Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A more fun Spidey

I did something last night that I have never done before. I saw a movie at a movie theater by myself. It was, surprisingly, a fun experience. Despite not having anyone to discuss the movie with after it was over, I was able to have my own thoughts, which I now get to relay on to you. One of the main reasons I went by myself is because I couldn't wait any longer to find someone to see The Amazing Spider-Man. If you didn't know, I pretty much love anything Emma Stone does, so this was a must see. And with the relatively good reviews, I had to see if for myself. And my verdict? Better than the original.

Now this movie had a lot of heat before anyone even saw it. A lot of people have questioned why a reboot of a movie that was just made 10 years ago, the most recent one done five years ago. So already fighting a lot criticism, I thought this movie was just so incredibly fun. Andrew Garfield, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors, was way more fun to watch than Tobey Maguire (and not because of his good looks). I thought Garfield captured the character a lot better and made me feel a lot more connected than I did to Maguire's Spidey. And even though that famous kiss, the one with Spidey hanging upside down and Mary Jane just pulling the mask to kiss his lips is like one of the most talked about kisses, I thought Stone and Garfield had some of the best chemistry I have seen in a long time. From the first scene you see them in, you feel a connection.

I also just had a lot more fun with this movie. It got to the deeper core of Peter Parker and examined his past a little further. It also took its time. I'm pretty sure the first really major action sequence didn't happen until an hour into the movie. I really enjoyed that pace. I was anxious to see him as Spidey but enjoyed the build up as well. Obviously and naturally, I did a lot of comparing to the original Spider-Man; what plot points were the same and what not. But once we got to the real meat of the movie, I stopped doing that and just enjoyed it. And I bet you if I saw it a second time (which I most certainly plan to do) I wouldn't compare at all.

Personally, and this might just be me, but I did think the plot was a little unpredictable. Of course, I saw where it was going in the first hour, but I wasn't quite sure where in the second hour. There are some surprising or unexpected things that usual superhero movies don't have in its first act. I thought the action sequences were a lot more believable, I thought the villain was pretty good, very similar to Dr. Ock (but not quite as good) and the overall directing was fun. My only critique would be the ending. I thought it was going to end three times before it actually did. There wasn't much of a cliff hanger either (unless you stayed till after the credits, which is something you should do).

Now, all this positivity toward this movie is not surprising. I can hear you all asking, "really, why?" Or maybe not, but I'll tell you anyways. Well, let's take a look at who helped make it. First there's Emma Stone. I have liked every movie she's made (except I'm not a huge Superbad fan, I know, that's like Superweird but deal with it). Then there's Garfield, who is pretty likable, plus you really can't go wrong with Sally Field or Martin Sheen as Aunt May and Uncle Ben. But then there's the fact that Steve Kloves was one of the screenplay writers. That's right, the guy who wrote seven of the eight Harry Potter films. It was also directed by Marc Webb, who directed 500 Days of Summer, which I am a fan of and think is a very creative movie. That is one of the reasons why I think this Spider-Man works so well, it's not just an action movie but has a lot of other dimensions to it. I would also just like to note for those haters out there, that the guy who wrote the screenplay for the second and third Spider-Man also collaborated on this one. Just saying.

So, basically what I am trying to say is if you are a huge fan of the Tobey series, you should still give this one a chance. I do believe it is a different take on Spider-Man and is in fact more enjoyable to watch. Definitely a quality superhero movie, which I think will mean that this summer will be 3-for-3 for superhero's (pending Dark Knight Rises doesn't suck, which is very, very unlikely). So go see this movie, because even though it is a summer blockbuster, it is a superhero movie that mixes a good heart with some good fun.

With that some side notes:
1. Comic-Con is this weekend, and once again I wish I had a job that would send me. But, alas, I'm just a college student. There are going to be a lot of really great stuff going on so if you care you should be sure to hit up Twitter and the entertainment sites to get all the dish. What I'm looking most forward to? Fringe, Dexter (have you seen those promos??), Community, I guess the last Twilight movie, The Hobbit, Game of Thrones. Wait I could go on forever, so I'll stop there.
2. Well it's official. Everyone is following in Harry Potter's footsteps. The final film of the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay, will be split into two movies. Not sure how I feel about this, especially since it is easily the weakest book from the trilogy. Let the speculation of where they'll split it begin!
3. Check out this really cool thing that came out for The Hobbit. The films are officially done filming and I am anxiously awaiting December. The amount of pressure for this movie to be good is incredible and I would be lying if I wasn't one of them. But after seeing this scroll thing, I of course have 100 percent confidence in Peter Jackson.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Animation is here to stay

I, along with my 21-year-old friend attended an animated movie this past weekend. Sound pathetic? No, absolutely not. Why? Because the movie was made by Pixar. Yep, I saw Brave and was not at all disappointed, as I thought I might be, by briefly looking at some of the reviews. I mean, don't get me wrong, the reviews were all good, but just not Pixar good. Actually, it's pretty unbelievable how Pixar has revolutionized the animated movie. I'm not just talking in terms of how it looks and the technology used, but the actual story telling.

First let's talk about this whole animated movie thing before I tell you what I thought of Brave. There are clear animated movies that as a 20-year-old, I wouldn't really want to see. For example, any of the Ice Age movies or even the Madagascar movies. I might rent them at some point, but really they are not on the top of my must-see-list. Now, when it comes to Pixar movies, I am anticipating those like three years in advanced. I started looking forward to the Monster's Inc. prequel last year (now called Monsters University), and it doesn't even come out until next summer. Pixar's ability to find a story that is not told very often in an incredibly unique way, is something that rarely happens. Seriously, think about it. A rat, who wants to cook. An old man who flies a house. A legendary tale about monsters in your closet turned into a whole new world. And Brave is not much different. 

