Saturday, January 31, 2009

Are you crazy... Is that your problem?

So I attended the annual Chinese New Year parade in L.A.'s Chinatown today.

The highlight was when David Lo Pan jumped out of his convertible and his Wing Kong warriors got into a MAJOR skermish with BOTH the Chang Sings, and their lesser known cousins the Sing Dings. There was clashing steel, smoke and flames and cats flying about like they were on wires.

Of course once light started coming out of Lo Pan's mouth we all hightailed it outta there and over to Foo Chow's restaurant, where painted on the buidling out front it states "Jackie Chan's Rush Hour A Best Seller" was filmed there. I got to sit in the spot where Chris Tucker inquired about their Camel's Hump, and stand where he pleaded with the hostess, "Look maybe you don't understand, I'm Mr. Juntao's lawyer, legal advisor, he got into some shit again and he told me to come down here and I'm a very busy man, ain't got time to be down here this late but I'm down here, my wife want me to come home, my baby is shittin' all over the house, he needs diapers, would you please go get Mr. Juntao?"

Jackie Chan was conspicuous by his absense.

Truth be told, this is a somewhat embellished version of today's events. I did see James Hong, the sprightly actor who played Lo Pan in the parade, and he did leave his convertible to walk and dance down the street.

And light DID come out of this mouth.

Friday, January 30, 2009

LOL GORNS

Because I don't fancy cats, and Gorns are easier to housebreak, I present the first LOL GORNS.






Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied.

Thanks to Trekcore.com for the Star Trek screencaps.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gut Reaction


I had a meatball sandwich for lunch.
Now, hours later it's not playing nice.
(I will refrain from the "that's a spicy meatball" cracks.)

The Devil Made Me Do It

There is a god...or at least a devil, according to this clip from Petey Wheatstraw, The Devil's Son-in-Law. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gQz1ZybiEA

The reason I bring this up is because the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles is going to screen Petey Wheatstraw, starring the incomparable Rudy Ray Moore - yes, Dolemite himself - on February 24 on a "grindhouse" double bill with Penitentiary II, which is nowhere near as batshit insane a movie as Petey (not even the potato salad scene).

So dust off those devil horns you bought last October for Halloween. Get them nice and shiny and put 'em on in February to go see Petey Wheatstraw, which if it's anything like that YouTube clip has got to be, hands down, the whackest movie you will ever see.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

The 'Nam With Phasers

Star Trek. I haven’t watched it since the late 80s. It’s been Remastered. Now it’s being Re-viewed.

“A Private Little War”

The gang at CBS Digital photographed the CGI Enterprise from some nice angles, but this was somewhat undermined by a very fake looking new digital planet which looks like a painted plastic ball (I blame the way they lit the planet). They also added a Klingon ship which was talked about but never seen in the original version. Too bad they couldn’t do something to make the Mugatu look less fake! (Hire Rick Baker or Stan Winston’s people to have a go at it.)

This was a fun episode to watch as a kid, with lots of running around, some fights, a couple of phaser blasts, and a cool (for a pre-teenage viewer) monster. As you got older you appreciated it’s ‘Nam comes to Star Trek story of two superpowers each arming rival factions of a primitive society. But the Mugatu really looks goofy.

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are both outstanding in this episode, though they spend the majority of it apart from each other. This is an episode where DeForest Kelley spends a good deal of time partnered with Shatner and they make the most of it (perhaps not doing so again until Star Trek VI), proving that the heart of the show really is the three of them, as characters and actors.

Michael Witney, who plays Tyree, comes across as more slow and thick-headed rather than simply as an innocent primitive. Nancy Kovak, who plays Nona, should have been brought back as a Klingon or Romulan woman. She had a certain spark about her. Or maybe it was that weird red fur top she wore. The Mugatu should have been corralled to peddle Dole bananas (assuming he liked bananas and not, say, pineapples).

Remember the Kazon aliens from Star Trek: Voyager episodes, the people with the weird paper mache-like hairdos? Well, the goofy blond wigs that Tyree and his people wear come a close second to those as Star Trek's worst alien hair styles. And they all wear the same funky khaki outfits that look like they came from a primitive Old Navy.











Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied.

Thanks to Trekcore.com for the Star Trek screencaps.

um, roar?

Continuing my quest to watch every science fiction movie in the L.A. Library's catalog.

Godzilla: Final Wars

Woo, where to begin. As a sci-fi fan since I was knee-high to an astromech droid I watched many of the 1960s and 1970s Godzilla movies. They were empty-headed fun, with the main draw being the destruction of many great models of buildings, tanks and other miniatures by Godzilla and assorted, and increasingly weirdly-designed, giant monsters. I even watched the restored original Godzilla film – perhaps the only sober one in the long series - again on its 50th anniversary release. So I have a familiarity and an appreciation of the Big G, if not an absolute love and devotion.

Having said that, G:FW was a complete mess. If you checked out my review of Cyborg 2, I called that movie on ripping off so many superior sci-fi films without ever doing anything to stand on its own. It was name-checking for the sake of name-checking. G:FW gives Cyborg 2 a run for its money in that department, by ripping off The Matrix, V-The Miniseries, The X-Men films, Independence Day, Return of the Jedi, Mission: Impossible 2, and even Power Rangers*.

*Yes, I know Power Rangers utilizes costume designs and action scenes from Japanese TV series, but I don’t expect that aesthetic to appear in a Godzilla film.

The plot is nothing original: the alien Xilians want to use humans for food so they hurl giant monsters at us to get us to submit. The first five minutes show us how Godzilla was literally put on ice in humanity’s last encounter with him many years ago. (Godzilla appears back-lit at one point, reminding me of nothing so much as a professional wrestler, which may be appropriate.) Cut to today and giant monsters are mysteriously appearing all over the world causing destruction: Anguirus in Shanghai! Zilla/GINO in Sydney! Rodan in New York! Karmachameleon in France! Newt Gingrich in Portland! To quote Elmer Fudd, “WHAT’LL WE DO, MR. WABBIT?”

We’re quickly introduced to the M Organization (MO?), the movie’s X-Men mutant group rip-off who dress in plastic motocross gear like rejects from a Megaforce sequel. Their mutant gene, M-base, allows them to move faster and be stronger than normal humans. It also allows them to hang in the air a lot longer than gravity normally permits, giving the movie some of its unintentionally funnier scenes. Note to Japanese filmmakers: if you want to do wire fu, contact your Hong Kong counterparts – they do that stuff in their sleep.

