Film: Brought to you today by the Letter “W”

May 9, 2008 by

“W” as in “Wachowski,” “George W.,” and “Widget,” just because it is an awesome word.

“Speed Racer” sees its wide-release today, so you had better believe there is a review on CM-Life.com.

Sorry for those who were waiting with bated breath for a “What Happens in Vegas” review, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen.

Onto our second “W,” earlier in the week, I will continue coverage of Oliver Stone’s Bush Jr. biopic, “W.”  EW.com released a photo of star Josh Brolin made up as George W. Bush, and so as I did for the released Watchmen character shots, I will present a actor-character photo comparison for your consumption.

The Actor:

The President:

The Result:

Truly bizarre.  If a judgment could be made from this one photo, I would guess Stone and Brolin are going for a dark, dramatic, potentially slanderous angle on our Commander in Chief.  It will be interesting to watch this develop.

As always, direct all comments, compliments, rants, raves, and death threats to the comment box below, or canze1bj@cmich.edu.

Stay in school,

Brad Canze, the CM Life Movie Dude

Film: Superhero overload

May 5, 2008 by

UPDATE:  Iron Man had a killer weekend, racking up $104 million domestically, pushing it well over the $200 million mark worldwide.  By no small coincidence, the day these numbers were announced, Marvel announced that “Iron Man 2” (my predicted subtitle is either “Enter the Mandarin” or “Demon in a Bottle;” expect both the ten-ringed supervillain and Tony’s alcoholism to play a part) will be released on April 30, 2010.

Also announced were “Thor” on June 4, 2010, “The First Avenger: Captain America” (I am really not in love with that title) on May 6, 2011.  All three of these heroes, along with Hulk, whose movie drops on June 13, will feature in “The Avengers” in June 2011.

This is put on Marvel’s schedule on top of “Punisher: War Journal” this December 5, and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” next May 1.

Me?  I’m still waiting for a NEXTWAVE movie.

So, the Wednesday before last, CM Life had a little something you might have read: An entire Lifeline section devoted to comic books.

I wrote two rather intensive articles, we had a column, picks for the best comics, movies, music, TV, et cetera, and a killer (though admittedly non-comics related) book review by Mr. Frank Wisswell.

Speaking of Frank, he and I did a joint review of Iron Man this weekend, as though you needed anybody to tell you that it rocked.

“Joint” review meaning we did it in conjunction with one another. Just say no.

So, to finally cap off CM Life’s beginning of summer comic book coverage, I am going to do as others did for me in the April 23 Lifeline section, and give recommendations of truly rockin’ reads. So here is Belligerent Brad’s Pulverizin’ Pull List:

“Watchmen:” I absolutely consider this the best comic book ever written. It’s a story starring superheroes, but it is absolutely not a superhero book. This is a book about society, humanity, paranoia, absolutism, and morality. Alan Moore’s scripts and David Gibbons’ artwork deftly creates a living, breathing world that seems very real, while still being a very different world than our own. If you only read one comic book ever before you die, read “Watchmen.”

“NEXTAVE: Agents of H.A.T.E.” Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen’s hilarious masterwork deconstructs the superhero psyche in a way never done before. Ellis started from what he considers the “core” of superhero comics (from the perspective of writers and artists) and made this book primarily about people in bright costumes posing in the street, kicking things, and then blowing them up, sacrificing things like characterizations and plot in the process. However, Ellis is intelligent enough to flesh out this absurdly skewed world, making it hilariously irreverent, inventively violent, and simple genius. Our team of heroes (who consist of a second-rate Avenger, a Lara Croft wannabe monster hunter, an alcoholic misanthropic robot, a kleptomaniac mutant whose power is to make things explode, and a homeless Brooklyn man with galactic-level power bestowed by aliens) faces off with an insane military man who drinks milkshakes made out of baby chickens, murderous airborne koalas, and clones of Stephen Hawking that shoot laserbeams out of their eyes. Like the book says itself, “If you like ANYTHING, you’ll LOVE Nextwave!”