It was interesting, I was talking to my friend about all of the upcoming animated movies and actually how original they are becoming. It seems like all the other production company's are starting to catch on. For example, Rise of the Guardians is a film DreamWorks is producing about every fairy tale creature (Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, The Sandman and the Tooth Fairy). Watch the trailer and you'll see what I'm talking about. Animated movies are becoming more about fun stories that everyone can enjoy than just about movies for little kids. Or, that is at least my belief. I think this certainly started with Shrek, but for some reason I feel like people my age are still seeing these movies. Maybe it's just the generation we grew up in, but I believe animated movies are only going to get better and more creative. 

All right, now that I'm off that soap box, let me tell you to go see Brave. Totally worth it. I purposely didn't read anything about the plot and I have to say the trailers didn't give much away and I am so glad they didn't. Mostly everything in the trailer is in the first 20 minutes of the movie, so you're not really sure where it is headed from that point on. There is no question, this is a very different movie for Pixar. It has magic, witches, with kings and queens. I don't want to give too much about the plot because I loved not knowing but it tells a story that, I believe, is not told very darn often. It is a very moving story and the voices are fan-freaking-tastic. An Oscar category should certainly start up because of this movie (and Jack Black's Po from Kung Fu Panda). It's a shame these voice actors do not get recognized. Two thumbs up for Emma Thompson and her scottish accent because it took me till the credits to realize it was her.

Overall, I wouldn't put it up in my favorite Pixar movies (Ratatouille, Toy Story) but it certainly deserves to be in the Pixar family (I do not like Cars does, but that's just me). I will say, I am pumped for the upcoming films they have planned. I mean look at all of them! Anyways, I will say that DreamWorks is starting to make a push at Pixar. But from what I can see, I don't know if anyone will be able to reach the pedestal most people put the brilliant production company on.

With that I have a few random side notes that are important. 
1. The Olympics are officially 22 days away. Watching all these darn trials last weekend only got me way too excited for the epic event in London. Of course, now I have to wait three weeks till I see them again but we all know it's worth the wait. Also, I got word, and by that I read that the Dan Radcliffe and Emma Watson are saying a message at the closing ceremonies, which is just an added bonus.
2. New book cover!! The most anticipated book of the year came out with it's cover. That's right, J.K. Rowling's first book for adults, Casual Vacancy, came out yesterday and personally I think it looks classy, simple and intriguing. Have you pre-ordered your copy yet?
3. Even though 30 Rock is ending this season, Tina has a new movie coming out in 2013. She is currently filming in Princeton, New Jersey. And even though my mom wouldn't let me go there to try and creep the filming, a lot of photos have been released. Check out this one, and might as well do this one too. It's for her film called Admission, with Paul Rudd and Michael Sheen. Get pumped.

With that I say... Live long and prosper. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why television is so great

For me, summer is all about television. Surprising, I know, since nothing of real substance is on (unless you count premium channels). But for me, it's the chance to start new shows, catch up on old shows or re-watch some of my favorite shows. For example I have used previous summers to discover Dexter, 24, Community, The Big C and last summer Friday Night Lights. In the past week I randomly watched the first episode of FNL, which resulted in my familiar addiction, leading me to watch almost the whole series. This a show that reminds me why I believe television to be so great. It is one of the few shows that gave me goosebumps on a continual basis. I am not kidding, when anything emotional, triumphant or just plan awesome, I would get the goosebumps. It's an odd thing to feel so connected to fictional characters with made up lives. It is one of the truest shows I have ever seen, and sometimes that's a lot harder to pull off than great effects or epic plots.

For example, look at any doctor or crime show. Yes, they have a real world premise but many of the story lines are relatively unrealistic. I don't see that with FNL, I believe it to the point where something happens to a character and I have an emotion a friend would feel. The writing is unbelievable, the actors are terrific, but there is some element that makes it addicting to watch. One of the best things about FNL though, is the music. It is packed with Explosions in the Sky songs (if you don't know who they are check them out, it's great study music), which is enough but on top of it they find these rich, emotional songs. I don't know if there is a better sequence with so much raw emotion and action than the scenes of the last football game in the series finale.

It is pretty remarkable that for the second time watching this series, I have the exact same emotions as I did the last time. You could even argue that I love the characters even more now. I've never lived in Texas, I've never been connected to high school football, but watching this show makes me feel like I know everything about what it's talking about. It is a show about real people with real problems mixed with some pretty great football games.

What is great about television, however, is I can go from this small town of Dillon, Texas watching football to seeing the 1960s advertising period with Mad Men. The great shows grab you and connect with you but the thing about the best shows is they have characters. The plot and drama is what makes it exciting but it is the connection with the characters that have people coming back. That is why I can watch a show like Game of Thrones and a show like Grey's Anatomy. Polar opposites, but still diverse characters.

Obviously movies have these similar qualities, and so do books, but there is something about TV where you have to come back week after week and go on a journey with a variety of characters. Why do you think there was such an uproar when Shonda Rhimes killed off a chief character of Grey's Anatomy this past season? Why do you think people get so upset when any character dies on any television show? It's because they learn about them, care about them, and it grows week by week. The most brilliant shows, and the ones that win Emmys, are the ones who can make you hate a character but still make you love them. They can make people seem human and add characteristics that anyone can connect to.

That is why television is so great. That is why I have so many shows I watch. I get something different and new out of every show I watch. Of course the plots are what can help turn people away (Izzie seeing Denny's ghost, Lost getting too complicated, Mad Men getting too weird), but hear me when I say I come and stay for the characters. If I don't care about them, I don't want to invest my time. So do yourself a favor and watch Friday Night Lights because within one episode, 42 minutes of television, you have all kinds of emotions for everyone included.

