Thursday, June 30, 2005

Spielberg creates a near perfect “ride” in War of the Worlds

Last night I saw Steven Spielberg’s latest film War of the Worlds.

It is a pity that the film was released by Paramount studios, and not by Universal, because the film would have made for a perfect addition to their theme park attractions.

I’ll begin by saying this. While I was watching War of the Worlds, I was absolutely, positively enraptured. I was completely caught up in the intensity of the moments on screen, and constantly being wowed by the visuals unfolding before my eyes. I was familiar with the story and had a general idea about what was going to happen, but nevertheless I was on the edge of my seat.

It was an incredible movie going experience.

But after sitting through the credits, as I began to listen to my friends critique the movie’s every nerve, and compare it to previous works that Spielberg has made over the years, I found myself doing a little re-evaluating of my own. Was War of the Worlds as emotionally complex and thematically layered as some of Spielberg’s pervious works? Did the film meet its own potential? And if it was just pure summer popcorn distraction, is that ok?

The Story & Characters

I have to confess when the movie began, I was not really buying Tom Cruise, as your average blue collar worker, on the job moving freight on the docks of Newark New Jersey. Cruise, in his perfectly fitted Diesel jeans, fashionable leather jacket and handsomely stylish hair was bugging me. From a strict career standpoint, I have always thought that Cruise has made interesting choices, and given solidly good performances. No matter what the pundits might say when learning he has been cast in another unusual role (be it that of a vampire or a hitman) Cruise always seems to prove them wrong and show that he is up to task.

But for the first ten to fifteen minutes or so, when Cruise, as Ray Ferrier, was on the docks, and then paling it up with his working class, mixed ethnicity buds, I was not sold. Cruise was too good looking, too polished, too well dressed. He stuck out like a sore thumb between the mechanic, and the bilingual neighbor. I could almost catch a glimpse of his publicist standing off to the side of the camera on set, yelling at hair and make-up to make sure his hair had enough product, and his backside was shot at a flattering angle. {Also I didn’t really see how a guy like him and his x-wife (played by Miranda Otto), a woman of privileged Boston Brahmin origins ended up together in marriage and having two kids. A summer fling maybe, but several years together? I don’t think so.}

But then, as he usually does, Cruise redeemed himself. I thought his interaction with the kids was great, and they all had good chemistry together. Spielberg has always been a master at setting up family dynamics really well, and developing these relationships in small, little throw away moments.

I do however believe, that Cruises’ success with the role, had to do with the fact that after the first twenty minutes or so, his scenes were predominantly with just his two kids, and he didn’t have much one on one interaction with anyone else except for Tim Robbins’ character Ogilvy. The man can act, there’s no doubt about that, he knows how to convey emotion in a wide range of subtleties and dramatics. By the end of the movie I didn’t have many complaints, but I do think that the movie might have struck me more if Spielberg had cast someone who naturally felt more like an everyman.

Tom Cruise plays Ray Ferrier, a man who has somewhat shirked his duties as a father to his children, until the World is turned on his head, and he has no choice put to become the parent he’s never been. Robbie, played by Justin Chatwin, is Ray’s ornery teenage son, and Rachel, played by Dakota Fanning, is his precociously bright and emotionally perceptive ten year old daughter. Justin Chatwin did a fine job with his role, and I was actually surprised to learn he is in his early 20’s because he channeled a 15/16 year old so well. Also I would say this is one of my more favorite Dakota Fanning outings. I normally find her obnoxious and scary, but for the first time I noticed that she has grown into herself a bit, and her smart quips don’t seem as forced or creepy at age ten, as they did when she was seven.

It is clear at the beginning of the film that Ray neither knew how, nor particularly cared about learning how to care properly for his kids. He is casually dismissive about what his children might need or want, and seems eager to get back to flying solo. While the surface story of the film is about aliens attacking the earth and decimating everything in sight, the emotional stakes are about a man trying to redeem himself as a father.

There was an article in USA Today that was posted a couple days ago about Spielberg and the way he’s incorporated “family values” into his film making.

When asked about Close Encounters of a Third Kind, Spielberg was quoted as saying:

“I’ve grown up a lot. I wasn’t a dad when I was 27, 28 years old and made that movie. I’m a father now. It’s very easy to have somebody leave his family to get on a mother ship when you’re not a father yourself. ….I would never have made that film after having children.”

And War of the Worlds really is all about what being a father and parent is. Ray Ferrier must not only protect his children from the dangers of the external attacking forces, he must also shield them from the ugliness of humanity as it bares its teeth struggling for survival. In particular, Rachel, has a couple of amazing moments where she does not understand why people are behaving the way they are. I really liked the scene where the Ferrier family is in the minivan and they are approaching the ferry. The closer they get to the boat, the more difficult it becomes to push through the tremendous mob of people that is desperate to get into their car and away to safety.

Rachel does not understand why people would want to attack their car, nor why it is that her father can’t let a few folks in to give them a ride. The whole sequence where Ray has to pull out a gun, in front of his kids, and fight with the others around him really hit home with me. He doesn’t want his kids to see that he is capable of this violence, yet he must do anything he can to protect them. The idea of wanting to preserve a gentle image of oneself to one’s child is one I found to be both touching and intriguing.

While the theme of protecting innocence ran between Ray’s relationship with Rachel, his relationship with his son Robbie, was about recognizing that his child, was really no longer a child. When his family is put into sudden and catastrophic danger, Ray only desires to foster and protect his children. But he has been absent for so long that he doesn’t quite realize that Robbie has already grown up. As much as Ray needs Robbie to need him, he eventually comes to realize that his son has not only grown up to be a young man, but that he is a brave and capable young man. I thought the moment when Ray looks on at Robbie helping others onto the ferry was really neat.

While I think that Spielberg was trying to make a point about parents letting go of their children, his choice to end the film in the way he did can be debated. Ray is forced to let Robbie go during a military battle with the aliens, because if he does not, he will loose Rachel. At this moment Ray must concede that Robbie is more capable to take care of himself than Rachel is, and this is a very wrenching moment for him because he has to choose between his children. At the end of the movie, Robbie comes running out of his grandparent’s house in Boston, and shares a poignant moment with his father. Ray realizes he ultimately made the right choice in letting Robbie go. Robbie apologizes for running away, and Ray is overwhelmed, not only by the fact that Robbie is still alive, but also with a sense of pride at the fact that his son was capable and able to survive on his own. It is the same sort of pride that Ray got on the ferry when he got a glimpse of the man that Robbie was becoming, as he helped people on board.

But what if Robbie hadn’t come out of the grandparent’s house? What if he had died, or gone missing? In making this neatly sewn fable of the paternal journey, Spielberg chooses to go an incredibly optimistic route. The truth of the matter is, sometimes we let people go and they do not come back, sometimes fathers do just disappear into space, and sometimes you can’t save everyone that you love, no matter how much you might want to.

I cry at the end of Close Encounters every single time I see it. There is something so heart breaking, yet so moving about the fact that Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) gets on that space ship. It is about the fact that there might be something bigger than the life that he has known or the people and family that he loved. That film is about having to make the decision to choose one’s own personal journey above anyone elses’, even if the consequences are painful. Now maybe that’s a selfish and egocentric way of looking at things, and maybe I just feel this way because I’m not a parent, but nevertheless it strikes me as being very real.

I recognize and appreciate the paternal themes woven through War of the Worlds, but I think they could have been given a little more depth of flavor, if there had been more bitterness in the recipe. Things do happen a bit too easily for Ray.

One of the most unsettling moments of the film for me was when Ray comes to the realization that he is going to have to kill Ogilvy in that basement if he is to keep himself and his daughter alive. He must become this murderous savage person, no better than one of the aliens while she is but a few meters away. I loved the fact that you did not see Ray commit the act and experienced the whole thing from Rachel’s perspective. And yet, there was no further fall out of this moment, no dialogue, no fear or questioning from Rachel after it happened. It was just accepted, and then after that crushing moment, they went back to business as usual, “time to run from aliens”. I think the film could have had some higher emotional stakes if I had believed Ray was under threat of actually loosing something. Sure, Rachel lost her innocence, and Robbie completed the loss of his boyhood, but what did Ray loose? Maybe he appeared a little meaner and scarier in the eyes of his kids, but he also gained more of their admiration, trust and love. Since he didn’t really loose Robbie, I think I would have liked to see him walk off into the sunset to reprise his life as a loner, once it was clear the world was not coming to an end.

Aliens, Sights & Sounds

From a visceral perspective, I was completely blown away by this movie. From the instant the lightning started to strike out of the swirling grey clouded skies, I found myself completely riveted by the images on screen. That first major action sequence where the tripod breaks out of the pavement was unbelievable. I thought the design of the tripods were tremendous. They felt like a perfect mixture of antiquated throwback sci-fi designs from the 30’s and 40’s, with a modern twist; they were reminiscent while being original. I thought the images of the clothing of the incinerated people blowing through the air after the first attack, were both bone-chilling and striking. Spielberg’s camera choices during this intense set-piece were terrific, and I enjoyed watching him zoom around from angle to reflective perspective, including a neat shot of watching the tripod move through the screen of a handheld video camera that had been abandoned.

I thought all the sound design for the aliens and their contraptions was perfectly fitting. It wasn’t quite like anything you’ve heard before, though the groans had notes of familiarity to them. I like the fact that these monstrous metal contraptions made semi-organic noises.