“Ex Machina,” “Y: The Last Man,” “Pride of Baghdad,” “Doctor Strange: The Oath,” “Logan:” These five titles have two things in common: They are written by Brian K. Vaughan, and they are some of the best contemporary comics that money can buy. “Y” is a 60-issue long story about a 20-something slacker who ends up being the last human male left on the earth, and finds himself fighting against certain death and biological obsolescence. “Ex Machina” is the tale of Mitchell Hundred, a man elected mayor of New York City, who just happens to be a former superhero that used his power to speak with electronics to keep the second World Trade Center tower from getting hit during 9/11. “Pride of Baghdad” is the most culturally affecting talking animal tale ever written, following four lions that were freed from the Baghdad zoo during the initial US bombings of the city. “The Oath” is a story about Doctor Strange that manages to make the character interesting (a first in roughly 20 years), and tell a great romantic superhero tale at the same time without seeming trivial. “Logan” takes place during Wolverine’s past and present in Japan, examining both his involvement in WWII and with his first love, in a way that has never been done before. All of Vaughan’s books contain snappy writing and a taste for the catastrophic, and all carry themes and points comparable with a prose novel.

“Umbrella Academy:” When I heard that Gerard Way, lead singer of My Chemical Romance, would be writing a comic, I expected to open up the first issue and be bombarded with depressing emo mush. Instead, Way delivers giant professional wrestlers elbow dropping squid-aliens and 9 year-olds fighting a zombie-robot reincarnation of Gustav Eiffel. “Umbrella Academy” is a quirky, hilarious tale of turmoil within a group of people who know no other life than superheroics. Way’s first mainstream comic work, complimented by the cartoony pencils of Gabriel Ba, is indicative of both Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” and Mike “Hellboy” Mignola’s “Amazing Screw-on Head.” Fool your emo friend into reading comic books by giving them this 6-issue miniseries. Conversely, give your comic nerd friends this book, and fool them into liking something written by Gerard Way.

“Helen Killer:” The first issue of this miniseries came out a few weeks ago, and I am already sold on the entire thing. Truth be told, I was pretty much sold on the premise alone: Alexander Graham Bell invents a device called The Omnicle, which gives a college-aged Helen Keller her senses back along with superhuman reflexes and strength, and she uses these abilities to become a bodyguard for President McKinley. Add to that premise some great dialog and crisp, clear, dynamic black-and-white art, and you’ve got an indie book that earns the endorsement from Stan Lee it boasts on its front cover.

Comment below if you have any thoughts, or books that you want to talk about, or email me at canze1bj@cmich.edu to tell me if you like branching out to other things, or if I should just stick to movies strictly.

–Brad Canze, the CM Life Movie Dude

Capes, X-ray Vision and Masks…On the Catwalk Baby on the Catwalk

April 29, 2008 by

Superhero inspired garb is splashing the pages of Vogue and Nylon, a tribute to an exhibition starting May 7 through September 1 at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The somewhat uber geek chic trend has inspired everything from capes and cuffs to t-shirts.

I don’t truly think people will start running around campus in latex body suits or creating alter-egos (that we know of) but there is an easy way to incorporate some of this new trend into your wardrobe. Start by looking for some major Wonderwoman cuffs (most likely one, you don’t want to over do it), or sport some sexy shiny black leggings ala Catwoman (not the Halle Berry version).

Check out some of the fashion pics inspired by super powers. 

-Rebecca

Film: “Baby Mama”

April 25, 2008 by

From cm-life.com, natch.

“Baby Mama” is a formulaic romantic-pregnancy movie that smashes together “Knocked Up” and “The Odd Couple” in a predictable fashion.

The most significant thing about this movie is that it confirms the Judd Apatow’s mixture of current trends and events and gross-out humor is now the gold standard to be emulated by other films. Also, it solidifies the “unexpected pregnancy movie” as a bona fide genre by being the first subpar movie of this mold.

