Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jump around, jump around!

Movie • JUMPER • 2008
Hayden Christensen is a delicious peach pie in Jumper. I ate up the whole thing. There were a few small holes in the plot, but that was to let steam out so the pie doesn’t explode while baking. Who wants baked peach puree all over the walls of their oven, anyway?
I was pleased to watch this, and had a great time. The bad reviews Jumper got when it was in theaters are just backlash, projection, and displaced anger about the ruination of the once feared and respected Darth Vader. Christensen makes up for this in Jumper, and we can all refocus our disdain at George Lucas.
Hayden Christensen’s character finds himself with a new amazing talent when his life is in danger, and he quickly masters his “jumping” ability to fulfill fantasies of independence and luxury. Nothing teaches like travel, and we all know that while journeys are often fulfilling, who wouldn’t want to cut out the 20 hour flight to get to the other side of the planet? Some kids backpack through Europe, but we’d see it all, and appreciate so much more if we could eliminate the train ride between the Tate Museum and the Louvre.
Of course there are other jumpers, and with all the yins there are yangs. Samuel Jackson heads up an ancient team of people who want to make the jumpers extinct. They represent a religious right who make self-righteous assertions without realizing that they themselves are the ones at odds with nature. By trying to destroy the jumpers, they are the ones playing God as they accuse the jumpers of doing the same thing.
Jumpers is short enough to be heart-stopping action for the duration, so enjoy the ride! And the sequel (or series) implications are enough to make me hope for more!

Pack it up, pack it in
Let me begin
I came to win
Battle me that's a sin
I won't tear the sack up
Punk you'd better back up
Try and play the role and the whole crew will act up
Get up, stand up, come on!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ΩMega Bomb

Movie • THE OMEGA MAN • 1971
I have to admit, I’ve only seen this for the first time. These old cult classics should have been seen many times. I also have to admit, I will likely not be seeing The Omega Man many times. Maybe I’ll watch a scene here and there, but jeepers, it seemed like Omega Man should be watched at nap-time. Charleton Heston looked bored playing his role, and the plague surviving zombie/vampire people were more like jive-talking albino druids that mated with the Morlocks from The Time Machine.
I knew I was in for a really boring treat when Robert Neville goes into a theater to watch a Woodstock film… and we are subjected to several minutes of it as if we’d be given insight to the vibe. I get that what we see in this theater with Neville is a symbolic foreshadowing to the new night-dweller society. After a worldwide biological war, there are a few survivors who are a homogenized, socialist twisted version of the hippie peace ideology. These are the vampire/zombie people that were originally conceived by Richard Matheson in his book, I Am Legend.
I see now where the new I Am Legend movie drew most of its inspiration from. The urban setting, the basic plot line with Robert Neville saving the world with his blood just before dying a martyr’s death, the halfway love interest with a child, etc.
The Omega Man and the recent I Am Legend simply weren’t successful in telling the story of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend the way Last Man On Earth starring Vincent Price did.
Stay away from Charlton Heston in this one. About the only thing I found entertaining was the inappropriately happy music that played as the soundtrack.
If you insist on watching, look for these three things:

• Listen to what Lisa says to Robert when they first meet. It’s a hint to his end.
• Look for the Alanis Morissette look-alike in the surviving human clan.
• The Ω in The ΩMega Man looks like headphones

But I recommend curling up with a cup of tea and some cookies, and reading Richard Matheson’s book instead.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hellish to watch, and not golden

Movie • HELLBOY II: The Golden Army • 2008
As cute as this Hellboy guy is, and as cute as Ron Perlman is, I’m not getting this. How a sequel happened after the first snoozer is beyond me, but I’ve seen it happen. There are die-hard fans, and there’s serious potential behind an interesting set of characters and premise. So they had their chance to make it better (kind of like the Hulk), and they did indeed make it better; but they only made it slightly better than the first bad one (kind of like the Hulk).
While the set designs, costumes, CGI, make-up, and scenes were all brilliantly painted, and the patchwork of images and creatures were dazzling to watch, the story was plain and boring. Betty Bones was with me, and she actually fell asleep! She even had a bucket of brains to munch on!
I give Guillermo del Toro kudos for beautiful imagery, but please stick with non-franchise stuff. You probably lost control, and had to make the best with what you had. There is camp value. I guarantee I'll love this picture in about 20 years.
Nice tooth fairies, though. They were pretty close to the real thing.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The dark is brilliant