When Ray and the kids are on the ferry, and that giant tripod comes out of the water, I was simply beside myself. I was taken completely by surprise, and the appearance and sounds of the alien contraption were terrifying: it was like a giant squid rising out of the depths staring at everyone with its glowing mechanical eye. The shots of the people swimming underwater were fantastic and horrible at the same time. The surreal shade of aquamarine and the light flooding through the water was ethereal, but the images of the tentacles reaching for victims was gruesome.

I thought the giant tentacle and eye that poked through the basement when Ray and Rachel were hiding with Ogilvy, was terrifying. I thought the simple metal pipe, with the computerized eye, and the glowing light of its electronics seeping through its seams created a great image.

As for the aliens themselves, I hadn’t been expecting to get as good a look at them as we did. The bodies of the aliens were fairly anthropomorphic, though they were webbed and slimy and had spindly spidery limbs. I thought their heads were a little bit too derivative of the elongated black skulls of the queens in the Alien films. But I think it was their eyes that really got me, large flat reflective discs, cold and without life, it gave the aliens a insect like quality that generated goose bumps. I guess for how original I thought the tripods looked, I thought the aliens could have been a little more unique.

I thought a lot of the concepts behind the aliens were both fascinating and eerie. The idea that this civilization had buried these tripods years and years before man was excavating and building upon the planet was very intriguing. I liked the idea that the invasion had been in the making for years and years, and that it was all part of a master plan, a portion of which incidentally involved exterminating humans. Also the methodology by which the aliens were spreading their life on the planet with their red weeds was horrifying. To watch the aliens eviscerating humans, spraying their blood everywhere, followed by the plague of bloody alien veins that flourished on every surface it touched, was captivating and blood curdling all at the same time.


I’ve had a really difficult time evaluating The War of the Worlds. It’s no secret that I am an enormous Spielberg fan. I grew up watching many of his films, and consider many of them to be some of the best films around. I think in the past, Spielberg has done so well with science fiction, because he has been able to use this larger genre framework to fit in his own ideals about family, individuality, fear, life and so forth. I never really think of any of his big blockbusters, as just being “fun, enjoyable” films. For me there is always a deeper emotional core, a sense that I have witnessed a tremendous journey. I think the closest that Spielberg has ever gotten to pure unadulterated escapism are the Indiana Jones films. Now I think those movies are unbelievable, but as a character, Indy is more of a constant. He is a bastion of justice and good that shoves off the forces of evil and corruption. Sure there are some socio-political themes running through the first and second, but really it’s only in the third film, The Last Crusade, where Indy has any real emotional stakes, which occurs because his father becomes involved. You were always rooting for Indy and his sidekicks the whole way, but you always knew he was going to make it, and even if the cute girl died, you knew he’d get a new one. The Indy movies are just pure action adventure fun at their best.

I think the difference with War of the Worlds, is that since it is much darker than the Indy films, and is dealt with in much more dramatic tones, people naturally expect deeper emotional storylines and involvement. To me, War of the Worlds was really like the perfect ride at a Universal Studios Theme Park. I got caught up in the apprehension and the fear of the moment. I was taken by surprise and wowed by what I was seeing. I felt exhilarated at the sheer sensation of being transported somewhere else. I was scared, and worried and shocked, and enjoyed every moment of each feeling. But if I am honest with myself, I also realize that after I walked out of the theatre, and the after glow of the fun wears off, there is not much else left. I certainly have the feeling that I was witness to a great spectacle, but I do not feel as emotionally moved as I have after many other Spielberg movies.

And I find myself once again asking myself the question, does it matter? It is ok that Spielberg just made a really entertaining summer movie that was maybe a little too simple and singular in its thematic focus? Certainly his skill shows through, and his natural ability for film making and story telling make his popcorn endeavor better than many “serious” films by other directors. I find myself wanting to lavish praise upon praise on this film, because I had such a good time while watching it, and because I love Spielberg so much. But there is a nagging sensation inside me that realizes it could have been more than what it was. One part of me is aware it lacked the complexity of many of his other movies and the other part simply does not care.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Batman Begins, The 2nd time around

I’d like to take a brief moment, and say a few more words about Batman Begins.

What with the new Kong trailer and WOTW opening, I have forgotten to mention that I went to see Batman for the second time this past Friday.

I do indeed have a few concessions to make. First off, in my first review, I wrote:

Another thing I had a bit of a difficult time swallowing was the change in mythology of Bruce Wayne’s parents being killed. I thought the lead up to the scene in the opera house with Bruce getting scared and all that was terrific. But in my mind, I’m so married to the idea that it was Jack Napier, The Joker, who murdered the Waynes in the alleyway. All I can heard is Jack Nicholson saying, “have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight…” (a wonderfully poetic line in my opinion)

I would like to take this opportunity to retract my implication that Jack Napier was always the killer of Bruce Wayne’s parents in the larger Batman mythology. I know I got many of you into an upheaval about it, and I should have properly explained that my source of origin for these events were strictly from Sam Hamm’s screenplay of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. Not from the comic books themselves. I did some extra research, and realized that I was being glib in my statement. The idea had only been imprinted in my memory only in so far as it was a film I watched repeatedly. Nolan's version did nothing to reverse what had been printed in the original comics.

My apologies, I am a fool.

On a more general note, I really just enjoyed the movie more during the second viewing. I was able to mentally separate myself from the Burton films, and while I still hold certain things about those earlier films in incredibly high esteem, I also recognize how tremendous this movie was. The screenplay really was very cleverly plotted overall, and dealt with its themes in a style that was both dramatic and moving. My enjoyment of the various performances only expanded, and even the film score by Howard and Zimmer grew on me. While some of my critiques of the film as stated in my earlier review still stand true, I recognize that my big problem was I kept comparing it to Burton’s, which was a big no no.

I would say this is my favorite film of the summer thus far. Cheers Christopher Nolan. Thou has truly resurrected and re-imagined a comic book legend that has been around for 65 years. Hats off to you.

War of the Worlds: The Musical

Hello Kiddies!

As I sit in front of my computer and try to while away the hours until I go see Spielberg’s latest film at the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, I’ve been listening to a little treat that I was let in on by an old geeky friend of mine.

If you go to warof you will discover a hidden treasure of the United Kingdom: The War of the Worlds Musical! Done completely in a 70’s Disco style, the score for this musical is back in the top ten of the UK billboard charts, soaring with newly resurgent popularity because of the release of Spielberg’s film.

Becoming a member of this website is free, though I don’t think that’s even necessary in order to hear a wide sampling of the score. I believe all you have to do is click on the upper right hand corner of the page, and click on “Launch Music Player”. The buffering can get a little wonky at times, but trust me, it’s worth it!

Be sure to look out for my review tomorrow of what is arguable the summer’s most highly anticipated summer blockbuster, Steven Spielberg’s The War of the Worlds. I grew up watching the 1953 version directed by Byron Haskin, which was a favorite of my father's when he was a kid. As a matter a fact, I just got off the phone wiht my father, who is still keeping the sci-fi torch alive and dragged my mother to the theatre to see WOTW tonight. Like father, like daughter I guess.

Harry Knowles of Aint It Cool began his review by saying:

“You’re not ready for this. I can state that with absolute certainty.”

I didn’t read much further down in his review because I want to avoid spoilers, but I’ve already stupidly geared myself up to believe Knowles’ assertion that this is one of Spielberg’s most emotionally riveting sci-fi film since Close Encounters.

Let the invasion begin!

Monday, June 27, 2005


Just got a phone call from a fellow geek, who notified me that the King Kong Trailer through some weird promotion that Volkswagen is doing.

I’ve already seen the trailer about seven times.

Wow. Does it look amazing. Every setting, from the picture perfect New York sets to the mysteriously creepy Skull Island are stunningly shot and constructed. I love those shots of the Venture on the misty, dark ocean, and that sequence of the boat running into the wall is great. The natives on Skull Island look absolutely terrifying, especially that little girl with the stark staring eyes, who lifts her arm to point at something off screen. The moment when something on the island answers Naomi Watt's scream is bone chilling and fantastic at the same time.

Jack Black comes off well and believably, not too hammy and overly comedic, and Naomi Watts looks like she was born to play the part. We don’t get as much of a sense of Adrian Brody from this teaser, but I have faith he will be terrific.

It’s so unbelievable to see some of those classic shots, like the crew walking over that huge log, mixed together with the new seamless CGI effects of the Dinosaurs and jungle creatures.

And of course then there’s Kong. His eyes, his face, his expressions, the way that he moves and sounds. He is the perfect incarnation of the giant ape.

How excited am I for the T-Rex vs. Kong fight?!

There’s not much more I can say that you guys can’t see for yourself, so hurry along and download away!

FYI: For those of you who have TiVo or want to catch it on the TV, they are airing the trailer during Fear Factor on NBC tonight @ 8 PM.

Tagline of the Week: Courtesy of The Skeleton Key

“Once you believe, everything you fear, becomes real.”

Not exactly the most novel concept for a horror film, though one which could still be explored in an original way if done properly.

I saw this trailer for the first time on Friday, when I went to see Land of the Dead, but have since watched it a couple more times online. The trailer plays significantly better in the movie house, mostly because of the sound quality. What scares me most in this trailer is the soundtrack, not the images.

The trailer starts out sort of foolishly, with that whole “In a world….” approach. In this case it’s “In a world, where people practice voodoo….strange things happen.”

Gee whiz, well slap my knee, and call me Sally, really?!

The way they put together that first montage with the slow-mo and the close-ups of seniors writhing and dancing is not so much creepy as it is silly. I mean is that voiceover really necessary? Also the final shot in the sequence where the old lady squirts water out of her mouth reminds me of the old woman from The Others. I expect her to finish spitting out the water and say:

“Are you mad? I am your daughter!”