Turns out the Xilians also have M-base which allows them to control the similarly endowed giant monsters, except of course for the M-baseless Godzilla. Isn’t that weird, because Godzilla mutated from a dinosaur after exposure to atomic radiation, right – he wasn’t born a mutant, but he was mutated? A head-scratcher, that one.

The acting was all on the level of something like Power Rangers, which is to say a kiddie movie. Sure a few of the older Japanese actors brought some gravitas to their roles (they usually do), but the majority of the younger actors were terrible, especially Masahiro Matsuoka as Ozaki, limply aping Keanu Reeves’ Neo from The Matrix. Matsuoka’s M Organization rival, Kazama, played by Kane Kosugi, just whips his head around posing at the camera at and grimaces a lot. The hot female newscaster who interviews the U.N. Sec-General keeps making odd faces during the interview. The female MO commander (who wears gloves all the time) is laugh out loud terrible, as is the Sec-General himself. I love the fact that we see his plane blow up, then he re-appears as a Xilian in disguise, is destroyed again, but then he shows up at the end in his untouched, non-possessed regular human form and all he says is, “I managed to escape.” WTF?

Now let’s talk a minute about Don Frye, who plays sub commander Captain Gordon, who looks like Joseph Stalin and buys his clothes from Communist Party All Wool Apparel stores. This guy is a former mixed martial artist – which I guessed from his partial cauliflower ear. HOLY CRAP, BUT THIS GUY IS TERRIBLE. He sounds like he listened to nothing but those Sam Elliott “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” ads to prepare for this role. He has one facial expression, and about that many variations in his voice too. The sad thing is his fight scenes are pretty bad for someone who actually used to fight for a living! But you know, he really LOOKS like one of those anime sub commanders, I’ll give him that.

Aside from the many better films this movie rips off, it was just too goofy for its own good. The fight at the beginning between Ozaki and Kazama looked like it was someone’s visual effects test reel with its bullet time gag. The big sequence with the M Organization going up against the giant shrimp really looked and felt like something from Power Rangers. (When they show the MO guys gearing up to fight the giant monster one guy whip-snaps a pistol into his back holster. A pistol to fight a GIANT MONSTER?) And when the giant UFO sphere appears over their HQ, two dozen police or military guys all stand on the roof pointing their M-16-type rifles at it. Rifles against a GIANT UFO? And why do the MO guys all dress like Nazis in greys and blacks and long coats?

After the Xilians arrive on earth, everyone everywhere immediately and inexplicably gets Xilian fever, with one weirdo even appearing on Japanese radio calling himself “X” with this priceless line of dialogue, “It’s a collaboration across space, galaxy, universe, black hole…” What the f--- does that mean? What’s with the number two Xilian guy, Tak Sakaguchi, who looks like he shops at the Harajuku leather fetish stores. Hey, Xilian, Sting called, he wants his Dune wardrobe back.

One thing that gets me about Japanese sci-fi, and in particular Godzilla films, is they often cross the line from science fiction into fantasy. They give a scientific reason or rational for the Big G’s creation – and a great allegory between him and the atomic bombs - and ways they can stop him. They have all manner of science-based weaponry and devices. But then they do something like G:FW does and that’s all of a sudden transport characters from their labs into the lair of the little Faery Girls on Infant Island. They give Neo, I mean Ozaki, a magical talisman that will stop the bad guys, then just as suddenly (read, magically) they are back in the lab. That’s the kind of crap that happens in every low-rent Lord of the Rings wannabe. If the Faeries have teleportation power (and other powers), why don’t they use it to help in the fight against the aliens? Yeah, they later summon Mothra to help Godzilla, but, give me a break. I hate when a supporting character with demonstrated great powers inexplicably only uses them sparingly in a story. (And yes, I wonder why the giant eagles helped out in Return of the King but not at Helms Deep in Two Towers.) I expect fantasy and magic in something like Ringu and other J-Horror, not in Godzilla movies.

The visual effects are all over the place. The CGI is usually crude - Zilla/GINO looked pasted into his scenes, not well composited, and the CGI Rodan flying looked too cartoonish (same problem with CGI Manda). The vaunted Japanese miniatures run the gamut from great (usually the Godzilla scenes) to “Hello it’s 1962 all over again” (the missiles shooting off, or rather popping off, from the various flying submarines). At one point, with King Caesar, they don’t even over crank the camera, just shooting him at normal speed so he looks like a guy in a costume knocking over model buildings instead of a giant monster destroying buildings. And speaking of King Caesar, silly giant Pekinese dog-man that he is – dude is a transvestite – HE CLEARLY WEARS A BRA! Gigan with his buzz-saw belly and later twin-chainsaw arms is up there for weirdest J-monster ever.

For a movie that claims to be the final appearance of Godzilla, he wasn’t in it a whole lot. And when he does show up, he just WALKS THROUGH monster after monster. Um, Godzilla used to have to fight most of these guys through an entire film each, now he literally take one or two swings and they’re down for the count? Smog Monster? WHACK! Kumonga? Kamacuras? SMACK! POW! It was like the Adam West Batman outtakes. It played more like Godzilla’s Greatest Hits, than a real movie. Maybe that’s enough for hardcore G-Fans, but for the average viewer, you need more. And this movie is s-l-o-w paced. (At the 45 minute mark I couldn’t believe there was still more than an hour to go!)

Minya, or Minzilla as he’s called here, shows up. Oh, joy. I thought I hated Jar Jar Binks, but seeing this stupid rubber costume standing next to the old guy and his grandson made me want to punch something. The grandfather does have a great short speech in the film, explaining The Big G’s temperament, “Men did a terrible thing, and made Godzilla angry. They made a huge fire and burned everything on the land. Godzilla will never forget it.” I think that’s an amazing summation. I just wish Godzilla: Final Wars had done honor to what that speech meant, instead of merely paying it lip service.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

CYBORED

Cyborg 2 (or as it appears to read on the DVD cover, Cyborg Squared)

Goddamn, but this was a piece of shit movie. There is no two ways about it, and sorry for the cussin’.

Standard cheap-ass sci-fi movie plot*: rival corporations that run the world in the future are fighting for something, in this case, to corner the market on cyborgs. (Let’s do some rip-off adding up, shall we? Terminator? Rollerball? Max Headroom? Blade Runner? Check, check, check and check.) The American corporation is called Pinwheel. And their Japanese rivals are Kobayashi. Pinwheel? Pinwheel? That’s the BEST name you could come up with for a robotics company of the future? Yes, that’s how hard this movie tries.

