Artificial Continuum

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Picking up shortly after last week's stellar introduction in the shadowy world of Umbara, "The General" transports instantly back into the action, characters, and moral dilemma that plotline has expressed. While it may not be as strong as last week's brutal arc opener, "The General" is still a suitably strong episode of the series and of the arc itself.

After their failed attempt at taking the Umbaran capital, General Krell, Rex, Fives, and their men find themselves pinned down by advancing Umbaran troops and air support. With their current plan failing, Krell is eager to accept a dire mission proposed by Obi-wan, who needs a key air base taken out in order for the invasion to work. However, the only way to accomplish such a task is by advancing exposed through a heavily armed Umbaran controlled area.

"The General" most succeeds in its continual portrayal of its clone protagonists. Each character, both new and old to our eyes, grow significantly throughout the course of the plot, and they soon become the heroes this show has needed since it began. What makes the clone army so compelling as storytelling devices is that ,unlike the Jedi, their fates are undecided, and as horrible as it may sound Krell is right in calling them expendable. Again, the true success of this arc or not rests on Dee Bradley Baker. Luckily, his work here is even more improved than last week's outing.

Rex is a continued standout. Its obvious that out of everyone involved under Krell's command, Rex is the one that is most emotionally and morally confused. He wants to help his men, but at the same time he, by nature, must put incredible trust in his commanding officer. Fives and Hardcase also shine in a moment of bizarrely genuine humor towards the episodes end. Kix, team medic, is also an unintentional standout. Only Jesse and Tup stand as being the most bizarrely underdeveloped out of the main squad.

However, whether "The General" works or not really depends upon the portrayal of General Krell. While suitably abrasive and intriguing, Krell still in many ways, good and bad, is an enigma. We still do not know why Krell is such a starkly different Jedi than any others we have seen. Also, if Krell is such a military genius, why does he continue to make such poor tactical decisions that just lead in men getting killed? There are parts where Krell truly excels at the role the writers have given him, but overall his character is still a frustrating mystery.

While not as down to Earth and gritty as last week's violent skirmishes, the battle scenes in "The General" are suitably violent and visually stunning. This time we focus in upon hulking war mechs driven by Umbaran soldiers. Its a different type of combat, and while different from the previous week's its still effective both visually and emotionally.

The animation of this arc still outshines anything the show has done to this point. In addition to improved facial animations and a planet that quite literally drips with atmosphere, there are some beautifully rendered and shot scenes, especially involving the episodes numerous action sequences.

With guest director Walter Murch at the helm (film editor for Apocalypse Now) "The General" it was hard for the episode to fail. While it may not be as gritty as last weeks and the character of Krell still frustrates, the episode continues to take us through what could be the best arc in Clone Wars history.

Score: -A
Saturday, October 29, 2011

Despite a mediocre season opener and a two week break, The Clone Wars is back with a bang and violent vengeance. The much hyped four part Umbara saga has arrived, and with it delivering one of the most shocking, violent, and downright satisfying episodes of the show we have seen in months.

The shadowy world of Umbara has left the Republic, for reasons largely unknown. (There have been some rumblings that this is related to the death of their representative in “Senate Murders”, but there has been no confirmation on this fact.) The Republic once again joins in a front to bring the planet back under its rule. With Obi-Wan and Sassee Tiin tasked with taking back a separate section of the planet, Anakin along with the 501st(including: Rex, Fives, Jesse, Hardcase, Kix, and newcomers Dogma and Tup) are tasked with retaking the city’s capital. However, after a violent first assault Anakin is called back for mysterious reasons leaving the atypical General Krell involved.

If anything has to be said about “Darkness on Umbara” is that it is brutal. For the first time, the clones find themselves faced with an enemy with a human face, and things get decidedly nasty. The battles are visceral and intense, and for the first time since season 1’s “Trespass” there is a general sense of loss. There are numerous wince inducing scenes, as the men of the 501st meet horrible ends. Including several well-known clones to the mix adds a level of suspense that is often absent from the series, and after the dust clears from every round of artillery you find yourself looking to see if one of the big players has fallen. Like such war films Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers the sound blaster fire not only echoes a coming battle but a feeling of dread and worry.

Also worthy of mention is the inclusion of General Krell. Although his initial appearance reminds one too much of the hardass military commander, the atypical Besalisk Jedi only grows more intriguing as the episode draw along. If anything, Krell is an enigma. His character stands as so fundamentally different from almost every Jedi we have seen in the series so far, and his ultimate purpose soon becomes an important point of interest.

Dee Bradley Baker once again steals with his performance of the clones. The subtle alterations of his voice for the majority of the cast here is impressive, and essential for the success of this episode.

The animation is once again beautiful. The initial shots of the Republics ships shooting through the mist covered atmosphere of Umbara are suitably mystifying, and add that in the brutal battle scenes that follow and you have a visual stunner of an episode.

Perhaps where “Darkness on Umbara” is most interesting is that there is still so much to go. This episode more than delivered, but we still have three more installments on this shadowy world, and the ultimate destination is unclear. Who makes it off Umbara alive? Who is General Krell? What made this arc so disturbing that Dee Bradley Baker didn’t want to voice it? What will next week’s superstar director Walter Murch bring to the table? It’s intriguing, and more than a bit exciting.

Score: A
Friday, October 14, 2011

This week continued to tell the stories of everyone's favorite robotic duo as they traversed throughout the galaxy. Featuring numerous small stories and locations, "Nomad Droids" is, for better or for worse, one of the more unique episodes of the series.

Following the events seen in "Mercy Mission", C-3P0 and R2-D2 are stationed with Adi Gallia aboard her star cruiser before they are ambushed by General Grievous. Chaos breaks out, and soon 3P0 and R2 find themselves catapulted through numerous locales and facing strange dangers as they take a galaxy hopping journey to find their way home.

"Nomad Droids" quite essentially is a kitchen sink episode. The writers literally wasted no expense in throwing everything they possibly could into this story. One could seriously imagine nearly a dozen different scenarios for how the writing process for this episode went, and several involve a dart board. Somethings stick, and something's don't. Its hardly ever boring, but its not always good either.

3P0 and R2 are shot through locale and situation at break neck speed, and we are introduced to new ideas and characters just as quickly. One minute, we are being treated to The Clone Wars's rendition of Jonathon Swift's Gulliver's Travels. The next, we meet a group of redneck aliens, who worship a Wizard of Oz knock off. Its all very bizarre, and interjected throughout are attempts social satire, genuinely funny slapstick, interesting action scenes, and bizarre aliens. Its certainly a one of a kind episode.

The short mini-episodes themselves are really hit or miss. The first attempt at imitating Swift feels the most forced, especially when 3P0 quite literally pulls a Gulliver and attempts to educate the tiny aliens about correct government. None of the rest are really perfect, but they all have a level of fun to them.

What honestly work best are the episode bookends which showcase the droid duo on the frontlines of the war in sequences not too far removed from A New Hope. These feel the most naturally, and in a way showcase the two's interplay better than having them play god or the Tin Man. It also doesn't hurt that these sequences are expertly animated and lit, making an excellent opener and closer to an otherwise mediocre episode.

The animation in general continues to impress, but the sound work in this episode in particular is a standout. Particularly in the space battles and the numerous droids the team meet, "Nomad Droids" is an aural treat of an episode.

It may be unbalanced and bizarre, but "Nomad Droids" is a fun episode of The Clone Wars. While not on par with last week's "Mercy Mission", it once again utilizes its droid protagonists to their potential.

Score: -B
Saturday, October 8, 2011

One thing Star Wars has always prided itself on delivering is a classic, and sometimes very light hearted, sense of adventure. That is what this week's R2 and C3P0 centric episode "Mercy Mission" attempted to deliver. This in and of itself sounds like it could be the set up for a fun half hour of television, but last year's catastrophe of an episode "Evil Plans" has made many fans (myself included) a bit apprehensive about "Mercy Mission" and next week's follow up "Nomad Droids".

The planet of Aleen has been hit with a massive earthquake. With its population and ecosystem in turmoil, Aleen has contacted a nearby Republic cruiser, containing fan favorite Commander Wolffe and the famous droid duo, to supply relief. However, what seems to be a routine supply drop soon develops into a twisting adventure through the planet's underground.