Why the marketing folks at Uni felt the need to set up Voodoo (as if no one has heard of it before), I’m not sure, but the trailer continues on in typical horror film fashion. We are introduced to Kate Hudson’s character, Caroline, a young woman looking for a new job. Of course the one she finds is at a big creepy house, where she is to take care of an ailing old man who is mysterious AND bedridden, blah, blah, blah.

I guess Kate Hudson is ok, she’s cute and has good screen presence, but I’ve never been blown away by any of her performances. (No, not even by her role in How to Loose a guy in 10 Days, a movie which made me long for the easy agonies of The Chinese Water torture)

Peter Sarsgaard’s appearance in the trailer is a good omen at least. Though he’s only in a couple snippets of the trailer, I’m hoping he has a substantial role in the film. I think he’s a fantastic actor, who is very versatile and enjoyable to watch.

The moment when the trailer begins to pique my interest ever so slightly, is not when her patient Ben, suddenly grabs her arm, (though it is obviously framed to cause a big jump) but rather, when it starts to get into the “rules” of Voodoo. The line of brick dust laid out in front of a doorway, as a way to both protect oneself, and discover one’s enemies was intriguing to me. I like horror movies that are constructed like mysteries, where they create all sorts of rules, and regulations that you know will either be broken later on, or tip you off to something bigger. For as much as I made fun of the opening of the trailer, I’m actually drawn to the idea that the film is set within the Voodoo culture. I can’t recall a movie recently that has dealt with it, and the fact that it’s in the Bayou, feels like an original setting.

{On a side note, I already have a feeling that the trailer has shown too much of the film, i.e. that shot that shows the patient’s wife, played by Gena Rowlands, unable to cross the line of brick dust that Caroline has laid out.}

The trailer then proceeds to show more generic creepy fair. Caroline gets hold of a skeleton key, and finds a room in the attic that has all sorts of Voodoo tools. Disturbing photographs, locks of hair, bottles of God knows what. More quick cuts, of her patient Ben, being scared, and various locals warning her to get the heck out of Dodge.

Then Caroline plays the record. A 12” she found in the attic with the other bizarre items, the record is in a tattered paper sleeve with handwriting on it that says “Papa justify’s conjure of sacrifice.”

The screen fades to black as we hear the first few seconds of the record play. Several distorted voices, both men and women cry out at once:

“We’ve been waiting for you Caroline.”

I think I actually winced in the theatre when I heard this. And like I said before, when you’re in a theatre that’s pitch black, and you hear that line in surround sound audio, all of the hairs on the back of your neck will stand up.

Not only are the actual sounds and chanting that come from the old record unsettling and eerie, but I personally found the whole concept to be pretty terrifying. The idea that she plays this record, expecting to hear some old recording of a speech or a musical performance, and instead is greeted by spirits who use her name is horrifying. I have often thought to myself in the wee hours of the morning: What if I burned this CD, and when I checked to make sure it worked, I heard something completely different than what I intended to copy? Like a demonic voice saying my name for instance? That **** is not cool.

After she listens to the record everything seems to go to pot, and as more and more inexplicable things occur, Caroline is tempted to “believe” and in turn seal her fate.

I’ve gotten so jazzed about various horror films in the past year, only to be let down fairly consistently, so I don’t exactly have high hopes for this one. I’ll go see it of course, but I’m wary of another shoddy plot, with little time devoted to character development, strung together by a series of haunted house scares that fail to deliver more than half of the time.

The director of The Skeleton Key, Iain Softley, has a curious resume. His last film was the Kevin Spacey vehicle, K-PAX which was released in ’01. Before that he did a direct to video compilation of Toni Braxton performances, and before that he did the Merchant-Ivory The Wings of the Dove (or as I fondly referred to it, The Wings of a Chick Flick) The film of his that I’m most familiar with (embarrassingly enough) is the 1995 Hackers, starring Angelina Jolie, Johnny Lee Miller, and Matthew Lillard. That movie is obviously ridiculous and foolish, but I get small guilty pleasures out of it nonetheless. Softley has demonstrated a wide range in his career, though I don’t really see the stylistic trademarks that I look for in Horror film directors, so I’m intrigued to see how he’ll do with this. As for writer Ehren Kruger, who came up in my Brothers Grimm preview review, - the guy is hot to trott in Hollywood right now, there’s no doubt about that. He was given the much coveted John Carter of Mars project, has two movies coming out this summer, and two others in production. However, just because he is rolling in the dough, doesn’t mean he hasn’t fallen off the wagon. In my opinion, he has much penance to pay for The Ring 2.

In conclusion I await The Skeleton Key with much of the same feeling that I did when I expected the tooth fairy as a child. That all the blood was not in vain, and I’m going to get my money’s worth.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Zombie Prom - Land of the Dead

I’ve never really been one for zombie movies. I grew up watching horror flicks, but I’m more of a glutton for a good scare and a creepy atmosphere than I am for tons blood and guts.

I haven’t seen a lot of Romero’s work, including believe it or not – the original Night of the Living Dead. (shame on me, I know) I have seen Creepshow, Monkey Shines, and The Dark Half though. They were all pretty scary, particularly Creepshow which scared the crap out of me as a kid. I thought The Dark Half looked pretty cool, though overall it was yet another example of how Hollywood is forever fumbling when attempting a good adaptation of Stephen King novels.

But what makes Romero famous are his zombie movies, not his other Horror outings. I haven’t even seen his original Dawn of the Dead, which I’ve heard is great. I did see the remake of Dawn of the Dead that came out last summer which was directed by Zack Snyder, which I thought was alright. The thing about me and zombie movies, is that I’m always intrigued by the themes that they deal with, but usually turned off by the redundancy in plot and excessive blood. For the most part, zombie movies all have the same rules. Zombies walk slow and feast on live human flesh. If a zombie bites you, you will turn into a zombie. Zombies must be shot in the head in order to be killed. And you can always count on seeing plenty of zombies walking slow, eating bodies, and getting shot in the head. Inevitably one of the main characters will also get bitten, and then whole dramatic scene will play out where everyone fights over whether they should be shot right away, or be allowed to turn into a zombie and then be shot.

In Land of the Dead, the remaining humans in the world have holed up in an enclave within a former metropolis of the United States. These people seem to have a structured system and routine. There are scavengers who go outside the secured perimeter and collect supplies and shuttle them back into the settlement. There are military types placed at various points of entry into the city, who stand guard and shoot any approaching zombies. The movie follows a number of these scavengers, as they go about their daily work to and from zombie territory.

One of the things that I found pretty interesting about this movie was the fact that there was a class system within the secured community of surviving humans. All the rich folk lived in a huge gentrified mall/apartment complex, while the poor lived in hovels out on the street. Dennis Hopper, plays a character by the name of Kaufman, who runs the private building. He is the villain among the surviving humans, whose greed and corruption preserve the status quo between the rich and the poor. Kaufman used his power and money to keep the underprivileged beneath his thumb, as slaves to addiction and vices, while the wealthy remain content with their lives of luxury. I like the idea that even in a time of desperation, when all the survivors of the apocalypse should have bonded together, Hobbesian urges and Socio-economic Darwinsism overpower logic and humanitarianism. It seems insane that there would still be servants, beggers, and squatters, in a society that is so encapsulated, and is shrinking upon itself. Yet Romero wishes to show the many parallels between this nightmarish landscape and our present reality. How is it that in a world where there is such wealth, and prosperity, there can be people who must fight for the most basic of human needs and live in squalor?

Then of course there are the zombies. The “twist” (if it is to be called a twist) in Land of the Dead, is that the zombies slowly start to develop a moderate level of intelligence. Led by a zombie who was a former gas attendant, the zombies begin to gain awareness of the humans around them as more than just sources of food, but as an actual threat to their lifestyle. Gas Man Zombie learns how to use a gun, and teaches the others. He realizes that the “sky flowers” or fireworks that the humans shoot in the air, are put there as distractions. Gas Man Zombie looks at the shining building that towers over the barricaded city, and decides to lead his fellow zombies on a crusade to take down those oppressive human bastards.

I like all the different layers going on here, in terms of the different classes, and the different sources of evil. It allows for the film to read on different levels. On one level, the zombies represent death, which follows us no matter where we go, rich or poor, we are all unable to escape it. On the other hand, the zombies symbolize ourselves. We are the gas attendants, the butchers, the students, all of us zombies, shuffling through life, feeding our urges, until we are put out of our misery. But beyond that, Romero also seems to be making the argument in this movie that the zombies are just another disenfranchised class, just like the poor renegades, who risk their lives to go grab supplies from zombie infested territories, so the rich can enjoy lavish lives. Both the zombies, and the lower class of humans, are just struggling to survive.

There are other references throughout the film that touch on the issue of class. At one point John Leguizamo’s character, Cholo, who is one of the renegades who ventures out into Zombie land, gets bitten. When his friend offers to shoot him, Cholo refuses and says, “Nah, I’ve always wanted to see how the other half lives.” This statement obviously has a double meaning. Literally, the zombies are the other class of creatures, on the earth, but it is also a reference to the “working class.”

The story can also read as an allegory for war. The rich make the poor go out and fight an enemy, so that they may remain protected, safe and comfortable. While the zombies don’t seem to discriminate heavily between eating a rich person or a poor person, from the beginning their ultimate target seems to be the looming tower of privilege, the only beautiful thing left among the rubble, that the upper class have claimed for themselves. This intimates that war is merely a battle played out by two sets of unfortunate people who are driven by forces beyond their control – the powers that be.