*We know this because at the beginning we get the clich├ęd sci-fi movie cards that EXPLAIN the overly complex idea of this being "the year 2074 and rival corporations rule the world, blah, blah, blah, created cyborgs to be everything from soldiers to hookers, blah, blah, blah." Yeah, I know it would IMPOSSIBLE to thread that information within the film’s intricate narrative, so you HAVE to put it in a title card.

The rip off machine gets dusted off straight away as the opening titles swipe from Blade Runner as the camera moves through a “Hades Landscape” tabletop model complete with jets of fire and, get this, they even ripped off Vangelis’ synth score sound too! But, here’s the odd thing, the buildings look like a Mars base or something - they don’t look like regular or even futuristic skyscrapers, but odd modular “space buildings” with tons of little plastic model kit bits glued all over them, and they’re filmed with a red tint not present in the rest of the film. I know, red tint = Mars, right? They look like they were made for a Total Recall rip-off the producers were planning, but that fell through so they were sandwiched into this movie, because, of course, sci-fi fans don’t care if the miniatures are correct in their movies, just that they’re there. The funny part is the model city doesn’t match up with any of the location work, which consists of several dark, dirty brick-covered alleys, generic industrial factory undergrounds, bland white office building corridors, and the L.A. harbor.

Ten minutes into this stupid thing I was bored to death, ladies and gentledroids. Bored. To. Death. And the movie’s only 99 minutes long**! Not even the promise of an 18 year old Angelina Jolie’s nude scene was enough to keep my interest. And that scene doesn’t come (so to speak) until roughly 75 minutes in! WTF? The plot is excruciatingly slow, with some kind of industrial espionage angle going on, and throughout the whole mess Jack Palance doing a Max Headroom riff popping in and out of TVs and monitors. You never see his whole face on the monitor, just his mouth, and the image has been run through some video distortion, which was supposed to make it look cool, but it only makes it look dumb and cheap. This turns out to be the movie’s mantra.

**Death Row inmates take note: if you want to stretch those last few hours watch movies like Cyborg 2 where every minute feels like 10.

Angelina looks like a life-size Barbie doll version of herself, with her wide, saucer-like eyes, long black hair and perfect complexion. This was one of her very first acting gigs and it shows. Elias Koteas, he of David Cronenberg movies fame, plays her human kung fu coach. Why does a hot girl-bot hooker need a kung fu coach, you ask? Beats me. And I must say Koteas has never looked more like Law & Order: SVU’s Christopher Meloni than he does in this film. Dudes are twins, I tell you, TWINS.

And what is a shitty sci-fi movie without a villain, and no, raspy Jackie P. isn’t the villain here. No, it’s Billy “I’ll do whatever, just give me some menthols” Drago, who has only one good movie on his resume, The Untouchables. I guess when you are in a movie written by David Mamet and Steven Zaillian, directed by Brian DePalma, you bring your A game. When you do a sequel to a movie where the original was directed by Albert Pyun you bring a lunch. And who dressed Billy for this movie? He wears a white puffy shirt, vest and tie that look like they're from a western, a black cloak that he stole out of Professor Van Helsing’s wardrobe, topped off with a hat he bought at Sears. He looks like an idiot. And don’t get me started on his first scene in the movie, where we see him in his underwear and sock garters. Yes, I said sock garters. Believe me, it's worse than it sounds.

Oh, and to the list of movies ripped off by Cyborg 2 add Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome to it, as this movie has a climactic “two men enter, one guy meanders out” scuffle beneath some really small ship’s propellers at the L.A. docks in an area the size of a large closet. It was so riveting I almost lapsed into a coma.

If this movie had only stolen the best parts of the movies it rips off it might have been entertaining, instead it’s a celluloid succubus.

Friday, January 23, 2009

DON'T MO-O-O-OVE!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090123/ap_on_fe_st/odd_goat_thief;_ylt=Amrihg4cGa_xYQ.hYhRidPEDW7oF
According to the above link from Yahoo News a major Nigerian newspaper (The Nigerian Times? The Nigerian Post? The Lagos Herald Examiner?) has reported that a car thief had transformed into a goat and was subsequently apprehended (should that be herded?) by police. I bet the Harry Potter movies play BIG in Nigerian movie theaters.

I think someone from The Onion has gotten a job at Yahoo News.

Harold and Kumar: Escape from Comedy

Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Tag line: “This time they’re running from the laughs.”

What’s it about, Mike?
Picking up right after going to White Castle, Kumar and Harold take a trip to Amsterdam so Roldy can hook up with Maria the girl of his dreams, but the boys are mistaken for terrorists and sent to Gitmo.

Was it any good, Mike?
No, it wasn’t too good.

The hell, Mike?
Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle had plenty of laughs and even a certain charm. The leads John “Harold” Cho and Kal “Kumar” Penn have chemistry and play off each other well. In the first movie, Harold is the severely uptight one who gives everything 110% except himself – he gets pushed around at his job, and is afraid to even talk to Maria each time he sees her in the elevator at their apartment complex. Kumar is the loose, crazy guy who never applies himself – if he’s not high he’s thinking about getting high. Ying and yang. Peanut butter and jelly.

Harold was the central focus of H&K1 and in the end, he learned to stand up for himself against the douchebags he works with and tells Maria how he felt about her. Kumar, whose doctor father wants him to follow in his suture steps, finally agrees to apply himself and go to an important meeting after learning that playing doctor for real is pretty cool.

Of course along the way to White Castle there was some weed, a weird Jamie Kennedy in the bushes scene, Freakshow the crazy pustulating tow-truck driver, a lascivious Ryan Reynolds in the ER, more weed, boobs, using a cheetah as transportation, a great animated hallucination bit, and rival burger joint employee Anthony Anderson hilariously wanting to “burn this motherfucker down!”. Oh, and some very funny guy named Neil Patrick Harris.

For Escape from Guantanamo Bay, they graft Harold’s pining for love bit onto Kumar who runs into an old college flame who is about to marry a douchbag. So Kumar has poorly thought out storyline and Harold really has NO story in the second film, he’s just along for the ride. H&K1 had all those great cameos. H&K2 is bereft of cool cameos, save for Christopher “Freakshow” Meloni, credited as Rev. Clyde Stanky, popping up as a brain-damaged KKK leader. That’s it. (Of course, NPH returns but I don’t count him as a cameo, rather as a very special guest star.)