With that I have some random side notes a greatness.
1. The first photos of the Twilight final film have surfaced and I'm sure a lot of people are excited but personally, I'm not overly enthused. Sure it's a big franchise but I plan to see the last movie once and be done with it. Seeing Kristen Stewart as a vampire is kind of cool, though.
2. I saw Avengers for a second time last week and can assure you it is even better another time around. This makes me extremely excited about the third Iron Man, which had a new photo released. It has a May 3, 2013 release date.
3. It's official I have my Dark Knight Rises midnight ticket all set, and can I say how difficult it was. My good friend was looking up tickets for our local theater for IMAX and five days after they went on sale, they were sold out. Pretty remarkable.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why you need to watch this show

As you all know, I watch a lot of television. If you didn't know that then go back a few blogs and you'll figure out that I have quite a few TV shows (I think I'm at 15 right now). I like to consider myself as someone who watches quality programing by only watching one reality show and nothing on CW or ABC Family (not that I'm judging the people who do, it's just not my cup of tea.) I am also a big fan of encouraging people to watch certain shows, most recently Revenge or Homeland. I've tried to get people into Dexter or Mad Men along with several other shows. But now, the time has come where there is one show that the entire world needs to watch.

It might be hard because it is on HBO but I suggest you all need to find it somewhere, whether it means you buy HBO or get it illegally. The situation is that serious. It is easily the best show on television but more importantly, I have never been more entertained since Lost. The amount characters might be confusing, the names might be hard to say but that should be no reason for you to not watch Game of Thrones.

That's right folks, I am telling you to watch a high fantasy show with dragons, sword fighting and magic. However, the show is so much more than that at its core. It deals with topics from the desire of power and who earns it, to family drama. It's about being accepted as a person and finding how you fit in. The most recent season, which ended Sunday, focused on what it means to have power. More so than anything, though, it is the characters that drive this story full steam ahead, it is the characters who have you coming back each week and it is the actors performances that make you smile, cringe and have you wanting to throw the remote at the TV.

Some of this fantasy may sound familiar and in the same realm as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but Game of Thrones is much different. It's mature, much more mature than Harry Potter (I mean it deals with incest on a daily basis) and it is more modern than LOTR. By modern I mean it's a little more relatable in the sense that the major plot lines are about war instead of a magical ring. There is of course fantasy aspects to it (I mean it raises questions like, how can a woman birth a shadowy thing or another woman birth dragons) but that just factors in the entertainment element.

I have yet to meet anyone who has attempted watching the show and did not like it. The fact that it's a TV show is remarkable because it must cost a fortune. If you were to turn it on just on a whim, not knowing what it was, you would think it was a film production. The sets, the costumes, the lighting, the amount of people, it is incredible. Granted, it is on HBO, but still, one of the most quality shows I have seen in a long time. And if it does not win the Emmy this year for best drama, it will be an outrage.

There is of course Mad Men to consider. The quality of that show has rarely faltered in its five seasons and the production value is also high. But, what I think is different between the two, is Game of Thrones tackled about 45 subplots and made me interested in every single one. It made me yearn for just a glimpse of a conversation between Arya and Tywin or a scene where Tyrion outsmarts someone. I can't say the same for Mad Men. Anytime Betty comes on screen I sigh, hoping it won't last too long.

My point is, you're not doing anything important this summer until you watch Game of Thrones. It received its season 3 renewal just two episodes into season 2 and the season 2 finale had 4.2 million viewers, the most for the series and a 1.2 million increase from the season 1 finale. Hence, the show is only growing, meaning if you don't start watching this show soon, you'll be out of the loop. So get at it.

With that I give you some random side notes:
1. Emma Watson is no longer Hermione. A trailer for her first starring film since Harry Potter was released this week and looks awesome. She is equipped with her short hair and an American accent starring alongside Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller. It looks so good, I think I would want to see it even if Emma wasn't in it ... hmm maybe not.
2. Uh, did anyone else watch Mad Men from Sunday? Pretty crazy if you ask me, that scene with Lane was one of the most disturbing I've ever witnessed on TV. Finale happens Sunday along with the premiere of True Blood. Get excited for the return of vampires, because the promos look amazing and I can't wait to see what is in store this season.
3. If you haven't heard, another member of the SNL cast has left, leaving many, or me, skeptical about its return in the fall. That's right, Andy Sandberg announced last week he is joining Kristen Wiig and not returning next season. It's another one of those "how will they be able to survive next season?" that everyone said when Will Ferrell left, when Jimmy Fallon left, when Tina Fey left, and when Amy Poehler left (and a lot more people). But the show survived back then, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens in the fall.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Take a seat, it's been a while

Oh, hey there. Remember me? Sammie, Sammie Kiesel. The witty, sarcastic, brilliant person who talks everything from sports, to television, to movies. It seems I have gone missing for a few months but I think with the kickoff of summer happening this weekend it is time to reacquaint ourselves. 

First, let me give you all some fantastic updates about my life. The most important is I have bought two new posters for my new office as editor-in-chief of The Daily Illini. They are of Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark and Back to the Future; I went for the more classic look. The second important thing is I have started up my Entertainment Weekly project again. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, it is one of my more brilliant ideas. Let me give you a little explanation I hear you all begging for. Well, I had all these magazines saved and was told to dispose them (thanks mom), but I felt like they were meant for something of more substance. So, I decided to rip off all the covers and anything inside them I was a fan of and paste them to construction paper to put on my wall at my apartment. Well that turned out so well (but seriously, it looks awesome) that I have decided to update it with the EW's of the past year. I know you all are now going to copy me of my brilliant idea.

