James Knows…DVDs

James Knows…DVDs: Green Lantern: Emerald Knights

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Thanks to Geoff Johns, Green Lantern has become one of my favorite super heroes. Unfortunately, my love for the character doesn’t get past the comics. The live action movie last year was pretty lackluster to say the least and the first animated film left something to be desired. I held out hope for the next one though, titled Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. This time the rest of the Green Lantern Corps would get some time in the spotlight as the movie focuses on a few different members of the Corps, none of them being Hal Jordan.

Although I didn’t think it was as good as the main book, the Green Lantern Corps comic was still pretty decent with some interesting stories and more importantly, some characters that I grew to love. That was nowhere to be found in Emerald Knights as each chapter focused on mostly no-name Lanterns aside from Mogo and Kilowag, although the latter wasn’t really the main focus of that segment. The film should have just been called “Story Time with the Green Lanterns.”

The whole thing centers on new Lantern Arisia. Instead of going through normal new recruit stuff like training or learning how to use this immensely powerful weapon that she’s been given, she’s thrown right into an epic battle that has the Guardians so afraid that they’ve moved out of their fortress on Oa. Sounds reasonable. Hal Jordan (who goes on to bang Arisia in the comic, despite the fact that she’s really only like 13) spins a few yarns about past Lanterns to kill time or get into her pants until the big fight against Krona. This guy has a pretty cool story in the comics where he goes back in time to watch the Big Bang only to inadvertently create the Multiverse and the Anti-Matter universe. The filmmakers decided to skip all that interesting back story and just made him a power mad super villain who throws around Anti-Matter. The Green Lanterns fight him by shooting green beams at him. Hooray!

Outside of All-Star Superman, I’ve been incredibly disappointed by all of the DC animated movies. Each one seems to at least try to be a decent film but just misses the mark entirely. They go after name actors instead of professional voice actors and throw together a hodge-podge of a storyline that sort of resembles a popular arc in the comics. I thought this might be my inner fanboy struggling to be free, but it’s not that. I can accept the idea that some specifics need to change in the transition of the story from the comic to the film, but this is more than that. These movies are just bad. There are huge plot holes in most of them and they’re just uninteresting.

CSI: Case of the Week vs. Character Development

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Monica and I just finished up seasons 2 and 3 of CSI. We had watched the first season some time ago and liked the show enough to continue it. After plowing through these two seasons though, it has become evident that the writers of the show are not interested in character development at all. Each episode is the perfect example of the “Case of the Week” type of show. This plagued the first seasons of shows like Smallville and Supernatural however it works to some extent on CSI. It works so well in fact that when the show tries (in a very ham-fisted way) to actual develop some of the characters, it feels unnatural and it just doesn’t fit.

Case in point, the last episode of the second season introduced the idea that Grissom (William Peterson) had a genetic disease that would result in the eventual loss of hearing. This wouldn’t have been that bad but it came completely out of nowhere without a hint of anything like this. It was like the writers realized this was the season finale and needed to do something to actually grow the characters so they tossed in this thing with Grissom. The episode starts and he’s at a doctor’s office like he’s been there a dozen times before.

This continues into the third season only their attempts are a little better. They have a handful of scenes where Grissom has a hard time hearing someone throughout the episodes. Then at the end of the season, completely out of the blue, Sara (Jorja Fox) asks Grissom out on a date like she had her eye on him since she showed up THREE YEARS AGO. Also, Catherine (Marg Helgenberger) finds out some guy is her dad in a horribly acted scene? Sure. Just go with it. They need to stuff a whole season of character development in a single episode.

I think that CSI is the one show that can get away with doing the “Case of the Week” type of show with minimal or just no character development. The show works. It’s entertaining and the lack of an overlying arc doesn’t make the show boring at all. I wonder if this is why the show has done so well in the ratings for so long.

Teaching Kids to Read & Write…From the Dead

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I used to watch a lot of TV when I was a kid. I watched a ton of stuff. Granted, that hasn’t changed too much. Now I just watch DVDs instead of TV as it airs. As a result of this childhood hobby, I have fond memories of shows that were either short-lived or just not watched by a lot of people. These end up popping up in conversation from time to time and a wave of nostalgia flows over me. The shows in question range from C.O.P.S. and Beyond Belief to Out of This World and The Adventures of Pete & Pete and many things in between.