But the single biggest mistake is giving so damn much screen time to Rob Corddry’s character of Fox, the overblown, bigmouth, racist, bigoted Homeland Security guy who makes like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive chasing after H&K after they succeed in pulling off the titular event. He is not funny. Not. Funny. Not in the least. I want to know who it is that thinks loud and stupid equals funny. Raise your hand, because I will run over you with my car right now, you dumb melon head. If you want to see this type of character done right, watch old episodes of M*A*S*H with Colonel Flagg. That is funny!

SPOILER AHEAD:
The other huge mistake is what sends the boys to Guantanamo in the first place. On the plane ride to Amsterdam, home of legal weed, Kumar assembles a smokeless bong. The black and glass contraption looks like something Tom Cruise would use on a Mission: Impossible outing. The passengers see Kumar sparking his bong and all hell breaks loose. Now I know this is a stoner comedy – any movie where two characters have sex with a giant bag of weed gets some leeway from me – but what Kumar does is totally out of the bounds of reason. This is a contemporary comedy, post-911. Unless you are a complete and utter brain dead moron you would not bring a giant steel bong onto the plane and try to use it. As much of a weed hound dog as Kumar is, I did not believe he would be so stupid as to jeopardize, well, everything, his life, his freedom, his friendship with Harold, EVERYTHING, so he could smoke a little weed on a plane ride to Amsterdam, HOME OF LEGAL WEED. They could easily have left that bit out and it wouldn't have changed the movie.

H&K2 tried to make a statement about racism, bigotry, racial profiling and stereotypes. Rob Corddry’s jackass of a character was the most blatant example, but there was the old lady on the Amsterdam flight who was nervously eyeing the clean cut Kumar, Ed Helm’s Korean interpreter who doesn’t even recognize English when it’s spoken to him by Harold’s parents. H&K themselves end up stereotyping a group of Black men in Alabama as carjacking thugs when they only wanted to help the stranded boys. This is a pot head comedy - leave the “profound statements” for some other movie.

Neil Patrick Harris deserves special mention for nearly saving the film. He was almost as funny here as he was in the original; they even let him ride a unicorn. But just as soon as he’s in the movie they leave his character behind and the movie gets boring again. Instead of Neil, the boys spend time with George W Bush, who is played by an actor in make up that makes him look more like Andy Griffith meets Alfred E. Newman. Creepy.

This movie as a whole played like piss poor outtakes from the first adventure, a bad sign for returning writers, and first time directors, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. Too much time was spent cutting away to the NOT AT ALL FUNNY Rob Corddry. In H&K1 the boys were pretty much in every scene - they were the movie. In H&K1 I rooted for Harold to stand up for himself and wanted him to get the girl, as I was laughing at all the pot humor and weird sex jokes. In H&K2, Kumar is suck a dick to Harold I didn’t care if he got the girl.

Put the bong down writers and watch some great old comedies, some funny episodes of M*A*S*H and then write another Harold and Kumar adventure. Make sure it’s funny, make sure there is a decent story on which to hang all the pot and sex jokes, make sure it has cool cameos, and make sure NPH returns.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Soul Killer (20% off regular price)

So I ran over to the Wal-Mart off of Crenshaw, which is about seven miles from BNFOS HQ here in Los Angeles, to pick up the DVD Box set of Battlestar Galactica - Season 4.0. It's been a while since I've set foot in a Wal-Mart. Now I remember why.

OMG, but the APATHY of those Wal-Mart employees was a near physical thing. You could see it in their eyes and in their sluggish movements. If a Kirlian photograph were taken there would be NO aura. Nothing but life-sucking, soul-killing anti-energy.

And this is in people LUCKY enough to have a job in this bad economy. Maybe Wal-Mart can adapt Japan's "Asimo" robot to work the checkout lines. It would stay cheery all day and not worry about taking its break, which seems to be a major thing 90% of the time I hit a retail outlet -- someone is always LATE for taking their break. WUWT?

Just keep Asimo away from stairs and you'd have a happy "employee," and happy customers too. What a concept.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dear FRINGE

Dear Fringe,

How are you? Did you have a good holiday break (didn't have too much eggnog, didja?). It's nice to see you back on Tuesday nights; hopefully following American Idol gives you decent ratings as you round out the second half of your first season. Now, let's get down to brass tacks, as they say.

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? We are, what, 11 episodes into your debut season and we haven't a clue as to what is your "big picture." Yes, we've had some fun episodes featuring a variety of weird pseudo-science topics, but WHAT is the deal with your over-arching mythology? WHO is doing this (and what exactly is THIS)? And WHY? Come the frak on and start answering those questions. Your big TV bro, The X-Files, could always fall back on their stand alone episodes that had nothing do do with the government conspiracy/extraterrestrials "mythology" stories. But you, Fringe, are built entirely on "mythology" stories. You are more like your cousin, LOST, in that respect but that's a letter/rant for another time. (Besides, LOST has really gotten its act together since it received an END DATE. Maybe the Fox Network can learn from that example? Probably not.)

Fringe, I hate it when you capture someone from the other side and they always talk around the basics of who, what, when, where and why. It's always "we" tried to warn/help you. Well, who the fuck is "we?" Is it Massive Dynamics, or its reclusive founder William Bell? Or maybe Sara Lee and Mrs. Fields are in cahoots? Or - I love this one - "you don't understand what's going on, do you?" Well, explain it me me, Mr. Bad Guy -- before you get mysteriously killed, of course. The X-Files ran for far too many TV seasons and their mythology got so complicated the average viewer needed to hire a panel of consultants to get through it all. I fear the same thing will happen with you, Fringe, if you run for the standard network five to seven seasons.

You have a great pedigree. The name J.J. Abrams gives you a LOT of leeway with viewers, but that will all come to a head if you don't start 'splaining, toot sweet!

Hugs and kisses,


Bad News From Outer Space
and other viewers wanting some FRAKKING answers

Monday, January 19, 2009

57 Channels And Nothing On (Except Korean Soap Operas)

So I hooked up my digital television converter box. Yes, I am one of those people who refuse to subscribe to cable TV out of protest. With the typical bundled cable packages offered today, I would get 15 Spanish language channels, four or five religious channels (including Spanish language religious channels!), at least four home shopping channels and a half dozen Home & Garden-type channels. I don’t want that stuff. To me that’s like going to a restaurant and ordering a meal that comes with so much extra food you did not want and, especially, don’t like to eat.

Before the digital conversion I had the major broadcast networks, PBS and a few extra stations, like Telemundo and one showing Korean soap operas. Now, with digital I get those same stations, PLUS one with Armenian soap operas.

Take THAT, cable!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Episodus Maximus

Star Trek. I haven’t watched it since the late 80s. It’s been Remastered. Now it’s being Re-viewed.