While lacking in action or serious drama, "Mercy Mission" is perhaps one of the most delightfully light hearted episodes of The Clone Wars to date. As opposed to previous side character episodes such as "Evil Plans" and "Shadow Warrior", "Mercy Mission" knows how to keep its tone consistent and to create a fun adventure without devolving to insulting humor/slapstick. There are moments of humor interspersed throughout the plot but they contain a certain genuine touch. C-3P0 and R2D2 bicker like an old married couple, and to be honest it's fun. The two droids have always had this interplay, and when the writers of Clone Wars find new ways of creating that humor without losing its base it's always fun.

Even the diminutive tribal species, the Aleena, for the most escape the typical "Ewok" trap. (In a great moment of meta humor, a clone even acknowledges the fan's worries for the introduction of the goofy little reptiles.) Although undeniably played for the cute factor, the Aleena don't overstay their welcome.

An easy standout in "Mercy Mission" is the portrayal of clone commander Wolffe. Although Wolffe has appeared in numerous episodes of the show in the past, this is the first time he has been featured as one of the primary characters to the plot. Surrounded by the bickering droid "couple" and the endless cute factor of the Aleena, Wolffe is a solid rock that grounds the episode in reality. Dee Bradley Baker's voice acting helps to carry the character's curmudgeonly depiction a long way.]

Visually, "Mercy Mission" contains numerous standout set pieces. The initial shots of the Republic entering the planet's atmosphere are absolutely stunning. The scenery and creature design shine in particular when visiting the planet's subterranean world. Particularly fascinating are a group of tree like creatures that the two droid's encounter briefly in their voyage. The only aspect that truly falls flat is the bizarre fairylike character of Orphe. In addition to her off putting design, her writing and voice work simply don't seem to mesh with the rest of the episode not to mention the Star Wars universe in general.

Although its lacking in action and features one incredibly off putting character, there is little denying the heart and fun that "Mercy Mission" possess.

Score: B
Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gungans. Why'd it have to be Gungans? There are few less respected additions to the Star Wars universe than the bumbling pseudo-racial stereotypes from Naboo. That being said the gungans weren't all that was wrong with this week's episode of The Clone Wars. While possessing some interesting moments, and the welcome appearance of two the series's villains, "Shadow Warrior" ranks as one episodes of the series we have seen since last year's "Pursuit of Peace".

Turmoil has broken out on Naboo. The Gungan army under the sway of the Separatists has declared war on the surface dwelling population. As Jar Jar, Padme, and Anakin attempt to create peace between the two races, the leader of the Gungan people is injured. With the forces of General Grievous approaching, Jar Jar must take on a role of leadership and prevent war.

There are many things wrong with "Shadow Warrior", and believe it or not most of them exist outside of Jar Jar and his aquatic foes. While their slurred speech and antics still may seem rediculous and offensive to some viewers, the Gungans, including Jar Jar himself, have simmered down considerably since their first appearance into the Phantom Menace. Here we are given an interesting view into their world, and surprisingly it isn't all that bad.

The reason why "Shadow Warrior" really doesn't work is how disjointed the episode feels. There are really two or three plots competing for screentime here, and at times it feels as if it were really three episodes crammed into one, which to be honest may have been for the best.

Although not the best episode of the series, the first half of "Shadow Warrior" wasn't anything unacceptable. We were being treated to a story of Gungan intrigue with some actually moderatley amusing Jar Jar antics. The Clone Wars is allowed to take breaks from its grimmer more violent stories on occasion for more fun storylines, but the condition is that they must be executed well. We get that for about twelve minutes, but then "Shadow Warrior" explodes into something must bigger faster than it can control.

This shift in scope begins when General Grievous faces off against an army of Gungans. Although the scene itself was decently executed (and featured the death of recognizeable character as well), the outcome catapults the episode into a completely separate plotline that proceeds to dominate the final ten minutes. The story itself isn't horrible, but it feels so separate from what we have seen before that the transition is jarring and awkward. Its even stranger that at episode's end, the writers proceed to tell us that the episode really was about Jar Jar the whole time even though he truly had nothing to do with the conclusion.

There is one scene however within these final minutes that is truly noteworthy and that is the brief confrontation between Anakin and Count Dooku. Brilliantly choreographed and smoothly animated, this brief two minute scene is truly the highlight of "Shadow Warrior".

Perhaps even more disappointing in "Shadow Warrior" is the jarring drop in animation quality. Despite advances in water technology, The Clone Wars crew seems to still be having difficulty with creating digital grass. That being said the crew should have known better than to place half the episode on the plane's of Naboo. In certain scenes where the lighting is particularly dark, the scenery truly looks like it escaped from a Gamecube game.

All in all, "Shadow Warrior" is frustratingly poor episode in both plotting and animation. Despite an above average start and a great hero-villain confrontation, at its best it merely reaches levels of mediocrity.

Score: C
Saturday, September 24, 2011

Our heroes are in a dire situation. "Prisoners" brings about the final episode of the Mon Cala arc with a opening that is probably as bleak as we've seen on the show (perhaps outside of "The Citadel" arc last season). Heroes are captured, a king is on the run, and Riff Tamson stands as proud leader of Mon Cala. While, "Prisoners" brings about a suitably satisfying conclusion to this opening art to Season 4, it (like its predecessors) is still flawed, but suitably entertaining.

Following the disastrous results of the battle seen in "Gungan Attack", Anakin, Padme, Ackbar, Jar Jar, Fisto, and their armies have been captured by Separatist forces. As Tamson attempts to torture the location of Prince Lee Char out of the surviving Republic leadership, Ahsoka and the fleeing Prince must develop a plan to not only rescue their people but win back their planet.

One thing that "Prisoners" and the entirety of this arc has provided well is a sense of scale. The battles, environments, and even the consequences of battle seem larger than we have seen so far in the series. Although the end result of this episode is really no surprise, there is a suitable amount of tension leading up to its climax.

Perhaps the most notable improvement is how the character of Lee Char seems to have undergone a drastic improvement in both writing and voice acting between episodes. Although his overall story arc is still predictable, Lee Char is no longer as cringe worthy a central character as he was in the previous installments. His dialogue feels more natural, and for some odd reason his voice has grown on me.

Tamson, of course, is once again a welcome addition to "Prisoners". His brutality makes a comeback, and the shark headed general kills in some truly jarring ways. With the conclusion of "Prisoners" it is easy to place Tamson alongside such classic Clone Wars villains as The Son, Cad Bane, and Savage Opress.

Like "Gungan Attack", the action in "Prisoners" is better shot and more suited to its underwater environment than the opener "Water War". That being said, the return to land and spaced based battles will be a welcome decision by the production crew. While these past episodes were an interesting experiment and obviously a valiant effort on the part of the animation crew, they were not as successful as one might have hoped at conveying a sense of visceral action.

Despite the positive improvements "Prisoners" made to the Mon Cala storyline, it also made some rather jarring missteps. The conclusion itself rang as being to hollow and predictable, and there are some moments of ridiculous Gungan/Jar Jar slapstick that stand completely completely at odds with the rest of the episode.

That being said, "Prisoners" was an entertaining conclusion to the first arc of season four. While it was flawed and frustrating at times, its easy to see that quite a bit of work went into the production of these episodes and in that regard alone they are respectable.

Score: B
Friday, September 16, 2011

The Battle of Mon Cala/Dac/Mon Calamari continues in the second half the fourth season opener of The Clone Wars with a jump in quality but with the reappearance of old problems.

After the overwhelming loss in the previous episode, the survivors are on the run from the ever persistent Quarren and Separatist forces. Lee-Char is doubting his abilities as a leader more now than ever and even the help of Ahsoka and Ackbar can't seem to help him step up to the role of leader his people need. Meanwhile, Master Yoda approaches an old ally for assistance in the battle and the Separatist's prepare for a final assault to kill the last lines of the Mon Calamari defense.

As the second episode of a three part arc, "Gungan Attack" suffers from much of the same problems as "Water War" but improves due to a better sense of direction and character.