Movie • THE DARK KNIGHT • 2008
After so many tries, I am surprised I even bothered hoping the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight would be any good. Most people were very pleased with the first new Batman movie that starred Christian Bale, but I thought even that one (though it was the best to date) left something to be desired. Batman was not the tortured soul to the level he should have been…
Well THANK HEATH LEDGER for a brill Joker performance! Christian Bale was a decent Batman again, but I wish his gravely voice didn’t seem so over the top. Heath Ledger managed to make this picture a dark, scary nightmare I never wanted to wake up from. This lovely creature was a pleasure to watch. From the first minute, The Joker was my hero. I wasn’t necessarily sold on his psychotic personality just because of his murderous plan that played out early; but then The Joker introduces himself to the cast of criminals… DREAMY! I love magic (I wish I was better at it). The Joker makes a pencil disappear in jaw-dropping fashion. I was glad there was some cinemuck and popcorn on the floor, or my jaw hit the floor with no reward.
As it should be, the hero (Batman) may have had more screen time, but Joker was the star of The Dark Knight. His insane rants and antics were the center of gravity of this new Batmen movie.

Highlight for spoilers:
Hopefully this text won’t be found to be a spoiler for very long… Two-Face/Harvey Dent was a surprise for me. I never expected him to look so creepy, and wasn’t even certain he’d play such a big role. I hope he’s not really dead because I would love to see Aaron Eckhart continue to explore that role. Joker played him like a pawn, and I want to see him act more independently. Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) was pretty good. I was blown away to see her role in the transition of the Two-Face character. This dark element in the film was only part of what sold me on Batman’s torment.

In the end, the picture seemed to last about 15 minutes too long. I’m not sure what I would have cut, though because the A.I. trick endings were very important. Get an extra large popcorn, and have a bathroom break before you go in. This is THE batman movie.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Nightmare to wake up from

Movie • WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (part 7 in the series) • 1994
Ten years after the first one, after Freddy Krueger movies saturated the cinemascape of horror, Wes Craven decided to breath new life into his most famous character. This is the 7th in the series, but the first since the original to take itself so seriously it really paints itself as a Wes Craven diary entry:

Dear diary,
My Freddy Krueger franchise has made me rich beyond my dreams. I’ve exploited the character to his limits. Freddy Krueger is a household name. I feel now is the time to break the fourth wall down and try a new concept with him. We can rehash old scenes with several nods to my original masterpiece, A Nightmare On Elm Street. We’ll throw in a few references to some of my favorite scenes from the sequel too. It’ll be great. The audience will eat it up. I’ve run out of ideas, so this time I think we’ll use some of the actors from the original including the main character, Nancy. We’ll pretend they are these well-known actors who now have to face Freddy Krueger in real life!
We can have Robert Englund show up (I know he wants to be taken seriously as a real actor who can play other roles). We can rework Freddy Krueger’s make-up to look like a cheap Halloween mask. Less money on make-up = more money for profit! There’s no reason to bother having to fall asleep for Freddy to get you. This time we’ll use a creepy kid. He’ll be Freddy’s barrier. Creepy kids are scary, right? Right?
Gosh, I wish we could get Johnny Depp to reprise his role! Oooh, instead, I’ll play a part as Wes Craven myself. Now I’ll be well known for my good looks and acting ability as well as my films.
Wes Craven

So there you have it. No reason for me to review it. It’s all right there in my pretend Wes Craven diary entry. It actually wasn’t terrible. It was fairly entertaining, but nothing more than a self-aggrandizing sequel.
I do agree with Wes on this: It would have been delicious if Johnny Depp could have reprised his role.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Carpenter nailed it

Movie • THE THING • 1982
John Carpenter’s The Thing was based more on the original short story “Who Goes There” by John W. Campbell, Jr. than the 1951’s The Thing From Another World which was based on the same story. I recently read and reviewed the adaptation by Alan Dean Foster from the screenplay (click here). Though the details were significantly different, and I did like the book much more, the movie still stands up to the test of time. It’s not yet a cheesy 80’s horror/sci-fi movie, and probably never will be. The special effects are a bit much in their gross factor, and maybe we see too much too early, but they still look good.
Kurt Russell’s beautiful blue eyes called me to rewind several times. He was a dreamboat, wasn’t he? I wish he wasn’t wearing that bushy beard; but he had to keep his pretty face warm, I guess.

Extra bonus: All men in this movie.
Not so bonus: Only two are eye-candy.
Return to bonus: The two beautiful men are all that survive.
Not so bonus: They will either off each other or freeze to death, or both.

True to the screenplay we are left at the end with no doubt what the immediate future will bring. I was glad to remember (since I hadn’t seen this picture since the 80’s) that not all stories end with the US Army marching in to save the day.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Favorite movies POLL RESULTS

What are your favorite movies?

