Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Mayans Predicted This Movie Would Be Stupid

2012 (2009)

Roland Emmerich destroys the world (again).

That’s the plot of this movie. But the movie doesn’t let us off that easy. No, it wants to come up with a “plausible” reason for city-swallowing earthquakes to appear everywhere and for the oceans to rise to cover the Himalayas. There’s talk of solar flares, neutrino emissions, and “mutanted neutrinos affecting the earth’s crust” and even more gobbledygook. Just call it a weird solar flare and be done with it.

The special effects in the first half of the movie are outstanding, with limo driver/author/estranged family man John Cusack having to outrun a Los Angeles earthquake that’s trying to swallow his ride along with all the local hot spots, monuments and donut shacks. That scenario of having to outrun disaster is repeated more than a few times: Cusack, who switches from limo to small plane with his ex-wife Amanda Peet and their two kids plus her new boyfriend a sort-of weekend pilot, has to get the plane up to speed before they run out of runway and are gulped down by the earthquake. Later Cusack, driving a Winnebago, has to outrun flaming boulders chucked up by an exploding Yellowstone volcano. Still later, Cusack is on a bigger plane in Las Vegas that….

The scenarios are so “later, rinse, repeat” that they become laughable. Yes, once again, the daylight special effects are exceptionally well done - the buildings, autos, smoke, flames and fire, and shattering earth all looked amazing. But when the world gets dark and cold – and the visual effects pixels are handed off to other effects house – the effects are less special, particularly the water-based stuff at the end.

Typical of all Roland Emmerich productions, perhaps save Stargate, the characters are thin and we get the especially tired relationship scenarios: there’s always the guy estranged from his wife and kids, the guy taking the place of the father in the kids’ eyes, the daughter or son estranged from their parent(s). It’s like there’s a template for this kind of movie.

At the very least they could and should lighten up things with some humor, especially if you have a cute as a button little girl as one of the cast (the fact that she likes to wear hats, and wears a few goofy ones was one of the few successful attempts at humor). Yes, it’s the end of the world, but if Schindler’s List could have appropriate moments of humor a dumb movie about the world blowing up real good could seem less self important and loosen up a little.

If you rent this do not hesitant to use the fast forward button on your DVD or DVR.

R.O.T.O.R. is C.R.A.P.

Remember seeing that poster on the left in video stores in the 1980s? YOU KNOW YOU DO! It brings back a more innocent time when companies would commission a poster by having an artist (no Photoshop, an actual PAINTER) rip off a more popular movie's poster. Such is the case with R.O.T.O.R. and Mad Max on the right. R.O.T.O.R. didn't look nearly as cool as he does in this image, but at least the picture was faithful to the movie which did indeed feature a robot cop on a motorcycle.

R.O.T.O.R. (1989)

Gosh, but I love THiS TV. First Eliminators, now R.O.T.O.R!

What happens when a cheap looking, poorly animated metal skeleton meets a badly written and directed Robocop rip-off? You get the risible R.O.T.O.R. aka “Let’s throw some shit together and make a movie.”

This movie is beyond stupid. It has the hokey jokey tone of a Troma picture in many placse and several characters are wacky to a fault. Police Captain Doctor B.C. Coldyron (that’s like Sgt. Frank Drebin Det. Lieutenant in Police Squad!) heads the Robotic Officer Tactical Operations Research unit of the Dallas P.D. with the aim of creating a robotic police force to not only rip off Robocop but to make policemen and perhaps mankind obsolete. Yes, this movie is that deep.

Coldyron (it’s pronounced “cold-iron”) shows a home movie of the R.O.T.O.R. skeleton being put through its paces to a group of badly cast actors, which means the herky jerky animation shows it vogue-ing, doing tai chi, and acting like an idiot. It looks exactly like what it is: a bunch of silver straws and plastic tubes glued together with what seems to be clear plastic suction cups on its front to form a foot-tall minature. Jesus but this is such a poorly designed and executed effect; the animation is below the level of the old Saturday morning Land of the Lost.

Coldyron is soon kicked off the project, his life’s dream, by an unscrupulous boss in league with a shady politician, so naturally he goes on a long romantic lunch date with his heavily shoulder-padded secretary. They have several shots of the two at a restaurant while some bland song plays over the whole thing so they don’t have to record any dialogue. Then Coldyron and the woman go back to her place for steaks. I guess they should have eaten at a better restaurant if they go out to eat in Dallas, then have to go home to grill some ratty looking thin pieces of meat. I thought everything was BIG in Texas, especially the beef.

Coldyron is played by Richard Gesswein, a tall lanky dude in Wranglers with a chin to make George Clooney jealous and a penchant for always speaking through clenched teeth. He is also very obviously dubbed.

Meanwhile back at the R.O.T.O.R. labs, the irritating and pseudo-mack daddy Native American technician improbably named “Shoeboogie,” who acts like he’s memorized every cliché ridden music video of the 1980s, shorts the R.O.T.O.R. program when he sticks his Walkman’s headphones on it. This causes R.O.T.O.R., now covered in skin, to get up with his new program: Judge and Execute. One question: why would you create a robot cop with a porn-star quality mustache?

ROTY soon fixates on Sony a woman with a big 80s poofy hairstyle and pants tucked into her white socks after he pulls over her car and kills her douchebag fiancé and she gets away. Coldyron catches up to them and fights ROTY but gets his dubbed ass handed to him. Sony drives away again and Coldyron contacts her over the radio. He says he’s got a plan to stop ROTY but it will take A COUPLE OF HOURS and he wants her to keep running for all that time while he hatches a plan. What kind of moron is he that he goes after ROTY WITHOUT a friggin’ plan? And to add insult to injury the movie keeps flashing the day and time on the screen, so we know how long Coldyron has been farting around. Let’s hope Sony doesn’t have to stop for gas any time soon.

Coldyron has Dr. Steele fly in that night to help with his R.O.T.O.R. problem; she's a lady body builder with a skunk hairstyle and a chin almost as big as Coldyron's. It’s important that while poor Sony is being hounded by a bloodthirsty malfunctioning robotic cop that the movie takes time out to have scenes where Coldyron and Steele not only pull up to the Lincoln Hotel, but also get out of their vehicle, give the bellman her bags, take the escalator to the check-in counter, check-in to her room, walk into her hotel room where over a montage of scenes we’ve already witnessed in the movie she then changes from her nice blue traveling dress and white pumps into a black wife-beater and army pants. (I know this was largely done for product placement purposes but, the word “pacing” has apparently never been heard of, or used, by these filmmakers.) The movie suddenly tries to grow a brain by having Coldyron quote Milton over the montage.

Here’s a Coldyron speculation: “Something in the molecular memory of the chassis alloy is affecting the brain matrix.” Maybe that explains the thin steaks in Texas. And as a counterpoint, Dr. Steele just spouts a whole bunch of Yoda-babble: “To combat pure will, you’ll have to use pure illogic. You will have to allow yourself to fail. Use your failure against him. Your failure is his failure, your weakness is his weakness.”

This inept piece of scrap ends with Dr. Steele alternately shooting and kung fu-ing R.O.T.O.R., while Coldyron tries to get Sony to tie knots. I’m not kidding. These two muscle-bound idiots go to rescue the girl and stop R.O.T.O.R. and Coldyron makes a noose using primacord rope and leaves one end of it for R.O.T.O.R. to step in and he tells Sony to tie the other end to his jeep. Once the dummy steps in the rope and it’s pulled tight the primacord explodes.

The movie ends on a bizarre note with Coldyron getting shot and killed by his old boss, then cuts to Coldyron’s college-going nephew who is bequeathed all of his wacky Police Captain Doctor Uncle’s robo-research. The last image is off Dr. Steele who is now a robot (or perhaps was one)? GAAAAHH!

Bonus - Random observations:

I would like to kill whoever suggested using a drum machine to score movies.

Willard the police robot’s voice reminds me of Cleveland from Family Guy.

Coldyron has a little toy robot on his desk that looks like Wall-E crossed with Peepo from Space Academy.

How many mini-mart customers can spin-kick a thug like this woman does?

Sample of Capt. Coldyron’s riveting phone dialogue: “I’m fine. Absolutely. Me too, Penny. In a few minutes. I know. Sure. See ya.”

Capt. Coldyron is lying in bed in a dimly lit room and I thought he had a poodle in his lap. Turns out it was his girlfriend’s head! Now Det. Sgt. John MANGO is contacting Capt. Coldyron. I wonder if the Mango phone call was tart and refreshing with a fruity after-taste.

R.O.T.O.R.’s “sensor recall” is just a piece of negative film. And why does he have to take off his sunglasses to use this “sensor vision?”

Why does the diner chef have OBVIOUSLY fake buck teeth? And why is it that everyone who wears dirty jeans talks like a redneck idjit?

The girl runs out of the diner and ROTY has to deal with three rednecks, one of whom knows martial arts (Dallas-Fort Worth Fu, I imagine) and one that looks like Danny McBride on steroids. He even has one of those Hulk Hogan t-shirts that you can rip off with your bear hands.

Geez, there is a lot of dubbed in dialogue in scenes where characters have their backs to the camera or are off screen while the camera focuses on some random item, like a desk chotchkie. And it’s all stupid silly stuff.

R.O.T.O.R. and Mad Max posters Copyright their Respective Rights Holders. No infringement is implied with this review.

Friday, February 26, 2010

We Got Movie Sign!

Holy Heartbreak, Miss Kitka, but summer’s almost here and the time is almost right for dancin’ in the movie theater aisles. In a few short months “Snowpocalypsemageddon 2010” will be a vague memory and you’ll be buying sunblock at your local apothecary. Yes, this is just an excuse to look at a slew of this summer’s movies and do some crystal balling.