Tina Fey (“30 Rock”) stars as Kate, an upward-moving executive in an organic food company that finds herself overwhelmed with maternal desires. When it is revealed that her chances of conceiving are roughly one in a million, and adoption fails to work out for her, she turns to a surrogate mother.

What she gets is Angie (Amy Poehler, “Saturday Night Live), an uneducated, immature woman who lives with her conniving redneck boyfriend Carl (Dax Shepard, “Idiocracy”). When Angie apparently gets pregnant with Kate’s fertilized eggs, and Kate makes herself a large part of her surrogate mother’s life, everything that could go wrong does.

There are approximately three jokes in this movie. There’s “Pregnancy and parenthood are awkward,” “One woman is obsessively clean and the other is a maladjusted slob,” and finally “The supporting characters are wacky!”

The supporting characters probably fair the best of all the comedic devices. Steve Martin is funny for the first time in twelve years as Kate’s hippy boss. Dax Shepard plays an ignorant white-trash nitwit, apparently the only character he knows, but he plays it admirably and invokes a chuckle with almost every appearance.

Tina Fey fights hard to keep this movie afloat. She is the definite bright spot, as the charming, mature, yet slightly na’ve Kate. Her every joke and bright smile makes the plot’s many contrivances almost forgivable.

Make no mistake, writer-director Michael McCullers (writer of the “Austin Powers” movies) made sure that this movie was as contrived as possible. From the beginning, through the overly long and sagging middle all the way to the end, the plot moves forward without logic.

Things happen because they are supposed to happen, not because they make sense. Fey’s Kate falls in love with Rob (Greg Kinnear of “Stuck on You”) not because there is any romantic chemistry between the two, but because they played by two good-looking stars and that’s just what happens in these kinds of movies.

The last 15 minutes are so contrived that it may bring about questions as to the point having just watched the previous 80 minutes of film. The ending wraps a big shiny bow around the movie with a card that says “Everything is okay now!” In the process, Kate’s personal conflict which drove the entire movie is negated, and the audience is just forced to accept it.

While there are a few funny moments and good performances in “Baby Mama,” the whole product fails to stand up on its own. Fans of Tina Fey will gobble up her every movement in this film, but will find little else to love in this less gross Apatow-style misfire.

2 stars out of 5.

Recent Reviews:

The Forbidden Kingdom: 3 stars out of five.  As exciting as a flurry of feet to the face, with just as much dramatic depth.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
: 3 stars out of five.  Funny, heartfelt, yet flawed film.

Stop Loss:  2 stars out of five.  An emotionally affecting narrative mess.

Drillbit Taylor: 2.5 stars out of five.  An entertaining, occasionally funny, derivative high school comedy.

I LOVE GETTING YOUR FEEDBACK!  Comment below, or click my byline to email me at canze1bj@cmich.edu!

It’s a trap,

Brad Canze, the CM Life Movie Dude

Film: The Forbidden Kingdom

April 20, 2008 by

This should have been up on cm-life.com a couple of days ago, but due to technical difficulties and the wizardry of WordPress, here is my review of Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and some incompetent little kid in “The Forbidden Kingdom.”

In coming years, “The Forbidden Kingdom” may be looked back upon fondly by the children who grew up with it, similarly to how “The NeverEnding Story” and “Hook” are looked upon today.

“The Forbidden Kingdom” clearly takes cues from those movies and their kin, and will likely also be adored by children and scoffed at by adults.

The plot, essentially “NeverEnding Story,” smashed together with the Chinese folklore of the Monkey King, is steeped in mythology and martial arts philosophizing. At its core, however, it is a simple tale of good versus evil and a boy becoming a man, and is very easy to follow and understand.