Before I rein myself in from getting to crazy with this whole analytical thing, I am going to go out on a limb and look at the film through the lens of a historical Marxist. The scavengers/renegades in the human community actually represent the middle class or the bourgeoisie. The rich are the capitalists, and the zombies are the proletariat. While it is the proletariat who express their discontent, it is the scavengers who sort of take hold of the revolution, and let the rich be destroyed. At the end of the movie, one of the poor humans, takes a rifle and expresses gratitude to the zombies for bombarding their society because now they could make it the way it should be. This is the middle class reshaping the society to be founded on equality.

At the end of the film, the protagonist, Riley, orders his associate to hold fire, and refrain from shooting their last explosives at the zombies. The “good” poor humans that are left have survived the final battle, and are going north to find new ground. Riley says to his co-hort, something like, “No, leave’em. They’re just trying to find someplace to go. Just like us.” While on the surface, the idea of “zombies have feelings too” seems kind of silly, I commend Romero for creating a parable out of his gore fest. While I could have done without a lot of the shots of zombie mouths tearing into flesh, I did think it was neat the way he individualized the zombies, and made them into unique and different characters, that you followed along throughout the whole film. Romero is an artist. There’s no doubt about that, and whether you’re entertained or disgusted by the images that he puts forth, it is obvious that they were all painstakingly and lovingly created.

Sure, there is a bunch of crummy dialogue, archetypical characterizations, and all the predictable sort of stuff that comes with a zombie flick. But there’s definitely food for thought in here and it should satisfy all appetites, from the casual summer movie-goer hungry for an entertaining action-horror flick, to the more analytically minded film buff.

Friday, June 24, 2005

AFI 100 Best Movie Quotes

I noticed that posted up the recently released AFI 100 Best Movie Quotes . I used to take these AFI lists pretty seriously, and I know most of us have been scrambling around the past few years trying to knock off whatever films we might have missed from the AFI 100 top American movies.

But if you ask me, recently these AFI lists have gotten a little bit out of hand. First there was AFI’s 100 years, 100 movies, which was cool. But then came, AFI’s 100 years…100 stars, followed by AFI’s 100 years…100 Laughs, AFI 100 Years…100 Thrills, AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions, AFI 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villains, and most recently AFI’s 100 years…100 Songs. That’s a heck of a lot of lists, and I think they are approaching the level of redundancy, if you look through them, you can see a lot of the same films popping up, over and over again.

In fact, several of the quotes in the AFI 100 list come from the same movies. Casablanca has six quotes up on there. Now I know many of you may want to slap me for saying so, but Casablanca, is in my opinion, well, --overrated. And I don’t know what kind of crowd those AFI folks run with, but when was the last time you heard somebody say “Play, it Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’”. I’m all for recognizing the glory and importance of the older classic films – but I don’t think people often reference this quote from The Treasure of Sierra Madre which was released in 1948.

“Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!”

What sounds more familiar to me is:
“We don’t need to see any identification….These aren’t the droids we’re looking for. Move along.”

Now how can it be that Star Wars only got one quote into the list? { “May the force be with you.” Made it on there, but I think its ridiculous that it is the only one.} If this list is trying so hard to be prestigious, then riddle me this – how the hell did Jerry Maguire get on their twice?! I’ll give them “Show me the money.”, but “You had me at hello”? Can I barf now? This list is so half – assed it drives me nuts. The 19th most quoted movie quote is not “Made it ma! Top of the world!” from White Heat (1949). Thank goodness the remembered to put in Top Gun’s “I feel the need – the need for speed!” Ow!

In memoriam of the quotes that were left out, I will now list a few that I think should have made it on there…

“Snakes, why did it have to be snakes.” - Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Arc

“Do or do not. There is no try.” - Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

“One point twenty one jigowatts!” – Back to the Future

“What the hell is a jigowatt?” – Back to the Future

“Come on Mr. Frodo. I can’t carry it for you…but I can carry you!” – Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

“I’ll be right here.” – E.T.

“They look like big strong hands don’t they? ….that’s what I always thought they were.” – The Neverending Story

“Stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen.” – Aliens

“Ah Kirk, my old friend. Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? It is very cold in space.” - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm

Terry Gilliam is a genius. I don’t think anyone can argue that. He’s made some of the most visually groundbreaking and conceptually astounding movies of all time. He’s definitely in my top ten list of filmmakers. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil, Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Time Bandits, and 12 Monkeys all hold special places in my heart.

So it seems terribly unjust that Gilliam has had such rotten luck as of late with his film projects. First there was the apocalyptic disaster known as The Man Who Killed Don Quixote in the summer of 2000, which fell to pieces when the production became mired in mishap after mishap. Though I’ve never seen it, I’ve heard that the film Lost in La Mancha which was released in ’02 and documents exactly how that movie fell apart, is terrifically riveting. As the story goes, on the second day of shooting the lead actor suffered a severe spinal injury, and I guess from there the rest went downhill.

Then came The Brothers Grimm. Originally, the film was supposed to be released, in early fall of last year, 2004. However, as seems to be poor Terry’s fate as of late, things got…complicated. MGM suddenly decided to pull financial backing for the film about a couple months before they were supposed to start shooting. Whoops. Just when it looked like it might be another little bit of history repeating itself, the wonder twins (Bob and Harvey Weinstein) jumped in and decided to back it, and slap the Dimension brand on the film. But the two bad boys from NYC did not exactly solve all of Gilliam’s problems. He continued to struggle with issues involving both cast and crew. Due to all of the delays and uncertainty of the production, many big actors who had been cast had to back out due to “scheduling conflicts”. Among these fancy stars were Nicole Kidman, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams and Johnny Depp. Gilliam wanted Samantha Morton in the lead female role, but the Weinstein’s nixed it. They also made him change his choice for the composer of the original score. Even when the film finally started production, the troubles continued, and the cinematographer was fired personally by Bob Weinstein. Last June, in a fairly unusual move by a director, Gilliam decided he was going to place Bros Grimm “on hold” so that he could go work on another film, Tideland, a film about a young girl who looses her mother and then seeks escape in the fantasy world that lives through her imagination. Apparently Gilliam felt there were some issues on set that needed to be dealt with, in regards to Brother’s Grimm and he felt a breather was in order. Who could blame the poor guy after all that hub bub with the casting and financing. Gilliam came back to the Bros Grimm in January of this year, and finally at long last after months of waiting, Dimension threw us a bone with this trailer .

From the very first shot of little red riding hood frolicking through the forest, I already began to fall in love with the production design. Something about the misty air and dark corners at the edge of the camera shots intimate “story book” in just the perfect way. The CG creatures look pretty cool, though based off the trailer, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious difference between the creatures that the Grimm brothers “create” and those that they fight off. I actually think it would be interesting if they did making them distinct from one another, but we’ll see.

The screenplay was written by Ehren Kruger, who generally does horror and thriller films. Among his credits are Arlington Road, Scream 3, The Ring, and The Ring 2. He also wrote The Skeleton Key, a horror flick starring Kate Hudson, which also comes out later this summer. As you can see, his credits are kind of a mixed bag, I mean the first Ring was great, but other than that the movies trends towards the hackier side of things. The story of Bros Grimm seems basic enough, albeit not particularly original. Two con men who pretend to be in a particular profession are finally faced with the real thing. I think the real quality of the story will come from the degree to which Kruger can cleverly weave together different elements of classic fairy tales, and keep the plot moving while developing the characters and situations with humor. I do wish Gilliam had written the script though; I feel certain he would have infused it with more Monty Python-esque wackiness, that I don't trust Kruger to have done. The last released film he wrote was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, over seven years ago. Gilliam wrote Tideland, the film that he left Bros Grimm to go direct, and something makes me think his real interest and creative dedication may have been channeled in Tideland instead of Grimm, as the two films overlapped with one another.

Gilliam has never really done a “throwaway” picture (– something obviously just done for the money and completed in a slapdash way) but with all the problems he’s had, it looks like Grimm might be the first. I like Matt Damon a lot, but he looks sort of foolish in the trailer. I suppose that’s the idea, but I’ve never been completely sold on Damon’s ability to be a lead in a comedic capacity. As for Heath Ledger, I’ve never really been particularly impressed by anything he’s been in, and certainly don’t buy him as the “quieter, more studious type”. I’m curious to see what sort of chemistry Ledger and Damon have on screen, because I didn’t get a sense of it from the trailer. I’ve never noticed Lena Headey in anything before (she plays the female lead) so I’m hoping the fact that she’s somewhat of an unknown will add a refreshing feel to the cast. As for Monica Bellucci, I am always a fan, and will enjoy seeing her reprise another role as a villain.

The film is released on August 26th, which to me is another “scary” sign, because studios usually dump their less promising summer films right at the end. Though to their credit, I think they’ve at least spent some money on the marketing of the film: the posters are pretty swanky. I have complete and utter faith in Gilliam as a filmmaker, but at this point, with all the troubles he’s been through lately, I think he’s entitled to a throwaway. Not that I’m certain that’s what Bros Grimm will be, but if the shoe fits….

{On a side note, I read in the little IMDB trivia section of Bros Grimm that they had to cut out the most expensive sequence of the film that had already been shot. The studio felt it occurred too early in the film, and would be too difficult to top later on. How sad is that?}

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Batman Begins: The New Yorker experiences some growing pains, but enjoys herself nonetheless

At last, after months of speculation and expectations, I saw Batman Begins Friday night.