Over the last few years studios have had great success releasing summer blockbuster-type movies in the Spring before the traditional May dates, so we’re gonna start “summer” this year in April. Any complaints?

And no, this isn't all the summer releases for 2010, just ones that caught my eye.

Clash of the Titans / April 2
It’s the remake that no one was really asking for but since studios were remaking every property at least 20 years old, this one’s number came up. It’s a re-boot of the 1981 fantasy film that was most notable as the final work of visual effects master Ray Harryhausen (trivia: the original Clash was also the first film where Harryhausen hired assistants to work with him on the effects).

This new Clash is directed by Louis Leterrier, who we last saw helm the re-boot movie The Incredible Hulk (before that he directed Transporter 1 & 2). Liam Neeson, as Zeus, heads a cast of British actors who couldn’t get a spot in the Harry Potter series, people like Pete Postlewaite, Jason Flemyng and Gemma Arterton. Ralph Fiennes plays Hades, hopefully with the nose that he is missing as He Who Must Not Be Named in the Potter films. And the so-bland-it’s-hard-to-believe-he-has-a-career Sam Worthington stars as hero Perseus.

The trailer was appropriately loud and bombastic, filled with quick cuts of battles and skirmishes, but nothing that made you say, “I gotta see this.” I could be fun; let’s hope so.

Kick-Ass / April 16
A teenager decides to don a homemade costume and become a real superhero. He gets his ass handed to him at least once, but he keeps at it and gets better. And he inspires others.

Based on a Marvel comic written by Mark “Wanted” Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr., Kick-Ass has had tremendous buzz on the webs and, better than that, a “red band” clip and full trailer that shows this is one wild ride from director Matthew “Layer Cake” Vaughn.

Brit Aaron Johnson plays Kick-Ass aka Dave Liszewski with a convincing American accent (and a lot of bruises). Nicolas Cage, who disappointed in Ghost Rider, looks to redeem himself as Big Daddy, the doting, but screw-loose father of 12 year old Hit Girl, played by Chloe Grace Moritz (they are inspired by Kick-Ass enough to don costumes themselves and take on the mob). McLovin’ also pops up (okay, it’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Red Mist). This one looks good.

The Losers (April 23)
Another comic book adaptation, this time from DC’s Vertigo line and based on a series by writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock. No superheroes this time, but a group of covert operations folks who are betrayed by their superiors and seek revenge.

It’s got a good cast with Zoe “Star Trek, Avatar” Saldana, Chris “Fantastic Four” Evans, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan from “Watchmen.” Peter Berg of “Friday Night Lights” and “Hancock” fame is a co-writer while the director of Stomp the Yard, Sylvain White, is calling action and cut.

MacGruber / April 23
When is the last time a movie inspired by a Saturday Night Live sketch was any good? "Wayne’s World" back in 1992? Seriously.

A Nightmare on Elm Street / April 30
Freddy Krueger dusts off his ginsu knife-gloves and puts on the tattered red-striped sweater to harass and kill some more kids.

Buzz seems to be divided on this - there’s even a shot for shot comparison of the newest trailer against footage from the Wes Craven original that makes it look visually faithful. Jackie Earle Haley, continuing his wonderful career resurgence, plays Freddy for director Samuel Bayer (making the leap from music video to his first feature) and producer Michael Bay. Yup, this is from Bay’s Platinum Dunes company which remade the “Texas Chainsaw,” “Hills Have Eyes,” “Amityville Horror” and “Friday the 13th” franchises for today’s horror audiences. Read that last sentence again, slowly.

Iron Man 2 / May 2
Good lord but this looks AWESOME from the trailer. The same great mix of character-based humor ("You complete me!") and drama, solid storytelling and cool action scenes. Oh, and a lot of ARMOR WARS! The one to beat this summer.

Robin Hood / May 14
Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe do Robin of Locksley. I love the Robin Hood story, but good grief this one has been done to death, and it doesn’t appear that they’re tackling it from a different angle, like say, from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s perspective.

Shrek Forever After / May 21
Kill me now. The original Shrek was mildly amusing at best. The sequels were exponentially deficient on the quality/quantity of jokes (that new Old Spice commercial with the former NFL player in a bathroom, then a boat, then on a horse is 100 times funnier and more clever than any of the Shrek sequels). This is a fact (I checked with the facts people).

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time / May 28
Jake Gyllenhaal worked out A LOT, almost to Vin Diesel levels. Based on a video game series that started in 1989 (pre-Internet – No way!) and directed by Mike Newell (“Donnie Brasco” and “HP and the Goblet of Fire”) and produced by hit-maker Jerry Bruckheimer (half of everything you watch on TV and the movies).

It’s set in Persia (I got that from the title) in the 6th century so we’ll probably have a lot of rugs to go along with Jake’s muscles and co-star/superbabe Gemma Arterton’s “artertons” knowhutI’msayin’? The trailer has a buttload of exposition: Arterton’s character explains the whole plot to Gyllenhaal. I wonder why that is?

One thing that bothers me is that as this is set in locations with a lot of desert, sand and dry rugged mountains, there is a slight sepia look that registers as “fake” to me. Is that deliberate to give it a “fairy tale” quality or does CGI have a hard time with convincing dry arid locations?

Survival of the Dead / May 28
George A. Romero is PUMPING out the zombie movies – this is his third one since 2005! Set on an island off the coast of Delaware, and starring a cast of unknowns, the story concerns a group of people trying to find a medical cure to change the dead back into their former selves. I wonder if Romero will be commenting about our current health care debate and issues like stem cell research. I’m betting he will, and that is awesome.

Sex and the City 2 / May 28
Insert finger into throat and blow chunks on those Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks.

Marmaduke / June 4
WTF? (That’s What The Fudge – it’s a kids movie after all.) Starring Owen Wilson as the voice of the AT-AT-sized dog.

The A-Team / June 11
The trailer was EXCEPTIONALLY generic – whoever put it together should be shot by the A-Team. But Liam Neeson looks and feels like George Peppard from the tv original. And "District 9’s" versatile Sharlto Copley is playing Murdock. Don’t know about Rampage Jackson as B.A. – he just doesn’t seem to be the outsize personality needed for the role (like The Rock was in his wrestling prime). Will director Joe Carnahan pull it off?

The Karate Kid / June 11
Wax off this one. Jackie Chan is no Mr. Miyagi (the character is named something else) and Jadan Smith just grates on me. Plus Chan is Chinese so shouldn’t that be The Kung Fu Kid?

Jonah Hex / June 18
DC Comics scarred post-Civil War bounty hunter (he fought for the Confederates) comes to the big screen with Josh Brolin in the deformed make up and Megan Fox as the girl in the corset with the teeny tiny waist.

This new story has supernatural overtones which are more in line with the more recent Hex tales than the majority of the early comic book stories of this anti-hero who is more in the mold of Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” than the traditional John Wayne cowboy. Brolin has been doing some interesting work lately so I’m curious. But one possible caveat is that the producers are Neveldine/Taylor, my sworn nemeses after being subjected to their last directing effort “Gamer.” I hope they let director Jimmy Hayward do it his way, and that his way is not the non-stop frenzy, chaos, anarchy and futility of N/T.

Toy Story 3 / June 18
Yay! Pixar returns to their enchanting Toy Story universe. This company knows that STORY AND CHARACTERS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. If you have that, you will get the huge box office grosses you want AND the merchandizing and product synergy to go with it.

Michael Keaton is the voice of Ken and his scenes with Barbie are supposed to be hilarious. Hopefully this will lead to a career jump start for Mr. Keaton, who hasn’t gotten the acting recognition he deserves.

Knight & Day / July 2
Tom Cruise decides to lighten up for the first time in his leading man career. But I’m just not getting a good vibe from the trailer and his scenes with Cameron Diaz.

The Last Airbender / July 2
M. Night Shyamalan is hoping for a hit with this movie, his first directing effort based on someone else’s script, and good golly he needs one after the ridiculous "The Happening." I’m not familiar with the Nickelodeon cartoon this is based on, and I don’t believe there is a lot of positive buzz about this one on the web. Plus there is some backlash surrounding casting non-Asian actors to play Asian characters, so this will likely tank in Asian markets.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse / July 2
Polish up your sparkly diamond boyfriend and get a case of ab polish, here comes the latest "Twilight" movie. If I were a 12 year old girl I'd be getting in line now.

Predators / July 9
Robert Rodriguez produces this kick in the pants to the "Predator" movie series. I can’t call it a franchise as there were only two "Predator" films, and those gawdawful "AvP" movies just don’t count. Nimrod Antal (last year’s “Armored”) directs. Can they make the Predators cool mit out Arnold?

Inception / July 16
From co-writer/director Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. What is it about? Hard to say, but the trailer has the world around DiCaprio moving and changing a bit like "Dark City," so it’s a mind-f--- of some sort. Nolan is always interesting, so there’s serious anticipation for this film.

The Sorceror’s Apprentice / July 16
Nicholas Cage again! This time he’s the Sorceror Balthazar to Jay Baruchel’s college student apprentice in this film inspired by the Disney cartoon. It’s produced by…wait for it…Jerry Bruckheimer. I told you Mr. Bruckheimer is responsible for half of everything produced in Hollywood today. This is directed by Jon Turteltaub who put Cage through his paces in the "National Treasure" movies, but the story comes from Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal who scripted the stupid "Superman IV" and the stupider "Planet of the Apes" remake. But to be fair the screenplay was written by the team behind "The Uninvited" and one of the writers for "Race to Witch Mountain." That's a whole lot of not good right there.

Salt / July 23
Angelina Jolie plays wrongly accused super-spy Evelyn Salt, on the run to clear her name, for director Phillip Noyce (the two Harrison Ford “Jack Ryan” movies and “Rabbit Proof Fence”). I love Angelina and Noyce is a solid director, and with clever writers Kurt Wimmer and Brian Helgeland behind it, here’s hoping this is a winner.