Michael Angarano (“Sky High”) plays Jason, an outcast teen obsessed with kung fu movies. When he is bullied into helping local thugs rob the pawn shop he buys movies at, he stumbles upon a mysterious staff, which transports him to the ancient China of lore.

These early scenes are rather disjointed and unconvincing, but once the setting changes to China, the style and pace of the film click. The meat of the story is a straightforward quest to overthrow an evil warlord (Collin Chou, Seraph in the “Matrix” sequels) and return a hero to glory.

Jackie Chan and Jet Li both appear to guide and teach Jason on his journey. Chan is the highlight of every scene he appears in, displaying the “drunken kung fu” that first made him famous three decades ago.

Li does not fare quite as well. Though he manages to hold his own throughout the movie, much of his dialogue is poorly delivered, and he falls into the shadow of Chan, clearly the superior film actor. When the talking stops and the punching begins, both actors shine brightly, and make it clear why they are crossover superstars.

The major reason for anybody to see this movie is the fantastic martial arts action. Where the dialogue often falters, the fighting, choreographed by kung fu go-to guy Woo-Ping Yuen, is thrilling and creative. The highlight of the entire movie is the fight between Li and Chan when they first meet. For martial arts film fans, watching the movie is justifiable for this scene alone. As the movie goes on after the two befriend each other, the audience may hope for one of them to turn evil, just so they will keep fighting.

Complimenting the fight scenes are the visual and sound design of the movie. Camera angles invoke memories of the Shaw Brothers fantasy kung fu films of the 70s, and the color palette is lush and vivid. The sound design is similarly lush. Sound effects are delightfully overstated, again as a throw back to old school kung fu flicks.

A very charming and creative touch is when a character is using a kung fu style based on an animal, as many are, sound effects of the corresponding animal are worked into the background as they strike. When Chan’s character uses Tiger Style, a tiger’s roar can be heard when he punches, for example.

Michael Angarano gets in on the fighting action as well, taking a role in the movie somewhere between the stereotypical “young grasshopper” and Dorothy from “Wizard of Oz.” While he actually performs admirably in the fight scenes, his acting and line delivery is even more undesirable than Li. Furthermore, Angarano does not have the excuse of English being his second language. As the inevitable conclusion looms, it is hard to empathize with his character’s journey and growth.

“The Forbidden Kingdom” is a superfluous fairy tale film. Fans of films like “Hero” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” will probably enjoy the inventiveness of the fight scenes, but children will find even more to like. This is a kung fu film through Disney-tinted glasses, thrilling and dynamic, yet ultimately shallow and unsubstantial.

–Brad Canze, the CM Life Movie Dude

Film: Do you understand the words comin’ outta my mouth?

April 18, 2008 by

Jackie Chan made news at the geeky film sites earlier in the week with a statement that he is looking to do another film project with Chris Tucker.  The new project would not be another “Rush Hour” movie, because Chan says he did not like how much time it took in between the films to get another one started.

So what does this mean?

1) It is 2008, and there is somebody in the mainstream film industry that actually WANTS to work with Chris Tucker.

2) If Chan’s complaint about the times in between films rings true, we could see a lot of Chan-Tucker action in a short period of time.

This kinda irks me.  First, I first became aware of Tucker approximately 10 years ago in the first “Rush Hour” movie, and he has yet to do anything that has even made me laugh.  If Jackie Chan wanted to work with Chris Rock, why doesn’t he just work with Chris Rock?

Secondly, Jackie Chan needs to be way more discerning and self-aware when choosing films to make.  He’s getting way up in age, so he can’t do the straight-out, self-sacrificing action movies he did in the 80’s and into the 90’s.

But at the same time, he’s Jackie Chan!  He could have his pick of any costar in Hollywood, in any movie he’d want, and he keeps choosing costars like Tucker and Jennifer Love Hewitt, and movies like “The Tuxedo,” and “Around the World in 80 Days?”