"Gungan Attack" throughout conveys a sense of urgency. Our heroes are stranded and separated and are faced with seemingly impossible odds. Like last year's "Counterattack" (one of my personal favorites), this episode follows a small band of heroes attempting, mostly fruitlessly, to avoid the clutches of a diabolical enemy commander and waves of enemies. Its interesting to see a battle go so utterly against the Republic's favor, which is something we have yet to see in the series.

Tamson is ,again, a scene-stealer. Although not as brutal as he appeared in the episode prior, the shark-like commander continues to manipulate both the Quarren and Mon Calamari to benefit himself. The plot line is interesting and is a welcome distraction from Lee Char's floundering attempts at leadership. The fact that Tamson is paired with a sympathetic and honorable Quarren leader makes the entire political web of this arc all the more engaging.

The inclusion of the Gungan army comes as a surprising (well, relatively given the title of the episode) and bizarre twist. Their inclusion seems rushed and almost haphazard, and this continues to their inclusion in the battle itself. Jar Jar makes his return and again he injects an otherwise serious episode with unneeded and jarring slapstick.

For the most part the action in "Gungan Attack" is far more focused and visceral. The big scale battles have passed in favor of guerilla warfare, and the latter lends itself better to the underwater setting. The climax for the episode features an inventive sequence that involves a great fight scene between Tamson and Jedi Master Kit Fisto, who plays a far more pivotal role here than in "Water War".

Again, the animation is beautiful. The world of Mon Cala is vibrant and the animation team again succeeds at creating realistic water effects. Subtle touches such as muffled explosions and floating corpses help to create a unique visual flair to the episode that make it a unique viewing experience.

As for those returning problems? Well, Lee-Char is still frustrating and poorly voiced, the terms of war are still confusing, and the large scale battles are still poorly executed. Outside that, "Gungan Attack" represents an improvement for the arc and leaves it open for an even stronger installment next week.

Score: B

Season Four is upon us and The Clone Wars promises to give us one action packed season beginning with a three part underwater battle on the series famous planet of Dac/Mon Calomari/Mon Cala (whatever).

The world of Mon Cala is in a state of crisis. Its long time leader, a Mon Calomari king, has been assassinated and in his death leaves a power struggle between the two native races the Quarren and Mon Calomari. The current prince, the young Lee-Char, is next in line for the throne, something the Quarren aren't particularly happy about. Due to the manipulation of the Separatist ambassador Riff Tamson the Quarren are soon swayed the enemy side and the planet is plunged into civil war.

"Water War" like numerous episodes of Clone Wars presents an interesting premise and great visuals but struggles over execution and muddy dialogue.

The episode's beginning is chaotic and even with the typical "Clone Wars Intro" sequence what exactly is going on takes a few seconds to piece together. This may be in the fact that it doesn't really make sense why the Quarren care so much about the death of a Mon Calomari king. The races have always been portrayed in the past as two separate entities previously in the Expanded Universe. If this has been retconned then while unfortunate, it would have been nice to have a better understanding of what exactly the state of the planet is.

The character arc for this series of episodes appears to focus around Lee-Char, who is a hard character to adjust to. He is portrayed as a naive and childlike leader, which in itself is okay. Lee-Char just suffers as a character from hackneyed dialogue and a less than stellar voice actor. Thankfully, he is paired alongside Captain Ackbar (the earlier incarnation of the famous fish headed alien from Return of the Jedi). Ackbar's portrayal is both refreshing and true to the original film and its great to see him take a lead role in this episode.

Riff Tamson is a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe. His political aspirations are ambitious, and some might say cliched, but he makes up for that in visual style and sheer brutality. He alone carries some scenes above the mediocrity that tends to grip this episode. During the inevitable battle, Tamson rips and tears his ways through enemies with animal-like brutality and its a gory wonder to behold. His manipulation of the Quarren people is also an interesting plot line as it helps to emphasize the grey areas of the show's political storyline.

Visually, the episode is a wonder. Underwater effects are given beautiful levels of depth and feel as realistic as a Star Wars world can be. Characters float, swim, and charge through liquid with incredible fluidity that has never been matched on the show until this point.

However, something has to be said about how non-compelling the large scale battles in this episode are. While the sheer scale of them are sometimes a fun visual treat, they lack the punch that episodes like "Landing at Point Rain" or "Arc Tropers" brought. This is primarily due to the underwater set piece. Characters are slowed down considerably and underwater fire fights are actually less exciting than they sound. This could have been avoided with clever choreography and camera work, but outside some close up action scenes (mostly involving Tamson) there is little to be impressed by.

Overall, "Water War" is an above average episode of the series. While boasting some interesting characters and great visuals, it is eventually weighed down by its uneven plot, frustrating main character, and disappointing battle scenes that prevent it from reaching its potential.

Score: -B
Tuesday, August 9, 2011

We live in the age of the reboot. We see more retellings and remakes of old properties than original ideas populating the theaters during blockbuster series. Most are humdrum and unremarkable, but everyone once and awhile a true stunner comes along. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is that film. Not only is it a great reboot and summer film, it could be the welcome return to a franchise that's been on rocky ground for decades.

Will Rodman (James Franco) works for an up and coming pharmaceutical inside San Fransisco. Focusing his studies in the fight against Alzheimer's to aid his ailing father (John Lithgow), Will creates a new drug that he claims will be able to rebuild lost brain tissue. The first test subjects, chimpanzees, show mixed results and through a series of events Will finds himself caring for a young chimp dosed with disease. The young chimp, known as Caesar (played through motion capture by Andy Serkis), forms a bond with Will as his brain power increases drastically with each passing year. The events following lead down the road to create one of the most iconic settings in cinema history.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an atypical summer film, especially for a blockbuster reboot.  Every aspect of the film fires on all cylinders. Despite a slightly disjointed first hour, Rise grabs hold of you and draws you in. The film in many ways grows along its protagonist Caesar, maturing in intellect and power as it progresses.

While the script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver is undoubtedly strong, it is elevated to an even greater degree by director Rupert Wyatt who takes the stunning journey of Caesar and the growth of his empire and makes it a captivating tale of liberation. Filled with gorgeous shots, Wyatt adds a decided visual flare that when accompanied by Patrick Doyle's thumping musical score surrounds the audience in the emotional and sometimes incredibly haunting atmosphere.

Even than Rise, improves upon a strong script and directing with great performances. James Franco, who matures further as an actor with each passing role, gives his role as Will his all. The character breathes with genuine motivation and emotion. While easily the strongest out of the non digitally rendered actors, Franco is also accompanied by great performances across the board. John Lithgow provides a heartbreaking portrayal of a Alzheimer's victim, and Tom Felton is suitably repulsive as Caesar's eventual captor.

However, the real stars of the film truly are the apes through which the series gets its name. For the first time in franchise history, the primates are rendered through CGI created by Weta Digital, the production team behind Lord of the Rings and King Kong. What could have been a gample pays off spectacularly in delivering apes that breath with realism and shreak with character.

Andy Serkis, now famous for his motion capture performances of Gollum and King Kong, steals the entirety of the film with his dedicated portrayal of Caesar. Silent and inhuman, Serkis wins over the audience through a genuine character arc that begins at infanthood and ends as liberator of ape kind. Its an incredible journey that Serkis takes on with professional skill. Caesar becomes not only the iconic character of the film, but perhaps the most captivating we've seen all summer.

All these combine to create a jaw dropping crescendo of a film. Once the chaos starts and the revolution begins you are glued to your seats.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes may be one of the best summer blockbusters to grace the silver screen in years. Its a film that cares not only about style and spectacle, but about performance and character. If it weren't for an awkwardly fast paced first act, Rise could have been a perfect film. As it stands, Wyatt's reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise stands as a spectacular summer film with a brain and a heart.

Score: A
Saturday, July 23, 2011
The pieces are now in place. With this weeks release of Captain America: The First Avenger Marvel has officially assembled its Avengers on screen. Yet how do does its final hero stand amongst the ranks of its fellow blockbusters? Captain America is easily the best Marvel Studios film released in recent years, but it may not be enough to dethrone the Studio's spectacular start with Jon Favreau's Iron Man.