The Adjustment Bureau / July 30
Matt Damon and the beguiling Emily Blunt star in a film based on a Philip K. Dick sci fi short story. He’s a congressman and she’s a mysterious ballerina caught up with him as his world comes apart. Hollywood seems determined to bring every PKD story to the screen, and that’s fine by me.

The Expendables / August 13
Sylvester Stallone continues his action come back by co-writing, directing and leading this tale involving a who’s who of today’s action stars - Jet Li, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews and action greats Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger – as a team of Special Forces assassins out to bring down a South American dictator. Watch it in a theater with a solid foundation because this one will bring the roof down.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World / August 13
Director Edgar Wright, of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" fame, helms this adaptation of the Oni Press comic book by Bryan Lee O'Malley. It’s got an awesome premise: slacker/garage band member Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) falls in love with Ramona (the beautiful Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and he must defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends who are out to kill him before he can win her heart. I've loved every thing Wright has helmed, including "Spaced" his British series with Simon Pegg. "Pilgrim" sounds like a crazy fun time.

Nanny McPhee 2 / August 20
(insert cricket sound)

Piranha 3D / August 27
Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan who wrote the fun horror movie and final Project: Greenlight winner "Feast" scripted this one, so I expect lots of laughs.

No Joe Dante, this time you get director Alexander Aja (“Haute Tension”/“High Tension” and “The Hills Have Eyes” remake), stars Elizabeth Shue and Ving Rhames, and most likely LOTS of blood, gore and entrails. Sushi, anyone?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lost Horizon

THIS IS IT! THE FINAL SEASON! QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED! AND LIVES WILL BE…LOST?

We’re, what, five episodes into the final season of Lost and I just feel a big shrug over the whole thing. Instead of answers we’ve gotten a lot of “wheel spinning” and more questions.

This last episode Hurley, on dead Jacob’s instruction, leads Jack to a lighthouse that they’ve never seen before. A freaking ancient stone lighthouse (that looked pretty brand new, btw). Jack asks why they’ve never seen this structure before and Hurley responds, “Maybe because we weren’t looking for it.” That pissed me off. On one hand I LIKE the idea of this lighthouse and its time mirror of whatever it’s called, and the fact it has those lovely cursed numbers etched into it (and a nod to Alice's Looking Glass as well). But for Jack to FINALLY ask a simple straight forward question and to receive such a bullshit answer is—Well it’s not the final straw, but my love for this show was severely diminished by that pat New Age-y remark.

I’ve read that the showrunners, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, have said that the characters are the most important element of this show, and with regard to answers to the hundreds of burning questions that only those that really tie in to the main cast will be answered. (The remaining unanswered questions will likely be left for fan-fic.) But so far it seems they’re caught up in their story of Jacob and MIB/Flocke/Smlocke/Ziggy that the main characters are taking a back seat. And how many character stories is that? There’s Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Sayid, Jin, Sun, Hurley and Ben. That’s nine characters. Plus Desmond, Widmore, and now Claire. Twelve characters. But there’s also Richard, his eyelashes, Ilana, and Lapidus. And don’t forget that the producers want to make this final season a love fest so everyone who starred in season one returns so look forward to Michael and even freaking Shannon (and probably Boone once more). And Walt if they can get a hacksaw and hire Nancy Cartwright to duplicate that original Walt voice. Hell, Rose and Bernard need to show up one more time, and that means Vincent’s gotta show too! See what I mean, they have a lot of characters to take care of before that final fade to black.

My biggest fear is that the two timelines – the island post-bomb and the alternate world – will finally come together late in this season and then there will be a mad rush to wrap everything up in just a handful of episodes. The showrunners are taking a huge gamble with these two simultaneous storylines. It seems after the long-used flashbacks and then the flash-forwards that they were simply looking for another gimmick to use to shake things up and the “flash-sideways” was what they came up with. And it seems that they’re going to devote much of this season’s precious few episodes to have the flash-sideways stories play out. So far I’m not jazzed by it in the least. (I just hope I don’t have to read at some point after the show ends that Lindelof and Cuse say, “Well, we thought the “flash-sideways” would be a good idea as far as storytelling, but it just didn’t work out the way we hoped it would. If we could go back and do it again, we’d drop the flash-sideways.”)

I’m sick and tired of characters talking around issues simply for the sake of a reveal. Lindelof said in one interview that rather than doing a simple straightforward piece of storytelling with John Locke regarding his father that they took a much more convoluted route because it was more “mysterious” that way; they chose supposed mystery over simple clarity, similar to Jack asking Dogan what’s wrong with Sayid and having Dogan do a stupid song and dance and tell him “there is a darkness that is clouding his whatever” instead of just answering the damn question. I have a feeling that is what is going on with these first several episodes of this season.

The first season of Lost had some of the best storytelling television has to offer. It seemed that every episode focused not only on one or two characters but gave most everyone else something to do as well. Now a character is lucky if they get something every fourth or fifth episode. Jin, Sun and Sayid have been poorly represented. Instead we get Kate doing more Kate goes on the lam stuff. This final season, as were seasons four and five, is shorter than the average tv show’s season. But instead of crisp focused storytelling it sure feels like they’re dragging this stuff out.

After all this time, I simply want to get to the end of this marathon. To have it finally be over. Does that make me a bad Lost fan?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

To the Bat-basement!

io9's got a post whose first item includes this nifty and darn near rip-snorting little gem: the cover to a very illegal and extremely bootlegged Batman toy...of some sort.

The toy, which claims to be a "log" (we only see the back of the packaging) and is likely made in China, is more than a bit schizophrenic as to which Batman it belongs, as it includes the Batman & Robin movie logo, photos of Christian Bale from Batman Begins, and for good measure, a pic from the recent cartoon The Batman. But that's NOT the funny part.

The funny part is in the description, which in the best "Engrish" tradition of grammatical rigmarole and whack-assedness. It starts thusly, "When being a child, Bruce Wayne had witnessed with his own eyes the fact his parents of millionaire were killed cruelly...."

Gotham City is apparently too complicated a name, so it's now simply called "Gete."

I love this part, "Bruce found a basement under his villa." Now he has a Bat-basement instead of a Batcave. It doesn't have that same air of mystery. (I just hope Bruce has Bat-basement flood insurance, cuz you just know he's gonna need it one day, probably when Aquaman - who I'm guessing is called Water Moccasin in China - visits.)

And forget super-villains like the Joker, the Riddler and Mr. Freeze. Chinese Batman of Gete has got to watch out for Doctor Jackstraw. Doctor Jackstraw? W.T.F? (I'm guessing that's a convoluted version of Scarecrow, but you can never be sure with "Engrish.")

Whoever wrote it should write the riffs for the Chinese version of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Swedish Sci Fi Movie Not As Good As Their Meatballs

Storm (2009)

Sweden is famous for a few things: supermodels, bikini teams, IKEA, and meatballs. One of the most incredible modern horror films, Let the Right One In, also came from Sweden. But science fiction seems to not yet be in their wheelhouse, at least based on this turkey.

The blurb on the DVD case said this was a movie in the tradition of The Matrix. Obviously the blurb writer has never seen The Matrix.

DD (Eric Ericson), a slacker who resembles Michael York, meets a mysterious orange-haired woman, Lova (Eva Rose), who gives him a cube (sadly, it’s not the Lament Configuration, which could have sent this movie straight to Hell). A dude with slick hair (Jonas Karlsson) and several bald hench-thugs want the cube and so pursue first the woman, then DD. Then DD apparently dreams – or something – and wanders around abandoned streets and buildings and old memories too. Then the orange-haired chick falls off the roof of a building.

What. The. Fook?

Good production values and a solid cast do not compensate for poor storytelling. I am not a huge fan of “dream imagery” or “surreal landscapes” – they’re easy crutches when the filmmakers aren’t sure of what they are saying or doing. “We’re stuck here…I know, let’s have him wander around an empty leaf-strewn street looking confused. Then he can meander through abandoned buildings and rooms with peeling paint. It will speak so much to the character's ennui and bourgeoisie state of mind and the limitations that a capitalist society places upon the individual.” Either that or it will just come across as boring.

This is one of those movies where you spend more time watching the DVD counter and thinking to yourself, "Only 30 minutes have passed?! The box said it's 110 minutes long. Jesus, this is taking forever and I have no idea what is going on... Say, are the neighbors fighting again? Man, that one chick sounds shrill."

The mention of The Matrix is hugely misleading. DD picks up a comic book, the panels follow events we’ve seen, then the panels become animated (looking like a cross between MTV's Aeon Flux cartoons and that auto insurance company’s girl spy series of commercials) and the animation then segues to a live-action version, obviously shot on green screen and looking like a cheap sci fi web-series. But The Matrix it is not. Instead, the movie had the vibe of some of the more confusing and dull parts of the Nightwatch movie series.

But at least Nightwatch has some cool visual effects to keep you awake, and not bored out of your skull wishing you had picked up some Swedish bikini models, an IKEA coffee table, and an order of meatballs, instead of this duller-than-a-butter-knife Swedish sci fi movie.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Race Sputters to a Screeching HALT.

Race to Witch Mountain (2009)

Disney. Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock). Race to Witch Mountain.

Put those three together and I expect a fun family adventure. What I got was sort of a watered down version of a Jason Bourne movie that was not fun and not an adventure.

The story is very simple: Jack (Johnson) is a cabbie just trying to make a living and keep out of the clutches of his old boss, a faceless Las Vegas mobster who sends goons around to hassle Jack every so often (or as the plot requires). Into Jack’s cab comes two teenagers, sister and brother Sara and Seth (AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) who need a lift. Once Jack’s cab hits the blacktop there are lots and lots of car chases, explosions and fights. THIS IS DISNEY’S IDEA OF A FUN FAMILY MOVIE?

