kent, his adoptive father, dies in his arms only nine episodes away from this one. But what this episode also shows, is that it is not the powers that make Clark Kent the hero of legend, but it is the human being beneath. Clark tries to stop Gabriel, even when he is just flesh-and-bone, and that shows a lot more power than most other superheroes.

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Smallvile" Top 10 - Number 8

A new Friday, one more week closer to the finale of Smallville, meaning another episode in my countdown in the 10 Best Episodes of Smallville of All-Time. This week, it's time for number 8:


"Savior" from Season 9

The season 9 premiere is quite possibly my favorite season premiere in the show's history. The way season 8 ended, with the defeat of Doomsday at the cost of Jimmy Olson's life, and Tess Mercer finally unlocking the secrets of the Kryptonian Orb, unleashing General Zod (only a Major at this point in his career) and his Kandorian Army on Earth, was just the right kind of cliffhanger to keep any true fan enthused over a Summer long break, and thankfully "Savior" managed to satisfyingly scratch the itch.

In "Savior" we see a Metropolis, three months removed from when Clark walked out on Chloe, forsaking his human side for his Kryptonian. Since that time, Clark has been up in the Fortress of Solitude, training, all the while saving the citizens of Metropolis from the shadows, simply known now as the Blur (getting rid of the kinda cheesy Red-and-Blue part). What was so smart about this episode is how the showrunners introduce the classic "S"-shield on Clark's chest, but also give the Blur an insignia to let the citizens of Metropolis know when he saved them, by using his heat vision to burn the "S"-shield onto walls, like a calling card.

What made this such a powerful episode is that the showrunners didn't rectify all of the cliffhangers from Season 8 in this one episode, leaving some tension throughout the story, and allowing this one episode to feel full and not rushed. We do not get re-introduced to a certain character till it feels absolutely necessary, and so when Clark finally shows up about five minutes into the episode, you cheer when he catches the derailed train, saving Lois in the process.

Speaking of Lois, "Savior" is one of the finest episodes of all-time for taking another bold step forward in the Clark/Superman/Lois love triangle, having the wonderful scene where Lois calls out into the night for the Blur to talk to her, or at the end when the Blur calls Lois on the phone, ending on such a romantic note. Overall, this is just one solid episode that is hard to fully sum up in a few paragraphs.

Chloe and Clark's relationship is on the rocks, when Clark refuses to use the Legion ring to go back in time and save Jimmy. Major Zod assumes leadership over his Kandorian Army, in a fantastic scene where his soldiers kneel before him, washing out the bad taste of the Lex Luthor-Zod hybrid from Season 6. Not to mention, the idea of Lois going a year into the future upon touching the Legion ring, only to return with amnesia, chased by a ninja Kryptonian, was a nice story touch that plays out throughout the rest of Season 9. Clark is supposed to be the reason the world will end in one year's time, but why? This and other questions are what this rogue Kryptonian from the future proposes to Clark, leading to an awesome fight sequence in the barn to cap off the episode.


Tune in next Friday for Number 7 in my countdown of the 10 Best Episodes of Smallville of All-Time!