A weakling his entire life, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants nothing more to serve his country alongside his best friend Bucky Rogers (Sebastian Stan). With a war waging in Europe, Rogers wants not only to do his part, but ,as a man who has been picked on constantly since birth, to stand up to the world's ultimate bully the Nazi Party. Opportunity presents itself in the form a super serum created by former German scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), who finds Rogers to be the perfect test subject, much to the chagrin of Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones). Rogers, joined by technological genius Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) and the beautiful British agent Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell) finds himself soon part of a sect of the war that he never knew existed.

Captain America as directed by Joe Johnston plays out like a classic adventure film, very much in vein of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The plot contains creative set pieces, snarling Nazi villains, a bombastic heroic score, an often clever style of humor, mystical weapons from god like powers, and moments of godlike heroism. It would not seem strange at all to find Captain America and Indiana Jones fighting side by side against HYDRA agents.

This in many ways is one of the films only faults. Although this sense of adventure often pays off through exciting  action sequences and clever moments throughout, Captain America at times does not execute this design choice as effectively as it should. The opening sequences of the film often feel awkward, as Johnston attempts to ease into the world he has created. While Rogers's spirit is endearing, he at times feels one and almost saint like in his weakling heroism. This disappears as the film progresses, but those awkward moments at the films start are enough to drag the film down ever slightly. The classic sense of adventure also sometimes strays away from fun and into fleeting points of corniness, which isn't helped by the film's heroic and sometimes bombastic score.

Despite this flaw, Captain America excels as blockbuster entertainment and as a film. The plot is fun and for the most part cleverly paced. The action scenes are exciting and surprisingly brutal for a Marvel film. The film even portrays one of the best romances to grace a comic book adaptation since Spider-man 2. You will never find yourself bored. The characters are engaging, the action is exciting, and the humor is surprisingly funny. Michael Bay could learn a lesson or two from Johnston on how to tell a joke in a summer action flick.

However, the real stars of Captain  America are, oddly enough, its actors. Chris Evans is a empathetic and powerful lead. Despite early scene script pratfalls, Evans sells Rogers as an earnest hero at heart. He creates a hero, that while lacking the depth and energy or Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark, proudly stands amongst Marvel's heroes.

Even then, it is the supporting cast that truly steals the show. Haley Atwell is largely who sells the compelling romance of the film, and also plays a pretty fun WWII era spy. Dominic Cooper creates a Howard Stark that is every bit the father of the Tony we have come to love. Hugo Weaving plays the villainous Red Skull with brilliant Nazi evil, making a villain that could have easily done battle with a certain archaeologist. Sebastian Stan is also notable as Roger's childhood sidekick. Yet, the real scene stealer is Tommy Lee Jones's Col. Phillips. Jones has an undeniable screen presence and delivers the majority of the films humor with unbreakable deadpan.

If the script had been a bit tighter in its portrayal of the environment and the growth of Rogers as the title character, The First Avenger could have easily become the best. However as it stands now, Captain America stands as a great entry into the Marvel mythos.

Score: B+
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Here we go. Our weekly countdown of all things awesome. This week...we have a count down of the top ten best episodes of the classic television series. Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Why you may ask? Well...the truth is...Buffy is cool and SDCC is stealing all of the cool stuff this week so there is nothing really relevant to talk about. However, one can never have too much Buffy.

What makes Buff the Vampire Slayer worthy of such a countdown is simply how brilliant the show is. Although it started as a simple monster of the week show with quirky dialogue and a female protagonist, Joss Whedon's pet project slowly evolved into a poignant and thought provoking show. Well written and often hilarious, the best episodes of Buffy are those that break the form. This was a show that inspired a legion of fans and changed the face of television for years to come.

10. Normal Again

Normal Again presents a haunting "What if" plot that in many ways could have served as a deeply disturbing series finale. The central idea focuses around the concept that the entirety of the previous 5 seasons of the series occurred within Buffy's brain while she is in a coma. While the events really did take place, Buffy does struggle with her hold on reality. The episode also presents one of the most haunting endings of the entire series.

9. Chosen

It may seem strange to see a series finale listed so low on a list of top ten episodes, but this does not change the fact that "Chosen" is a truly gripping hour of television.

With heart breaking character deaths and a powerful, satisfying conclusion to seven years worth of television and character building, "Chosen" stands as one of the most memorable episodes of the series.

8. The Zeppo

I love episodes of Buffy that subvert the idea of the show to focus on something atypical. This is what the Zeppo does to brilliant degree.

What makes "The Zeppo" such an ingenious episode of the series is how it takes what could have been one of the most intense and gripping episode on its head, and instead pushes the A plot into the background. Xander's quest for acceptance becomes the main focus of the episode forcing the very real and very dangerous danger to become comical in its lack of focus.

Also, Xander played by Nicholas Brendon undergoes a brilliant character arc through the course of a single episode.

7. Becoming

I have often found that the second season of Buffy contained the most involving overarching plot. Even though it already shined through its introduction of such classic characters as Spike and Drusilla, the really drama came in the form of the evolving relationship between Angel and Buffy. When the two come to blows in this brilliant season capper, the tension is powerful and gripping. It all ends with a tragic twist that in many ways is one of the most defining moments in the Buffy canon.

6. Conversations with Dead People

"Conversations with Dead People" again subverts the Buffy formula to provide an episode that is presented as several short stories that represent separate aspects of the show. Buffy's encounter with a vamped up former class mate represents the shows humor. Dawn's encounter with the First Evil accents the horror. Willow's discussion's with an avatar of her dead lover, Tara, shows the series' clever dialogue. And Andrew and Jonathan's quest demonstrates the suspense.

This clever approach to the story creates a unique episode, but it is elevated to greatness by just how seamlessly they all mesh. Each is equally involving in its own way, but transitions happen regularly and without incident.

5. Once More with Feeling

Here we go, the musical episode takes spot number five. Undoubtedly one of the most popular episodes of the entire series,"Once More with Feeling" is a truly memorable hour of television.

The town of Sunnydale erupts into song and dance following a curse enacted by a stylish demon.

"Once More with Feeling" is just alot of well crafted fun. The songs are clever and catchy. There are laughs to be had throughout. In short, its one of the best examples of wit and creativity in the series.

4. Restless

One thing I disliked about Christopher Nolan's Inception was that despite the euphoria of the script, Nolan failed to truly capture the feeling of dreaming. This is what Whedon does in "Restless" to outstanding effect.

Funny, creepy, and endlessly clever, "Restless" follows the dreams of the Scooby gang while they are stalked by the spirit of the original slayer.

Presented as several different short stories like the season seven episode "Conversations with Dead People" "Restless" follows each specific character as they confront fears and changes in their lives. However, each sequence is conducted with beautifully accurate dream logic.

3. "The Gift"

This season five finale in many ways is as climactic and tension filled as any of the previous season cappers. However, what sets "The Gift" apart from other finales is the truly dramatic and tragic ending.

In order to save her new found sister's life and prevent an oncoming apocalypse, Buffy plunges to her death in a swirling cloud of mystical energy.

Although Buffy's death is hardly permanent, "The Gift" treats this development in the series as more than a ratings gimmick. The event is given proper dramatic weight and the reaction of Buffy's friends, Spike in particular, is suitably heartbreaking.

2. "Hush"

"Hush", the only episode of the series to nab an Emmy win for writing, is an achievement on all fronts. Although it in many ways plays out like a standard monster of the week episode, this season four installment, written and directed by series creator Joss Whedon, stands out for its novel premise and genuinely creepy villains.

A group of fairy tale beasts known as the Gentlemen arrive in town, and using a magical device render it mute. Forced to communicate through signs and writing, Buffy and her friends are forced to fight the horrifying group of villains and return speech to the town of Sunnydale.

The Gentlemen stand as the single most disturbing and best executed villains on the series' run. The twisted mime like creatures, float delicately through the air making simple smooth hand gestures.

However, "Hush" succeeds in its long dialogue free period. Comical, artful, and horrifying, Joss Whedon carries this episodes silent period to true writing genius in turn making it the second best episode of the series.