Here’s my problem: who the heck was the target for this movie? The filmmakers and stunt people seemed to want to make a Bourne movie or a beefed up episode of 24, complete with government SWAT guys in black with machine guns and overly complicated camera work. THIS IS DISNEY’S IDEA OF A FUN FAMILY MOVIE?

Ciaran Hinds plays the typical (which seems to be the buzzword for every aspect of this movie) government alien hater. He runs around saying “They must be stopped” and “You have no idea what you are getting into.” Here’s a tip filmmakers: watch Midnight Run (just don’t copy their cuss words). Dennis Farina’s mobster Jimmy Serrano is hilarious (but Farina plays him totally straight). He gets on the phone to his goons, “Is this Moron number one? Put Moron number two on.” Another great line, “Don't say a word to me, Sidney, don't say a f------ word to me. I'll get up and I'll bury this telephone in your head.” When it’s time to get menacing, he does that too. If you’re going to hire Ciaran Hinds, WRITE SOME BETTER MATERIAL FOR THE MAN! Hinds can do menacing in his sleep, so why not write a character with a sense of humor about his job, some measure of depth, or a quirk or two, instead of just a one-note robot.

Dwayne Johnson has proven himself a very talented comedic actor; his appearances on SNL are gold. He’s not afraid to look silly, all for the sake of a funny joke. The filmmakers – writers Matt Lopez and Mark Bomback with Andy Fickman directing – appear to have never seen Johnson do comedy* because they constantly have him spout limp dialogue and go through the motions with the standard action movie hero beats. Fer chrissakes guys, this is an actor who once donned a BIGFOOT costume! USE THIS!

Johnson and the kids, who turn out to be aliens, are on the run in Vegas while a UFO Convention is going on. Well, have them dress up as some wacky aliens (have an alien pretending to be a human kid pretend to be an alien - see how that works?). When we first see Johnson a couple of geeks dressed as Star Wars stormtroopers get in his cab, much to his consternation (he’s not a fan of this goofy sci fi stuff). Have Johnson dress up as a stormtrooper and try to bluff his way out of a situation. Use that irony for laughs! Nothing in his interactions with the kids is funny or witty or clever, except one brief exchange involving a dog. The kids speak very formal English and always call Jack by his full name, Jack Bruno. GEE, THAT’S NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE! (Yes, that was sarcasm.) They spend far too much time ducking laser bolts and explosions created by the alien terminator out to destroy the kids.

Johnson has several fight scenes, all of which are, you guessed it, standard action hero stuff. It’s all instantly forgettable. Why not take a page from Jackie Chan’s book and make Johnson’s fight scenes funny? Have him use whatever is on hand instead of his fists to defeat the bad guys. There’s no chance that Johnson would be seen as a Jackie Chan clone because he’s not a martial artist, but he is a physical actor due to his wrestling background. Since you’re doing a PG-Rated family film, why not tone down the punching and throwing people against walls (which is actually WORSE than punching – it’s brutal!) into something fun, clever and memorable.

These filmmakers would have had Back to the Future’s Marty McFly simply punch Biff instead of outwitting and outmaneuvering him so that Biff always ends up in a pile of manure by his own actions. EVERYONE remembers those scenes, but no one will ever talk about the action/fight scenes in Race to Witch Mountain. Or anything else in the movie for that matter.

* even though Fickman directed Johnson in Disney’s The Game Plan (2007)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Locke and Roll - Lost

Lost – The Substitute

SPOILERS

In the alt-verse, Locke is fired and goes job hunting - don’t worry it’s 2004, long before the Great Recession, so he’ll find a job easy. He’ll just lose it in 2007/2008, then his home in 2008/2009. Until then, No worries!

On the island (in 2007) Fake-Locke/MIB (should that be MIS: Man in Smoke?) takes a boozing Sawyer from his home and goes house hunting, or rather hunting for Jacob’s summer home. Sawyer doesn’t have to worry about the Smoke Monster since Fake-Locke IS Smokey (though Sawyer doesn’t know this); he just has to worry about climbing down a sheer cliff with rickety old bamboo and rope ladders. No worries!

Today being Ash Wednesday, Illana thoughtfully scoops some of Jacob’s ashes from the pit that Fake-Locke pushed him into. And Ben gives a great off the cuff eulogy at Locke’s island funeral.

I’m still not sold on the flash-sideways alternate universe storylines. It just seems to be a lot of set up. The general consensus is the two storylines/universes will converge at some point and become one story, one timeline. I know, when sideways Locke looses his home in the mortgage crisis, he’ll end up in a van down by the river, and the river will remind him of the island and BAM! Emeril Lagasse will show up as the REAL Jacob and take Locke back to Gilligan, I mean, Jack and company.

The Smokey Monster/MIB/MIS/Fake-Locke (Jesus!) POV shots as it raced all over the island were very reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s energetic camerawork on Evil Dead. I wonder if the crew even did it the same way Sam did by screwing a camera to some 2 x 4s and careening around with it. Have to wait until the DVD to find out I guess.

The cursed numbers make another appearance, matching up with most of our island-bound heroes (except for the numbers’ sum, which could mean Kate or the missing half of the Kwons, Jin or Sun). Though why there was a scale and two matching stones (one black, one white) in Jacob’s in-cliff retreat was a little puzzling. Isn’t that just too “on the nose” with the scales of justice and the balance of good and evil and all that good stuff? How will the writers turn that inside out? And we get ANOTHER freaky person/apparition in the jungle. It’s been a while, but what the hay.

So far, everything seems peachy in the sideways universe. Kate is still wanted for murder, but she helped Claire, and is on the lam. Claire - who’s cries of “My bay-bee!” was the second most irritating thing after Michael’s near-constant cries of “WAAAAALT!” (which made up 87% of that character’s dialogue while on the show) – is still in one happy piece. Jack’s daddy issues don’t seem to be as weighty. And Locke is now friends with a multimillionaire chicken franchise owner and is successfully working as a substitute teacher. Perhaps sideways Sawyer’s still stuck in the LAX elevator, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough what his “new” life is like.

Dudes, we've only got 14 episodes left. Let's kick this sucker into high gear, shall we?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Where the Angry Rubber Meets the Road

Also from twitchfilm.net: Angry Tire Explodes Heads in "Rubber", about an angry psychic tire that explodes heads. (You had me at "angry psychic tire.")

Wanna bet Toyota will NOT be sponsoring screenings?

Did someone say Giant Sea Scorpion?

Yes, someone did say Giant Sea Scorpion, in this twitchfilm.net post about director Brian Yuzna's latest offering, Amphibious 3D!

Promising "old-school" horror, as opposed to the crap CGI of Asylum pics I imagine. But here is an odd statement: "On the whole the film looks like a remarkably faithful updating of the sort of exploitation grinders produced in Indonesia en masse in the 70s and 80s."

Umm, I've never heard about Indonesian exploitation movies, let alone seen one. Sounds like it's time to troll the net for clips of Indonesian monster exploitation movies of the 70s and 80s. Hopefully there's a giant crab monster or two in the mix. And they send the Navy from their base in Guam, after finding a note in a coconut.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A scientist, a ninja, and a Mandroid walk into a bar

Eliminators (1986)

Not a review, but more a stream of consciousness reaction. This is "Man with a Laptop Watches a Movie II."

“Empire Pictures Presents” – Yikes, that was Charles Band’s company and a sure sign that quality will not be a huge consideration.

Generic keyboard soundtrack right off the bat. There’s also a little blast of music when the Eliminators title flashes on screen, a true hallmark of 1980s cinema along with mullets and leg warmers.

“Peggy Mannix?” – Did Joe Mannix have a kid in between all his investigating and beating up thugs for Intertect?

Stock footage of a WWII era plane going down. The pilot is saying “may day, may day” but it sounds like “ribbit, ribbit.”

I didn’t realize Vasquez Rocks was colonized by Roman soldiers.

Now THIS is a fun (non-Casio keyboard) score that just kicked in, set to what looks like Charles Bands version of 2001’s slit scan photography.

“Help the Mandroid from the cage Takata.” How many times have we heard THAT before?

Mandroid looks like the love child of an old school Cylon and an HVAC surplus store.

Mad scientist Roy Dotrice as Reeves does his own electrolysis. But does he bill his insurance?

The Mandroid needs his “Mobile Unit?” Ohhh.

The Mandroid’s Mobile Unit kicks serious ass. It's got treads like a tank, that thing is amazing! Robocop needs to get him one a those for his new movie.

Why would the Mandroid EXIT Reeves' compound and THEN turn and scream out “Reeves!” How is he going to hear him?

Mandroid looks like he’s got a swamp cooler coming out of his back. That or a four-slice toaster.

This forest is filled with nothing but fog machines, spotlights and heartache.

DENISE CROSBY ALERT! Wait, she’s only 20-something and she’s a COLONEL? Of what?

Why does her buddy S.P.O.T. look almost exactly like V.I.N.CENT. from The Black Hole? Perhaps it has something to do with a purloined plastic model kit. And why does S.P.O.T. turn into an irritating ball of bouncing light?

Good thing Mandroid used the green sleep gas, like comics' Dr. Mid-Nite.

The Mandroid shops at Home Depot for all his black-tarp-as-coat needs.

That’s a lot of sparks, Mandroid better get MAACO.

First Mandroid, then Data, Denise Crosby must have a thing for cybermen.

“Seach Patrol and Operational Tactician.” Wait that spells….
Aww, little dude likes The Jetsons.

Andrew Prine is rockin’ that sleeveless army shirt. Not really. Dude’s spindly arms look like the average 10 year old kid’s legs.

Look out, it’s Rosie O’Donnell’s stunt double! Wearing plaid!

It’s “Rednecks on Mexican Waters!” Sounds like a new Disney ride.