The Look & Tone

As my friend reminded me last night after we got out of the theatre, this interpretation of the Batman stories were based out of the darker grittier Frank Miller Batman books. No doubt about it, the film’s director, Christopher Nolan definitely made sure it looked the part of Miller’s visualizations. The landscape CG shots of Gotham were unique and impressive. We saw sprawling islands of skyscrapers, and in closer view a mecca of gargantuan glass towers. In front of this futuristic urban metropolis, was the compounded shantytown of “The Narrows”, with puffs of steam being emitted from rickety building pipes. My favorite part of the city’s design, were the zoomed out shots of the subway running under these majestic archways. The archways over the elevated train were a perfect architectural blend of urban regality and the aerodynamics of the technological revolution.

I was not as struck by the closer exteriors of “The Narrows”, the impoverished crime ridden section of Gotham. Everything was done in tones of browns and yellows, instead of a more comic-book gray scale, and the production designers did a very good job of making it feel grimy and filthy. Something about it just didn’t sit as well with me, and I think most of that had to do with the fact (and this is something I found myself doing continuously throughout the film) that I kept comparing it to the shots of Gotham in the Tim Burton Batman films. I wanted the super art deco dark, black and blues. The insane attention to detail of each stylized little corner of Gotham, from a street lamp to a garbage dumpster.

Another portion of the production design that I felt was a little lacking was the Wayne Mansion. First of all where the hell was that thing? I had heard that Nolan had shot in three different locations, New York, London and Chicago to achieve the look of a metropolis that was familiar but not altogether recognizable. But to me this created a bit of a lack of uniformity. The shots of the view from the mansion, showed green pastures shrouded in mist as far as the eye could see. I didn’t really buy that this place was only a quick commute from Gotham. It felt like it was in a different country, because, well, it probably was. I thought those big steps in front of the mansion were neat, but over all I thought the mansion was sort of “blah” both in its interiors and exteriors.

I will say this. The Bat Cave was very cool in both conception and appearance. I really loved the way that they made a connection between this hellish ditch that Bruce had fallen into as a child and been terrified of, and the origin of his new identity. It was through a source of his own terror that he was lead into the womb where he would be born into the next phase of his life.

In fact, almost all of the look of BatMan himself was terrific. His costume, the cape, constructed from the memory cloth, his mask. I liked the idea of Morgan Freeman playing this character who worked in the basement of Wayne Industries, storing and concocting new technology which had never gone anywhere. I enjoyed those scenes where Bruce was putting together his “outfit” that would become his signature look. The incredibly macabre prototype of the bat signal – the crumpled corpse of a man on a city spotlight was very neat. Even the Bat Mobile, which I was so livid about when I first saw photos of it, grew on me quite a bit. The pseudo military look sort of fit the seedy look of “The Narrows” and the interior of the mobile was all excitingly high tech.

The camera work was artfully done, and the film was solidly edited. Those moments when Batman first swoops down and yanks those henchmen off the ground were truly terrifying and atmospherically done. Technically speaking, the film was very strong, but I still felt the slightly unsettling sensation that I was reading a careworn book that I had read many times over but suddenly had new illustrations. One of the differences that really popped out at me between this film and the original Burton pieces was the musical score. The score to Batman Begins fulfilled its role and purpose. It was co-written by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer, two huge composers in Hollywood, who’ve done zillions of films, though they usually work separately. Still, I wish there had been something as elemental and theme oriented as the Danny Elfman score. Elfman’s scores for the original Batman and Batman Returns were organically matched to the visuals, and each bar of music seem to glide up and down in perfect harmony with each motion of the camera. I know, I know, I have to stop comparing! But overall, I didn’t think this score was anything to write home about.

One last thing about tone. As one of my friends and I stood outside of the theatre discussing the variances of the Batman story being grounded in stark realism vs. flighty fantasy, I came to a realization. I think I might just prefer the fantastical tone. My friend said he preferred it when things were realistic and grounded and seemed like they could really happen. That he liked to see a world where it seemed like just maybe Batman could really exist. I think I enjoy watching more metaphorical reflections of reality, where the relevance of the story is intimated through symbolism. I think when done well the fantastical can be so tangible and authentic that it eclipses reality with its universal truths.

The Characters & Actors

Mama Mia, what a cast on this movie, ah?!. Overall, really creative and successful casting, and wonderful acting performances here.

Christian Bale as Batman. I think Christian Bale is definitely the best Batman since Keaton, though as you have probably have gathered by this point of the review that I’m a purist, and I still think Keaton is tops. Bale’s hardened edge and natural arrogance made him a good fit for the sardonic yet brooding Wayne, AND the dangerously gruff Batman. I do think he might have gotten a little bit too growly at times with his Batman voice. Bale lowered his speaking voice so much as the Dark Knight, occasionally I thought it wavered a little towards being over the top.

Michael Caine as Alfred. Caine was terrific. His performance just seemed so comfortable and natural, he was never too much or too little. He perfectly encapsulated a parental, witty, fun, caring, formal, wise, companion and care taker. As sweet as Michael Gough was in Burton’s films, Caine gave the character an emotional depth we had never seen before. I think it was because he wasn’t just perennially sweet and soft but gave Bruce some good doses of “tough love” This made him more endearing to me..

Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. Freeman is always terrific, and this role was not exactly a stretch for him. Once again he was playing Lucius Fox, an older, friendly, character, who’s purpose is to help the protagonist along his journey. He was easy and warm and had good chemistry with Bale.

Tom Wilkinson as villain Carmine Falcone. An unexpected choice as Wilkinson a British actor is not usually chosen to portray New York Gangster types. Still he did a solid job, his accent seemed like a bit of an effort for him, but definitely an interesting move on the Nolan and the casting director’s part.

Gary Oldman as Comissioner Gordon. Holy Macoroni, I never thought I’d live to see the day when Oldman played a sweet old man type! By far the straightest performance I’ve ever seen out of Oldman, I kept waiting for him to have a scene where he just explodes, or momentarily turns evil, but he didn’t. This was quite a refreshing and understated role for Oldman and I actually got such a kick out of watching him ride around in the Bat Mobile. He was so cute and I wanted to give him a big hug.

Cillian Murphey as the Scarecrow. I love this guy. I thought he was great in 28 days, but he played the lead in that, and I wasn’t sure what he was going to do with this. I was again pleasantly surprised – he really took on the role like a seasoned character actor, and was snide, cold, and calculating, and slowly devolved into the sneering, insane mad scientist. I thought the whole way his mask worked with the hallucinogenic gas was brilliant, and the CG on that rag cloth mask of his was terrifying. What a fun villain. Hooray.

And finally Katie Holmes as Rachel. As much gossip as there is going around about her right now, I can’t really dredge up much to say about her. She was fine. Neither poor, nor outstanding. I thought a lot of what was lacking with her character had to do with the fact that the writing in the script didn’t give her a lot to do or a lot of depth. She was a idealist with a heart of gold, who had old memories tied with Bruce Wayne. But that’s about all I got from her. She never wavered from her stalwart do-gooder routine, and I would have liked to see a little more range from her. At least she was working in the D.A.’s office trying to do something, instead of sitting at home like a helpless damsel in distress.

The Mythology & Story

I really liked the way that fear was a constant motif in all aspects of this movie. I thought the fact that Bruce had had a bad childhood experience with bats was brilliant. I liked the way Nolan illustrated just how terrified he was of them, so much so that Bruce couldn’t even watch men dressed up as bat-like creatures on the stage in the opera, ( a scene which I though looked gorgeous). The whole emphasis on the socio-economic stratification of Gotham city, and how each group, the rich and the poor, feared each other because they represented the unknown to one another, added another nice layer thematically. The whole concept of learning and absorbing one’s own fears in order to conquer them, as taught to Bruce by Liam Neesen was all artfully done.

But let’s talk about Ducard, Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Shadows shall we? This was the portion of the movie that I had the most issues with. I realized as the movie started and then continued for a bit, that the introduction of Bruce Wayne’s character was going to be done by flashback, back and forth between different moments in the past and present. That’s fine enough. But the beginning felt really abrupt to me when Ducard suddenly appears out of the shadows of Bruce’s cell, and just starts spouting all this gibberish to him about fear and fighting. Ok, maybe gibberish is a little too harsh on my part, but I mean the movie had just started, and who the hell was this guy anyway? I realize this all gets explained and elaborated upon later, but I wish there could have been a little more time spent showing just Bale living in the skin of the character of Bruce Wayne. If you ask me the whole League of Shadows plotline, and the explanation of how they knew about Bruce was pretty dodgy.

I understand why at the end of his training Bruce does not wish to perform the execution on the man that Ducard and Ra’s Al Ghul (played by Ken Watanabe, sort of) have set before him. It’s important to show that Bruce recognizes and holds dear the value of his own compassion. But why does he burn down the whole joint and try to kill Ra’s Al Ghul? Sure he saves Ducard from death, but I didn’t understand the need for such a dramatic exit. I certainly wasn’t led to believe that Ra’s AG and Duc would have had him murdered if he didn’t strike down the criminal before him as they had requested. Also, this whole idea that the League of Shadows knows about Gotham, that they are familiar with the level of crime and depravity and actively care and act on it. Aren’t they just some Shaolin type monks who live in Mongolia? How do they know so much about Gotham? And honestly, why do they care so much. Later on in the film Ducard comes into the Wayne mansion and reveals to Bruce that the league has been doing this for centuries, and that he is actually Ra’s Al Ghul, the leader of the league. This league has purportedly been crushing empires before they get too powerful. Striking down corruption in cities where social Darwinism has become the ruling force and making everyone equal. Ok, I can dig the Marxist vibe, but I still find this idea kind of hokey. I’m to believe that the forefathers of this modest size black clad crew was responsible for the downfall of the Roman and British empires? Yeah, yeah I know, suspend all disbelief and what not, but for a movie that tried to be so consistent in its realism, with logical explanations for everything (example: the reason people saw the scarecrow’s face to be so monstrous was due to a drug, not because it was actually supernatural in any way), these plot elements felt kind of clunky.