1. "The Body"

Following the death of someone close to her, Buffy finds herself facing issues of mortality in loss in this spectacular hour of television. "The Body" is one of those shows that will never leave you once it has been viewed.

Buffy has often been lauded as a series that skillfully uses its fantastical backdrop to handle real life issues. However, "The Body" subverts that entire mindset by making the focus of the issue a mundane but tragic issue.

The artistic lack of music and dream like sequences accent the character's feelings of grief to a point of untouched upon realism in almost any form of media. Joss Whedon's writing and directing also create wonderfully long shots and sequences that never once detract from the gravity of the situation presented.

As for acting? Sarah Michelle Gellar and Emma Caulfield steal the show. Gellar's portrayal of an emotionally numb Buffy is gripping and powerful. Caulfield's is more of a surprise as Anya's lack of experience with reality leads to heartbreaking emotional collapse.

"The Body" is not only the best episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but many (myself included) consider it to be one of the best hours of television ever made.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Holy Shit! Nick's still posting this stuff? It's been a week and he's kept with a feature? I know, I'm as surprised as you are. Here we go, then. Web video time!

1. Thumbs up for Rock and Roll

So here's one of the biggest videos of the summer. Watch as this child gives you powerful emotional advice, and supports the rock and roll industry. It's pretty moving stuff.

2. Classic Viral: You Dun Goofed!

It's been a year now since Jesse Slaughter's father told us all we had dun goofed. And consequences still aren't the same.

3. Dramatic Reading: Break up Letter

Gotta love dramatic readings. You make me touch your hand for stupid reasons!
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Hello, everyone. It's been a relatively quiet week with the giant that is San Diego Comic Con looming in the distance. The two largest events of the week have already been covered (the release of the latest Batman trailer and the final Harry Potter film). However, there have been some interesting announcements, especially one regarding a certain big green monster.

1. Akira News

An adaptation of the popular sci-fi cyberpunk anime/manga Akira has been rumored for years. Names such as Zac Efron have been tossed around more than once for starring roles in the film, and due to negative backlash it appeared as if the film had gone into development hell. According to VarietyWarner Bros. has finally announced a new director for the adaptation and a new more conservative production budget for the film of $90 million. Akira will be directed by Oprhan and Unknown director  Jaume Collet-Serra.

2. Kingdom Hearts 3 Update

Development hell is an unfortunate state of being that seems to take hold of a large amount of properties this day. It held onto Duke Nukem Forever for over a decade and look how that turned out. However, depsite a lack of news fans of the Kingdom Hearts franchise have waited patiently for years on information on the latest installment in the series. This week series director Tetsuya Nomura announced that the aniticipated handheld spin off Kingdom Hearts 3D would feature numerous hints towards the next installment in the main franchise Kingdom Hearst 3. He also announced that the plot for the game would finish the Xenahort saga, but keep Sora around for future installmetns in the franchise.

3. The Hobbit Production Diary #2

In keeping with true Peter Jackson fashion, the New Zealand director has continued to offer us glimpses into the behind the scenes settings of the latest trip to Middle Earth. This time the production diary gives us a glimpse into the actor's lives between filming, but still offers us some tantalizing glimpses at next years two part prequel.

4. The Evil Dead to be Remade

There are few bigger cult films than the Evil Dead franchise. Each film is held in high esteem in sects of nerd culture across the world, and their success helped to elevate star Bruce Campbell and director Sam Raimi to cult status. Now before anyone starts crying foul on this, Ghost House Pictures has announced that Evil Dead will be remade, but with Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell both acting as producers. Ghost House also announced that the two handpicked fledgling director  Fede Alvarez to direct and write the film after seeing his work on the short film "Panic Attack". The script will later be revised by Academy Award winner Diablo Cody.

5. David Goyer to Write Godzilla Script

There are few films I am more excited for than the upcoming reboot of the Godzilla franchise. However, little has been said about the production since the January announcement that Monsters director Gareth Edwards would direct the film. Wednesday, Legendary announced that the film would be written by David Goyer who previously penned the scripts for Batman Begins, Blade 2, and the upcoming Superman reboot Man of Steel. He also has story credits on the two Nolan Batman sequels. Later this week, Legendary Pictures head Thomas Tull spoke to the heads of Motion Captured regarding the film and its take on the world famous monster star:

What I can tell you about the approach the studio is taking to the film is that Godzilla is not "just" a giant monster. He is a character, a major force of nature, and there will definitely be other giant monsters in the world. They're focusing on the notion of Godzilla as a defender of Earth, the one thing that can stop some of these other giant creatures, and while there will obviously be a human story playing out with the giant monster story, don't expect it to overwhelm or overshadow the monsters. They know why you're going to the theater, and they are determined to give you a real, no-compromises Godzilla film featuring the giant lizard you know and love already. There are definite design choices they'll make, and the official Toho Godzilla has gone through many changes over the years, but I guarantee when you see this one for the first time, you will know immediately that it is Godzilla.

The site also hinted that if the film performs well that there will be multiple sequels.


There are few franchises throughout history that have had as large a cultural impact as Harry Potter. It has grabbed a generation of readers and viewers under its magical grasp and has created a fanbase as loyal and fanatical as any other. And this week the final official installment in the Harry Potter series was released. On Friday July 15 the final film adaptation of the seventh and ultimate Harry Potter books Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Luckily, for fans it is as every bit as good as they hoped.

With the loss of Dobby the elf behind them, Harry, Hermione, and Ron attempt to track down the final Horcruxes, mystical pieces of the dark lord Voldemort's soul. However, this search them leads them to familiar grounds and with a now wounded Voldemort on their trail, the battle becomes as deadly as ever.

Director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves tackle the monumental job of bringing the screen adaptations of JK Rowling's novels to a close with skill and grace. Both are at the top of their game, and together produce a film that is as slick and stunning visually as it is emotional.

David Yates, who has directed every Potter film since the fifth installment Order of the Phoenix, has an incredible visual eye. Again, the latest Potter film like the two before it features breathtaking cinematography and visual design. The opening shot of a Hogwarts held captive is breathtakingly beautiful, and this carries on for the remainder of the film.

Kloves also adapts the incredibly dense seventh novel with skill. It never feels unnecessarily weighty, and the drama and tension are captured here perhaps better than in the novel. It is truly in the quiet moments that the two really do succeed.

The two together only fail when it comes to perfecting the desired emotional response from the audience. As I sat amongst and watched hardcore Potter fans tear up at the loss of their favorite characters or during the closing credits, I felt lost. I was emotionally affected sure. I had chills down my spine, and my eyes were beginning to water. However, I did not feel the emotional punch that I did for the resolution to the Lord of the Rings films or even the final Toy Story installment. This in no way means that the film's handling of emotion is bad. On the contrary, it is spectacular for a summer blockbuster, especially an adaptation of a novel. It just does not reach the level it could have.

The acting, however, is at the top of its game. With a decade of experience behind them Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron), and Emma Watson (Hermione) have matured into powerful actors with an undeniable chemistry. Radcliffe in particular delivers an incredibly powerful performance, which may be the best of his career. Ralph Fiennes also steals the scene as Lord Voldemort, finally capturing the essence of the role after struggling in previous installments. The true star is Alan Rickman as Professor Severus Snape, who single handily carries the film through its most emotional and powerful moment.

As mentioned before, The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a visual wonder. Not only through its incredible cinematography, but in its handling of action and special effects. The appearance of a dragon during the films opening action sequence is stunning and breathtakingly realistic. Magic is implemented more creatively and seamlessly than ever before. The attack on Hogwarts school is a visual marvel. Spells shoot back in forth like super powered bullets. Giants battle sentient statues to the death. And Harry and his nemesis tumble through the sky in a climactic duel to the death.

Although his score does not match the magical beauty brought by John Williams's take on the earlier films, Alexandre Desplat delivers a musical backdrop to the Deathly Hallows that is fittingly haunting and memorable.

Although it does not reach its highest potential, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 succeeds beautifully at bringing a magical and emotional closure to a beloved series. With a capper like this, it is doubtful that we will see the last of Potter for a long long time.

Score: A
Okay, so I'm aware we had one of these the other day. However, with the release of the final Harry Potter film this week studios have scrambled to preview their biggest upcoming attractions. We've got a wide range of films coming up so let's get started.

1. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

Robert Downey Jr.'s first Sherlock Holmes film was a financial success but in many ways controversial amongst critics and fans of the original series. The decision to make the series more action oriented indeed made it more pedestrian, but at the same time lost some of the source materials wit. The same seems to apply here, except elevated to an even higher degree. Jude Law and Downey Jr. continue to provide standout performances, but they lack the freshness of seeing them for the first time. Plus, seeing Sherlock Holmes in a dress was not on my bucket list.

Score: -B

2. Hugo

Hugo based on the critically acclaimed illustrated novel by Brian Selznick originally caught my attention when it was anounced that Martin Scorsese would direct. However, this new trailer has done nothing but harm my interest for the film. While the source material told an original and spellbinding mystery, this trailer barely hints at it and instead focuses too much on slapstick pratfalls. Not too mention that it is pared with 30 Seconds to Mars's song "Kings and Queens" which has become the go to soundtrack peice for uplifting family films. This trailer is just incredibly bland. There are hints of promise scattered within cover of medicority, but my attention is lost.

Score: C

3. Arthur Christmas

Another trailer that premiered with Harry Potter, this animated holidy comedy first appears promising with Morgan Freeman taking a jab at his own previous work in nature film narrating. Than we descend into one of the most frustrating and long whinded gags I have ever seen in a film trailer. The animation is nice, but the entire trailer relies on a singular joke that goes and goes and goes. The sad thing is, it wasn't even funny to begin with. Although the film stars James McAvoy of X-men fame, after this trailer I have zero to no desire to see this.

Score: D

4. John Carter

John Carter has slowly become one of my most anticipated films for next year. Not only is it a science fiction epic based on the classic books by Edgar Rice Burroughs (who also appears to be a character in the film), but its work is actually being overseen by Pixar. As for the trailer, it is good but not great. While the design for the film is stunning and inspired, we also are treated to a Mars that looks a little too much like the American West. The story also appears to be a bit on the familiar side. Despite this, my interest is piqued and I look forward to see where Disney takes this adaptation.

Score: B

6. The Thing

Although this didn't air in front of Harry Potter, the trailer for the remake/prequel to the classic John Carpenter film, The Thing, also premiered this week. While the trailer is exciting and looks to atleast have the potential to be as frightening as the original, I can't help but thinking I've seen this before. The sad thing is that because the film acts as a prequel it has to fit into the previous films canon. We already know what happens to that Norwegian snow base. Wouldn't that take away the scare factor? Sadly, this trailer doesn't do much to convince me otherwise despite the interesting visuals and creepy backdrop.

Score: -B

7. The Dark Knight Rises

The most anticipated trailer of the week, heck probably the year, and I'm not allowed to show you it. If you want to see the sneak peak of the upcoming Batman sequel you just have to buy a ticket to see the newest Harry Potter film (you should probably do that anyway).

As for the quality of the trailer? Its a teaser, so you can't expect much. We get out first glimpse at Bane, Liam Neeson does some voice overs, and Christian Bale stalks by in his costume. Its not much, but it's affective. Not too mention that creepy chanting from the viral videos is still around.

Score: B+
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
This year marks the end to one of the msot lucrative franchises of all time. A seven book stories and eight movies comes to an end in a conclusion thats guranteed to make a boat load of money. However, there are a fair amount of great finales out there in multiple forms of media across several different series. (Of course, finales never really stay finales for long.)

Disclaimer: As always, this is limited to my own experience. If a reader out there wishes to recommend a series with a great finale, go ahead and place it in the comments below.

10. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle (novel)

Although its tone is decidedly more bleak than previous installments in C.S. Lewis's beloved franchise, the final novel in the series presents another Chrsitian parallel in its portrayel of the apocalypse. Characters are killed brutally, but in typical Lewis fashion returns in the final chapters. The Last Battle is a truly smart capper to a great series.

9. Ultimate Spider-man

Although the series has yet to officially conclude, Brian Bendis has done tthe unthinkable, Peter Parker has died. Although death in comics is hardly permanent and main characters have been known to die, Marvel's Ultimate line is decidedly different. Only rarely do characters return from the grave and unlike the Marvel's main coninuity, writer Brian Bendis has complete control over how the series will play out from this point forward. Peter's death is handled with class and incredible emotion. It never feels like a gimmick.

8. Toy Story 3

Last year, I doubt many of us would have expected to include this amoung the best series cappers of all time. However, Pixar's incredible third installment in the Toy Story series is just that. It not only stands on its own as a clever and inventive animated film, but delivers a poignant statement on mortality. It also delivers closure to characters we have come to love for over a decade.

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (novel)

Are there lots of deaths? Yes. Powerful character revelations? Check. Controversial final scene? Yep. J.K. Rowling's modern fantasy epic concludes in typical fashion, but with a sense of grandeur and style the series is known for. And yes, while some hated the final scene, I have to admit I rather liked it.

6. Buffy The Vampire Slayer-"Chosen"

Although it is not the best episode of the series, "Chosen" ends Buffy in grand fashion with the battle for evil taking even greater stakes than ever before. Friends are lost in heart breaking sacrifice and at the same time preparing its series for a new step in its mythology and a eventually a new medium.

5. Serenity
Whoa, another Joss Whedon show? Insanity! This movie conclusion to the short lived series easily earns its place on this list. In addition to wrapping up the majority of the mythology questions posed by the series. However, Serenity thrives in bringing about sometimes heart breaking character conclusions through action filled spectacle.

4. Lost: The End

Controversial and beloved at the time, the final episode of the epic television series Lost does not answer all the questions viewers posed about the show's intricate mythology. However, what it suceeds beautifully at is at creating some of the most satisfying and beautiful character resolutions ever seen. Plus there's that scene with the dog.

3. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Although it is still the worst of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi is one hell of a series capper. The epic of Anakin Skywalker comes to an emotional and empactful close amongst epic spacebattles and slug like crime lords. The wordless finale also delivers a sense of galactic euphoria.

2. Watchmen

I may be cheating with this one. I mean Watchmen is a book right? Well before it was a book, Watchmen was a critically acclaimed miniseries. The bleak and atypical finale to the series not only subvert nearly every superhero cliche at the time, but creates a resolution that caps off a timeless series. It would also earn the series the label of being completely unfilmable for years.

1. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Film/Novel)

Perhaps the greatest fantasy series ever created, The Lord of the Rings suceeds in both forms of media. It brings its quest to a climactic close with spectacular battles, blood thirsty creatures, and twists left and right. However, what makes the finale to this trilogy such a winner are its quiet moments. Especially in Peter Jackson's film adaptation this finale suceeds with its characters. Whether its the realization of Gimley and Legolas's friendship, Pippin singing to the steward of Gondor, or its great conclusion that remembers that there are more to endings than climactic battles, Return of the King is storytelling gold and the best series finale of all time.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Its that time again. Time for me to go through the latest movie trailers, and well review them.

Yes, one of these was posted earlier, but hey what you gonna do about it. Gotta get this out of the way before that thing called Comic Con brings in a whole new slew of trailers.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Trailer

Now, I'm aware we will be seeing the actual product in a few days. However, one cannot deny that this trailer brims of marketing goodness. Even for non fans of the franchise, this preview at the film series's final installment. Special effects, spoilers, and a fantastic score give any viewer chills.

Score: A

2. Brave

Here we have Disney Pixar's Brave. It may be the fact that fans of the stellar animation studio are looking for hope following this year's travesty, Cars 2, but the trailer for Brave works. The animation is stunning, and the glimpse we get at the world Pixar creates is tantalizing. Even more exciting is the idea that Pixar is tackling a Brothers Grimm style fairy tale. That has to be exciting to you.

Score: -A

3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Ridiculous title aside, this trailer establishes something that the entire marketing campaign for this prequel has been, a deep haunting atmosphere. Caesar, rendered through stunning technology, has already become the emotional focal point for the film. If the film is as strong as these trailers make it seem, than we may have the strongest Planet of the Apes film since the original. Though it still doesn't make sense how about fifty apes can take overall of Los Angeles...