29% • B Horror
24% • Classic Monsters
18% • Giant Monsters
10% • Cheesy Horror
8% • Slasher Gore
8% • None of these!

Monday, July 7, 2008

H. G. Well done

Book • THE INVISIBLE MAN • H. G. Wells • 1897
The copy I have is from 1970, and it’s in pretty bad shape. It almost feels like a crime opening it, but I had to read this again. One of my favorite themes is invisibility. That brings me to the term invisible. I’m wondering if the title meant the same to a reader from 1897 as it does to today’s reader. To us The Invisible Man is obviously about a man who is there, but cannot be seen. It’s very likely that H. G. Wells was teasing the reader with the idea that the story was about a man who was not seen in public situations. Griffin was a man who kept to himself, and wanted to remain “invisible.”
Several chapters go by before Wells reveals the nature of Griffin’s secret. Even then, we are only exposed to hints, and it is left to us to decide what his words actually mean. At some point it becomes expected that you must have figured it out. At that point the invisible man is already on the road to insanity. For the modern reader, we all know the basic story, so the fact that he is more than transparent is clear before we crack the binding.
H. G. Wells does an amazing job bringing us into the mind of an obsessed man with a single goal. He’s reached his goal, but now sees that with the wish of being invisible comes restrictions that go beyond what he expected. Griffin is confused, betrayed and frustrated. The Invisible Man is a terribly sad story. I’m not sure if you are supposed to feel sorry for the man, but I certainly did. It’s an easy read that apparently was first published as a serial in a periodical before being collected as a novel.
If you haven’t read it yet you better get to it. It’s a must read no matter what kind of book you like. See for yourself!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Thing One and Thing Zero

Book • THE THING • Alan Dean Foster • 1982
This is one of those books that has sat on my shelf for years. I've read it a couple of times, but I always seem to forget The Thing the novelization by Alan Dean Foster is based on a screenplay by Bill Lancaster which was in turn based on the story “Who Goes There” by John W. Campbell, Jr. I feel half ashamed, like what I read was not really a book at all. A novelization of a screenplay could be thought of as a printed version of scenes that have already been imagined for you. That’s why I’m glad my corpse brain can only remember for a short time. And, as luck would have it, novelizations usually come from the first draft. Screenplays go through re-writes and films get edited. The Thing by Alan Dean Foster is significantly different from the movie The Thing by John Carpenter. Insight into the thoughts of the characters is only the obvious benefit from reading the novelization.
The Thing is a great adventure exploring the minds of men, and a lesson on the effects of pressure and paranoia. Monsters and aliens from space always give me the heebie-jeebies. After all, these are not local residents from Dread Falls or members of Jitterbutter. These are creepy critters who can survive for hundreds of thousands of years entombed in ice waiting for the day they can invade your body on a cellular level… then break out of your body like it was nothing more than a cocoon.
What I’d really love to see is a prequel that depicts what the Norwegian scientists went through to get to the point where they were chasing down the sled dog. Needless to say, the Americans could have no idea that the dog was harboring a terrible alien inside. There’s so much mystery to the Norwegians’ story even though we know their end. How about it. Is somebody doing a prequel to The Thing?

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Vampire, Bill

Book • DEAD UNTIL DARK• Charlaine Harris • 2001
At first I wasn’t sure what to make of Sookie Stockhouse and the vampire fellow named Bill, but despite recommendations against reading this novel I think I’ve found a series of books to read. I didn’t realize it was a series when I first picked it up, so I’m glad the story is not over.
Dead Until Dark explores vampires and their lives in a way that is much closer to the real life they lead than any of the pretentious series that try to introduce new laws into their lore. Vampires, just like people come in many shapes, sizes, and personalities. Just like people, they are not all killers. Just like people they have to deal with their peers. Vampirism deals with generations gaps beyond human mortal comprehension, and Charlaine Harris seems to understand that. Vampires can have remorse, and they can be cold as a corpse.
Dead Until Dark is a love story and a mystery that just happens to involve vampires. The progression of the characters’ relationships is believable and compelling. I highly recommend this book as a stand-alone. Give it a try. I’ll be picking up the next in the series when I get to the store again. Maybe I’ll just order it online. Everyone seems to freak out when they see an adorable little reanimated quilted corpse walking through the book store.

Dead Until Dark is also approved as a good book by my good friend, LilyBat (who happens to be a vampire).

PS. There is a great surprise that will come up so unexpectedly toward the end, I am anticipating the Sookie Stockhouse series to bowl me over every time.