“Bread and Circuses”

This is a fun episode, full of humor, including a satirical look at TV, swordplay, some great villains, and a hot blond bombshell to top it all off.

I think the gang at CBS Digital went a little bananas in inserting a pair of moons into practically every new space shot - and even when Kirk and company beam down during the day. It was a little in your face. The CGI bullet holes in the concrete wall at the end are a nice touch though.

One thing I do find odd is that after visiting so many worlds with inhabitants and cultures that paralleled earlier human development (for example Miri, Return of the Archons, Wolf in the Fold and, especially, Omega Glory), writers Gene Roddenberry and Gene Coon chose this episode to attempt to explain those similarities by invoking something called “Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planet Development” to account for why this planet has a Roman civilization and English-speaking populace. Then they never bring up Hodgkin’s Law again in future episodes.

The casting in this episode is top notch. Logan Ramsey is perfectly slimy and manipulative as Pro Counsel Claudius. Rhodes Reason is suitably honest and brave as Flavius. Future Mr. Atoz Ian Wolfe is the gentle leader. Lois Jewell in the small role as Drusilla the slave girl puts so many other similar TOS actresses and characters to shame. And special mention must be made for William Smithers as Merricus, the former Capt. Merrick. You can believe, from his bearing and intelligence, that he came THIS CLOSE to becoming a starship captain. A quick look at imdb shows Smithers had a long career in television beginning in the 1950s, often appearing in the major shows of each ensuing decade, shows like Peyton Place, Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Ironside, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Dallas. Being a child of the TV Generation, I watched many of those shows, but I don't recall Mr. Smithers in any one of them. Sad, because I think he was really terrific here.

The gladiatorial games shown in this episode presaged the brutal and bloody mixed martial arts fighting that is quickly replacing boxing and pro wrestling as “the people’s” favorite fighting game. The satire is spot on, without being silly, when the fully costumed Roman centurion handler whips at the reluctant gladiator Flavius, telling him if his poor performance brings the network’s ratings down they will do a special on him. That’s the kind of lampoon of the television industry at which the short-lived series Max Headroom was so good.

There is the great scene between Spock and McCoy in the jail, where McCoy hits on exactly what it is that drives Spock. It’s one of the most perfectly acted moments of the series. Too bad practically everything changed when they went into the third and final season.

You would think this episode would have created some controversy among Christian groups with the reveal at the end that the “sun” the ex-slaves worship is Christ, the Son of God. Christians believe there is only one God and He only has one Son. Here, He has a second Son.





Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2009 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied.

Thanks to Trekcore.com for the Star Trek screencaps.




Friday, January 16, 2009

Lapdance anyone?

The talk radio station I listen to in the morning advertises the “Lap-Band.” No, it’s not a 1970s Laplander experimental pop group, but a “new, minimally invasive weight-loss surgery.” If you go on its website, it looks like nothing so much as one of those plastic handcuffs so often used today by police and the military. Essentially they “arrest” the upper portion of your stomach to prevent people from eating so much. I wonder if the surgeons watch cop shows to get in the mood, “Do you have anything in your pockets that can stick me? Do you have any drugs on your person? What did you think you were doing when you camped out on the freeway with a cooler full of beer and that deer rifle? And what’s up with the duck decoys?”

I can see "back alley stomach band doctors" who peddle white plastic disco pants belts that you wear tightly around your mid-section, with the instructions to never undo the buckle until you are down to your desired weight. Or, if they're charitable, they'll let you adjust it with the "holiday setting" for those big Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.

I’d rather get a Lapdance Band myself. Performed by a certified night club enthusiast (i.e., stripper), the dancer straps you and her together with a length of velcro for 15 minutes while she spasms around like Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls. And that counts as half of your recommended daily 30 minute workout.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

CEREAL MURDER


Seeing as how I was low on cereal, last night I found myself in that particular aisle of a local supermarket. As I am no longer 8 years old I moved past the Frosted Flakes, Fruity Peebles, Cookie Crisp, and the Sugar Smacks - or whatever it is they renamed it to cover up the fact it's just sugar with some binders - to the more "adult" cereals. Not being a hippie-type - and not wanting to spend 45 minutes chewing each mouthful of bark - I also moved past the granola cereals and their cousins. That didn't leave a whole lot of tasty choices.

So I was checking out the raisin bran, er, brands. (Now Trader Joes has an AWFUL raisin bran due to the fact its raisins have the consistency of BEEF JERKY. Note to TJ marketing peeps, add some MOISTURE to your raisin b, wouldya?) Being an adult of a certain age, I was looking at the fiber content as well as the total calories of the cereals. 12% daily fiber here. 20% there. One raisin bran had close to 30% (Holy Crap!) of your day's fiber in one small bowl! (And who eats just one small bowl of cereal?)

What's next, a cereal with 100% of your day's fiber, where you sit on the toilet while eating it 'cuz that stuff's just gonna go RIGHT THROUGH YOU?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

THE MOST TOYS

Speaking of Nomad. I want one. A full-sized Nomad. With lights and working antenna. Anti-grav optional.

Star Wars fans can purchase full-sized replicas of Darth Vader, Yoda, R2 and 3PO, and a Stormtrooper, along with helmets and light sabers. Fans of the Alien and Predator films can get life-sized versions of those iconic characters from officially licensed companies. The Lost In Space robot and Gollum from Lord of the Rings can be had in life-sized replicas. And that's just off the top of my head.

So who's the "genius" behind Star Trek merchandising because he or she is NOT doing their job. Yes, we have communicators, tricorders and phasers - as toys and higher priced collectibles -but there should also be an affordable full-sized Nomad replica, plus a smaller one you can have on your desk at work. There should be a life-sized Medusan Ambassador box (with lights), complete with red-tinted goggles you HAVE to wear when you open it, lest you go insane.

In addition to the life sized replicas, when they make Star Trek action figures, make more than just the usual Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura and a Klingon. Make Rukk the android. And Andrea the girl-bot in that criss-crossed jumpsuit. Make Balok and his alter ego (there's a two-pack for you). Make Commodore Decker. Make a Harry Mudd in-action figure. Make a Maab action figure, with kligot hurling action. Make a Gary Seven, Roberta Lincoln two-pack. Make the hot Romulan Commander from The Enterprise Incident. Make a "Janos Prohaska" line, featuring his creature creations like the Horta, Yarnek the Rock man, and the Mugato. Make the Doomsday Machine planet killer, complete with little Enterprise and Constellation ships. Make the Amok Time playset, complete with arena and pillars, all the weapons, and a T'Pau figure in a sedan chair. Have some imagination.