Score: -A

4. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol seems to be more of the same for the Tom Cruise action franchise. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to this franchise that is not necessarily a bad thing. There are hints at some interesting action set pieces, and a plot that strays slightly from the norm. I'm still not completely sold, though.

Score: B

5. Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1

The reason why this film has been split in half is still a mystery to many. Despite the fan service, this trailer really does nothing. Sure, they get married. What else happens? This trailer isn't gonna help. There's alot of vampire sex, and some boy fighting. Nothing else.

Score: D+

6. The Adventures of Tintin

Although its animations style requires some adjusting, there's little doubt that Tintin is a visual marvel. It is also to see a slightly edgy animated adventure aimed at the all ages demographic. With the promising names of Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, and Edgar Wright it's pretty easy to get excited.

Score: B+

(A bit late, but bare with me)

In 2007, famous action director Michael Bay did what seemed like a Hollywood impossibility. He took a dated toy property and turned it into a multi-million dollar franchise. Sure he had some help, primarily from teenage boys wishing to catch their glimpse at a certain actress, but the original Transformers film will forever remain as a great summer blockbuster.

In 2009, the same director, cast, and writers did the exact opposite. They created a spectacular failure of a film. A nonsensical plot, soulless human characters, and absolutely horrific humor made Transformers Revenge of the Fallen an exercise in just how bad sequels can get. A movie Rolling Stone labeled as one of the worst films of the entire decade.

Bay has labeled this latest, and probably final, installment his apology for the second film. Transformers: Dark of the Moon certainly does improve upon its predecessor, but is not without its own pratfalls.

Dark of the Moon opens up two years following the previous film. The Autobots continue to fight the remnants of their Decepticon foes. Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) attempts to move on with his life with his new girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington Whiteley). However, Sam despite having saved the world twice finds it difficult to find a career. Sam's search does last long. The Decepticons have returned and this time become involved in a conspiracy that stretches back to the space race.

When it comes to the scale of its story, Dark of the Moon is easily the strongest of the three films. The conspiracy, which is shown spectacularly in the first ten minutes of the film, proves to be an interesting backdrop to the robot action. The plot also features some unexpected twists that make the film more engaging in some ways than both its predecessors.

What Dark of the Moon lacks is a compelling human story. While the overarching plot and the robot centered segments are engaging and filled with spectacle, the human storyline has none of this. This is unfortunate seeing as a good hour of the film follows Sam Witwicky's attempt to find a career. It is just difficult to care for any of the characters Bay presents to us.

This is made even worse by the absolutely awful humor. Although not racist or as crude as the previous film, the script is packed with some of the least affective and brainless humor seen in years. The Hangover 's Ken Jeung is the worst offender of this. He appears in a brief stint that borders on unwatchable. What makes matters worse is that this idiotic humor takes up a solid hour of the film.

However, Michael Bay takes his billion dollar franchise to a new level of intensity. When it comes to delivering spectacle, the famed master of explosions does not disappoint. The visual effects are easily some of the most impressive ever seen. Each of the machines glittering and shifting parts is rendered beautifully. The same goes for the 3D effects, which rank as the best since James Cameron's Avatar.

When the humor has died down and the plot finally reaches its head, the action begins. And what a sight it is. Visceral, grand in scale, and unmatched in scope, Dark of the Moon delivers fantastic action set piece after set piece. One moment, robots are locked in a Western style standstill. Next, characters are sliding and diving through a collapsing skyscraper. Then, Optimus Prime, who reaches levels of unbelievable cool in this film, jetpacks through a crowd of enemies slicing and dicing. Once it gets started, the action never lets up, which for a Michael Bay movie is not a bad thing.

When it comes to performances, there are few to truly write home about. LaBeouf is on par with his previous roles in the franchise. Huntington-Whiteley fares better than Megan Fox but never exceeds mediocrity. However, Leonard Nemoy does provide an interesting voice role for Optimus's new mentor Sentinel Prime.

Perhaps the unsung hero of the film is Steve Jablonksy's heroic score. Jablonsky originally wowed in the original 2007 film with tracks that have become staples to the franchise. He expands upon these beautifully here, creating an audio treat amidst the bullets and explosions.

Ultimately, as a summer blockbuster Transformers Dark of the Moon does deliver. It may be a tad too long and lack a soul, but when it comes to flat out action and spectacle you are unlikely to do better this season. Just make sure to brain bleach out those jokes.

Score: -B
Outside of Rango, this year has been rather lackluster when it comes to animation. The always trusty Pixar delivered its first ever flop, and the rest have been equall uninspired.

This film based off the classic comic books by Belgian artist Georges RĂ©mi produced by Peter Jackson, directed by Steven Spielberg, and written by Edgar Wright looks to be a spectacle on par with some of the highest budget live action films.

Not to mention that gorgeous animation.

Wow...It's been a long time hasn't it my friends? Well, welome to the brand new Artificial Continuum. A world of endless possibilites, and weekly nerd features.

So its been a crazy week at the web. Lots of great viral videos are breaking out. Unfortunatley, you peeps will only get to see one of these late breaking videos today. You'll have to wait for subsequent weeks to see the others. could just go on youtube. Take your pic.

1. eHarmony Cat video

Here's a video that's been making waves on the web for the last few weeks. For those who haven't seen it, you'll be in for a treat. But please, male readers, I am aware that she does seem to move her breasts about alot, but this is a video about well...cats.

2. Classic Viral: PINGAS

Yes, I pulled the PINGAS card. This travesty of voice acting created a viral and eventual meme that would shape the internet forever.

3. Fan Trailer: Deadpool

So, yes. I am aware you all expected me to show you something funny. Well, this last spot has traditionally been reserved for simply cool videos that have captured my attention over the week.

This week that video is this great fan trailer for the hypothetical Ryan Reynolds movie that will probably never actaully be made. Its brilliantly edited, and actually looks pretty cool.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
So after much soul searching, and reading over our single suggestion we recieved, the fate of Artificial Continuum has been decided.

What, you ask, will become of this site? Will it die? Will it change itself completely? Well..the answer is neither.

AC will be repurposed into a site that runs off features and commentaries rather than a focus on news. Some of the most popular features on our site have been the weekly web video topic, and our reviews. These will be expanded upon, and both will be seen in weekly features.

Our new catalogue of content will include:

Monday: Weekly Web Video Topic ( A feature that will be completely identical to our web video topic of last year)

Wednesday: Nick's Top Ten (This one came as a surprise. However, when I went back and reviewed our view stats on our posts. Some of the most popular posts I made on the sites were actually my top ten countdowns. So now every Wednesday will feature a top ten countdown ranging across all geekdom.)

Friday: News Round Up (We can't forget the news! We have to keep the masses informed! Every Friday will now contain a round up of some of the most interesting, bizarre, and important announcements across geekdom.)

Every other week will also feature a round up review of released movie trailers.

I will also continue movie reviews and possibly reviews of Clone Wars, but on a far less scheduled basis.

I hope you all are as excited for this change of pace as I am. Look forward to seeing you in the coming months.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Hello everyone,

Reboots are rather popular these days. X-men just had one a few weeks ago. DC's got one planned for next year, and we have major studios rebooting properties all the way down the line. In other words, the status quo has to change, because to quote Dr. Horrible "the satus is not quo".

Anyways, what is this rambling post about? It's about a certain something that's been noticed by many people. Well, many people being the one or two people that read this blog. Artificial Continuum has exeperienced a lot of down time. In fact, way too much downtime.

There are lots of reasons why AC has been dormant for many months. This mainly has to due that our multiple writers have lives that are ultimatley more important than this blog. However, alot of the problems simply came from the fact that our staff (and mostly myself) tried to tackle too large a subject matter for a single blog. Covering all media news with a handful of statt worked when time was a plenty and our lives were simple.

However, this does not mean that AC is dead. On the contrary, I have made this post to simply say that the staff of AC has decided to retool the focus of the blog. We have had multiple suggestions ranging from a stronger focus on reviews or commentaries, a focus soley on a certain form of media, or a certain genre.

So dear (3) readers, I have a request of you. Please tell us: what do you like from AC? What do you want to see more of? What do you want to see less of? What features should we expand? What should we throw down the imaginary internet dumpster? Any and all suggestions are welcome. So comment below.