Boat chases and explosions? Is this a Bond movie? No, not James Bond, Gomer Bond (his third cousin, twice removed).

Why is “Bayou Betty” boating around with a foppish French maitre d?

Little S.P.O.T. has a full Qwerty keyboard.

Why does Mandroid always sound like he has a mouth full of marbles and he’s speaking in slow motion? Even Stephen Hawking is easier to understand.

“Quo Vadis means “we kick ass”?” Must be a new translation.

This is a sci fi movie, so why all the unnecessary “Dukes of Hazzard on Water” stunts?

So that swamp cooler on Mandroid’s back is just some kind of mounting bracket for S.P.O.T?

All this tromping around over boulders and forest reminds me of Korg, 70,000 B.C. What?

Is this some kind of weird sci fi version of Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” with the long, slow boat trip up the river?

Mandroid and S.P.O.T. overboard! They’ll probably be swallowed by a giant anaconda or Jennifer Lopez (yes, that was redundant).

“John, oh my GAWD!” – suddenly Denise is Snooki from Jersey Shore.

It’s really nice to see old-fashioned hand drawn cell animated energy bolt things. (wipes away a tear)

Roy Dotrice really needs to learn to use a needle and thread better, because his facial scars are just getting nastier. (They look like one of those dotted line trails of Billy from Family Circus when he wanders to and fro.)

Mandy and S.P.O.T. walk and float, respectively, out of the water. Now S.P.O.T. is a big useless squirt gun (so much for the Super Soaker tie in).

CAVEMEN ARE ATTACKING DENISE CROSBY! And, wtf, Andrew Prine is somehow pulled underwater and captured in a giant homemade cage.

“Oh, hi, ninja” Mandroid doing a Tommy Wiseau impression to Kuji the Ninja as he ninja-squats near a fire.

I gotta ask: How many mad scientist’s Japanese assistants have ninja sons? I’m taking a poll for Gallup.

Since when do ninjas have mullets? That’s like number one on the ninja checklist: NO mullets.

I can’t tell if that’s a caveman or cavewoman. Since it’s got Betty White’s hairstyle I’m gonna go with cavewoman.

Ninja with nunchuks vs. cavepeople with spears. Care to wager on that outcome?

Mandroid’s feet have little boat motors in them? Was he built by Evinrude?

“We got robots, we got cave men, we got kung fu!” (Andrew Prine) – That should have been the tagline for the poster.

Mandroid hid his Mobile Unit by leaving it out in plain sight? Wile E. Coyote could have done a better job of hiding it.

LOOKOUT, IT’S MEGAFORCE MOTORCYCLE REJECTS! Their windshields are made of a kind of flyswatter-mesh material instead of plastic. That breaks so many automotive and mad scientist safety rules.

The Mobile Unit is toast! Because he tried to drive it up a boulder and it fell over? What an ignominious end.

The fat henchman who acts like a spazzy extra from The Fall Guy takes a tumble.

I can appreciate the fact these guys get into so much trouble, but I just wish any of it were the least bit interesting. It's like The Lord of the Rings: they're trying to get to a place to do a thing, and keep running into obstacles. But instead of orcs and Nazgul, the Eliminators run into fat guys, cavemen, and Mexican hench-hombres. It somehow lacks a certain zing.

Mandroid looks like he needs a cuddle with Denise Crosby. Heck, she once did it with Data, so we know she’s “into” machines.

S.P.O.T.’s back but the little iSHIT is possessed or something.

Strike the pose: Kuji the ninja is vogue-ing to avoid S.P.O.T.’s wee laser blasts.

Ninja sword to S.P.O.T.’s CPU! Go gently into that digital goodnight, sweet S.P.O.T.

They simply walk out of Backlit Forest right up to the mad scientist’s lair and no one notices.

You are shitting me! Kuji the ninja just JUMPED through the blades of a giant spinning fan. Is there nothing that a Supercuts' mullet won’t allow you to do?

Now they’re in Indiana Jones’ rumpus room with all the shiny idols and “fortune and glory.”

Roy Dotrice wants to go back in time and rule ancient Rome? “Hail Reeves” just doesn’t have the same ring as “Hail Caesar!”

This mad scientist has the worst dressed hench-people: it’s all faded denim and plaid and golf shirts. WHERE’S THE ONE PIECE SINGLE-COLORED DR. NO-APPROVED JUMPSUITS?

One well-thrown shuriken can sure mess up an ion disruptor cannon big time.

Does Roy Dotrice get paid for every time he utters the name “Mandroid?”

With his last Radio Shack transistor the Mandroid saves his friends. (sniff)

Reeve’s time machine looks like a giant prototype for a flux capacitor.

Andrew Prine just punched the mad scientist’s computer. Ah, the old days of vacuum tubes and do-it-yourself tech support.

Great Land of the Lost-type partial set and matte painting/miniature of the Silurian Era!

They freeze-frame on our heroes laughing at their victory a la Police Squad…and it’s over!

Eliminators was written by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, one of their first efforts for producer Charles Band. They went on to write, produce or direct such genre gems as The Flash tv show, The Rocketeer and The Sentinel. You can tell they were influenced by comic books, Star Wars and Steven Spielberg movies with the whole "lovable scoundrel teams up with a Ninja, a beautiful scientist, and a Cyborg" angle. But they simply didn't have a budget to do this justice. Three quarters of the movie seems to be the river boat trip and stomping around in the woods. It fills time but it's not a whole lot of fun. Of course if you had better actors, it might have been a different story.

Denise Crosby is all over the place; at times she's fine, then other times she gives a line delivery that makes you cringe. Roy Dotrice should have been in charge of set demolition with all the scenery he got to chew at the end as Reeves 2.0 the Superbot. Top-billed Andrew Prine acts like he's in an episode of a typical 80s tv show, like Dynasty or Hart to Hart; he's serviceable at best. And Patrick Reynolds as John the Mandroid had the hardest part in the movie, walking around in what must have been a very hot and confining costume. His performance was very wooden at the start (a mistake so many people playing androids or cyborgs seem to make), but he loosened up toward the end, only to have his character buy the digital farm. The less said about R2-D2-by-way-of-V.I.N.CENT. rip-off S.P.O.T. the better (for comic relief why do they always go with Smuf-cute instead of Bandit from Jonny Quest cute). As I said above, the Heart of Darkness parallel is quite evident, but it's also evident director Peter Manoogian just didn't have the inventiveness or creativity to do anything with it.

I would kill for an R/C miniature of the Mandroid and his Mobile Unit (you could probably cannibalize one of those Robocop figures to start with). Come on prop and model makers, get on that !!

Eliminators poster image Copyright its Respective Rights Holder. No infringement of those rights is intended with this review.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Stumble in the Jungle - Lost

Lost - "What Kate Does"

Geez, talk about a serious fumble. After a great, albeit somewhat confusing premiere last week, this latest episode is a long slow slog that doesn’t seem to do much (I know this is Lost, and appearances, and slow slogs, can be deceiving, but seriously, this one was irritating).

Sayid is alive again. Or is he? Is he Jacob? Or is he MIB? Or is he Dorothy from Kansas? Meanwhile in the alternate universe, Kate is on the run. Big effing surprise. Yes, that’s a theme for the character, but it’s grown tiresome to say the least. Kate even takes Claire to the home of the couple that’s supposed to adopt her baby. Most kidnappers would balk at that, but not Kate. And what does it say about pregnant Claire, who accepts a ride from Kate who, minutes earlier had abducted her at gunpoint. It makes Claire look like an Aussie idiot.

Meanwhile Jack is getting the usual Others' Bullshit Answers to Simple Questions ™. Jack is a board-certified spinal surgeon; a highly educated man. He should be screaming, Just give me a simple answer you douchebags! Stop talking around a subject. The Temple Others brought Sawyer to the Temple offscreen, but he breaks out, but the Temple Others say they "need him" and of course they do not say why. WHAT IS IT WITH THESE PEOPLE AND THEIR NON-ANSWERS?

I love Lost, but this crap bugs the shit out of me. At this point it appears they’re just rolling with whatever is thrown their way. Smoke monsters? Polar bears? 19th century slave ships in the middle of the jungle? 1970s era hippie scientists? Ancient Egyptian statues? A dude with great eyelashes who never ages? Time travel? An island that can be moved? Island wormholes to Tunisia and the Arctic? Age-less god-like figures who manipulate events? Nuclear bomb blasts to re-set the timeline? Sayid coming back to life? IT’S ALL GOOD, RIGHT? Whenever you ask anyone a straight question, they NEVER simply answer you. I wish someone would just speak like a normal person. "Come with us for this reason: (and they give the reason, not talk around it)." "You're important to us/your friends/the universe for this reason: (and they give the reason, and not talk around it)." I hate when they go to the trouble of making characters look, speak and act real, then pull horseshit like this. There is so much ridiculous secrecy that it's a wonder ANYTHING can get done!

This is the season where we finally get (some) answers. But this whole episode felt just like a big “wheel spinner” going nowhere. Ugh.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Game OVER

Gamer (2009)

Three minutes. That’s all it took. Three minutes into this movie and I knew I HATED this fucker.

Here’s why: it's loud, violent, spastic and stupid. Writer/directors Neveldine/Taylor are the Anti-Christs of Cinema (Michael Bay, you are off the hook, sir). Their entire movie output - Crank, Crank 2: High Voltage and now Gamer - are all loud, violent, spastic, stupid affairs. They specialize in viewer rape.

Neveldine/Taylor came out of music videos and they literally are now making 90 to 100 minute long music videos. The problem is you can take 3 ½ minutes of the usual music video nonsense of swooping, circling, diving, shaky camerawork and split-second editing (labeled appropriately enough by Roger Ebert as “baffling editing”) with no story, but 100 minutes is a fucking eternity. Especially when that “style” is coupled to their usual weak-ass writing, in this case a lazy rip-off of The Running Man and Death Race 2000, but without the flair and out-sized characters of the former and the satire and ingenuity of the latter. All funneled through a video game sensibility.