Now when you put my childhood love of watching Television together with my current love of watching DVDs, you get my current excitement when one of these shows come out on DVD. That time has come again in the form of Ghostwriter. Does anyone else remember this non-long-running PBS show?

I used to try to watch Ghostwriter all the time. Unfortunately I didn’t have a concept of time slots back then so I never knew when the show was on. I’d feverishly check the TV Guide channel for when it would come on but more often than not, I’d miss it. As a result, I’d catch episodes sporadically, never really getting the full mystery. Now I’ve got a chance to catch up. I’m worried that the show won’t hold up over time though. I’ve run into a few shows lately where the nostalgia isn’t enough to cover up the dated crap shoot that the show actually was (Fantastic Four and The Flash, I’m looking at you). I’ll add it to my list and see what happens.

This Sucks (HAR HAR! GET IT?) [True Blood: Season 1]

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I heard a lot about HBO’s True Blood as the show was airing but as I’m not a subscriber to the premium cable channel I was unable to watch it. I did however pick up the first season on DVD when it went on sale at Target a few weeks ago. With Monica recovering from the removal of some wisdom teeth, we flew through the episodes in a few days. I have to say that it’s pretty good.

Vampires are real. They can live right next to you and you wouldn’t notice…unless they stepped out into the sunlight. True Blood takes the idea of vampires and casts them as second class citizens. They’re in the place that African Americans were back in the 50s. People are suggesting segregation or outright murder and there’s a Vampire Registration Act floating around Congress. This presents an interesting idea that I’ve only seen once before (Fox’s brilliant, but canceled Greg the Bunny). How would the world react to vampires suddenly revealing themselves all around us?

Set in a small town in Louisiana, True Blood takes us into the life of Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) who can read minds. So right off the bat we’ve got vampires and physics. There’s more but I won’t get into it here. She meets Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) a vampire that’s been around since the Civil War. He saunters into her life with his southern drawl and the two become enamored with each other, almost to Twilight levels of crazy vampire-on-human passion. Murders start happening and fingers are pointed. The town of Bon Temps has a mystery on its hands!

Don’t judge the show by my cynical description. It’s actually really damn good. It’s a great serial with each episode flowing seamlessly into the next. Actually, each episode ends in what feels like the middle of a scene, appropriately enough right after something big or exciting happens which brings me right back for the next episode.

My only actual problem with the show is the DVD packaging. In typical HBO fashion, the package is bulky and a pain in the ass. While not as frustrating as some of their others (ie: The Sopranos, Six Feet Under), it’s still way too big for something that was released in 2009. It’s more like a package that would have been released 10 years prior. There are 5 discs included here and they include a total of 12 episodes. The content could have easily fit onto 4 or even 3 discs. Some discs have only 2 episodes on them and the only features included are commentaries so there’s no excuses really. Plus each disc is on its own side. It’s tough to explain this but basically you have to unfold the case and each fold has a DVD on it so there are 5 folds and one or two extras that list out the episodes. While this might look nice, especially with the big picture on the back, it’s just not practical when DVD packaging is smaller and slimmer than ever before. If HBO didn’t make such great shows, I would be angrier about it.

Anyway, I think it’s saying something that my only complaint about a show is its packaging. True Blood is pretty damn good. The features on the DVDs (with the exception of the commentaries which I haven’t listened to yet) immerse you in the world of the show with vampire PSAs and commercials as well as an In Focus look at Vampires in America. All good stuff but I would have liked to have some more info about the behind-the-scenes, special effects and how they adapted the books into the show. Still a good deal though. Now to wait (im)patiently for the second season to hit DVD.

Rating: ★★★★½

James Knows…DVDs: How I Met Your Mother – Season 3 (2007)

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There are only a handful of really funny shows on TV right now in my opinion. These include, but are not limited to the likes of 30 Rock, Glee, and How I Met Your Mother. That being said, HIMYM is not a show that I watch as it airs. That’s because I’m still behind and I’m just now getting the opportunity to catch up on previous episodes through the wonders of DVD. I don’t remember how I got into the show, but Monica and I plowed through the first two seasons on DVD so we were eager to check out the next DVDs. We went through the third season in less than a week.