Anyways, let us catch up with the biggest things that have happened since we last talked. Wait! Hold on. How have I gone this long without mentioning the end of my life. 30 Rock has been given its final (seventh) season. I am devastated. I didn't know what to do when I found out. I was close to tears. I know the rest of you are depressed like me, but I have good news! Tina is filming a new movie this summer! This fact gives me hope that she will stay busy after the show, because I need her to do about, let's say, like one movie per year, otherwise I don't know what I'll do. First Harry Potter is done, and now 30 Rock. Too many of my life obsessions cannot leave me. Anyways her movie is called Admission for those who were wondering (and being loyal fans of mine, it should be all of you). No release date yet, but I'm sure you'll know the moment I find out.

But yes, back to what I was saying. Let's recap the past couple months.


The Kentucky Wildcats won the men's basketball NCAA championship, both the Bulls and the Blackhawks were knocked out of the playoffs and the Cubs suck. That's about it in the sports world for me. One surprise so far is the success of the Cleveland Indians, the American League team I root for. They are currently in first place of the Central Division but only a half game ahead of the White Sox, but a long season to still be played. There isn't much hope for the Cubs anytime soon, I just think they need to clear house and start fresh. Get rid of Soriano, get rid of Castro and start from the bottom up. We'll see how that goes.

In other news, Bruce Weber was fired as the Illinois coach and is now the head coach of Kansas State. If you didn't see his classy ad, you must because there isn't much class from a coach who was fired. Remember, he got fired and didn't retire (yes, that rhymes). Two Illini football players were drafted in the first round, not something the fans or analysts expected. A horse has a chance to win the Triple Crown. Tiger Woods is sort of coming out of his funk in golf, but a playoff at the Masters (not involving him) made golf seem fun to watch again. Oh, and the Indy 500 was Sunday, but not much of a racing fan so I have no idea what happened, but thought I would let you know it happened.


Well, I haven't seen many but I saw the most important one so far of this summer: The Avengers. I have say it met every expectation I could of had for it. I think it was a great movie to start the summer, the only problem I have with it is it broke the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 record. I was very bummed about that but fortunately I can say that it was beaten by a pretty darn good movie. Here is a list of films that I am anxiously awaiting to come out: Snow White and the Huntsman, The Amazing Spider-Man, Brave, Ted, Dark Knight Rises (obviously), and several others but those are the ones coming out in the near future.


This is the one I have really wanted to talk about throughout this blog. Television has come to a close this season and man, have the season finales been fantastic! I think this has been one of the best years for my TV shows in terms of interesting story lines, acting and overall entertainment. I, of course, still have Game of Thrones and Mad Men to wrap up, which is great to entertain me the next two weeks. After those there is then True Blood and So You Think You Can Dance. But to be honest, I really hate the auditions. They are extremely boring and you really don't get to know anyone. I really enjoy the top-20 rounds and that's about it. So I have a couple more weeks until I really start enjoying it.

As far as the shows that have concluded, can we talk about so many mix of emotions. Let's just run down the line here. Good Wife: Kalinda's husband is coming and a chance for Peter and Alicia to get back together? So intriguing for next season! HIMYM: AH! Totally knew she would be the wife, but I am definitely ready to learn Ted's fate (are we sure there is absolutely no chance Victoria can be the wife, because it totally should be her!). Glee: I'm bored. The only thing that has me coming back is the music. Revenge: WHAT?! NUTS! One of the best finales I have seen in a very long time. Some people are saying this is the next Lost without being anything like Lost (in terms of the pop culture) and I'd have to agree, I think. 30 Rock: I so want Criss (yes, that's how the show spells his name) to be the one for Liz. And kind of bummed Elizabeth Banks is gone. Community: It had me out of it for a while but the last couple episodes have reeled me back in (I'm worried about the show's creator and EP getting fired though). Parks and Recreation: One of the best episodes of the season and I think the funniest show on TV (my vote for the Emmy). Fringe: Pretty predictable, I liked the episode before the finale a lot better. But cannot wait for its final, most likely, epic season!

And lastly the craziest finale, in my mind, Grey's Anatomy. Shonda Rhimes sure knows how to write a finale and this was one of the best. Well, I kind of hated some things that happened, but thought it was brilliant for the shows circumstance (not knowing if characters would come back). The balance of funny and realization of how ridiculous a plane crash is, was very refreshing. And certainly one of the biggest cliff hangers of the season (too bad we all know the main three are safe because of contracts).

I would say Revenge and Grey's had the two best finales as far as high drama, and huge cliff hangers. Although, I know Mad Men and Game of Thrones have a lot in store, which no doubt includes craziness. Actually, one of the new things in my life are those last two shows. I recently got really into both of them. Thanks to my brother for making me watch Thrones because it is so entertaining. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, you need to get on this immediately. I'll be talking about these shows in the next couple weeks in more depth.

Well, since it looked like I wrote a novel, I'll call it a blog. Sorry if this was not very exciting, but had to catch you all up on everything. I'll be sure to be way more interesting in the coming weeks. We have all summer to sit down and talk the greatness of sports, movies and television. I just hope you all stay with me for the ride and I'll be sure to update regularly with my greatest insights.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Epic blog post

Remember how I said in the last post that I was going to write an epic piece that would blow you all away? Well I tricked you into anticipation! Muhahaha. I have finally written that blog and guess what?  You're actually reading it right now! Per my fantastic readership I was prompted to write a blog, and right you are avid reader, because it has been a week and no one knows my views on the Oscars! (WHAT?! NO! I need to know Sammie's thoughts says one reader). Despite driving home and then to Wisconsin and then back to Champaign in the last two days, I will of course ignore my amounts of duties and write this for my HUGE fan base. And so, here you are, my thoughts on the 2012 Academy Awards.