Gerard Butler is a convicted murderer and if he can make it through 30 episodes of the world’s most popular televised video game/reality show, Slayers, he wins his freedom. He and the other “contestants” are controlled by players unseen by them, so while it may seem like a very realistic video game to the players, the bullets are very real to Butler and the other game participants.

There is one decent idea buried under all the blood, gore and bullet cartridges. A new technology involving nanites, nanex, enables one person to literally control another. People pay to either control someone, or be controlled by someone. The latter is considered "acting." But if Butler's controller, Simon, is such a bad-ass gamer, how can Butler survive the game if he's not being controlled? There's no real distinction in personality or abilities between Butler as Tillman (his real name) and as Kable (his game avatar handle). If there's no distinction, then what's the point of rooting for him? This is in contrast to Butler's wife, Angie (Amber Valletta) who gets work as an actress in the second most popular video game, Society (sort of a real-life version of Second Life). She basically is a prostitute who is put through the motions by gamers, in particular a disgusting fat dude who makes Jabba the Hutt seem the model of cleanliness. What is the movie saying when a vile fat man controls a beautiful woman and makes her have sex with other men and experiences it himself? It really doesn't say anything, because it's too caught up in its silly Running Man game. Also that idea of a man experiencing what a woman feels was touched on by James Cameron in his screenplay for Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days. (Every movie Neveldine/Taylor rips off is a much better movie than Gamer.)

Michael C. Hall of Dexter fame plays the unscrupulous inventor of nanexes, a man named Castle. Hall is outstanding in this movie, much better than the crap around him. He even has a trippy song and dance number to a Sammy Davis Jr. song that is quite captivating. But soon enough we’re back to the bone crunching.

Neveldine/Taylor do their usual "anything goes" film-making approach. In other words looking cool takes precedence over making sense. The gamers don't see through the eyes of the players but always see them in front of them, as if the players are being filmed. The image often develops an electronic glitch for a second, even though NO CAMERAS are following the players. So only the movie viewer is seeing this glitch. AND WHY THE FUCK IS THAT? It doesn't serve to immerse me in the game. It's just an annoying "cool thing" that makes me think they watched Robocop (another strong influence/rip-off) the night before shooting.

There is absolutely no point to the game of Slayers, except to stay alive. The game terrain is uninvolving and unspectacular (much of it takes place in an industrial warehouse-type setting). They throw everything into the mix: an SUV set on fire, a helicopter, a motocross racer (complete with dirt mounds). None of this makes any sense and it isn't interesting in the least. James Cameron shot his future Los Angeles scenes at an abandoned steel mill, which is a much more visually interesting location than a trumped up warehouse. Butler has a pistol and a machine gun in the game and that's it. Shouldn't you be able to get more and better weapons as the game goes along? Stupid movies have a lot in common with organized religion: they simply expect you to swallow what's there and to NOT ask questions.

The action is so goddamn frenetic, with the editor cutting away so quickly and so often you never get a sense of where you are, or what is happening. That's called lazy film-making. Just imagine if Steven Spielberg had shot the D-Day sequence in Saving Private Ryan this way. If he had done so it would have watered down the scene so much that it would have lost its impact. Spielberg was able to convey the frenzy and terror of warfare without the bullshit camerawork and editing that is de rigueur now.

Neveldine/Taylor make B-movies. There’s nothing wrong with B-movies (Roger Corman’s entire career anyone?), but they seem to want to be Albert Pyun: The Next Generation, instead of doing anything truly noteworthy (see Neill Blomkamp’s revolutionary District 9 to see how you make an outstanding lower budgeted movie - it's about ideas, boys, and not just the roller blades).

The DVD Extras feature extensive interviews with the two of them. They seem like really nice guys. I love that one of them often shoots with a handheld camera while he’s on roller blades. That's fun creative thinking.

But I never want to see another fucking movie from these guys ever again.

Yo, Beam THIS

FilmJunk.com has a cool list of "Star Trek Inventions In Use Today."

After years of ridicule for being a Star Trek fan, it's official: THE ENTIRE WORLD OWES ITS CURRENT EXISTENCE TO STAR TREK.

Automatic doors. Biometric tech. Giant plasma screens. PDAs and tablet PCs. Communicators.

Star Trek either popularized it or was able to foresee/invent it.

Aight, now?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sticky Situation - Star Trek: The Tholian Web

Star Trek: TOS - "The Tholian Web"

The Enterprise goes nosing around one too many times, pisses off some gang bangers called the Tholians, and Kirk nearly gets his ass handed to him in another universe.

Also known as just another Wednesday afternoon in Starfleet!

Our heroes come across sistah ship the Intrepid, all pale green and glowing, looking like it was redecorated by Obi-Wan Kenobi after he moved in with the Force. This area of space is unstable (much like Amy Winehouse around a pub) and causes a kind of insanity in people (much like Mel Gibson around Jews). It's also "winking out" the Intrepid into another universe. Bummer!

Kirk, being all brave and stuff, gets caught on the other side and Spock, McCoy and the crew try to save him while keeping the area's true resident's, the Tholians, outta their space-hair. This puts Spock and McCoy at each other's throats (like Amy Winehouse around Mel Gibson).

They sacrifice a goat in engineering or something, and everyone is happy in the end. (Some of that may not be entirely true, except the happy ending part).

A better third season effort, once again boiling down to conflict between members of The Big Three, in this case Spock and McCoy. There's a great scene where they have to go to Kirk's quarters to listen to his last orders to them, which includes some much needed advice as well. And even though Kirk is physically not in this episode so much, his presence is felt, most especially by Spock and McCoy.

The Tholians are an interesting race, with their diamond-shaped ships and funky energy web. I haven't seen the Remastered version, but I wonder if we see the Enterprise from a distance totally encased in the web like a fly in amber (unlike the original version where they just animated some lines over stock shots of the Enterprise - you never got a sense the web was three dimensional). The Tholians appearance was also pretty ingenious, as you can see directly below. This beats TNG's usual alien-from-the-valley.

Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig got a little more to do in this story, with Uhura seeing the captain and Chekov going nutso. I think the only regular really slighted was George Takei, but at least he had a little "action beat" with his altercation with Chekov, so he wasn't just sitting in his chair staring at the viewer the whole episode.










Star Trek is Copyright 2010 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. No infringement of those rights is implied. Screencaps from Trekcore.com.

When Worlds Collide - Fringe

Fringe – “Jacksonville”

SPOILERS

When the ground trembles in Manhatan (that’s NOT a misprint; the teaser opens on the parallel Earth!), there’s more to fear than a mere earthquake. So much more.

Olivia Dunham and the Fringe Division are called to New York City in the middle of the night and are greeted by an incredible sight: objects and people are horribly fused together. It seems Newton from the other universe (the head that got a new body) is up to something and it involves bringing a building – and everything in it – from his universe into ours.

Walter Bishop theorizes that the universes must “balance out” as on a scale, therefore a Manhattan building from our side will be sucked over into the other universe in less than a day.

Now a race is on as Walter tries to re-trigger in Olivia the ability she exhibited as a child during Walter’s and William Bell’s experiments on her: the ability to “see” objects from the other side.

A flat-out terrific episode. I love the parallel universe stories; they are what really set this series apart from The X-Files. Olivia is put through the wringer and Anna Torv shines. She has such subtle facial expressions, which serve her well in this story as she’s made to dredge up her feelings as a young child being experimented on by Bishop Sr. and Bell. And she makes it clear to Walter (John Noble) she does not agree with him on what he did to her and other children. Her anger is palpable, and a definite change for the character. (To make matters worse, Olivia has no real memories of the experiments, but she has the proof of Walter’s videotapes, so to see this being done to her but not remember must be a most disconcerting feeling.) I hope they keep an undercurrent of it between Olivia and Walter and not simply let it fizzle out over time (she may forgive him one day, just not too soon).

I like how they are differentiating the parallel universe with our's. In the teaser, we learn that coffee is a rare commodity (possibly global warming is worse over there). The terrorist attacks of 9-11 succeeded in hitting only the Pentagon and the White House (we know from an earlier episode that the Twin Towers are still standing). And President Nixon apparently did not resign in disgrace as his face is minted on a silver dollar.

Peter (Joshua Jackson) and Olivia share an all too rare moment of lightness in the opener as she rousts the Bishops in the middle of the night to investigate the incident in Manhattan. Their joking was fun and flirty, capped off later by a near-kiss (shades of Mulder and Scully!) just before Olivia is able to spot which building is due to be taken into the other universe. Astrid (Jasika Nicole) has a nice moment when he lifts the sheet covering a dead body only to find two people fused together: one body with eight limbs and a second head in the torso. She's seen and handled a lot of weird and strange things as she's assisted Walter, but this is just TOO weird and strange, and she asks to be let out of this autopsy.

I was so caught up in the prospect of an old-fashioned upbeat ending with Peter and Olivia going for drinks (OMG, I think I’m a Peter/Olivia ‘shipper!) that I forgot for a second which show I was watching. The episode’s writers Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz quickly brought me back down to earth. When Peter lets Olivia in to the Bishop residence, Olivia stops for a second and stares oddly at Peter. Walter quickly comes over and pleads with her, “please don’t tell him.” Olivia is able to see a “shimmer” around objects that are from the other universe. She sees this same shimmer around Peter, and the look of shock and surprise on her face is so moving.

I cannot wait to see how this plays out! Bravo, Fringe folks.

Friday, February 5, 2010

JSA: Just Stay Away - Smallville: Absolute Justice

Smallville – “Absolute Justice”

I waited all this time for this? Months of hype. Cool trailers and pics. This Smallville “movie event” was absolutely DULLSVILLE.