How I Met Your Mother is a very funny show but with a couple major flaws. The whole premise of the show is that in 2030 this guy is telling his kids the story of how he met their mother. Sounds OK, right? Well, it is except that the entire show should theoretically end when he meets the woman that will eventually give birth to his kids. The show isn’t called How I Met and Fell in Love With Your Mother, Got Married and Had You Kids. That title is just far too long. So, with this logic in place, any relationship that Ted (the main character) gets into is doomed to fail because we already know based on the show’s title and premise that he doesn’t end up with any of these girls. As a result, I don’t give a crap about any of his relationships. I just can’t bring myself to do so.

Another big problem with the show is that I hate Ted. Seriously, he’s one of the most annoying and stupid characters I’ve seen on Television. Plus he makes some of the absolute worst decisions I’ve ever seen. What really doesn’t help Ted is his friends, most notably the legendary Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) who steals every single scene he’s in. When Barney is through, Marshall (Jason Segal) is taking what’s left leaving Ted with little to nothing to work with. It’s actually a little sad.

Anyway, despite these two huge problems, this show is hilarious, not to mention incredibly well-written. The writing is very smart and each episode has a unique quirk to it with pieces falling together almost seamlessly. Sometimes it’s little things like a framed newspaper headline in a scene in the future in Marshall’s office that reads “NYC Lawyer Discovers Nessie” which ties in to a previous storyline. Other times though, it’s the shape of an entire episode as was the case with “The Platinum Rule” where 4 stories are told almost simultaneously that each exist a year apart. That’s just impressive.

This season’s episodes were pretty damn funny and this DVD is pretty good as well. There are commentaries, deleted scenes, and a personal favorite: an unrated gag real. There’s also a music video for both “Sandcastles in the Sand” the follow-up to Robin Sparkles Canadian Hit “Let’s Go to the Mall” as well as a video for Marshall’s “You Just Got Slapped” which is a song that’s been stuck in my head for days.

If I can catch up on this season of How I Met Your Mother, I’d consider watching the episodes as they air. I can’t guarantee that because of how I’ve viewed the show already. I think it would be tough to make that transition. I’d go from plowing through an entire season, watching episodes back-to-back-to-back to watching one every week with commercials. That just doesn’t seem that fun. If the show continues to be this consistently funny I’d at least give it a try on-air. Every episode of this season had me literally laughing out loud.

Rating: ★★★★½

What the Hell Happens With These Stephen King Movies?

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stephenkingI’ll be the first to admit that there’s plenty in this world that I don’t understand. These things include but are not limited to: Why girls fart, Why I can’t seem to grow a beard, and Why movies based on great books by Stephen King tend to suck hard. Somehow though, despite my previous strike-outs (I’m looking at you, The Stand), I still had some hope left in me. Then I got hit by a double whammy. I checked out 1408 and then Pet Sematary. I read the story that the former was based on a couple years ago, but I just read Pet Sematary this week so it was very fresh in my mind. Both movies fell flat in my opinion. I just don’t get this. Here you have some fantastic content in the form of King’s books and yet the movies based on these books, often times with screenplays written by King himself, end up coming out like disjointed piles of crap.

I don’t really know what happened with 1408. I remember seeing the trailer awhile ago and thinking “Wow, that looks awesome.” Then I read the story and still wanted to check out the movie. I had heard that the theatrical cut wasn’t great but that the director’s cut was better so I went straight to that one…and was promptly disappointed. What looked to be a great psychological thriller that should scare the crap out of me ended up being an hour and a half of John Cusack throwing a fit in a hotel room. Even the awesomeness of Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t save this one. I can’t comment much on the comparison from the book to the movie because I can’t remember much about the story. Let’s move on though. (more…)

James Knows…DVDs: M*A*S*H – The Martinis & Medicine Collection

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In my quest to consume as many aspects of pop culture as I can in my lifetime, I was led to M*A*S*H, an 11 season long series about doctors in the Korean War. Before diving into this massive box set my only exposure to the show was a scene from a rerun here and there when a show or event was postponed on TV. I quickly changed the channel. If I see an episode on TV now though I’ll probably check it out.