Kenner of Hasbro has a line of Batman action figures that a few years ago turned out its 100th variation. They had plain old Batman, of course, but also an artic version, a red one, a green one, a flying one, one with this snap on feature, one with that snap on feature, and on, and on, and on. No matter which Batman was in theaters, or which Batman comic books were popular, or which Batman animated series was on the air, they kept putting out new Batman figures. And the kids, and adults, kept on buying them.

Star Wars fans are lucky because George Lucas is one man who likes to make money, and he knows how to do it - by giving them practically everything they want (except of course for a pristine DVD or HD cut of the theatrical versions of the Original Trilogy, unmolested by special edition changes). Practically every character, prop, spaceship, weapon, whatever has been done as an action figure, prop replica, toy, model, full-sized replica, you name it. That's how the Star Trek property needs to be approached before its core fan base is all collecting social security and spending what little money it has on prescription drugs. "Hmmm, this months meds or a full sized M4, complete with plastic baggie filled with rytalin?"

CBS Studios, are you listening? If you want someone to spearhead Star Trek merchandising call me, I'll do the job right.

ALL MY CIRCUITS

Star Trek. I haven’t watched it since the late 80s. It’s been Remastered. Now it’s being Re-viewed.

Star Trek Remastered. “The Changeling”

Not a whole lot for the gang at CBS Digital to do here, just a few shots of the Enterprise flying by and a new green energy bolt spit out by Nomad. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

This episode has always been a favorite of mine. Nomad is a great concept as a character, and it boasts an equally great physical design, which they unfortunately cannibalized in future episodes. (Somehow I doubt Nomad checked off “organ donor” on his driver’s license.) They kept his blinking lights simple, something later Star Trek productions would throw out the window (ST-TNG’s tricorder by about season four or five had so many colored, blinking and strobing lights as to be completely ridiculous.

The late great Vic Perrin voiced Nomad, as well as several other TOS characters, including “Arena’s” Metron, and he appeared on camera in “Mirror, Mirror” as the leader of the Halkan council. Perrin is perhaps most famous as the Control Voice from the original “The Outer Limits” television series.

The episode starts with some great action – nothing like someone taking pot shots at the ship to begin the teaser. One thing that bugs me though, is that Spock states the energy from just one of Nomads lazer bolts or whatever they are is the equivalent of 90 of the Enterprise’s photon torpedoes. Spock also states they can get hit THREE MORE TIMES like that, then they turn to jelly after a fifth hit. So the Enterprise fires ONE photon torpedo, which Nomad absorbs. Kirk is completely flabbergasted, “How can something absorb THAT MUCH ENERGY?” he asks. Um…say, didn’t YOUR ship’s screens “absorb” the equivalent of 90 PHOTON TORPEDOES just a second ago? Where the frak were you? Minor quibble, but still.

Scotty, Scotty, Scotty. What is it with you getting between a powerful alien entity and chicks? Here you interrupt Nomad “waving his wand” over Uhura. What happens? You’re sent hurtling through the air like one of the Flying Wallendas. In “Who Mourns for Adonais” you get between Apollo and Lt. Pajamas* and are sent flying through the air crashing into the goat pen. In “Lights of Zetar” you feel up a Zatarain-possessed Myra Romaine and, guess what, you’re sent soaring through the air once again. How does Kirk insure this guy?

I think Kirk cheated and just looked at his Landru Computer Playbook for his little "let's talk about imperfections" chat with Nomad at the end.

And if they can completely re-educate a mind-wiped Uhura through college level in less than a week, what’s the deal with spending FOUR YEARS going to Starfleet Academy? You need that long in the future just to ensure you party hearty? And how did they break that bit of news to Uhura’s family? “Mr. and Mrs. Uhura, your daughter is fine, she’s safe, however, there’s just one thing. Her mind was COMPLETELY ERASED by an alien probe we encountered. We re-educated her of course. But she has NO memories of you, or any other member of her family, her old friends, her pet duck Quacky. Nothing. She’s a complete blank in those respects. Mrs. Uhura…Mrs. Uhura, please don’t cry…”






Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2008 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied.

Thanks to Trekcore.com for the Star Trek screencaps.





Monday, January 12, 2009

HUNG JURORS

(This is how we, the jury summoned, felt after today.)
By all that’s holy, there has to be a better way.

Today’s Los Angeles Court Jury Summons was a hoot and half. It was like a root canal performed by a dentist who only has partial vision, a hook for one hand and an inverted tree stump for the other. It was like standing in front of 347 microwave ovens for eight hours to take an x-ray. It was like pulling a stretch city bus with a chain attached to a hook embedded in your abdomen. In other words, it was NO. FUN.

First you walk three blocks in the cold to get to the courthouse (downhill, so of course at the end of your excruciatingly long day it’s an UPHILL walk). Then you meet fucking Beavis and Butthead at the TSA-like checkpoint security. You know, the kind of people who couldn’t get REAL jobs as mall cops. WHY do these wand-waving assclowns ALWAYS have a fucking attitude? Yes, this job has to be done, but why does it have to be done by these particular fucktards?

Then you spend the day in one room that’s this close to meat locker cold. And I wore a t-shirt, long sleeve dress shirt. And I had a jacket. And it was still freezing. There’s only a handful of magazines or newspapers to read, and the two televisions only showed a brief “This is Downtown L.A.” – it was like being trapped in your refrigerator for most of the day. Next time I’m called I’m bringing my laptop and my mp2 player. Fuck the wand-wavers.

In the cafeteria, I had the most generic baloney wannabe club sandwich and iceberg lettuce salad ever. The only thing keeping me going was thinking about Eddie Izzard’s routine about “Jeff Vader” trying to get some penne arrabiata at the Death Star canteen, and getting hassled about his tray. At the end of the day, I felt like the Governator in Total Recall.

The whole experience was like being stuck at the airport, you’re just waiting for something to happen, your flight to come in or being called to panel a jury. Since it’s so much like being stuck at an airport – and just as much fun - why not HOLD COURT at airports. Airports already have the security checkpoints in place, plus all the seating, a crappy loudspeaker system and bad food. If you’re called you serve your jury time at a speedy trial, then fly on home. If you’re not called, you get on your plane as usual.

It can’t be any worse than the current system.



TOTAL RECALL image Copyright the Respective Rights Holder. No infringement is implied.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I AM THE LAW!

Jury duty on Monday. Scum beware.