First of all, Smallville "jumped the shark/kryptonite tank" at least four if not five years ago. Series star Tom Welling, playing "young" Clark Kent is starting to look OLD (he’s 33 this year). At this rate Clark will be over 40 by the time he puts on the red and blue tights. Is that what you want Smallville fans?

The CW network appears to be using Smallville as a testing ground for possible superhero spinoffs. They can essentially do a pilot as an episode or two of Smallville to gauge interest; that way they can save some serious money. Either that or they’re simply trying to bring every DC Comics character to the small screen.

In this story someone is killing off people with mysterious, and linked, pasts. We see these people – Wesley Dodds, Sylvester Pemberton, Carter Hall, and others – in black and white flashbacks. It turns out that Dodds and the others once went by different names: Sandman, Star Spangled Kid, Hawkman. And they all came together a generation ago to form the Justice Society of America (comics first superhero team). Just how long ago it was this happened is kept vague. But it has to be long enough for EVERYONE to forget they ever existed. So let’s charitably call it 30 years. However none of them looks older than 45, so they must have been the JST: Justice Society of Toddlers.

The superhuman killer uses ice spears to kill his victims; he is called – get this – Icicle. That is truly one of the lamest super-villain names ever (it sounds like the name of Santa's elf sidekicks). And the actor who plays him, Wesley MacInnes, comes across as a snot-nosed punk. And he's got a faux-hawk, which is the new mullet. Plus he seems to just appear and disappear at will. I guess cold gives him the ability to teleport?

There’s a ton of eye candy in this story, courtesy of writer Geoff Johns and the prop department. In a trophy case in the JSA’s mansion you can see original Flash Jay Garrick’s “FTD florist” helmet, Green Lantern’s lantern, Shayera’s Hawkgirl helmet, and other mementos for Mr. Terrific, Wildcat and more.

Hawkman is played by Stargate’s Michael Shanks and when he dons the helmet he does a poor Christian Bale "Batman voice" imitation for some reason. It was really silly. Dr. Fate is played by Andromeda’s Brent Stait and he comes across much better, although I wish they didn’t alter his voice so much when he wears the helmet. And rounding out these retro heroes is Brittney Irvin as Stargirl (Star Spangled Kid, version 2.0). She fits the part, with her blond all-American girl cheerleader looks, but as with a lot of Smallville's guest cast choices she's not a very good actress.

It turns out Popsicle Boy (there’s a name!) was being used by Amanda Waller (Pam Grier, looking old and confused about being in a superhero show), the head of a shady group called Checkmate. She wants to bring back the superheroes because there’s an apocalypse on the horizon. Or something.

I hate that this two-parter was just basically a set up for something else. Clark Kent was a bystander in the whole thing, not being necessary to this story one iota. Lois pops in late for some reason and gets the scoop on the JSA (mostly off camera). Chloe and Oliver do their Chloe and Oliver thing.

I just felt the storytelling was rushed and muddled. It was all about the JSA and not the Smallville regulars. It truly was a JSA pilot episode. There were a few cute bits, like Hawkman and Green Arrow getting on each other’s nerves (name calling and acting like 12 year olds being a superhero team-up tradition). Lois meets Dr. Fate and tells him, “Nice helmet.” “Thanks,” Fate quickly responds. Early on there were some Super-Friends jokes too. But there wasn’t much more to this episode.

There was no true sense of wonder to be had in the whole two hours; early episodes of Smallville were able to accomplish this. It all seemed like a response to cash in on the retro-heroes seen in the Watchmen movie; the opening credits of that film was heralded by everyone, regardless of how they viewed the movie itself. The Incredibles also did the "government hunted us old heroes out of existence" story as well, so there was no new ground covered in "Absolute Justice."

And I’m tired of characters TELLING Clark he’s "going to be something special one day," that he's "going to be a leader," that he’s "going to inspire people." One day, some day, schum day. Smallville is in its NINTH season and Clark is still LEARNING to be a hero and BEING TOLD he will become a symbol and inspiration. It makes you wonder what kind of education system Smallville and Metropolis have if Clark is so damn slow on the uptake. It really tarnishes the character of Superman to drag it out so incredibly long. (Not to mention Lois constantly sees Clark without glasses, so that little fairy tale device of not recognizing him as Superman has been effectively neutered.)

Smallville needs to spin off some superheroes, Clark Kent needs to become Superman. And the show needs to end. SOON.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

'Cuse me while I touch the sky

Star Trek TOS - "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky"

Lovable, irascible Dr. McCoy comes down with a serious case of the Swine Trek Flu and doesn't have long to live. After the Enterprise stumbles upon the descendants of the Fabrini, a people with an eye-blinding fashion sense that could charitably be called "Space Plaid" (seriously, look at that first picture), McCoy falls in love with the resident priestess Natira and decides to live out the remainder of his life with the Technicolor Tribe on their planetoid Yo'Mama (or as they call it, Yonada).

If that wasn't enough drama for you, Yonada is headed on a collision course with a planet; it will impact and BLOWED UP GOOD in about a year. McCoy asks if ANYTHING else could possibly go worng, like, could he also be kicked in the ass and set on fire before he buys the farm?

In between arguing over who gets Bones's CD collection when he's gone (his Mel Tillis albums were required listening at Starfleet Medical Academy and Charm School), Kirk and Spock figure out that the planetoid has a super AI that controls its rocket engines. So after some getting zapped and tortured, they overload the computer with double-talk and what-not and get the big rock to alter course. NOW IT'S HEADED STRAIGHT FOR THE SUN! Just kidding.

McCoy is lucky the Febreze were very good at medicine as well as smelling spring fresh, so he gets his xenawarriorprincess disease ("xenopolycythemia" - I was close) cured and returns to the Enterprise. Kirk promises the Enterprise will return to Yo'Mama in a year so Dr. McCoy can visit with the new "Mrs. McCoy." And have that Fabrini honeymoon with her and her two hott younger sisters, as is Fabrini tradition.

Gotta respect tradition, knowwhutImean?

Like most third season episodes a lot of goofy stuff mixed in with some good stuff. The interplay between Kirk, Spock and McCoy is what makes this one watchable, especially Spock's treatment of the dying McCoy.

Too bad the Fabrini men's costumes are among the worst ever for the series. Natira's costume is a slinky little number that almost balances things out. Almost.

The Fabrinis have the coolest "doors" on the planet surface where the entire cylindrical covering lifts up. Totally impractical, but neat nevertheless.

Here's some wacky trivia for you: actress Katherine Woodville who played the pristess Natira was married to Patrick Macnee (of The Avengers fame) and Edward Albert (son of Eddie Albert of Green Acres). Not at the same time of course - Fabrini rules, you know.





Star Trek is Copyright 2010 and a Registered Trademark of CBS Studios, Inc. Campbell's Soup Copyright CSC Brands LP. Andy Warhol's original Campbell's Soup painting copyright its Respective Rights Holder. No infringement of any of these rights is implied with this parody/review.

The Museum is Open to Wonders

A neat little blog I've never heard of called, The Museum of Supernatural History, has been optioned by Dreamworks for a feature film.

It's all in this piece by The Hollywood Reporter, brought to our attention by friend of the blog, MT. Producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald say the story would "center on the curator of a covert organization known as the Museum of SuperNatural History who must seek out and protect the world's best-kept secrets."

Sounds a bit like the comic book Planetary mixed with Syfy's Warehouse 13. Parkes and MacDonald produced the Men in Black movies, the Antonio Banderas Zorro films, the American remake of The Ring and Sweeney Todd, so it should be fun.

Congrats to the current curator of the museum, blogger Ernest Lupinacci!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Spider-Soldier

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) device to one day give soldiers Spider-Man's wall-crawling abilities. It's all in this Wired article.

No word yet on a "spider-sense" ability, but it's probably in the works.

Marvel and DC Comics should give DARPA a life-long subscription to all their titles. You know, for research purposes.

Would you like a final treatment - Dollhouse series finale

Dollhouse – Epitaph Two

SPOILERS

The Dollhouse series finale last Friday was a strange affair. I’ve stuck with the series until the end, enough though I was not a big fan at the very beginning. And just as the show was really getting good Fox pulled the plug.

I still have not seen Epitaph One, the first season DVD set exclusive, so I was a little confused by the events of its sequel. I think my unease was also due to this episode’s faceless villain (we do see Harding in someone else’s body for a brief sequence). In the run up to this episode it was revealed that Boyd was actually the man behind the Rossum Corporation. I think I was still reeling from that information; plus, it was kind of hard to swallow.

With Boyd (Harry Lennix) out of the way, the Dollhouse gang in the future of 2020 was fighting mostly Mad Max rejects and nameless extras at that. There’s not a lot of food and water in the future but apparently everyone has a working machine gun and lots of ammo. We see Priya (Dichen Lachman) has made a life for herself and her son T in the hills away from the madness of the world. Anthony (Enver Gjokaj), who still uses his Active architecture to upload special skills from a weird iPod-like thing rolls up in his Road Warrior wheels and finally gets introduced to his son.

The gang led by Echo (Eliza Dushku) makes their way back to their old L.A. HQ. In the process Ballard (Tamoh Penikett) is killed in a manner even worse than the deaths of Wash and Book in Serenity: he takes a stray bullet to the head and dies instantly. Topher (Fran Kranz), who is mostly withdrawn in this episode, goes up to Adelle's old office and sacrifices himself while detonating his explosive EMP mind-fixer-upper (everyone in the world will revert to their original personalities). In his last split second of life, the old Topher peeks through as he stares at the photos on the wall and mutters, "Huh." Echo stays safely underground so she is not hit by the mind eraser-blast and now the world can finally wake up from its living nightmare.