M*A*S*H seems to have a lot of history as it was the show on Television for awhile. The series finale still holds the record for highest rated show of all time. According to the booklet included in this DVD set, about 125 million Americans watched the show’s finale which was about half of the population of the country at the time. That’s insane.

Watching this show now was a bit of a challenge because I saw many aspects of it that felt like they were being copied from other shows. That wasn’t the case though because in many examples, M*A*S*H was the first to do it. These shows that I may have seen first came years later and looked to M*A*S*H for inspiration. The show that I’d compare it to the most would be Scrubs which was also about the medical field, albeit not during war time. The main reason though was not the doctors. It was the way that both shows managed to walk a fine line between comedy and drama. Yes, each show would have great laughs, but they never let you forget that these are doctors and sometimes people die.
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James Knows…DVDs: Rush Hour 3 (2007)

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I’ll admit that at first I didn’t see what most people had to complain about Brett Ratner. I mean, I dug Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2 and despite its faults, I was entertained by X-Men – The Last Stand, so why do so many people seem to consider this guy a hack? Maybe it’s because of Rush Hour 3. If that’s the case, I can agree with them 100%. The film reeks of horrible decisions.

How can I describe this mess? Picture a large pot in your mind. Now fill that pot with every stupid buddy cop cliche you can think of. Mix in a heaping helping of as many stereotypes for black and Asian people as you can think of, the ignorant, the better. Then find a few crappy email forwards that your wacky uncle or grandma sent you and toss those in too. Mix it altogether over a fire made with the corpse of Jackie Chan’s career while Chris Tucker jumps around like a jackass for 90 minutes and then ask Brett Ratner to take a dump on top. Congratulations! You just made Rush Hour 3!

Seriously, this movie was terrible. I’m actually glad that this version of the DVD had no special features outside of the trailer for the film. I can’t imagine what kind of horrors await those that pick up the 2 disc version. Sorry, Brett Ratner. Better luck with Rush Hour 4: Ching Chong Blacka Attacka.
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Devil in a Blu Dress

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It took some time, but I did it. I, James Ferguson, have made the jump to Blu Ray. I’ve gone HD. About a year ago, I purchased my OPPO, which I love. It’s an upconverting DVD player and it works pretty damn well. However, when I bought it, I vowed that the next player I bought would be a Blu Ray player. I understand that that’s the way to go in the future, so why should I buy another regular DVD player?

Anyway, I understand that OPPO is releasing a Blu Ray player and I would totally buy that…but it’s $500. That’s a lot just for a player. Fortunately, I found a Playstation 3 bundle at Best Buy for just $400 that came with LittleBigPlanet and Wall-E on Blu Ray. That’s awesome and right up my alley. There were other bundles that came with nothing (not much of a bundle then really) or a couple games that I don’t care about. This sounded awesome. And it is basically. Even though I haven’t used the PS3 with any games yet.
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James Knows…DVDs: Speed Racer (2008)

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I’ve had a longstanding fascination with Speed Racer dating back years, but something always bothered me about it. Regardless of this, I was excited when I heard about the film adaptation of the kooky Anime series from the 1960s. I mean, what could go wrong? It was being handled by the guys that did The Matrix and it’s Speed F-ing Racer! Go Speed Go!

Then the movie came out and tanked and despite my childlike urging, I couldn’t get Monica to come see it with me. She kept saying something about having a seizure while watching the trailer. So needless to say, she didn’t watch this with me when I finally got the DVD. After a viewing though, I can see why it failed in the theaters. It just didn’t translate well. Remember back in 2003 when Ang Lee’s Hulk came out and everyone hated it even though it was basically a comic book on screen? Speed Racer suffers from the exact same problem. If you’ve ever watched the cartoon, you’ll see how the movie is actually a rather faithful and stunning adaptation. I mean, the Anime series was fucking crazy. None of that made any sense with all the car jumping and monkeys in the trunk and super giant cars, so what did everyone expect when they made a movie that had all of that PLUS Matthew Fox in a leather dominatrix outfit? (more…)

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