All posts by Sheldon Wiebe

MOVIE NEWS: The 82nd Academy Awards® Will Feature 10 Best Picture Nominations!

Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis announced today that the 82nd Academy Awards, which will be presented on March 7, 2010, will have 10 feature films vying in the Best Picture category.

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“After more than six decades, the Academy is returning to some of its earlier roots, when a wider field competed for the top award of the year,” said Ganis. “The final outcome, of course, will be the same – one Best Picture winner – but the race to the finish line will feature 10, not just five, great movies from 2009.”

“Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar® categories but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize,” added Ganis. “I can’t wait to see what that list of 10 looks like when the nominees are announced in February.”

So say we all, Sid. So say we all.

MOVIE REVIEW: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Sometimes More is Less!

So, there are sixty-odd robots in Revenge of the Fallen. There’s also one new character of the human variety – at least, one that’s given any substantial screen time. Which should tell you how important the human part of the Transformers sequel is to director Michael Bay.

Optimus 2.0

It’s bad enough that we meet a millennia-old Decepticon called The Fallen [in what has to be the clumsiest retcon I’ve ever seen]; what’s worse is that he’s The Emperor to Megatron’s Darth Vader. Then there’s a shot where a tomb is entered that looks a lot like a shot in Alien, where we first see the alien astronaut with its stomach blown out [though there’s nothing that unsettling in this film – except the thundering bass that seems to be turned up to eleven throughout]. There are a few other quotes/homages/riffs/rip-offs, but they’re not enough to give Revenge of the Fallen a brain.

Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Sometimes More is Less!

COMICS: Secret Identities: The Asian-American Superhero Anthology – It’s About Time!

Secret Identities: The Asian-American Superhero Anthology may represent something of a breakthrough. As an ethnicity that both has a rich and powerful tradition and is greatly under-represented in comics [of all genres – not just the superhero one], a number of very talented Asian-American writers, artists and writer/artists have banded together to produce a volume of superhero stories that range from the straightforward superhero yearn to biting satire. If they can’t find superheroes to relate to, they’ll just go ahead and make their own!

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The brains behind the anthology, Jeff Yang, Parry Shen, Keith Chow and Jerry Ma have collected material from comics pros like Bernard Chang [Wonder Woman], Hellen Jo [Jin & Jan], Greg LaRocque [Legion of Superheroes, The Flash], Dustin Nguyen [Batman: Detective Comics] and Greg Pak [Hulk, the film Robot Stories] and; actors Kelly Hu [The Scorpion King, X2] and Dustin Tri Nguyen [V.I.P., Saigon Eclipse]; members of the filmmaking industry like Benton Jew [formerly with Industrial Light & Magic] and Michael Kang [The Motel, West 32nd], and more than four dozen other contributors [including themselves, of course].

Continue reading COMICS: Secret Identities: The Asian-American Superhero Anthology – It’s About Time!

TVonDVD: Parker Lewis Can’t Lose! No, Really!

The late summer of 1990 found two high school sitcoms premiering: the TV adaptation of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off [simply entitled Ferris Bueller] for NBC; and – ten days later – Fox’s Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. Bueller lasted one season [with its finale held back ‘til just over a year after its premiere] and Parker Lewis [which some had though to be an inferior version of Ferris Bueller] went on to run for three wacked out seasons [and 73 episodes]. Not the longest run for a sitcom, maybe, but years ahead of its time.

Parker Lewis Can't Lose S1 Box

Parker Lewis Can’t Lose: The Complete First Season, in stores Tuesday, is – after Quark and Sports Night – the sitcom I’ve most wanted to see released on DVD. Why? It’s smart, funny, innovative and had a very “take no prisoners” attitude that not only helped Fox establish itself as the edgier, more inventive network of the early nineties, but provided elements that have become highly influential to many of the sitcoms that came after it [Malcolm in the Middle and Scrubs come immediately to mind…].

Continue reading TVonDVD: Parker Lewis Can’t Lose! No, Really!

MOVIE REVIEW: Away We Go – An Unintentional Odyssey In Search of Home!

Burt [John Krasinski] and Verona [Maya Rudolph] are six months along the road to having their first child when they learn Burt’s parents, Gloria [Catherine O’Hara] and Jerry [Jeff Daniels], are moving to Brussels a month before their grandchild is due. Since they moved to be nearby the grandparents-to-be, this causes unexpected turmoil – but Gloria and Jerry’s selfishness inspire the couple to seek a better place to raise their daughter.

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Since they both have good jobs that they can do over a phone, they can live wherever they want – so they pick a number of possible places, places where they at least know someone, and set out. Phoenix, Tucson, Montreal, Miami – each place they visit provides them with a good reason to move on. Finally, they settle on a place that is simultaneously a surprise and seemingly inevitable. That’s pretty much it for plot.

Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: Away We Go – An Unintentional Odyssey In Search of Home!

MOVIE REVIEW: Star Power and Chemistry Propel The Proposal!

It’s been a while since we’ve had a new Sandra Bullock movie, so The Proposal will likely be welcomed just for that. That it takes Bullock in a slightly different direction than usual may make it seem fresher than it is – and giving her Ryan Reynolds to play off/with could be considered a stroke of genius.

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The plot – high powered publishing executive Margaret Tate [Bullock] is about to be deported back home to Canada [!] when she springs a bombshell on her bosses by announcing that she and her executive assistant, Andrew Paxton [Reynolds] are getting married. The two then zip off to Sitka, Alaska to help celebrate his grandmother’s ninetieth birthday – and announce  their engagement. The engagement tickles Gammy Annie [Betty White, conducting a master class in scene stealing] and Andrew’s mom, Grace [Mary Steenburgen] but not his father, Joe [Craig T. Nelson], or, at first, his ex, Gertrude [Malin Ackerman]. Chaos ensues.

Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: Star Power and Chemistry Propel The Proposal!

DVD REVIEW: Beethoven’s Guitar Shred – The Great Kat – Speed Isn’t Everything!

“Top 10 Fastest Shredders of All Time!” “50 Fastest Guitarists of All Time!” So read a couple of blurbs on the DVD cover for The Great Kat’s Beethoven’s Guitar Shred” DVD. The Great Kat… And she’s modest, too.

Beethoven's Guitar Shred

Where to begin… Well, let’s go to the tape/DVD/whatever – The Great Kat is made up and costumed in such a way as to resemble a female Dee Snider with Elvira’s cleavage. Beethoven’s Guitar Shred is a series of seven videos – three of which are for her own material [Torture Techniques, Blood, and Islamofascists] and four are adaptations of classical works [The Flight of the Bumblebee, Paganini’s Caprice #24, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #3].

Continue reading DVD REVIEW: Beethoven’s Guitar Shred – The Great Kat – Speed Isn’t Everything!

DVD REVIEW: The Hunger: The Complete First Season – Edgy Fun – But The Twilight Zone It’s Not!

One of the [if not the] first original series aired on Showtime, The Hunger was created by Jeff Fazio [who seems to have only done The Hunger and the first half of the mini-series Atomic Train] and executive produced by Sir Ridley Scott and his brother Tony [who directed the pilot]. It was an adult anthology series dedicated to themes involving the darker obsessions of life – the hungers that we usually seek to control. Playing to those hungers, the series included a lot of nudity – not all of it entirely gratuitous.

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Insofar as The Hunger’s episodes usually involved the supernatural and frequently had twist endings, it could be considered a Twilight Zone for grown-ups – though it was more inconsistent. Its best tales were adaptations from the works of horror greats like F. Paul Wilson [Ménage a Trois], Brian Lumley [Necros], Edgar Allan Poe [Lighthouse], Karl Edward Wagner [A River of Night’s Dreaming] and Graham Masterson [Bridal Suite and Anais]. Harlan Ellison wrote an original script for the series [The Face of Helene Bournouw] and another of his short stories [Footsteps] was adapted by Gerald Wexler – though in both cases, the episode credits read “By Cordwainer Bird,” suggesting that he believed they’d been royally screwed over by the time they were ready to air. Thriller writer David Morrell also contributed one of the better scripts – But At My Back I Always Hear.

Continue reading DVD REVIEW: The Hunger: The Complete First Season – Edgy Fun – But The Twilight Zone It’s Not!

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Some Nuts & Bolts from the Production!

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With interest in the second Transformers feature, Revenge of the Fallen, being high, there will be a lot of interest in the technical aspects of the film. Thanks to the clever team at Paramount/Dreamworks, some facts and figures have been released to whet the appetites of the techies for those kinds of details. Follow the jump to Industrial Light & Magic’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Fact Sheet.

Continue reading Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Some Nuts & Bolts from the Production!

DVD REVIEW: Transformers – The Complete First Season – 25 Years

Considering that the Transformers were created by taking a bunch of disparate Japanese toys with no connection – but kinda looked like they might belong together – and given unique identities and a backstory by a group of guys at Hasbro®, they’ve certainly managed to hold the public’s interest.

Transformers S1-25 years

With the second Transformers movie about to hit theaters, here comes the 25th anniversary release of the first season of the [dare I say it?] iconic animated series that forever etched the phrases “robots in disguise” and “more than meets the eye” into the cultural consciousness. Sure, there are some really goofy concepts [Megatron, the Decepticon leader turns into a gun? That has to be fired by some other Decepticon? Really?], but it’s easy to see why the series – and the toys, for that matter – caught on in such a big way.
Continue reading DVD REVIEW: Transformers – The Complete First Season – 25 Years

TELEVISION: Saving Grace Roars Back Onto TNT’s Schedule!

Saving Grace [TNT, Tuesdays, 10/9C] is what you might call a high concept show. Having self-destructive police detective Grace Hanadarko [Holly Hunter] be assigned a “last chance angel” – a rather redneck looking chap named Earl [Leon Rippy], thereby playing with all manner of expectations – is certainly not the most subtle of ideas. For two seasons, we’ve seen Grace inch her way toward some kind of redemption as she works on cases that have ranged from the peculiar to the mundane.

Saving Grace, S3

This season, Grace gets rolling quickly, with a dream sequence that plays back to some of the events of the latter part of the show’s winter season. You might remember a girl standing on a street corner, looking at Grace. That begins to play out this season – as Grace learns about Leon Cooley’s [Bokeem Woodbine] connection to her family. Grace’s partner, Ham’s [Kenny Johnson] divorce is finalized, creating a bit of weirdness between them.

In the first three eps of this new season, Grace deals with what could be a terrorist attack; determines that the girl on the corner has a last chance angel – her last chance angel – Earl, and is unexpectedly given the opportunity to change angels! Throughout, Grace is supported and/or chastised by the one person who give it to her without fear of reprisal, her best friend, Rhetta [Laura San Giacomo], who has continued to collect evidence of Earl’s existence – and is given an opportunity to succumb to temptation. Earl even learns about frustration – from personal experience, and not just from banging heads with Grace!

Saving Grace has never been subtle, but in its run so far it has taken a seemingly out there premise and turned it into a consistently entertaining series, with characters that we can recognize and with whom we can empathize. The three eps I was given for review purposes are all prime examples. They are loud and fast-paced, but have undercurrents that aren’t always readily discernable. They may or may not contain life lessons which Grace may or may not [mostly not], learn from – but whether the show is saying anything or not, it remains captivating and frequently compelling.

Final Grade: B+