Another thing I had a bit of a difficult time swallowing was the change in mythology of Bruce Wayne’s parents being killed. I thought the lead up to the scene in the opera house with Bruce getting scared and all that was terrific. But in my mind, I’m so married to the idea that it was Jack Napier, The Joker, who murdered the Waynes in the alleyway. All I can heard is Jack Nicholson saying, “have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight…” (a wonderfully poetic line in my opinion) The fact that in Batman Begins, the perpetrator is just a desperate bum who’s a victim of society himself, is an interesting concept, but so different than the previous mythology. Napier is pure evil and depravity, where as “hungry bum” (I’m blanking on his character’s name right now, forgive me) is theoretically as much of a victim of Gotham as Bruce Wayne’s parents are. I thought the scene where Bruce comes back from Princeton, and attends the “hungry bum’s” release trial was very interesting. I liked that he brought a gun and intended to kill him and enact revenge for his parents, and I liked the scene with he and Rachel in the car, when she slaps him. It was interesting to see that for a while, between nearly killing his parent’s murderer and hanging out with miscreants all over the globe, that Bruce Wayne/Batman really did walk a fine line between becoming a criminal instead of a crime fighter. Unlike the moralistically squeaky clean Superman, and the naïvely idealistic Spiderman, Batman really treads closer to the dark side than any of the other super heroes, and that’s why I love him. But as dark and isolated as this character is, I would have liked to see a little more of an emotional longing and/or connection with other characters in the film. It was clear that Bruce’s trauma of loosing his parents at such a young age in such a violent way was a huge source of angst for him. This was all logically shown and properly referenced throughout the movie. But other than Alfred, there was really no one else with in the movie that he seemed to have a real emotional bond with. Even Katie Holmes’ character, Rachel, while Bruce/Batman obviously feels some affection towards her, and cares about her well being, there does not seem to be any real passion between them. If you ask me that last scene between them when they are standing in the burnt rubble of the Wayne mansion, is ridiculous. Her lines are incredibly cryptic and while they conjure clever metaphors they do not really jive with her character’s motives. Rachel says that Bruce’s face is now the mask he wears, and that his new real identity is the mask of Batman. Ok, I can dig it, that’s a nice line. But she then goes on to talk about the “man that she loved” who knew right from wrong and fought for what he believed in, blah, blah, blah. So this man, this piece of Bruce’s identity is now exemplified in Batman and his actions, right? But then she says she can not be with him until that man returns. But….wait. He doesn’t need to return, he is already there, because Bruce Wayne puts on a costume to become who he truly is inside, Batman. Rachel’s garbled explanation as to why they can’t be together didn’t really work for me, and I wish that their relationship had been utilized more in the script to show breaks in Bruce’s/Batman’s overall emotional detachment.

All in all, I thought this was a very solid movie. Well written script, terrific acting, creepy villain, charismatic hero, it had all the ingredients of a great comic book movie. I really enjoyed the film while I was watching it, but I definitely feel as though I need to see it again – as I said before, I think a lot of my mind was instinctively comparing it to Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. I know I need to get over myself, but its hard to do. I just have to let go of the old legacy, and embrace the new – I don’t know if I ever will be able to do that totally, but I highly commend this new addition to the Batman franchise.

Friday, June 17, 2005

A small peek inside the phone conversations of the New Yorker

Yesterday I was on the phone with my brother Berto. He’s a fine young lad of about 21, who also has a similar geek quotient to mine, though what he lacks in X-Files trivia knowledge he makes up in X-Box skills.

We as two siblings do, were chatting about this and that, and stumbled onto perhaps one of the nerdier conversations I’ve had in some time. It was so nerdy that I felt I needed to share it with you on my dear blog.

BERTO: Hey, so have you seen AVP? You know Alien vs. Predator-

ME: I know what AVP stands for you fool. Of course I saw it. Opening night at the Chinese.

BERTO: Honestly? One of the worst movies ever made.

ME: Aw, it wasn’t that bad.

BERTO: Are you kidding me? It was terrible!

ME: Yeah but wasn’t it awesome in its terribleness? Like, didn’t you laugh at how bad it was.

BERTO: Yeah, I mean I laughed but….it was just so ridiculous. The predators wouldn’t team up with the humans. They would never do that!

ME: Oh well, I dunno about that…

BERTO: And at the end when they made it all sentimental that the lead predator died, that was so dumb.

ME: Yeah but wasn’t it funny when it looked like he was about to kiss the girl? The whole theatre was CRACKING UP at that part.

BERTO: Jeez, yeah that was so crazy.

ME: Are you glad the predators beat the aliens?

BERTO: Hell yeah! I hate the aliens!

ME: What?! You do?! The Aliens are awesome!

BERTO: Ew, no they’re not. They’re just mindless killing machines. Why would you want them to beat the Predators, then they would just kill off man and decimate every other form of life in the galaxy.

ME: Oh please, and the Predators are any better? They hunt for pure sport! Aliens hunt for survival, they eat their prey at least. Predators just do it for fun. Its morally wrong.

BERTO: Not always! And the Predators have a much more sophisticated culture. They don’t just kill everything that comes in their path. The Aliens are like the borg-

ME: The aliens are NOT like the Borg! That is just ridicul-

BERTO: Well they just crush everything in their path, they are evil. Like the borg.

ME: Yeah but don’t you remember in Predator 2 when they just started killing civilians left and right, and you saw that they had species from all over the galaxy they had murdered?

BERTO: Yeah but they felt threatened in Predator 2. Remember the cop had that gun and they thought he was going to shoot them. They were just defending themselves. I’m telling you, if I had to live under the rule of one of those races, I’m much rather live under the Predators. We’d have a chance. I mean did you see those nasty sacrificial tables for the face-huggers to just attack people’s faces?! That **** was nasty!

ME: Yeah whatever. As fascinating as it is to discuss the anthropological variances of the cultures between the Aliens or the Predators, I think I have to go now.

BERTO: Fine be that way. You’re just pissed cause you know I’m right.

The conversation wrapped up around there. I still say the Aliens should have won. The Aliens are badass, much more so than the Predators will ever be. Cool Geiger design and all that. I’ll tell you one thing, I’d rather stare an Alien in the face instead of a Predator. Predator is one ugly mother-

Ok, I’m off to see Batman Begins….

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Tedious Poppycock

I knew this would stink from the beginning. It is a completely flawed premise. Now, I recognize that I gravitate towards all kind of fantastical things that many others would consider laughable. Such as a man who dresses up as a humanoid bat and fights criminals with nicknames like “the scarecrow” and “the joker.” But at least there are stakes and unexpected twists and turns in my beloved comic book stories.

There was nothing unexpected about anything in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Do you honestly expect me to believe that two people could be married for five or six years and not have the slightest inkling, (especially considering that they are both in the stealth business) of what the other did? That it took that long for them to realize that something was amiss in their marriage? Totally and absolutely, preposterous and stupid.

Furthermore, since Pitt and Jolie were already together to begin with, there was no excitement about whether or not they are going to end up with one another, and it was obvious that by the end of the movie they would be together. This means that the central, driving relationship of the entire film lacked real stakes. Of course, the movie tries to sell you on the idea, that they had sort of drifted apart, and that when they discover each other’s true identity, they fall in love all over again. But they didn’t do a very good job of doing this, and it was all so predictable and boring. This is of course a huge surprise, considering that the screenwriter for Mr. and Mrs. Smith was Simon Kinberg, who wrote the masterpiece of subtlety XXX: State of the Union.

The film starts out showing Brad and Angie in a marriage counseling session. It’s obvious they are not happy with their relationship, and are no longer really romantically involved with one another. We get glimpses of their seemingly perfect life in a lovely suburban home, replete with fancy home appliances and coordinated luxury vehicles. We then see each of them “on the job” so to speak, though in retrospect, their professions are never really dealt with directly. We realize they are hit men of sorts, but it is unclear if it is government approved, who they actually work for, and all that sort of thing. I suppose the film makers probably thought we silly viewers shouldn’t concern ourselves with such things.

I have to confess, for the first twenty to thirty minutes, I was enjoying myself a bit. Both Pitt and Jolie are incredibly charismatic and have great screen presence. Pitt is funny and handsome as ever, though Jolie was the one who really shone. She is probably the most attractive woman working in Hollywood today, and has never looked better. Both sequences that showed the Mr. and Mrs. on the job were funny and fun. In his, Pitt pretends to be drunk and weasels his way into a poker game, only to lay all the players to waste when his target arrives. Jolie does a little send up on S & M, and then in a cleverly fun move converts her purse into a vertical zip line mechanism with which she plummets down the side of an NYC sky scraper.

Sure this was entertaining for a little while; I even tolerated the inane back story flashback of how the two met, in some seedy hotel in Colombia, South America, where they were instantly drawn to one another with “animal magnetism.”

