Wednesday, November 7, 2007

We have moved to

I, Erik Samdahl, have finally decided to move from Blogger to a stand alone blog site. As of today, there will be no future posts to this blog. All new posts can be found at

Recent blog posts you'll find on this new URL include:
Also, coming soon:
  • Results from our horror movie survey, including the winner of the six horror DVDs
  • Our most anticipated movies of the winter of 2007
  • Day Watch movie review
  • American Gangster movie review
So please, please, please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds (actually, if you use our Feedburner RSS feed then you don't need to change anything), and head on over to the new blog and let us know what you think!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Is Wanted (2008) the next Matrix?

I just watched the movie trailer for Wanted, the new action movie starring Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman and James MacAvoy, and I must say it looks pretty impressive. Sure, it could end up being stupid, but it's certainly not hard to notice some similarities to The Matrix. The movie boasts some extraordinary action, some interesting visuals (while at first it doesn't seem sci-fi, there are some scenes near the end that suggest that there will be a sci-fi element to it) and a theme that isn't unlike The Matrix.

The movie is about a young man (MacAvoy) who is introduced to a world of assassins that are there to bring balance to the world - Neo? Morgan Freeman plays what looks like the leader of the good assassins - Morpheus? Angelina Jolie plays the fierce woman assassin - Trinity?

The special effects shown near the end, especially of a man smashing through glass and then flying across a skyline, also screams The Matrix.

If these similarities are intended, it's a risky path to take. There haven't been many good sci-fi action films like this in quite a while, but if you fail, the comparisons will be nasty.

View more information, the movie trailer and 20 images...

New Movie Updates for Sunday, November 4, 2007

I've added lots of movie photos, previews and reviews today. Here are the latest updates...

New Alien vs. Predator Movie Images

The first Alien vs. Predator sucked big time as it was one of the most laughable movies ever, but I must say I'm a little more intrigued by the sequel. It still won't be all that great, but at least Aliens vs. Predator Requiem is R-rated and looks to have quite a bit of gore, if the Internet trailer is any indication.

Here are some of the latest photos...

New Hitman Movie Images

Check out these new Hitman movie images that were just recently made available. You can view more Hitman photos at my other website.

Student Film Project: Coby's Day Out (2007)

As some of you may know, my little brother Nathan Samdahl is attending film school down at Chapman University in Orange, California. He and some of his friends have entered a short film into Apple's Insomnia Film Festival, and so I invite you to watch the movie, rate it (preferably "Excellent" regardless of what you think) and pass it onto your friends to do the same.

What is Coby's Day Out about? Strangely, it's about the adventures of a cell phone, but if you watch the movie (apparently Apple doesn't fully support Firefox as I can't figure out how to watch the movie in that browser) you'll see how it works...

Here's the link:

DVD Review: Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition

I'll come right out and say it: I haven't watched most of this DVD box set, as it is huge. The Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition includes all 29 episodes from the show plus two different versions of the feature-length pilot, the domestic (U.S.) version and the international version, which wraps things up a little more.

"Wraps things up a little more" is all relative when it comes to David Lynch, however, as the international version ends just the way you'd expect from Lynch: with a confusing ending that makes absolutely no sense. Unlike in the regular pilot, which essentially just ends with a cliffhanger, the international version introduces us to a couple men who aren't quite men and then jumps ahead 25 years to where star Kyle Maclachlan is found sitting in a room with Michael J. Anderson (the short person most recently seen in HBO's Carnivale), who talks backwards in a strange alien-like voice, and the murdered Laura Palmer. The ending is intriguing, of course, but I have no clue what it means. Like most Lynch productions, I have stopped even trying to understand.

Amazingly, this pilot is the first time I've ever watched Twin Peaks. Yes, the show was a bit before my time, but I have lived in Washington State, the place where the show was filmed, since I was five. In fact, I even ate in the Twin Peaks Diner just yesterday (called Twede's) and drove past the Salish Lodge that is shown quite frequently in the show. So, I'm quite happy that Paramount sent me this DVD box set so I finally have no excuse not to watch this show.