First, lets' talk about the Host, Mr. Billy Crystal who always seems Mr. Comfortable up on stage and is frazzled by nothing. Although it was exactly what I expected, the introduction and monologue (or should I say song Oscar! Oscar!) was entertaining nonetheless. He was a solid host with the right timing of the right jokes. My favorite sketch he does is what are the actors thinking while sitting in the audience and this year did not disappoint, probably my favorite "host" part of the night (sorry couldn't find video of it). So, overall I give Billy a B+ for his work but I am still waiting for the year Tina and Amy host.

But let's talk about what the show is really about: the winners. Man, were there a lot of upsets. Many of you may be like, "No? Jean was in contention, Meryl was in contention, Octavia and Christopher were in the bag! What are you talking about upsets?!" Well my friends, I'm talking more in technical categories. Tree of Life not winning Cinematography was a big shocker and Undefeated winning the Documentary was pretty surprising as well. Personally, I was also surprised to see Meryl win, not so much Jean win. I have to say, though, I'm happy with all the actors winning, usually I'm not. There is always that one person I don't like winning (see: Melissa Leo, Sean Penn, Tilda Swinton) but this year was an exception because I was happy for everyone, even Meryl. I mean come on, who doesn't like watching Meryl Streep make an awesome speech where she just doesn't care because she's Meryl freaking Streep. Loved seeing how excited and flattered Jean was, plus his speech was super cute. Octavia was no surprise and well deserved and also had a great speech. Christopher was beyond class and now the oldest Oscar winner. So, claps for them because I love all four.

As far as The Artist winning Best Picture, it was no surprise. I had no doubt in my mind it was going to win, especially not after it won Best Director. But, still I don't understand why no one with a movie critic title didn't like War Horse. I still think it was my favorite movie this past year or tied with Hugo (well all behind Harry Potter of course, we'll get to that later though). I am still upset War Horse didn't get the recognition I think it deserved. But, claps for The Artist as it was an enjoyable film, just not sure if it was a Best Picture film.

Other favorite things about the show: The reappearance of the Martin Scorsese drinking game, Emma Stone's first appearance as an Oscar presenter (watch here), Tina Fey's presenting (obviously), and Chris Rock's little monologue. Things I hated: After 8 movies, 12 nominations and 7.7 billion dollars, Harry Potter is a franchise with zero Oscars. That is just too depressing and too wrong. I was hoping for just one darn win from one of the three categories it was nominated for, but my wish did not come true and there is no wishing for next year. That's it, no Oscars, but I'm sure WB is still pretty content with that 7.7 number.

Overall I would say it was a pretty uneventful year with no real "Oscar Moments" other than maybe Christopher's win, Octavia's win and Meryl winning her third. It'll be interesting to see if she ends up beating Katharine Hepburn's record of four Oscar trophies. Although fun fact: Hepburn's 12 nominations are all for Best Actress, where Streep has 3 supporting nominations and one win, with 17 total nominations (pretty darn impressive). Still, an enjoyable show for what I consider the best day of the year. With that some Oscar side notes but more like fun facts.

1. The Artist was the first silent movie to win the Best Picture award since 1927's Wings (coincidentally the first year of the Oscars meaning the first Best Picture film).
2. Out of the four actor winners, Meryl was the only one who has won before. It was also Jean and Octavia's first nominations. Pretty cool if you ask me. Plus you've got a foreigner, an old guy, a legend and a woman of color winning. Talk about some awesome variety, if you ask me.
3. This was the first year that the Pixar movie, in this case Cars 2, was not nominated for the Animated Film category. Rango went on to win, but Pixar better up its game, and maybe it did with its new film this summer: Brave. Trailer is here.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Recap of the weeks that were

Hello my friends! I apologize, it has been sometime since we last talked. I'm trying to think of a witty excuse, but alas, nothing has come to mind. I would like to talk this opportunity, however, to catch up on all things movies, sports and television. There is no doubt I have been slacking lately, so I would like to redeem myself with a little break down of the thoughts of what has happened in the last few weeks in this very blog. Here goes:

I have seen all but one film nominated for Best Picture and that is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I am still debating whether I want to see it, but I am considering it just so I can say I saw all nine. That means I watched Tree of Life, which to say the least, was an interesting film. I also saw Ides of March since we last talked and I must say it was a little unsatisfying but surely exhilarating. I still have not decided if I like it being up for Adapted Screenplay.

As far as the SAG Awards are concerned, I had a ball watching them and was super surprised when George Clooney did not win. The Best Actor and Best Actress race is easily the most fun this season, still can't decide who to pick on my ballot. We only have about 17 days until the big day, so get excited! There was no surprise for me when The Help won Best Ensemble but I don't think it will help its Oscar chances. I am still convinced it is between The Artist, The Descendants and Hugo. But don't blame me if I'm wrong and you lose in your Oscar pool.

How about that Superbowl, huh?! It was a pretty fun game to watch, with relatively entertaining commercials (this was my favorite) and an exciting halftime show for a woman who is like 53 (fun fact, we have the same birthday). Personally, I was pretty happy to see the Giants win as they are my team when I play Madden. Not to mention I like Eli Manning and pretty much despise Tom Brady, even though he is a pretty darn good player. Now that the football season is over, I'm very excited to see where the college basketball season goes in the coming weeks but also the start of Spring Training in about a month. Unfortunately since I cover the Illinois men's basketball team, I can't blog about their season or college bball in general. So, with me not loving the NBA or NHL until playoff season, it might seem like the sports area of my life is a little low. I do look forward to the upcoming slams for tennis and the start of the golf season though.

So much to talk about in the TV department with so many new shows watched and so many others completed. A quick break down for you on some of happenings in my life: Downton Abbey is incredibly fun to watch as I am caught up on the second season, I finally watched all four seasons of Mad Men and am surprisingly excited for March 25 when it returns (took me a while to get into it), 30 Rock is back and better than ever (makes my Thursday's just that much better) and finally I somehow decided to pick up another show in Smash and was pleasantly surprised with the Pilot episode and plan to keep watching, for the rest of this season anyway.