But then my tolerance began to wear thin. Once the characters and the situation had been established, the main thrust of the plot began. Pitt and Jolie are each respectively given an assignment to assassinate some punk kid (played affably by Adam Brody from the OC). What neither of them realizes is that they’ve been given the same target. In what proceeds to be an incredibly confusing set up, the two make their way out to some desert locale to stake out the convoy of SUV’s carrying the kid across some border. But the mission goes awry for both Pitt and Jolie when they realize another assassin is on the job. This is where things start to get foolish.

Disgruntled that they have missed their target, and let down their bosses (whoever they might be) the two start to investigate who this other assassin might be. In a sequence that takes about five minutes, both Jolie and Pitt come to the conclusion that there is a strong chance their spouse is the mystery assassin.

But instead of picking up their cell and asking one another something along the lines of “Honey, is there something you want to tell me?” The two continue on with their charade and arrive home for dinner as usual. From the moment the two see each other, it is clear to the other that something is up. Pitt is so suspicious that his wife is out to kill him that he won’t even drink the martini she made for him. The proceeding scene at the dinner table which is meant to be “hilarious” is really just stupid and unrealistic. There’s no way this would happen. The film hasn’t shown thus far that these two people are so disconnected to one another that they don’t communicate at all. Obviously they do, they even decided to go to marriage counseling. They have dinner every night. They sleep in the same bed. So is it really believable that neither of them would bring up to the other that they think they might be an international assassin. Or at the very least come clean about their own identity to see what the other one says?

The nonsense only gets worse. Jolie runs out of the house in her car. Pitt shoots at her and she runs him over. Wha? How am I supposed to believe these two people ever cared for one another or are invested at all in their relationship with one another, when they’ve just tried to kill each other on nothing more based than a hunch? The murder attempts only continue. Pitt sneaks into Jolie’s office and tries to blow her up. Jolie escapes on another cool zip line gadget. Then in a sequence which makes about as much sense as a wool coat on a summer day, Pitt sifts through some of the exploded material from Jolie’s office and discovers a small segment of paper from a construction company. This leads him to a construction site where Jolie and her team, have staked out the joint and are sitting in some sort of surveillance truck. When Pitt is in an elevator, Jolie tries to blow him up, and for all intents and purposes kills him. Cut to a scene later that evening where Jolie sits at a restaurant sipping champagne, dinner for one at the first widow’s club or some such. The camera zooms in on Jolie's face as she sheds a single solitary tear for the husband she killed earlier. Wait a minute, are we supposed to believe she actually feels remorse for blowing him up? The film has given us no character development or evidence to show this. We are never shown why Jolie is so loyal to the company she works for, or why her allegiance to her boss would supersede the love she has/had for her husband of five years. If anything her single tear is a half assed display of emotion that I wasn’t buying.

Of course Pitt, didn’t really die in the elevator, and in fact, shows up at the restaurant to the surprise of Jolie. The two have some charged interactions that are of course absolutely implausible for a couple who’s been trying to kill each other. The flirtation between the two of them seems like it would work so much better if it was in the context, of perhaps two people who were just getting together. But the fact that they have known each other for six years… well it makes everything pretty ridiculous.

Their little game of cat and mouse culminates in a mildly amusing blow out brawl at their suburban palace which they destroy in the process. If there’s a positive that can be said about this movie, it’s that the filmmakers really did make an effort to portray Jolie as a complete equal to Pitt, in brains and brawn. There was actually something refreshing to me about watching the two get into a fist fight that was a pretty fair match. I guess it’s the latent feminist in me talking again, but I am so over that “I’d never hit a girl, B.S.” Go ahead and hit me and I’ll knock your block off, that’s what I always say. (I’ll forgo my diatribe on older men with younger women in Hollywood, despite the fact that Pitt is a whopping 12 years older than Jolie.)

Of course after fighting for a while the two lovebirds kiss and make up in a surprisingly uninspired love scene. My problem with the arc in their relationship is this. At the beginning of the film we jump directly from the couple in lustful bliss to aloof detachment. We know this happens over the course of six years, but we are not given a good idea of how or why. Sure we know that it is in part a product of that fact that they’ve led separate lives from one another, but it felt to me like so many pieces of the puzzle were missing.

Another issue which remained incredibly muddy throughout the film was the idea that the marriage was a cover for both Pitt and Jolie. When the MR. and MRS. discover the truth about the spouse, the idea that one of them may have been using the other comes up immediately. While it is an interesting idea to have the characters ponder just how much of a sham their lives together really was, there is no definitive scene that deals with this issue, and it remains quite unclear whether or not Pitt and Jolie used each other as a cover or not.

Once Pitt and Jolie have reconciled their differences they discover that a hit has been put out on their own heads, so they must team up and fight together in order to save themselves. They formulize a plan to kidnap the target (Adam Brody’s character) that they were originally supposed to take out, realizing he is the link between the two of them. Pitt and Jolie grab him with ease, and just when I think some rational plot explanations are going to come into play, (such as why the hell they were told to kill Brody) Brody confesses that it was all a set up. Brody was the bait, and both Pitt and Jolie’s employers wanted them dead because it was a hazard for two high profile hit men to be married together.

Uh, it only took their employers six years to come to this decision? Woweee, these guys sound like they’re really at the top of their game.

This flimsy explanation for a lot of the plotting of the movie came almost too late to make me really annoyed. I had lost any real interest in the film about an hour before hand. Jolie and Pitt than have one final big blowout with “the bad guys” whoever the hell they are, and the two live happily ever after. (On a side note, another problem with this film is that there was no bad guy, no villain plotting behind the scenes for the couple to take out together. I think the film could have definitely benefited from the inclusion of a visible physical bad guy for the two to team up against)

I had to keep myself from nodding off during the last action sequence that takes place in a department store home goods section. It was a lot of shooting and rolling on the ground in a poorly lit lack luster surrounding. My favorite action sequence in the film was the car chase on the bridge and highway when Pitt and Jolie are running away from “the bad guys” in little BMW’s that have these hot silver racing stripes. The chase was not particularly remarkable in anyway, but it was at least entertaining. Man oh man, Doug Liman, what is going on my man? You’ve gone from directing one of the biggest cult hits (Swingers) to directing a trashy Hollywood action comedy, that isn’t even funny. I never thought I would say this but Vince Vaughn in his small role as Pitt’s associate? Not funny. Well maybe a little funny at parts, but his fast-talking misogynistic schlep thing is getting a little old. Like I said before Pitt and Jolie have good star quality, but mostly due to the inadequate script were unable to develop any real characters, or create emotional moments with any depth.

I’d say unless you’re really boiling in your apartment with no AC, do not bother with this one. You’re better off just watching the trailer at home on your computer a bunch of times. It pretty much hits all the marks.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Mother Land

Hey Folks,

I know I've been kind of crummy recently with the upkeep of this here blog, but I was home, kickin' it back in the NYC for a while, and before that I was finishing things up at my job.

I know you're all dying to read my review of MR. and MRS. Smith, and I assure you it is coming quite soon. Then of course there's Batman Begins which I will be seeing on Friday.

MR. and MRS. Smith certainly did well at the box office this weekend raking in over $50 Mill, but in my opinion the movie looks like its going to be terrible. Sure there are two incredibly great looking and suave stars in the movie, who are purportedly sleeping together in real life, but will that save it from a poorly written script and AND action scenes. I can't wait to find out.

Also is it sick of me that I kind of want to see The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D? Beacuse I sort of do...

Anyways, don't give hope on me yet, I honestly have a good review up my sleeve. Promise.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Kong is King Part 56

At last, news has broken about when the Kong trailer will emerge from the depths of the WETA laboratories in New Zealand.

A posting on Kong is King has revealed that the trailer will be put in front of Steven Speilberg's War of the Worlds, which hits theatres on June 29th. I believe this will be Jackson's and Speilberg's closest connection since Spielberg presented the best picture Oscar to Jackson at the '03 Academy Awards, which was quite an amazing moment indeed.

June 29th! That's only thirteen days away! Less than two weeks! Huzzah!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Epitome of the Opposite

By now most of you all probably have a pretty good idea of what sort of movies I like. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller, as well as some Comedy and Drama thrown into the mix.

If anyone would like to see a prime example of the sort of movie that I have absolutely no interest in what so ever, click here and your curiosity shall be satiated.

Willy Wonka in Full Force

Have yall seen the latest trailer for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Unlike the insanely frenetic teaser trailer, this one tries to give us an actual sense of what the story will be like.

I will say this,in terms of the visuals that we gets glimpses of from this trailer, everything looks pretty amazing. The outside shots of Wonka's factory look wonderfully grim yet mischievious, hinting at the wonderful secrets that lay inside which each puff of white smoke that funnels out of its steampipes. The shot of all those little Tokyo school children rushing into the candy store looks great. The shots of London look appropriately grim and gothically Tim Burton. I also think everything inside the factory looks pretty fantastic, like the nuts and squirrels and the oompa loompas. The only thing that's slightly disappointing for me is the part of the factory where they first enter that surrounds the chocolate river. That seems like almost a replica of the set from the '71 version. I would have thought Tim Burton would have wanted to do his own interpretation of that area instead of using imagery already so familiar to us.

The little kiddie actors all seemed pretty good. Freddie Highmore, who plays Charlie Bucket, and was also in Finding Neverland with Depp. He's a little too puppy dog eyed for my taste, but I suppose that's what the role calls for. I think my favorite from the trailer is Annaaophia Robb, who plays Violet Beauregarde. I always thought Violet was more fun than Veruca because she doesn't just play spoiled rich girl, and has a tad more dimension to her character.