Judge Dredd character and film photo copyright the respective rights holders. No infringement here is implied.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

CRA/P

AVP/R (Aliens vs Predator: Requiem)

Notice the title of the film? It’s NOT Aliens vs Predator: Requiem , but AVP/R. In the main titles, the acronym appears larger than the actual spelled out title. Not a good sign.

What’s it about, Mike?
A bunch of snappy, snarling, growling creatures chew up the inhabitants of Gunnison, Colorado.

Was it any good, Mike?
No, it wasn’t too good.

The hell, Mike?
Aside from having no story – which I’ll get to in a second – this has to be the darkest movie I’d ever seen. Not cool noir dark, but dark as in, Let’s turn off most of the lights on our tiny, cramped sets so the audience never gets a clear idea of what’s going on. Locations include a dense forest, a cramped sewer tunnel, and lots of other tiny spaces. I mean the Predator is a huge guy and so is the Alien, so why shoot them in what amounts to phone booths for them? Combine the dark photography with today’s split second choppy editing style and you get a recipe for instant epileptic fits. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD About that non-story? The Pred-Alien – possibly the stupidest name ever – we saw chestbursting from the Predator at the end of AVP Numero Uno gets loose on the Predator spaceship just as it’s leaving our earth. Several hijinks ensue in the dark ship corridors, likely facehuggings but who knows, and the ship crashes back to earth in Gunnison (actually Canada – trees are trees, right?). We are introduced to several people: a Jensen Ackles wannabe playing a former convict named DALLAS (get it), his teenage brother Ricky the pizza guy, pizza boy’s crush, the hot cheerleader-type rich blond girl Jesse, the sheriff who shares a history with Jensen Ackles Wannabe, and Kelly, the Army mom who is returning after a long deployment to her husband and little girl. They go through the motions of various subplots, the sheriff keeps a weary eye on ex-con Dallas while people start turning up missing, Ricky is beaten up by Jesse’s Nordic boyfriend, and the little girl keeps her distance from Kelly, the gone too long mom. The reason they have all this soap opera baloney is because the main characters speak in growls, clicks and hisses without subtitles, so you need to fill your movie with something. But you don’t care one wit, and neither do the filmmakers, because they kill off everybody except Dallas, Ricky, Kelly and her kid. Yeah, the sheriff usually goes out in brave style, though not here. Yeah, they kill off the Nordic bully and his Aryan buds (no surprise there), but they killed off the cute blond who left her douchebag boyfriend for sensitive Ricky. WHY DID THEY DO THAT? There was no need to. But what really got me was early in the movie a hunter and his 8 or 9 year old son are in the woods when the Predator spaceship crashes. Naturally the father gets a facehugger sandwich, BUT SO DOES THE LITTLE BOY. Later, when the chestburster pops out of dad, they SHOW THE SAME THING HAPPEN TO THE LITTLE BOY. Brave, plucky resourceful Newt, in Aliens, looses her family and goes through hell, but thanks to new mother figure Ripley makes it to the suspended animation chamber at the end. Then Alien 3 kills her offscreen, which left a bad taste in your mouth through the whole movie. Because we really don’t know this kid – other than he’s 8 OR 9 YEARS OLD – his death doesn’t have as much impact as Newt’s yet it still leaves a stain on this movie.

Is it really that bad, Mike?
There is not an original idea in this movie’s little head, they just ape stuff we've seen before, like doing a version of Newt in the water and the alien rises up to get her. The directors' (the Brothers Strause) idea of original is to take the sexual connotations of the facehugger and go a step further by having the Pred-Alien ram its extending tongue down a pregnant woman’s mouth, all the while showing egg-sized lumps going down her throat; later we see her belly explode as she “births” a small litter of pre-aliens. That’s something you’d see in a scifi horror cheapie like Xtro, not in a film that bears the Alien label. After eight films featuring Aliens and/or Predators there is absolutely no shock value left in them whatsoever. One scene really had me laughing, it is where a waitress sees her boss attacked by an alien so she turns to leave and in the kitchen doorway is another alien which slowly forces her to walk back into the kitchen, hissing and drooling all the way. These movies have become so silly, the creatures remind me of those motorcycle toughs in the Billy Jack movies who ride into town and harass everybody. They beat up the men, drool over the chicks, and cause a lot of property damage. That’s what the AVP franchise (oh, dear god, it IS a franchise) needs is its own BILLY JACK, a space war veteran who just wants to be left alone with his hippie girlfriend, but the aliens and predators keep messing with him. Instead of that cool black hat, he could wear a cool black helmet, which he would only take off when he was about to whop some extraterrestrial ass. “I’m gonna take this right space boot and I’m gonna whop you on that side of your face…”









Monday, January 5, 2009

Hopeless


This is Maab. Be glad HE wasn't elected High Tier of the American people. Be VERY glad.

TOGA! TOGA! TOGA!

Star Trek. I haven’t watched it since the late 80s. It’s been Remastered. Now it’s being Re-viewed.

Star Trek Remastered. “Who Mourns for Adonais.”

This episode opens like one of the old Gold Key Star Trek comic books, when a GIANT HAND reaches out and grabs the Enterprise. All we need now is for rocket exhaust to be coming out of the nacelles and the hanger.

The giant hand belongs to the Greek god Apollo, the originator of the toga party look. He speaks like he’s always talking through a Mr. Microphone, “Hey, good looking, I’ll be back and you can worship me later!” Turns out Apollo is from a race of aliens that came to Earth 5,000 years ago and inspired the legend of the Greek gods. When that party fizzled out, the other gods learned their lesson and left to join the cosmos. As with any party, there is always that ONE GUY, who doesn’t know when to leave gracefully. And that’s Apollo.

Meanwhile, Scotty is all puppy-dog eyes and dragging his drooling tongue after hot blond Lt. Palamas. Apollo, having nothing but three channels (one of them UHF) for the last 5,000 years, naturally falls laurels over heels for the shapely ancient history expert, even turning Mr. Blackwell at one point and dressing her in a revealing pink gown. (Must have been from his own closet.) So, Scotty looses his cool because of the girl and gets knocked around a bit in this one. And Chekov has that stupid Beatles wig here. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kirk doesn’t try to reason with Apollo, he just outright refuses to gather laurel leaves and tend sheep. If Kirk had said, "Look Apollo, it’s been 5,000 years since you saw us, we don’t believe in ghosts, gods or magic; we know you’re an alien and you’re using some kind of device or machine to focus and manipulate energy. So let’s not play games. How can we help you?"

If Apollo wanted someone to worship him, he could have opened a daycare center and do magic tricks for the kids all day long. The kids would love it. Apollo would get his adoration. Problem solved!