A brief run down of the shows I already watch: Loving my Grey's and thought the alternate reality episode was really fun and oddly ironic, HIMYM is even more frustrating and just waiting for something exciting to happen, Parks is again one of my favorite shows on TV and loving it even more with each episode Leslie Knope 2012!, Once Upon A Time has kept me interested which is surprising and I am excited every week for it, Good Wife continually proves why it is one of the best drama's on television, Revenge is rocking it and I am sad every Wednesday when it is not new and finally Fringe is actually a little disappointing and needs to pick up a little in speed. For those shows I didn't talk about (Glee, New Girl) I don't care for that much, but continue to watch for some reason. There is no doubt I miss Dexter and Homeland after the winter break and considering getting into Game of Thrones, because that is exactly what I need right now, another TV show.

Now that I have bored you with all of this catching up, I plan to write a nice exciting blog tomorrow about a top secret subject. Uh oh, yeah I just made that up and now have to think of a top secret subject. Give me the night and I'll brainstorm something brilliant. In the mean time, take your time and read these nice random side notes.
1. A new trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man came out today and I have to say I am super, excited. Like way more than I thought and I already knew Emma Stone was in it. With that being said, I still have my doubts and am very curious to see the response it will get. Although, it kind of automatically wins for me because Emma Stone is in it.
2. So, I didn't talk about this when I mentioned the SAG awards, but how awesome was it when Tina Fey drank from Steve Buscemi's wine glass after he won? Wait, what?! You mean you didn't see it. First watch this video, where the cast of Bridesmaids makes a great new drinking game. Then watch this video where Tina Fey is very loyal and follows the rules of that game.
3. Food for thought, isn't it crazy to think that 111.3 million people watched the Superbowl on Sunday? That is the most watched TV program of all-time. That means, at like the same time, I could be watching the same exact thing as like, Tina Fey. Or Barack Obama. Or of every other professional athlete in the nation. Kind of cool. Being on Twitter makes you think like that as I watched Seth Meyers continually talk about Madonna's halftime show. Quite entertaining.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

If only I was an Academy member

As I set my alarm Monday night for 7:30 a.m., so I could wake up and watch the announcement of Oscar nominations, I was not expecting so many surprises. I suppose this was wrong of me since this has been such an unexpected year so far, but man, the Academy sure like to pull weird (and sometimes rightfully deserved) surprises. So, when I was lying in bed watching Jennifer Lawrence (my soon to be hero in the Hunger Games films) read off the nominations, I became surprisingly wide awake with the amount of snubs that were happening. Before you read, you may want to see this link for the 84th annual Academy Award nominations.

So, what are these out of the park surprises I've been talking about? Well, first off, I was not expecting nine Best Picture films. With the new rule this year of a nominated film required to receive 5 percent of the first place votes, I was sure it would be between five and seven films. So much for that assumption, instead we get nine interesting films. The biggest surprise is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and then probably the Tree of Life. It just so happens those are the two movies I have yet to see in that category, so I will be sure to keep you all updated if I think they should be in this category.

As for the other major surprises, here is the quick list of what I was not expecting. Terrence Malick to receive a Best Director nod (he was not nominated for a DGA, which is very rare if you are up for an Oscar). Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Michael Fassbender were left off, when I thought at least one of them would have been nominated (although hooray for Gary Oldman! One of the best actors of our time finally received his first Oscar nod). Another big one was leaving out Tilda Swinton for her role in We Need to Talk About Kevin, as Rooney Mara took the final spot in the competitive Best Actress category for her role in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Personally, it doesn't really matter who is nominated because it is really only between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis.

With all those surprises, I have to say I'm pretty indifferent about a lot of them. One I am very passionate about, though, is the fact The Help was not nominated for Adapted Screenplay. Instead, Ides of March, a lackluster script, gets a very unexpected nod. I was also pretty upset to see that Shailene Woodley was not nominated for The Descendants; it would have been great to see her nominated for such a scene stealing performance. For me, however, there was one category I was super happy about, even though I read several blogs that totally disagree with me. And that is the dual nomination for John Williams for his two Steven Spielberg scored films, which was quite surprising to most. For me, I am very biased toward anything Williams does, so I was ecstatic. For most people, however, they were extremely upset Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross were not nominated for GWTDT. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of their music, and was kind of upset they won last year for Social Network. But I can understand their unique appeal for many music goers.

Some things I was also happy to see were: Harry Potter getting three nominations, even if it wasn't Best Picture. Although, I was also expecting them to get nominated in both sound categories. All my hope is they win at least one. I don't really care which one, and they all have real tough competition (Art Direction, Makeup and Visual Effects). The fact that the franchise has never won an Oscar for those eight films is preposterous, hence why I just need it to win one. Also, happy to see Melissa McCarthy in the Supporting category after she was snubbed from the Golden Globes for her role in Bridesmaids.

The most thing I think I am happy about is the fact Hugo leads all films with 11 nominations. I absolutely enjoyed this film above all the others I've seen (except maybe War Horse, but I'm a sucker for Spielberg). I think Scorsese has a very good chance of grabbing the director cateogry and I will say right here, it is my "want to win pick" for Best Picture. (I have yet to decide if I am going to actually choose it for my ballot competition, but it wins for the film that I want to win). I still have a few more movies to see, but overall, I have very much enjoyed the unpredictability of this years award shows. Although, I do wonder, what would of happened if I was in the Academy and what films I would have nominated. (Well actually I know what would of happened, I would have nominated Harry Potter for every award, including Foreign Language Film).