Based on the preview, I am in love. The production values are incredible, and aside from some early 90's hair and clothing, the show stands up beautifully. The film has been remastered for this DVD box set, and looks as sharp as ever. The acting and writing are incredible, equivalent to anything that Hollywood offers today. One of my favorite scenes in the pilot is the one where the teacher is informed of Laura's death and even with no words spoken, a couple of the students, realizing Laura is not in the classroom, instantly know what happened. The unspoken moments are as important as the dialogue-driven ones, and this scene is pitch perfect.

I haven't watched most of the features on the DVD because I try not to watch these things before completely watch the actual episodes (these often include spoilers). Aside from the entire series in one set, the DVDs include deleted scenes, interviews with the cast and creator David Lynch, an interactive map that reveals where the show's locations are connected, both fictionally and in real life, a featurette about cast members and Twin Peaks fans coming together to go to a festival, the Kyle MacLachlan episode from SNL and so on and so forth.

Basically, everything about Twin Peaks is included in one box. Fans of the show should not hesitate to purchase this DVD box set.

DVD Review: Chinatown Special Collector's Edition (1974)

Paramount Pictures is releasing Chinatown: Special Collector's Edition DVD on November 6, 2007, and we managed to get an advanced copy to examine. The DVD of this Roman Polanski classic includes the theatrical trailer and four featurettes:
  • Chinatown: The Beginnng and the End!
  • Chinatown: Style
  • Acting Chinatown
  • Chinatown: The Classic
As you can judge from the titles of those featurettes, they're all about Chinatown. While the amount of special features isn't anything to get excited about, the quality of the featurettes are quite good. They go in-depth to how Chinatown was conceived by screenwriter Robert Towne, who, as it turns out, was good friends with Nicholson. According to him, he was tired of seeing his friend struggling to make a living, so he wrote this movie with Nicholson in mind. Since the character Jake is sharp-tongued and sarcastic the entire movie, that's really not that surprising.

Some of the featurettes even include interviews with Nicholson himself, which was a bit surprising. I was expecting him to be "a bit too big" to do interviews for DVDs these days.

All that being said, this special collector's edition isn't worth buying, unless you don't own Chinatown at all.

Of course, Chinatown is a classic. You can read my full Chinatown movie review here.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

DVD Review: Pixar Short Films Collection (2007)

It's the greatest idea no one had ever thought of until now. You know those little Pixar shorts that play before movies, including For the Birds and Lifted? Now you can watch almost all of the Pixar shorts on a single DVD, thanks to the new Pixar Short Films Collection, available on Tuesday.

Pixar Short Films Collection contains the following short films:

  • The Adventures of Andrew and Wally B.
    This is one of Pixar's oldest movies, from when they were still a part of Lucasfilm. Good animation for the time, though the movie itself is nothing spectacular compared to some of the others on the list.
  • Luxo Jr.
    Is this the living lamp one that the Pixar logo is based on? If so, this is one of the better early ones and really doesn't show its age.
  • Red's Dream
    This is the worst out of the group. It's basically about a unicycle that dreams that ugly, creepy clown that's riding it gets displaced and for once, it, the unicycle, steals the show. There's nothing spectacular here in terms of animation or story.
  • Tin Toy
    This one is pretty imaginative and well animated, though it falls a bit flat at times. The baby that serves as "the monster" is quite creepy looking, and not necessarily intentionally.
  • Knick Knack
    One of the best of the shorts, this one is about a snowman inside a snow globe who desperately tries to break free to get to a seductive bikini doll only a few feet away. His efforts, as you might imagine, don't go too well.
  • Geri's Game
    This one is okay, if not a little creepy. Geri's Game is about an old man who plays chess with himself and gets quite clever in the process; of course, when you think about it, it's sad and suggests mental illness.
  • For The Birds
    Probably one of the best known animated short ever, this is the one where a big, stupid bird tries to hang out with a bunch of tiny, smarter (but meaner) birds, and the results are hilariously disastrous.
  • Mike's New Car
    A short based on Monsters, Inc. has the two leads from that feature length movie getting in trouble with Mike's new car. The hijinks are funny at first, but eventually you realize there's not much cleverness to the routine.
  • Boundin'
    Boundin' is a clever little skit with a rhyming narration about a sheep that learns to be happy even when all of his wool is removed each year. Ultimately, the short isn't that funny, but I give it props for imagination.
  • Jack-Jack Attack
    I'm not a huge fan of these short films based on actual movies, but this one is definitely quite entertaining. Jack-Jack Attack is basically a deleted scenes from The Incredibles, and shows us what happens to the babysitter who is watching young Jack-Jack, who suddenly begins to show his powers. I like how Pixar made this as if they pulled it right out of the movie (which is one of my favorite Pixar movies).
  • One Man Band
    Another funny short, this has a poor little girl torn between two competing street musicians who are vying to get her golden coin. The twist at the end is great.
  • Mater and The Ghostlight
    Cars was the worst Pixar movie ever, and is just a boring movie overall. This short film based on the Cars characters is just as dull, although had they stretched the story of this one into a full-length movie, Cars still would have been better.
  • Lifted
    Another Pixar classic, Lifted is about a teenage alien who is going through "driving school" with an alien instructor, only this driving school is actually a test to abduct a human being. Basically, the teenager isn't very good, and the result is the human being bounced all over the place.
The Pixar Short Films Collection is a great idea and I'm happy Disney finally decided to put these together. Some of the shorts are better than others, but if you've always wanted to see them all, it will certainly make a good rental.

Why do cartoons waste money on big names?

I haven't seen Bee Movie, but with the constant promotion from Jerry Seinfeld, I wonder about the animated genre in general: how come the studios focus so much on the big name actors included in the cast? With Bee Movie it's not too surprising that Seinfeld has pushed this picture so much; he's still in demand, and the movie would be absolutely nothing special without him. Bee Movie is almost guaranteed to be the number one film at the box office as a result.

Still, using a big name actor to drive audiences is just a remedy for a bigger issue. Of course the studios have to use the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Will Smith and dozens of others, because without them, the movies would often be nothing. Again, I haven't seen Bee Movie, but it's not getting great reviews (not getting terrible reviews either), but I have seen a lot of other animated movies where the promotions for the big name actors have been huge.

Remember Shark's Tale? That one promoted the hell out of the people involved, from Will Smith to Robert De Niro. Madagascar: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and so on and so forth. And why? Because they were making up for something else.

With exception to most of the Pixar movies and a few scatterings of other animated films from other companies, most cartoons (it's safe to call these CGI films cartoons now, right, since there really isn't any traditional animated fare these days?) aren't of a high enough quality to rely on look and story alone. Sure, Pixar has used some big names (Tom Hanks and Tim Allen come to mind), but have you noticed that since Toy Story, they really use the actors as promotional devices for their pictures? The previews are almost always focused on the story and the visuals, and rarely mention who the voice talent is. Often times, the voice talent is incredible, but not someone we would know or care about in general.

Then you look at Dreamworks and some other shops, and they almost always have some zany cartoon where they spend half the movie trailer promoting who is in the movie, as if it matters whether Will Smith or Robert De Niro are involved. I'd rather half a pitch-perfect voice talent than an actor whom we're never going to see be involved.

The point of this rant is that if these studios invested just a little less money in its actors and focused perhaps $300,000 more to obtain a quality writer, we'd have a lot more well done cartoons on our hands rather than a bunch of loud and splintered entertainment pieces. Sure, cartoons are meant to entertain children, but if done right, they can also please adults just as much, and it's amazing that studios still haven't completely figured out that it's all about the writing.