Disclaimer: Star Trek is Copyright 2008 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied.

Thanks to Trekcore.com for the Star Trek screencaps.




Sunday, January 4, 2009

It’s A Wrap, Folks!

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

What’s it about, Mike?
Take The Mummy 1 story and replace “Egyptian” and “Imhotep” with, respectively, “Chinese” and “Emperor Han.” Then take Rick and Evey’s annoying 10 year old son from The Mummy 2 and add about 10 years to him. Finally, replace bubbly hottie Rachel Weisz with cold hottie Maria Bello. Oh, then sprinkle on a few yetis. Viola, instant vapid third film to round out a trilogy no really asked for.

Is it any good, Mike?
No, it wasn’t too good.

The hell, Mike?
A flesh and blood Jet Li in real fight scenes is cool. A CGI Jet Li walking around leaving terracotta crumbs everywhere is not.

Since they discovered you could make giant crowds of soliders in CGI we’ve seen the “Big Epic Battle ™” in Phantom Menace, Matrix Reloaded, Matrix Revolutions, Attack of the Clones, Two Towers, Return of the King, Troy, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, 300, Prince Caspian and now M3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. For the love of God, Allah, Buddha and Shazam can we officially put the “epic CGI armies battle” to rest, forever.

Is it really that bad, Mike?
Yes. I used to really enjoy Brendan Fraser. His Rick O’Connell in The Mummy was the first Indiana Jones wannabe that wasn’t trying to be a mere copycat – Fraser’s strength is light comedy and in the first film he played things just right. He was good in The Mummy Returns, but I didn’t like the script (it was a mistake to saddle him and Evey with a 10 yr old son so quickly). Here in M3: TOTDE, Brendan plays a caricature of Rick O’Connell – every movement, every quip is a LOUD exaggeration. It's like in every scene he thought he was talking TO A DEAF PERSON. If he had reined it back in, I think I would have enjoyed this messy film a little more. Just a little more, mind you.

Rachel Weisz was sorely missed. I like Maria Bello (watch her stunning performance in The Cooler) but she was miscast here; she comes across as very modern and not like someone in the 1940s. John Hannah was on autopilot as Evey’s brother. And Luke Ford, who looks like a cross between Mark Wahlberg and Chris O’Donnell, as son Alex O’Connell was flat out dullsville. And you know he and his character were intended to carry on the Mummy films if the box office warranted. Unless they go direct to video, as with The Scorpion King 2, we won’t have to suffer through seeing Ford fight mummies ever again.

So pick up some Chinese food and settle in to watch…The Mummy, the 1999 Brendan Fraser original, or better yet rent the 1932 original original with the great Boris Karloff.

Prince Kickstand

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Never read the book series, so this is only a review of the film. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

You get your standard fantasy film plot here: the evil brother of the king of the Telmarine people of Narnia wants to claim the throne as his own, so he seeks to off the heir to the throne, one young Prince Caspian. While being pursued by the baddies, Prince C blows a magic horn summoning the Fantastic Four - the four Penvensie children - to Narnia to help him keep his throne. See what I mean by standard plot.

This being an adaptation of a C.S. Lewis novel, there is a watered down thread involving Aslan the (Christ) Lion. In the 1,300 years that have actually passed in Narnia since the Penvensies last camped out, the human Telmarines drove the magical mythical inhabitants (centaurs, minotaur, Frankenberry, Snagglepuss and other talking animals) underground. Out of sight, out of mind. The same fate befell Aslan – the people (human and magical) no longer believe in him.

Little Lucy Penvensie is the only one who still believes in faeries, unicorns, Count Chocula, and the Easter Bunny, so of course she sees Aslan, while her disbelieving older siblings, Prince Caspian and the rest of the adults do not. Basically, Aslan let Narnia fall into ruin, and let thousands – if not millions – of people die because they no longer believed in him. Aslan...more like "Ashole."

Much of this story, especially the action beats, are note for note copies from The Lord of the Rings. There is of course, the interminable walking/riding to Somewhere, then falling into general shenanigans scenes. There is the “red sea” bit – done well with Arwen in Fellowship of the Ring – where the river rises up to swallow the baddies (here it’s who I’ll call “Mr. Seaman,” a humanoid shape in the water). There’s the castle siege, as in Two Towers and Return of the King. There’s the wide open field battle scene, as in Return of the King (and the first Narnia film). The LOTR has hobbits named Frodo and Sam, here the little people are dwarf characters named Trumpkin and Nikabrik. The LOTR has intelligent treelike beings called Ents, here walking trees at Aslan's command help save the day.

Add to this mix non-LOTR elements like Trufflehunter the talking badger and Reepicheep the talking swashbuckling mouse, and Snarflepuffnstuf the ganja goat (okay, that last one was fake). The names are often a little too cutesy for my tastes, although I did enjoy Eddie Izzard’s turn as the voice of Reepicheep, mainly because I am on an Eddie Izzard kick (check out his stand up bit on YouTube about Darth Vader in the Death Star canteen – you'll never look at a cafeteria tray in the same way again).

I’m more a science fiction guy than a fantasy guy, and this movie is a perfect example of why – the indiscriminate use of magic to save the day/move the plot along. Do the Penvensies have to use something like Platform 9 ¾ to get to Narnia, or at least the same wardrobe from the first movie? No, they are just “magically” summoned (by the magic horn) while waiting for the tube in London. Once Lucy rubs Aslan’s belly and pets his perfectly coiffed man he howls and magically summons the Ents, or rather their cousins – other walking trees with roots that magically elongate like Mr. Fantastic’s limbs to stretch out and engulf the enemy. How do the kids return to London, why through a magic tree that Aslan magically re-shapes. They walk through it in their Narnian garb and emerge in the same London tube magically dressed in their school clothes. Yeah, magic fucking sucks.

The Pevensie kids suffer no consequences; it’s not even clear that they learn anything, other than Aslan wants you to believe in him, so he will believe in you. Or something. In the Harry Potter films, Harry and his friends suffer greatly and often get the crap kicked out of them, but they learn to trust, respect and support each other. They face huge challenges and many obstacles, and sometimes loose friends along the way, but they grow after experiencing them. In that series, magic has consequences. The Narnia films (so far) are the exact opposite. There are no consequences because everything will magically turn out for the better in the end (if you just believe in Aslan).

Beam me outta this mess.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hollywood Noir - Just Add Fog

(Best viewed with "Tubular Bells," aka The Exorcist theme, playing.)








Thursday, January 1, 2009