Now, here is some lovely movie side notes, Oscar style.
1. Meryl Streep just continues to beat her own record and now has the most nominations ever with 17. However, she hasn't won since she won for Sophie's Choice in 1983. I would love to see her win, but like I've said before, I think Viola Davis deserves it the most.
2. Almost all the Best Supporting Actress nominations are all first-time nominees. With the exception of Albert Norris' Janet McTeer, the four other ladies are attending the big show for the first time. I'm pretty sure, though, Octavia Spencer is a shoe-in for the win.
3. Uh, why are there only two songs nominated? I thought it was the strangest thing to see only TWO songs nominated. Not to mention, they were weird choices. Madonna's Golden Globe-winning song wasn't even one of them. It's like when "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" won in 2006. Like I said, the Academy does some very odd things sometimes.

P.S. Don't forget to watch the SAG awards at 7 p.m., this Sunday on TNT or TBS (and no, this is not a paid advertisement, as much as I wish it was).

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

They're all just like us

Why do I love people in Hollywood? They make an obscene amount of money, they have an unnecessary amount of stuff (clothes, cars, houses) and they get to act like someone else for the enjoyment of other people (plus half of the aren't even that talented). But, it is moments like when Meryl Streep wins her eighth Golden Globe and she says a swear word on live television because she forgot her glasses. It is when George Clooney walks on stage with a cane to mock his good friend Brad Pitt. Or it is times when the Hollywood Foreign Press gets it right and awards a low paid actress like Octavia Spencer, who totally deserves the win while her best friend Melissa McCarthy stands up and begins to cry as her friend accepts the award. It is moments like those at this year's Golden Globes that make me think, movie and television stars are not much different than us "normal" people. They forget things and swear, they have fun by making fun of their friends and they cry when something truly wonderful has happened their friends.

The 2012 Golden Globes were as enjoyable as like many others in the past, while making me laugh at moments like when Tina Fey creeps behind Amy Poehler as her name is read out (just like I do in so many of my friends photos). Or like when Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson puts a funny sign saying "whatever" behind his nominated coworker Eric Stonestreet while his name is being called because he was not nominated. That is what makes the Globes so much fun, because as magnificent as the Oscars are, it is still a more serious show. Of course there are funny moments (for some reason Ben Stiller coming out all "Avatar-ed" out in blue makeup comes to mind, or the opening of Hugh Jackman's hosting gig), but the Globes are a different bred. You get to see the actors actually interact that makes it just so fun to watch.

Although, I have to say there was some strange winners given out last night that I, personally, do not think will translate when the Academy Awards roll around on February 26. The main one is The Descendants winning best picture Sunday night. I will say it here, right now, I highly doubt it will win the Oscar for that same award. There is no doubt George Clooney deserved his best actor Globe for that movie but I'm not convinced the movie itself should win. I was very, very surprised it won (we'll see how it does throughout the other awards before the Oscars).

Another major category I was surprised about was Meryl Streep winning for best actress. As much as I love her and know she is a brilliant actress, I truly think the Oscar will go to Viola Davis (or the other three fantastic actresses that are going to be nominated because it is such a tough category. Nominations come out a week from this Tuesday). I'm not sure what it is about the Hollywood Foreign Press and Meryl, but they sure do love her. If you could tell when she won, she didn't think she should get it (although she tends to do this all the time lately). My favorite part of her speech last night was not her swearing, as much fun as that was but instead was at the end when she said "And I love you Viola, you're my girl." I took that line as, "Viola I'm so sorry I won, you totally deserve this award more than I do." Now I am not one to say who should have one, since I have not seen the Iron Lady yet but many people were projected Davis to win, as did I. Now, depending on how the SAG awards go next week, I'll let you know who I think will win the Oscar, but I'm not convinced it should be Meryl yet. It should be a fun next couple weeks though.

As far as the television side of the awards goes, all I can say is YAY! for Homeland. I was ecstatic when the show won, not to mention when Claire Danes won best actress for her role in the Showtime drama (it was tied for my favorite new show of 2011, along with Revenge). No surprise about Modern Family, but really surprised with Laura Dern winning best actress comedy (personally I was rooting for Amy Poehler, but I of course would have taken Tina as well). I was also surprised about Matt LeBlanc and Kelsey Grammar, although I do hear both of those awards were pretty deserving since I don't watch either show. What I found interesting though, is most of the shows that won Sunday night were all on cable or premium cable. Modern Family was the only victor out of the network channels, which is really shocking. The Globes always seemed to favor the new, successful shows from the past fall. The 2012 Emmy show should be a real good one this year then.

Overall, I have to say I had a lot of fun watching the show, although I always do. Take note, I also won my family pool for our ballots, something that should of happened considering I have seen the most movies and shows of all four of them combined. The coolest thing though, is I heard that Octavia Spencer was the one to organize her ballots between her friends last year. You know what that means? I have something in common with a Golden Globe winner. See, we are all "normal" people.

Now I'm going to give you three side notes of my favorite dresses of the evening (Note: I'm kind of biased and actually know nothing about fashion).
3. My third best dressed probably has to be Claire Danes, who wore this classy dress with an awesome back. I couldn't find a picture that shows the back but the front is pretty cool too. Pic here.
2. My second best dressed has to go to Emma Stone, who wore this really different dress that sports two different colors. I think they also go pretty well with her color hair and it was certainly pretty different from the other dresses I saw. Pic here.
1. Can you guess who my No. 1 person is? Yeah, I figured you couldn't. It's Tina of course! She went totally what I thought she was going to wear and looks super good in this tighter fit dress, with a fancy bottom. Usually she doesn't do the fancy bottom, but i personally think she can pull it off. Way to go Tina who looks amazing after about only six months of having her second child. Pic here (although I don't think this picture shows it off that much, but still awesome).