Sunday, May 29, 2011
For all of you GoW fans, here's the full Gears of War 3 E3 trailer. The music played here is by Black Sabbath, titled "War Pigs". Enjoy.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Witches of the Mist, the conclusion to the three part Savage Opress storyline, at the moment stands as one of the most important episodes in the series to date. Regardless of quality, the story advances made in this episode will forever change the make up of the series.

Following the events in the previous two episodes, Dooku begins his training of Savage Opress. However, at the same time the effects of Savage’s previous attacks have not gone unnoticed by the Jedi, who dispatch Anakin and Obiwan to deal with the threat. As Savage is quickly being thrust into the forefront of the war Ventress begins to enact the final stages of her revenge.

As a finale to a three part arc Witches of the Mist succeeds. The majority of the plot points are brought to a relatively satisfying conclusion, and it delivers on the necessary action that the story demands. However, as mentioned earlier Mist is perhaps most significant in how it drives several key players for the series into completely new territory. It is not surprising at all to see that the main characters of this saga (Count Dooku, Assaj Ventress, Savage Opress, and Mother Talzin) all stand on different ground then they did where the story began. This in and of itself makes this episode a winner. The Clone Wars is a series where events are often frustratingly contained within an episode or arc. This is not the case with Mist as there is no simple way the series can continue to function as it once was after this episode has concluded.

Although the Jedi are included their roles are miniscule and in the end utterly unneeded. Once again Dooku, Savage, and Ventress steal the show. Savage continues to grow and involve as a memorable villain and again appears surprisingly layered. His training at the hands of Dooku stands as a stark parallel to Yoda’s teaching of Luke in the Empire Strikes Back and offers an interesting glimpse into both characters as well as Sith culture.

However, the moment fans had been waiting for since the arc began was the final three way showdown between Savage, Ventress, and Dooku. Brilliantly animated, orchestrated, and choreographed the sequence drips with tension and emotion more so then any battle since Anakin’s duel with Obiwan in Revenge of the Sith. It may actually stand as the single best action sequence the series has ever had.
The episode culminates in a haunting and emotional final sequence that not only hints at things to come, but drops perhaps one of the most unexpected and bold twists in the history of the franchise.

Also notable is the inclusion of Delta Squad from the fan favorite video game Republic Commando. Although their appearance bubbles down to little more than a cameo, their appearance is a healthy bit a fan service.

If it were not for the issues of pacing Witches of the Mist would stand as one of the top three episodes of the series. However, like the previous installments before it, Mist is just too large a story to contain in a twenty two minute episode. Like Monster, this installment manages to avoid feeling bloated except for one sequence at its midpoint that feels incredibly disjointed.

Score: -A

When Season 3 was first teased at this year’s Celebration V, one of the most hyped plotlines surrounded a villain named Savage Opress. This powerful and intimidating villain was stated by George Lucas himself to be an important player in the shape of the series. Despite his ridiculous name, the majority of the fan base was excited for the inclusion of this seemingly brutal new villain. Savage made his debut in this week’s episode Monster, did he live up to the hype?

Still seething from her betrayal at the hands of Count Dooku and her failed attempt at revenge, Ventress has once again turned towards the Nightsisters for assistance. Following the failed assassination attempt conducted by Ventress and her witch kin, Dooku has become increasingly paranoid about attempts on his life by the Jedi and his other enemies. With nowhere to turn, he is contacted by Mother Talzin, the leader of the Nightsisters, who offers him a solution, a male from the planet of Dathomir. Little does Dooku realize that his new found apprentice will be a pawn for Ventress and her new allies.

Once again Monster focuses on the villains of the series, with none of the usual heroes making an appearance. This stands in the episode’s favor as the majority of plot surrounds Ventress’s vigorous selection process for her new pawn. Monster is brutal, violent, and contains some of the darkest material the show has visited to date.

As suspected the star of this episode is Savage Opress, who is given a surprisingly detailed and empathetic introduction. Although a member of a clan of Zabrak warriors, Savage is shown as a caring and human character. This makes his manipulation by Ventress and his transformation by the Nightsisters, who prove to be the true monsters of the episode, all the more horrifying. When Savage has become the villain we have glimpsed for months he is a completely different being then the one we were introduced to. Surprisingly this works, Monster creates a villain with all the brutish complexity of Frankenstein’s monster.

The brutal selection process makes up the majority of this episode, but was highlighted by expertly choreographed and animated action sequences. Often inventive and always engaging this sequence stands as one of the most fun of the season.
As the middle act of a trilogy of episodes, Monster acts a transition episode and once again suffers from issues of pacing. Monster works fluidly throughout the course of the plot until one horribly executed sequence towards the episode’s climax. The scene is handled so quickly and given so little thought that what could have been an effective step in Savage’s story just stands as a horribly awkward and disjointed scene.

Despite this one flaw, Monster stands as one of the single best episodes of the entire series and carefully lays the ground work for an explosive conclusion to one of the series’ best story arcs.

Score: -A

The Clone Wars for its near three year run now has been a series of heroism. Even if recently that line has begun to blur, the clones, Jedi, and most importantly Anakin himself have stood as true heroes in the conflict that has consumed the galaxy. However, Clone Wars has really developed into a series that thrives off its villains. Cad Bane, Aurra Sing, or Assaj Ventress, the dark side has always been a scene stealer. Nightsistsers took a turn for the better in giving us our first villain centric episode, and a step away from the clumsy politics driven installments that were prevalent in the beginning of the season.

Nigthsisters picks up in the middle of a massive space battle, led by Dooku’s prized assassin Assaj Ventress. The Republic is on the run, and it appears that the Seperatists may pull off a surprise victory. However, the prowess of Ventress has drawn the attention of Darth Sidious. Worried that his apprentice may be growing too powerful, Sidious orders the death of Dooku’s apprentice, setting off a chain of events that could shape the face of the war.

The shift of focus in Nightsisters is its most apparent attribute. Although we are given glimpses of Obiwan and Anakin in the first act, the villains are the centerpiece here and for that reason alone this episode becomes a must watch.
As the title suggests Nightsisters introduces the Dathomir witches to the Star Wars G canon for the first time. Long time villains of the expanded universe, the inclusion of the Nightsisters is a welcome addition to the series. Although both Dathomir and the clan themselves have undergone some changes since their initial appearance in the Star Wars comic line, little damage appears to have been done to the overall continuity. Even a brief glimpse at Ventress’s origins stays relatively close to the already established backstory.

Earlier in the season, Ventress stole the show in the supposedly clone centric episode Arc Troopers. It seems only appropriate that here Ventress’s spotlight is stolen by her master Dooku. Although her ever present malice and violence is at its peak here, her motives and actions in Nightsisters are all too familiar. This cannot be said for the Count, who is more fascinating in this single episode then through the entirety of his roles in the Star Wars prequels. Early in the episode when Sidious orders Dooku to murder his assassin, a surprisingly human display of compassion breaks through and makes the dynamic between the two all the more powerful. The bearded Sith shines yet again at the episodes climax in a spectacularly choreographed lightsaber duel that outshines many of those in the live action films. Dooku fights with a strange finesse and elegance that is only hinted at in the films.

Despite all that works, Nightsisters has one major flaw and that is one of pacing. As seen in Assassin and to a lesser degree Arc Troopers, there is quiet simply too much going on this episode for its own good. When sitting back and examining the episode as a whole it is sometimes surprising at simply how much story has progressed within the space of twenty two minutes. While a fast paced storyline works, Nightsisters often feels clunky. The story that the writers and directors of this outing are trying to tell is just too grand in scope for the time frame they are given. Although writer Katie Lucas, daughter of the big man himself, does a stellar job at setting pieces into place for the following two outings not everything can be salvaged.

The animation and score continue to improve at an amazing rate. Characters are more vibrant and expressive now than they ever have been, and the action sequences are often breathtaking.

Overall, Nightsisters is a welcome change to the series. Exciting, colorful, and with heavy doses of dark side this stands as one of the better episodes of the series. Let’s just fix those pacing issues.

Score: B+