Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Hello again! Once again I am super late to the party! It seems the bandwagon’s pulled in to Sherlock Holmes station already. Oh good, another movie I really want to see, but haven’t yet. I know, what a surprise!

OK, ok. First off, I hope everyone had a good holiday. Second off, while I also hope you guys enjoy this review, I must admit that there’s not much I’m about to say that hasn’t been said a million times already, so I’m just gonna try and keep it brief this time. Regardless, I hope it’s at least somewhat insightful.

Most everyone knows the plot already, so I won’t waste time here. Written and directed by James Cameron, Avatar focuses on the special mission of ex-marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who is sent to the moon of Pandora, a dangerous and exciting planet, by the US and by Colonel Miles Quaitrich (Stephen Lang) to figure out how Earth can obtain a special kind of mineral named “unobtainium” (ugh). In order to do this, he must participate in a project coordinated by scientist Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) that involves making a clone of himself in the form of the species of the native cat-like aliens on this planet, the Na’vi. This way, he can connect with the natives, and figure out how to get the mineral from their planet in a way that makes the people who want it look good. After meeting the native princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) however, things get a little complicated, as Sully starts to struggle with going back home to his old life, or staying as a Na’vi and protecting the natives from the people looking to take advantage of the plentiful planet and its resources.

Here in this shot, Colonel Quaitrich briefs Sully about Pandora, unobtainium, and of course, those damned Na'vi that mauled half his face off.

I know this sounds like just about every other critic, but the visual effects are very much astounding. It seems that Cameron has the whole uncanny valley problem under lock and key, with very few scenes where anything looks awkward or out of place. I was a huge fan of all the bioluminescent fauna, and of course the Na’vi themselves. If this is done right in even more films, the way the CGI is done here will definitely go on to influence how it’s done in the future.

It comes so close to looking natural, it's insane. I can't even tell is this shot is CG, or Saldana in makeup.

Unfortunately, the movie seems to share the same problems with character development and story that all of Cameron’s other movies have. Yet again, the actors do as well as they can with the roles they are given, no matter how poorly they are written. Worthington and Saldana undoubtedly had the best performances, although Lang and Weaver’s roles were done well enough too, despite their dialogue seeming a bit, for lack of a better word, cartoonish. That seems strong, but really that’s the best word I can come up with to describe they way most of the other characters sound. It’s not even that their performances are done bad, it’s just that most of them are such stereotypes that it kind of drags their performances down. I would have liked to see more of the major players fleshed out, especially Michelle Rodriguez’s character. I was particularly confused about her motivations in all this.

That aside, I feel as if the hype leading up to this movie got a lot of people’s hopes up, myself included, and now most of us were left wanting something bigger. I guess that’s our fault, but still, while Avatar was visually breathtaking and entertaining, it could have been so much better. Nevertheless, it is very much a standard “Hero’s Journey” archetype done really, really well.

Well, that’s all folks! I got a couple of blu-ray reviews coming up sometime in the next month or so, but until then, Happy 2010!

All images taken straight from IGN Movies. You can see more stills by clicking that link there.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

This clip is owned by the Walt Disney Company. Probably one of my most favorite adaptations of the story ever.

I just wanted to let you guys know that I'm taking a small break for now. Expect an Avatar review after Christmas, and maybe some Blu/Ray or DVD reviews in the new year.

In the meantime, for those who celebrate, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The evening star, is shining bright...

A couple of concept art images, courtesy of Filmofilia.
All right, I got a little sidetracked with everything going on, but here it is, my review of Disney's Princess and the Frog.
As silly as I felt, being a 20 something going to the theater to see a Disney movie, I have to say that I really enjoyed watching it. While the movie is not quite perfect, it definitely succeeded in taking me back to the days where I looked forward to The Lion King and Aladdin.
Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, who have worked on many other Disney movies before, the story is basically a fairy tale about a young girl named Tiana (Akina Noni Rose) living in 1920s New Orleans, who is working hard, maybe a bit too hard, to achieve her dreams of owning her own restaurant. While her mother (Oprah Winfrey) and her friends, especially spoiled but friendly southern belle Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), are proud of her, they feel that she is missing out on her youth for the most part.
At the same tame, a playboy prince from the country of "Maldonia" named Naveen (Bruno Campos) has been cut off by his parents due to his overly lavish lifestyle, and is in search for a rich young girl to be his ticket to the easy way out. Unfortunately, a run in with a crazed voodoo man known as Dr. Facilier (Keith David) has him transformed into a frog. When Prince Naveen finds Tiana in a princess-like dress at a masquerade party, he assumes the curse inflcted on him can be lifted by following the fairy tale hinted at in the title.
Unfortunately for him and Tiana, it doesn't quite go as expected, and what follows is a long trip through the magical bayou, along with a firefly named Ray (Jim Cummings) and a jazz-loving alligator named Louis (Michael Leon-Wooley), to meet voodoo maven Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis), who may be able to help them with their predicament.
I'm gonna dive right in to the 2D animation, because I know that's what everyone wants to know about. The stills that I saw on the internet looked great enough, but they looked even better in motion than I initially expected. Some of the characters looked a little out of proportion in the earlier designs, but it's hard to notice in the movie, because one can't help but marvel at the backgrounds and incredible attention to detail. It's clear that this movie was Disney's way of saying that 2D definitely isn't dead, even if it is not as common in animated movies as it was a decade and a half ago.
The story and themes were very strong throughout the movie, and I thought they were quite refreshing for a story like this. One thing I had to work a little to get around was the ending, when despite all of Tiana's hard work it was ultimately her new husband and her friends that get the restaurant she was dreaming of. The more I thought about it, though, the more I came to realize how true to life it was. Hard work can get you pretty far, but connections, and a little help from your friends don't hurt either. It was cool, however, to see a Disney princess carry such good values. Personally I think Tiana is right up there with Mulan and Belle as one of the more memorable princesses in the Disney line.
Speaking of the characters in the movie, most of them were very interesting, supported by great performances all around and some even better songs that I wish were a bit longer. I can tell that some things, such as Facilier's development and Naveen and Tiana's romance, were a little rushed, priobably to allow for a shorter runtime. Nevertheless, they were still pretty good, especially any moment involving Tiana, Charlotte or Dr Facilier. Noni Rose has a beautiful singing voice and can use it well, and David's shady voice makes his supernatural con man sound even more intimidating.
To give you a final idea of how good this movie is, I'm going to try and compare it to other Disney movies of its caliber. I would say it's on par with Aladdin and the Little Mermaid, better than Hercules, but not as good as the Lion King or the Emperor's New Groove. That's a pretty good place to be.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hey, uh, about that post I was gonna make...