With that I say... Live long and prosper.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A day of films

First to start this blog I wanted to make a new disclaimer with all my readers (which is probably like two people but hey, thanks mom and dad!). Anyways, I have decided I do not want to be on a strict schedule now that I am going back to school next week, so now, when I feel inspired to write about something I will be doing it on whatever day I feel. I'm hoping by doing this, I will in fact actually blog more. I always feel like when you're not on a schedule you actually tend to do things more frequently. Anywho, this blog is not just me talking logistics but actually a day in which is in its fourth year.

Today, me and my good friend Danny had our annual seeing three movies in one day event. Clearly we need a good name for it but I seem to call it movie day. The object is to just see projected Oscar contender films and kind of compare them on the same day and also just knock some out early. If you're curious on what movies we did in the past they are as followed, Year One: Frost/Nixon, Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Doubt. Year Two: Invictus, Nine and Up in the Air. Year Three: The Fighter, 127 Hours and Black Swan (really heavy year). This year, however, might have been the best year as we ended up seeing War Horse, The Artist and The Descendants. So this blog will be dedicated to me reviewing these three fine films.

War Horse
First off let me say it's nice to see Steven Spielberg and John Williams together again in this epic film that totally grabbed my attention and never let go. Not only was the story fantastic but the movie was well paced, artfully acted and so far my favorite. I'm not much of a fan of horses, but this movie might have actually changed my mind. Everything about it was just wonderful, it was the most complete movie I have seen in a long time. When I say complete, I mean great acting, great technical stuff (like sound, art direction, cinematography, direction), a great story and a great score to encompass it all together. Surprisingly there have been a few critics who don't like it, and to be honest I don't have any clue what they don't like about it. It has missed some big nominations in certain awards (like the Director Guild and the Writers Guild) and I really don't know why. This movie might be a little fictional, clearly most of the things that happen probably wouldn't but that is not the point. This is one of the greatest movies set during World War I and it was nothing but Spieldberg expectations. A+ in my book.

The Artist
Hmm, where to begin. This movie was weird. Not in a Black Swan, this is a messed up movie, but in a I don't know what to make of this. After it, me and Danny couldn't decide if the film was being acclaimed because it was a silent film in the 21st Century or because it was a great movie. I guess I was very pleasantly surprised, I thought I was going to hate the no talking thing, but that actually didn't bother me too much. The fact that the movie was similar to a lot of movies done during the '20s is what makes me question it. There is no doubt the two main performances will be nominated, what those actors did to convey what was going on with just their body movements was very impressive. I'm just not sure if this movie is necessarily a Best Picture winning film. I felt the opposite of War Horse. Nonetheless, I think I came to the conclusion that I did in fact like this film. Especially the dog.

The Descendants
There is no doubt about it that this movie strives on the script and the performances, like most George Clooney movies. Like Danny said, this was a very contemporary film (wanna make sure I give him credit for that one). By far one of Clooney's best performance, and there is no doubt he will be nominated, but not sure if he will be able to beat The Artists Jean Dujardin, I do think he was better than Brad Pitt in Moneyball (another for sure nomination). I also thought that Shailene Woodley, or as I'm sure many of you know her as the star of The Secret Life of an American Teenager, was fantastic. There is no doubt she is a better actress then her little ABC Family show lets her to be. She has the Golden Globe nod, but not the SAG, but I am certainly crossing my fingers she gets an Oscar nod. Overall though, I thought the movie was adequate, though it dragged in some parts and will most likely be nominated for Best Picture but has little chance to win it. A quality film nonetheless.

All in all, my verdict is that War Horse was the best film out of the day, and actually my favorite film so far. Of all the films that have been talked about for the Oscars, I have seen those three, Hugo, Moneyball, My Week With Marilyn and Midnight in Paris. I think Hugo was a fantastic film, but I actually liked War Horse better. It is so tough to figure out if that is just because of the story or because of the overall film.

As far as the other categories go this year, the toughest is probably going to be Best Actress. Between Viola Davis killing it in The Help and biopic pieces by Michelle Williams (Marilyn Monroe) and Meryl Streep (Margaret Thatcher), not to mention Glenn Close playing a man who is actually a woman, I'm not confident who will win. Plus you have contenders like Rooney Mara for Dragon Tattoo and Tilda Swinton for a creepy movie, also in the running. Easily the best (meaning most competitive) category. I think Jean Dujardin has the best chance for the Best Actor win.

As of now though, I'm going to try my best to see a couple other films like The Tree of Life and Ides of March. I'm excited to see the Golden Globes on Sunday and then only a short week and two days till the Academy Award nominations come out. If I were you, I would absolutely see War Horse before the Globes presentation on Sunday, plus Hugo. I think those are my favorite of everything I've seen so far this year. Well, except for Harry Potter, but that is in a category on its own (let's not talk about how I don't think it will end up getting a nod).

With that, let's talk about some little side notes.
1. Seriously, what is up with all the movies going to a revamp of 3D. First its announced Titanic is being re-released in IMAX 3D on April 6, then Star Wars: Episode I Phantom Menance is coming out in February. And now, it was announced Finding Nemo will be following that trend. Wonder how much money those are going to make (no doubt Titanic will do fantastic).
2. So this isn't really that exciting, but I did just reread the ending of the second book and there is no doubt this is my next Harry Potter. There was a Hunger Games photo that was released the other day, and even though it doesn't show much, it still makes me very excited.
3. This seems a little bit ridiculous, but somehow does not surprise me. Somehow, The Dark Knight Rises tickets (a film that doesn't open for another six months) have gone on sale and have already sold out in some theaters. Keep in mind these are mostly IMAX theaters in large cities, but still very crazy.

With that I say... Live long and prosper.