I mean, I may sound biased, but I would be more inclined to get behind this initiative if ANY of the Rush Hour films were any good.  As far as I’m concerned, that was three strikes Chan and Tucker are out.

Personally, I would vote for Jackie Chan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to team up for a movie.  If you were to get a competent young director to do it (Read: NOT RUSH HOUR’S BRETT RATNER), you could have one of the best buddy-cop style movies of recent memory.  I say Bryan Singer directing and Willem Dafoe as the bad guy, and you’ve got gold, Jerry, gold!

Drag Queens Invaded My Closet

April 15, 2008 by

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the drag show hosted by the Office of Gay and Lesbian Programs. Not ever going to a drag show, it was probably one of the most entertaining experiences I’ve had. The emcee Sabin was the highlight of the show with her raunchy language and audience interaction.

But of course I have to make this about the fashion which was everything I expected and then some. Flashy one pieces and rear riding dresses accessorized with master bling…tres chic!

It did give me some inspiration for my own wardrobe. Not to say you will see me coming to class in a spandex leotard and corset (although not far from what I see at the bar sometimes), but I do believe we need to take more chances when it comes to what’s in out closet. Maybe instead of just wearing a monotonous sweater, dress it up with a flashy piece of jewelry or wear a pair of funky tights under a dull dress.

I also believe women can learn a lot from drag queens. Sometimes we focus to much on our flaws and forget to flaunt our assets (disclaimer: do not show up to class in bar clothes). Be proud you have freedom of fashion! Peace all~Ashley Barlow

We Heart You!

April 14, 2008 by

It is now time to shake the dust out of those pretty little frocks you wore all last spring…finally! Yet, it still seems a little chilly to go totally bare legged. Thankfully fanciful tights are all the rage this season. 

While looking for the perfect patterned tights to spruce up my wardrobe, I came across a great sight called We Love Colors. Anything you need from fishnets to knee highs can be found here in all their 45 colors. If you are looking for something fresh to peek from your ordinary dress hem, look no further than this site. 

Typically I am pathetically loyal to American Apparel but lately my wallet thinks otherwise. At We Love Colors, everything is from $14 to $16! 

Enjoy and happy spring!

-Rebecca

www.welovecolors.com 

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

April 14, 2008 by

I forgot to post this when it first got published, but the movie doesn’t come out in its wide release till this Friday, so it is still timely.

Review of the Judd Apatow-produced, Jonah Hill-infested Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Expect more geeky rantings throughout the week, as per usual, *snap* just like that.

I can’t help that I’m custom made,

Brad Canze, the CM Life Movie Dude

Graduation speakers are lame

April 9, 2008 by

By David Harris, Editor in Chief

I bet I can guess what reaction the class of May 2008 had when they say who graduation speakers were.
All of us let out a collective “who?”
Yes all three graduation speakers are people no one has heard of. David Baker Lewis (5 p.m. ceremony), Robert Froelich ((9:30 a.m. ceremony) and Chuck Leavell (1:30 p.m. ceremony) are the three graduation speakers this year.
Perhaps my dreams were too grandiose last year when Bill Clinton spoke at the University of Michigan’s commencement. I thought CMU could bring in a big name who could inspire me to do great things. But such is not the case.
I will get to hear Lewis speak. I’m sure Lewis, who is chairman of law firm Lewis & Munday and has sat on boards for The Kroger Company and H&R Block, will have good things to say. He has been successful in his field.
But graduation is supposed to be memorable. In 20 years, you are supposed to remember that great graduation speaker you had. It is a special day in your life.
I will probably forget by the end of May.
But I will cease to bicker and I will offer a solution. Move the damn ceremony to Kelly/Shorts!
Michigan does it at Michigan Stadium. Why can’t CMU move it to its football stadium? Sure, you are playing with fire when you plan something outside in early May. So what?
You can have one ceremony, bring in a big-time speaker and more people could go because of the bigger venue.
Simple as that.
But I suppose that would make too much sense.