Topher leaves Echo with one last imprint wedge, that of Ballard. Even though she lost him in real life she will now always have him literally in her mind. The last scene is of her lying down in her doll’s pod for the night, happy for the first time and looking forward to dreaming.

Along the way we get to see fan favorite Felicia Day again, as Mag, an Actual and one of the future freedom fighters alongside her friend Zone (Zack Ward). In their care is young Iris (Adair Tishler) who now has Caroline imprinted on her. (I’d like to a see an org chart showing who has been imprinted with whom. Or maybe not.)

There was a bittersweet quality to this final episode. (Are final episodes of beloved series anything other than bittersweet?) Like the series Lost, I think each episode should be viewed more than once, although I did not have that opportunity here, which contributes to that melancholy feeling. There were a lot of twists and turns in Dollhouse (A LOT); several were pushed or amp up by the need to properly end the series and not leave things dangling. As interesting as the storytelling was, once again in a Joss Whedon show it was the characters that really made it a must-watch thing: Topher (perhaps my favorite), Adelle de Witt, Victor and Sierra, Boyd, Ivy, Bennett and of course Echo. I've been really hard on series lead Eliza Dusku - I'm sorry but the first half of season one was pretty bad - but as the material got better she really stepped up her game and her performance greatly improved. You watched Dushku for her acting and not the tight tank tops. (But you still checked out the tight tank tops. I mean, come on, really.)

I think the Fox Network really dropped the ball on this one, seriously messing with creator Joss Whedon’s intended storyline to great effect at the very start of the series. It only got any real footing when it moved away from the poor stand alone episodes (that Charlie’s Angels one with the diva just kills me) and into the mythology arcs, exploring the themes of identity, property, choice, slavery. Imagine if Lost had been forced to do pedestrian episodes from the beginning. I don’t believe we’d have made it to this final mind-boggling season.

One day I hope to sit down and watch both seasons of Dollhouse (even the Charlie’s Angels one) on DVD and really immerse myself in this world and these fascinating characters. And I will be sure to stock my drawer of inappropriate starches beforehand.

Lost: Final Season Premiere is Complicated to Say the Least

Lost – Season Six Premiere – “LA X”

BE YE WARNED: SPOILERS

That was some crazy shit, wasn’t it?

The writers are seriously letting their freak flag fly as they start their final run of episodes.

I’ve watched this show from the beginning and immediately fell in love with the characters (the acting ensemble was one of the best ever assembled for a show). Then the weird stuff started happening: crazy transmissions that had been broadcasting for 16 years, polar bear attacks on a tropical island, the hatch, the Others, the numbers, the Dharma Initiative, a cripple walking again, and a giant smoke monster. And that was all before they embraced time travel and started messing with our heads that way.

Now, John Locke is dead and he’s been replaced by Someone Else. This other-Locke goaded Ben into killing the mysterious, ageless Jacob, leader of the Others. Jack’s plan to detonate the atomic device in 1977 to change history and make sure Oceanic 815 never crashes into the island…worked.

The premiere had a great opening scene onboard Oceanic 815 at the moment just before the plane is torn apart. We see the same turbulence rock the plane for a moment, then it’s over and the plane continues on its way. The camera pushes through Jack’s window and dives into the ocean, racing along the floor until we see familiar landmarks, like the Others homes; it comes to a stop at the base of the four-toes Egyptian statue, with a shark swimming nearby.

From there it gets weird as we follow two timelines: one after Oceanic 815 touches down at LAX and another on the island as we follow our heroes – Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Juliet, Hugo, Jin, Miles and Sayid – who are at the hatch but now in the present day.

I must say I wasn’t as impressed with the LAX scenes, except for one: when Jack and Locke meet at one of the Oceanic offices after Locke’s big box of knives goes missing and so does Jack’s dad’s coffin. Their brief exchange was so much more memorable and interesting than Kate’s newest attempt to escape from her marshal. We’ve seen Jack and Locke butt heads over and over in the previous seasons and here they had a civil chat, with Jack, a spinal surgeon, even offering Locke, who says his condition is irreversible, a free consult.

The story on the island was full of surprises and twists. They rescue Juliet at the bottom of the hatch, only to have her die in Sawyer’s arms; he vows to kill Jack over her death. Hurley gets a visit from the now-dead Jacob who tells him they can save Sayid, who took a bullet in the previous episode, by taking him to the temple. Jin knows the way. Once they get there they find a band of Others, lead by a no-nonsense Japanese man. They take Sayid to a special pool that is supposed to have healing properties, but appears to be on the fritz. They put Sayid in the pool and drown him. Our Iraqi interrogator is now dead, despite Jack’s attempt to revive him.

Meanwhile, at the temple of the big statue, other-Locke shows Ben his true nature when Jacob’s bodyguards enter the temple looking for Jacob and other-Locke turns into the smoke monster and kills the men. Other-Locke beats up Richard and carries him away at the end, telling those assembled, including Sun and Frank (Yunjin Kim and Jeff Fahey) that he wants only one thing: to go home.

Then Sayid sits up, alive. Or is he now Jacob?

See, didn’t I tell you, some crazy stuff.

Along the way we get to see some old familiar faces, with Boone, Desmond and even Claire showing up. Why couldn't Vincent have been running around baggage claim, tail wagging?

I felt sad for Naveen Andrews as Sayid was unconscious the whole two hours and didn’t say anything until the last moment. I think they will make up for that next week. They really need to start explaining the whole Jacob (Mark Pelligrino) and his rival (played briefly by Titus Welliver last season). When other-Locke walks up to Richard (Nestor Carbonell), Richard cries out, “You!” WHO TALKS LIKE THAT EXCEPT IN A COMIC BOOK? I bet that was your doing comic book fan and episode co-writer Damon Lindelof.

Evangeline Lilly’s Kate looks exhausted all the time. In interviews Lilly’s said she wants to quit acting. I hope she keeps it together this last season and really delivers the goods as her early work in the show was quite moving. I like that Sawyer (Josh Holloway) has a new reason to hate Jack (Matthew Fox) with Juliet’s (Elizabeth Mitchell) death.

I wonder what being the leader and making the hard decisions will ultimately do to Jack. Will the man of science ever have some faith?

With all the sci fi stuff, I wonder if they will explain Miles (Ken Leung) and Hurley’s (Jorge Garcia) abilities to hear and speak with the dead. Or what, exactly, Jacob – who seems to get around in time - and his rival truly are. My money’s on not, at least not big chunks of it. But it should be great fun getting to the end.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

More Sigh at their Fy

Syfy announced they are re-imagining classic fairy tales for their Saturday night line up of original movies.

From their website here is the preliminary development slate for the new line of Syfy Original Movies:

Red -- A young woman who is a descendant of the real Little Red Riding Hood brings her fiancé home, where he meets the family and learns about their business - hunting werewolves. He's skeptical until bitten by a werewolf. When her family insists he must be killed, Red tries saving him.

Hansel -- Twenty years after his encounter with the witch, a grown-up Hansel returns to the haunted forest, seeking revenge. But there's a surprise waiting - his sister Gretel (who he thought had been killed) is the witch's protégée.

8TH Voyage of Sinbad -- Sinbad searches for the golden head of the long lost Colossus of Rhodes and, instead, discovers an island where the mythical Minotaur still rules, protecting a vast treasure. Sinbad and his crew have to battle the creature and its minions to get the treasure and save their own lives.

Aladdin (working title) -- After accidentally releasing an evil genie from an ancient lamp, Aladdin must find a way to imprison the genie again before it wreaks havoc on the world.

Black Forest -- A group of naïve tourists take a sightseeing tour into a supposed enchanted forest, where they encounter evil creatures from the world of fantasy. Trapped in the Black Forest, their only hope of survival is fighting their way out.

Kicking things off is their new Beauty and the Beast movie starring Estella Warren (Planet of the Apes) and Rhett Gilles (Wraiths of Roanoke). Syfy's description: "In this gritty celebration of Valentine's Day, a young Beauty with a gift for healing helps a deformed Prince regain his throne and defeat the ruthless nobleman who wants to be king -- and then together they try to destroy a power-hungry witch. Beauty and the Beast was directed by David Lister and written by Gavin Scott."

Notice anything? Not one of these movies has a science fiction angle. They're either horror or fantasy. I can see something like Red with its werewolf idea occassionally slipping in, BUT ALL OF THEM BEING HORROR OR FANTASY? NO, SYFY, THAT'S NOT RIGHT.

Perhaps you should change your name to the Horror Fantasy channel (HoFa), then you could just dabble in sci fi movies. Yes, I realize you have several sci fi tv shows in your line up - you ARE the Syfy channel, are you not? But to have not a one of your new original movies be science fiction in even the most remote way is pretty sad, you must admit.

While Disney's Treasure Planet wasn't a box office hit, and it's not a fairy tale, it was a solid adventure movie that proved you could take a story set in one world (and filmed many times in that period setting) and successfully transplant it to a science fiction milieu. Same thing with the sci fi classic Forbidden Planet, which was Shakespeare's The Tempest set on an alien world. Although it too is not a fairy tale its tale of a sorceror and magic was also successfully retold in sci fi terms.

Did no one think of the "Pinocchio as android" angle? Come on, that's an easy one. Almost as easy as Red Riding Hood versus the Werewolf.

ps: Hey, Syfy, the acclaimed 2009 low budget science fiction movie Sleep Dealer was made for roughly $2 million. Look at what a passionate filmmaker is able to do versus your corporate cookie cutter movies. Inventive sci fi movies like Sleep Dealer, REC and, to go back a few years, Pi ($60,000) are what you should be seeking out for your schedule. (There is a place for hilarious fantasy crap like Thor: Hammer of the Gods, and it's in a MST3K reboot or a Rifftrax/Cinematic Titanic show.) Remember your slogan: IMAGINE GREATER.