...I think I'll be making it either Sunday or Monday, with the latter being the most likely. I need some time to think it through.

Sorry about that! In the meantime, enjoy some wolf-related shenanigans courtesy of College Humor.

I wonder if New Moon is out of the top ten at the box office yet...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

RIP Campus Buzz on WUML 91.5: 2007 to 2009

Several semesters of student news, sports, weather and talk with a twist have come to a close, at least for now.

I'm talking about the news show on UMass Lowell's very own WUML 91.5 FM, known as Campus Buzz. The semester has come to an end, and my friend and fellow DJ Jess has let me know that she probably won't have time for the show next semester. Since I'm not a student anymore, I can't really squat for it either.

Nevertheless, it was a good experience for me and everyone involved, and a lot of fun to work on. Who knows, maybe it will come back someday too.

For now though, I'm kind of in the mood to post this feature article about the Buzz that I wrote for the Connector in the spring of 2009, but never had the time to publish due to all the work I had to do to graduate. I guess it shows everybody that I can write about more than just movies.

So, here you go guys, enjoy:


WUML's Campus Buzz is still going after two years, but it's much smaller than when it started out. What is the program's future?
by Matt LoGrasso

The show starts in about sixty seconds.

In the studio, director Jessica Berry is managing the board, monitoring the transmitter, cueing up music on Spinitron, and getting ready to read her lines over the air. Brian Gullekson, Tom Robinson and I are taking out various sheets of paper, mine with news typed on it fresh off the AP wire. We crack a few jokes and talk about what we did over the weekend. Then, the station ID and the name of the show plays over the air, and Berry starts reading her opening lines after it plays out.

So begins yet another Monday at the WUML Radio Station, just underneath Sheehy Hall in the former fallout shelter. It is here that the Campus Buzz show, the weekly news, talk, and music show, is broadcast every Monday during the semester from 4 to 6 p.m.

Campus Buzz has been in operation for about three years now, having been started off by the former news director Kate Watt. Berry started off as a WUML intern on the show a year and a half ago, hoping to gain experience in the field of communications.

“I found out about the show a little over a year ago, through an advertisement on the UML Today newsletter, and I became interested,” she said. “I knew that the show would need a
new director soon, and Kate had built it up so much. I did not really want the show to die, so I took up the job.”

She now runs the show, with support from Mike Hughes, a former sports anchor for Campus Buzz, and help from student meteorologist Tom Robinson, the current sports anchor Brian Gullekson, and myself, news anchor Matt LoGrasso.

When Watt graduated last year, times were tough for the first semester without her. The staff for the show used to be much bigger, including a couple more student meteorologists, another sports anchor in addition to Gullekson, and another director dealing with public relations. Most of those people failed to show up to work on the show during the new semester, due to other obligations and time constraints. As a result of this, the show struggled to find content, more specifically interviews. It was at this point that Berry, the new director of the show, decided to take the show towards a more laid-back direction.

As a result, the show has become a little more oriented towards a format that encompasses news, talk, and music. In addition to news, weather, sports, and campus events, there are segments when the staff holds discussions about subjects that are relevant to students.

Hughes has been helping out since Berry took over the show, searching the shelves for CDs to play during the breaks and at one point even reading the sports news on the show. For him, it has been nothing short of an enjoyable experience.

“It’s great. I get to hang out with people who love what they’re doing, and I get to voice my opinion, for better or worse,” he said. “For the most part though, I get to take a step in to what I want to do for a career, you know, a little taste of working at a radio station.”

Gullekson, the current sports anchor, has been with the show since the beginning. He also has other responsibilities to tend to, such as his band Short Fuse Burning, and his duty as the folk music director at WUML. Despite his busy schedule, the show manages to be no trouble for him at all.

“It’s a great way to wind down, after a day’s worth of classes,” he said. “I like being on top of campus news & events, both for my own personal good and by the ability to spread it
through word of mouth. I also like to be able to tell people where they can find campus news, and I’m happy to be a part of that service.”

Although Berry is proud of the show’s success, she admits that it isn’t exactly perfect. She thinks the show could definitely use a wider audience, and perhaps some more interviews.

“I figure that maybe the show could use some more segments and a little more structure to it, but what we need more than anything is some more interviews,” she said.

I should have another post later tonight or tomorrow, so stick around.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Squeakuel? Really?

So, it's starting to get closer to Oscar bait season again, and as that time gets closer, some interesting news pops up about this year's nominees for Best Animated Picture, courtesy of Variety! and's writer Russ Fischer:

Variety has the list of submitted films, which goes as follows:

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
Astro Boy
Battle for Terra
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Disney’s A Christmas Carol
The Dolphin – Story of a Dreamer
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Mary and Max
The Missing Lynx
Monsters vs. Aliens
Planet 51
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure
A Town Called Panic

You can read more about it right here at SlashFilm.