It's Johnny Depp's portrayal of Wonka that I still can't quite get my head around. Sure, I think Depp is a terrific actor who has a tremendous body of work he can be proud of. But he's no Gene Wilder. Gene Wilder made that role into something really special that leaped off the celluloid screen and stayed in your mind. The mischevious look in his eyes, and the way he tilted his head with that top hat on culminated into a performance of brillant subtlety and energy. Depp seems to have made the choice to play Wonka like he's a ten year old kid doped up on Ritalin. It's certainly a unique way to go, but I'm not sure if the idea has grown enough on me yet. As it is I've only just warmed to the idea that Wonka looks like a cross between Anna Wintour and Marilyn Manson.

There's no question about it, I'm hooked and definitely excited to go see the film. I think my biggest concerns at this point is that its going to turn out to be some some of sacchirin summer studio drivel targeted strictly at kids, with the substance of a melting slushy cone. That part in trailer that had me holding back my gag reflex a bit was when Charlie Bucket says "Candy doesn't have to have a point. That's why its candy." while the narrator says "While only one, will find his heart..." Egads that's more syrupy sentimentality than a hundred bars of Wonka bars could hold. If they turned my beautiful dark and freaky childhood favorite into a vacuous, poorly scripted piece of Wonka eye-candy, I will not be pleased.

Still, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Burton to redeem himself.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Knock him out the box Luke!

I'm sure most of you by now have seen the wondrous Star Wars Gangsta Rap by Jason Brannon and Chris Crawford as posted on Atom Films eons ago. But have you seen the new Special Edition ? With new and improved animation, but the same hippity hop tune that has grown close to our hearts, well...lets just say it makes certain OTHER special editions look not so snazzy.

It's not the east or westside.

No its not.

It's not the north or the southside.

No its not.

This is the dark side!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Famous Films in 30 sec or less

Ok, some dear friends of mine, alerted me to this website by Angry Alien Productions and it is truly incredible. I won't even go on about how amazing these little animated shorts are. You must go and discover them yourself. Make sure you have the volume turned up.

Does this mean I really have to go see Madagascar now?

In a bizarre turns of events at the box office this weekend, Madagascar somehow jumped from the third place spot it occupied last weekend to the coveted weekend number one spot. Its profits still dropped about 40% from last weekend, but its already grossed about $100 mill. ROTS plunged to number three, but once I looked at the numbers, my initial shock was lambasted by reading that this SW film has broken yet another record, surpassing the $300 million dollar mark in only seventeen days. Not too shabby I guess. The Longest Yard has done well for itself, cuming almost $100 mill in two weekends, but I will confess I have absolutely no desire to see that movie. I like Sandler and all but try as I might football just ain’t my thing.

I will probably go see Madagascar this week. In fact to be perfectly honest, I thought the trailer was sort of cute. But here’s the thing about the Dreamworks animated features. As much as people rag on Disney for pumping out saccharin, ridiculously goody-two shoe enterprises, (an assertion which I actually beg to differ with.), the Dreamworks ani-pix have a nasty sort of cynical tone to them, that I could really do without. Their films lack a sense of innocence. It isn’t to say that I think all films targeted towards children should be porridge like concoctions without any substance – I just think there is an element of wonder that the Dreamworks films sort of shun. An element of wonder that I think we as a society sort of laugh off, one that I think is crucial to childhood but that seems to be shrinking evermore.

In the first Shrek movie, a lot of Jeffrey Katzenberg’s angst about his years at Disney was quite evident, particularly in the scenes that actually mimic Disneyland itself. Hey, I’m not saying I didn’t laugh at these moments, because I’m sure that I did. I just think there’s something sad about walking out of the theatre with a seven year old, and having to explain to them the inside jokes of corporate politics. People always say, “Oh, they’re kids they don’t get it. Those jokes are for the adults. The kids have other stuff to pay attention to.” But people are constantly underestimating children, and they are no fools. They are aware and notice things, and are going to ask you why everyone laughed at Shrek 2 when it was revealed that Pinnochio was wearing a thong.

Even a film like The Incredibles, which had a lot of themes that could be appreciated by adults, has an unabashed sweetness and goodness to it. Same as Finding Nemo. For whatever other problems Disney may have as a company (and granted having PIXAR under their thumb is a HUGE advantage), I think they are unafraid to be sentimental and nice. Something which I think the Dreamworks execs fear as being “lame” or “uncool.” I haven’t seen Shark Tale, but I have heard tell that it is also rife with references to commercial culture (isn’t it cute that they shop at Old Wavy!) and snarky stereotypes aimed at collecting cheap laughs.

Sure Shrek 2 made tones of money. $918 mill world wide to be exact. But neither Shrek, nor Shark Tale, (and probably not Madagascar by the looks of it) will supersede grosses for Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. Will it always pay to be cynical? I say no.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Superman, More, More

More wonderful foolishness from the Bluetights Network . As much as I like to make fun of this “happy” little website, I am constantly drawn to it, because I feel that inspite of himself, Singer may be well on his way to creating a masterpiece. Well. That’s probably an overstatement. They’ve started playing portions from the John Williams score of the original Richard Donner film (which is so amazing) and its gotten me all emotional involved in this remake now.

I recently watched the video entry Ma Kent Andretti , and was first star struck by Eve Saint Marie, who plays Clark Kent’s mother, and got sucked in by the couple shots they showed of her performance as she found baby kent in the fields, with the soft sound of strings playing underneath. I wish in fact, that I could see more of that, than Bryan Singer display his hypochondriac tendencies, as he dances around proclaiming that he has such a “pimp” trailer - a trailer fit for a rock star. Yes Singer’s prancing around in his beanie I could most certainly do without. But in spite of that nonsense, what I’ve seen so far of the actual footage of the film, has looked really good.

Can it be that a truly talented artist can be so douchey? I never like to think that, but if this “Blue Tights” business has proven anything, it may very well be that. (Sigh.)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Tagline of the Week: Courtesy of Sky High

“This Summer, the sky is the limit”

Or so say the marketing guys over at Disney who are handling, their summer release Sky High, a live action film due out in late July. I had heard tell of this flick, but didn’t see the trailer until this morning.

If the X-Men franchise and The Incredibles shared a night of passion, this is what their love child would be.

Remember TWINS? Arnold Schwazernegger and Danny Devito shared the same mother, but one represented the genetic gold of their parents, while the other represented the “genetic garbage”? I don’t know if those two films gave birth to twins or not, but if they did, Sky High would definitely be the Danny Devito of the group. Everything that is cheesy, and hackneyed about superheros, and superhero movies has been captured masterfully in this seeminigly predictable storyline with tacky special effects.

So its a Disney film directed at kids, that will probably have a PG rating, that’s fine. But why does it feel about twenty times more infantile that The Incredibles which was an animated feature also directed primarily at young audiences? The film doesn’t seem to have any wit in the language, nor cleverness or originality in the story. As for the visuals, which are usually half the fun in these kinds of movies, I think they look absolutely terrible. Everything from the costumes, to the sets, to the CGI looks like it cost about five cents a piece. Now it would be one thing if this was some sort of a superhero parody, like Mystery Men, where the costumes and sets are supposed to look silly. But I don’t think that’s what they’re going for, and even Mystery Men looked more original - the art direction for Sky High looks completely bland.

Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston as the world’s greatest superheros? Ooof. That’s about as believable as a Scientology social ethics seminar. They’ve also done a nice job of picking unknowns for the teen roles, that have about as much charisma and star power as a plastic dog toy. I thought the whole point of picking an unknown is that you could cast someone who was actually good!

Written by Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle, with help from Paul Hernandez, the wizards over at the mouse house somehow managed to get at least three writers on the film, who had never done a major live action feature before. Schooley and Mark McCorkle have done some direct to video cartoon stuff for Disney, and also worked on Kim Possible (which I’ve actually heard was great) and this is Hernandez’s first job ever it seems. Its possible the trailer isn’t as obvious as it seems, but I feel as though I already know everything that will happen in the movie. Kid has superhero parents. Kid struggles with his superhero powers. Kid discovers superhero powers. Kid must face his parent’s former nemesis and save the day. (please excuse me, while I try to contain my yawning) The only thing I found remotely amusing in the entire trailer was the giant egghead guy, who looks like one of the Martians from the orginal series Star Trek episode The Menagerie (aka the Cave) - he seemed kind of cool and funny in his white lab coat.

I mean is that really it? Everything in here seems so unblievably DONE. I will go see just about any film that involves superheros, ....but this, this seems to suck out every sliver of marrow left in the bones of the genre. All those shots of people getting frozen, and people stretching their limbs unnaturally, and setting things on fire, are straight up ripped off from X-Men, no to mention the fact that they appear in the trailer for Fantastic Four. (ew) I just hope is that this does not represent a trend of silly superhero knock offs that give a bad name to the subject matter.

A lot of people who don’t care for the superhero genre, purport that it is a category of redundancy. That if you look at the group of stories at a whole, it is merely the same story told over and over again, depicting superhuman powers applied to good or evil, resulting in the inevitable conclusion of “saving the day.” But I don’t think this is the case. When done with thoughfulness and creative integrity, these stories have the same mythic and timeless qualitites as the mythology of old, like the Greek and Roman Gods. Filed with great metaphors, symbolism, and adventure, these are some of my favorite types of stories to watch play out on the big screen.

If only the film makers had listened to their own tagline: “the sky is the limit” - then maybe they wouldn’t have held back and gone with such safe and boring choices.

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