Monday, August 29, 2005


Again, I know I don't normally use this site for this sort of thing, but as I heard the news stories trickle in all day, I felt compelled to post. As many of you already know by now, Hurricane Katrina has devastated many communities in the Southeast area of the U.S. Over fifty people in Mississippi have died, and tens of thousands of people in its surrounding area including New Orleans are homeless and have lost all their posessions.

The Red Cross provides “emergency shelter, food, water and other critical assistance” to these victims so desperately in need.

To made a donation to the Red Cross, click here . To learn more about the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina click here .


Before Halo was the hottest alien blasting game to grace this planet, there was a little game called Doom. Created for PC’s, this authentic DOS gem, cooked up by id Software, who also did Wolfenstein 3-D, was one of the first 3-D shooter games to gain huge popularity.

{On a brief aside, Wolfenstein 3-D was one of the greatest games EVER! I spent hours on my first computer playing with my brother, and I will never foget the first time we completed all the levels, killing the viking giantess and running out to freedom from the evil Nazi castle. My brother and I celebrated, and then I screwed him over by entering only his intial, and my complete name in the high scores roster. I still feel guilty about that to this day. Berto ---I couldn’t have done it without you kid.)

Originally released in 1993, Doom has since launched an entire sub-culture based on the mythology surrounding the world it established. The storyline is simple enough --a space marine disobeys direct orders and is sent to work for the Union Aerospace Corporation, a scientific company that is experimenting with teleporting devices between Mars, and two fictitious moons, Phobos and Deimos. When something goes awry, demons start flooding the teleporting gates, and UAC folk either get killed or turned into Zombie. The space marine is then sent to Phobos with a team to figure out what is going on, and must make it out alive, dogding evil demon aliens at every turn.

Sound silly? Well you tell that to millions of fourteen year old boys who made this game a huge sensation, between downloading copies of shareware, popularizing network gaming and making “WADS”(player created expansions).

The Doom craze resulted in all sorts of game sequals, hacking manuals, fan fiction and more. Now, about a year after the release of Doom 3, Doom will be immortalized by Hollywood, in the glory of the silver screen, as a live-action feature length film.

After watching the trailer for Doom, I feel certain of only one thing. Doom doesn’t seem to be pretending to be anything its not. From the second the trailer begins with its psuedo-scientific babble, its obvious that no one, including the studio, is taking the movie that seriously.

I mean look at the voiceover done by the “in a world...” guy:

“At a distant research facility, the final ten percent of the human genome has just been discovered, and with it... all hell has broken loose.”

But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have the potential to be a gleefully action packed good time. This is definitely my guilty pleasure pick of the fall (the film opens on October 21st). Though it reeks of being a cheap sci-fi with a bunch of no-name actors, I am actually impressed with the cast that Universal managed to assemble for this one. I don’t care what anyone says, The Rock is awesome. Though The Rundown was nothing spectacular, I agreed with the critics who pegged The Rock as a fresh new action star. There’s just something incredibly likeable and personable about him. He’s the kind of guy who you could meet at a local watering hole and have good conversation with. I’m glad he’s in this movie. Then there’s Karl Urban, who is not only startlingly handsome, but has an impressive resume including the Lord of the Rings films and The Bourne Supremacy (so he did Chronicles of Riddick...les we not forget that Judi Dench was in that too!)

How can you not get excited when you hear The Rock say “If it breathes, kill it.” I mean I may be completely off base with this one, but I have a good feeling about Doom. It’ll be much needed popcorn relief in a season filled with Debbie Downer award show fodder.

Thank God for aliens and machine guns.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Tagline of the Week: Courtesy of Aeon Flux

A few years ago I met film director Karyn Kusama at the HBO Latino Film Festival. Her first feature film, Girlfight, starring Michelle Rodriguez, was premiering there, and at the time I was just a lowly intern tagging along with my boss, who was out scouting for new talent.
I was struck, not only by the subject matter of the script (Kusama wrote the film as well) but with the gritty and realistic style of her direction. Here was a female director who had chops, and who exhibited a talent to do film that wasn’t just a sappy romantic comedy or an anthem to anorexia. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Girlfight was a movie about a young woman who wanted to be a boxer. Kusama created a protagonist, who was complete and multi-facited, not just a characiture obsessed with men, beauty or money. Sure those things were all touched upon within the film, but Girlfight’s story really centered on a positive, balanced, feminine strength, and I liked that alot.

After the film when Kusama was talking to my boss, she mentioned that her next film was a science fiction film. That was back in 2000, and I remember keeping my eye out for her next feature.

Cut to Aeon Flux.

Aeon Flux is based on an original animated series that ran on MTV in ‘95, and was created by Peter Chung. Originally conceived as a series of short films, it gained such popularity that the creative team began to produce proper full length episodes, but were never picked up for a second season. I never saw the show myself, but I heard it had the appearence of a comic book come to life, with a very unique style of animation, defying catagorization as either Anime or other commercial 2-D that ran on TV at the time. The show took place in the future, and centered on title character, Aeon Flux, who was a towering spindly thing serving as a secret agent and doling out justice in the form of death.

Apparently in development for quite sometime, the trailer for the feature film release just hit the Apple website the other day. I must confess, I’m not sure what to make of it. On first glance I am definitely impressed by the minimalist, yet visually striking art direction. If reminds me a little of Julie Taymor’s desgin for the film Titus. IMDB does not have the full crew credits posted yet for Aeon Flux, but I’m really curious to see if they have some of the same art directors in common, because there’s something about the look of the two films that is synonymous. I really like that shot of that structure floating in the sky that looks like a dirigible, and I’m always a sucker for that futuristic, stark utopianesque architecture that the buildings shown in the trailer all have. But check out Charlize Theron’s voiceover, (she plays the title role of Aeon Flux).

“We are in the last city on earth, some call it the perfect society, but others know better.... Government control is total, people disappear as though they never existed. But there are rebels, that believe in freedom, and who fight in the name of the disappeared... I am one of them.”

So immediately I’m thinking --oh, its The Island meets V for Vendetta, with a little Matrix thrown in for good measure. I am always excited for the next sci-fi flick to come out, and I’m all for female assasins, but this story concept feels fairly tired. I mean, we’ve all seen some permutation of this before. Obviously all stories are just the same few themes and scenarios visited over and over again with different contexts, and it could just be unfortunate timing for the release of this movie. (Funny, how we’re so forgiving of recycling concepts, when its been a little while since the last one.) But even I, who would love to see a movie of the science fiction genre released every other weekend, am thinking, really? Another one? Maybe its that Charlize reeks a little bit too much of Trinity --(I don’t know how I feel about that black hair on her either --its bizarre looking, but maybe that’s the point.) or maybe its just that the trailer makes the plot seem impossibly vague -- but as much as I want to love this trailer, I’m, as they say, not feeling it.

It’s not anything in particular either. I am fairly indifferent to Charlize Theron as an actress, I never saw Monster, though I thought she was fine in the films I have seen her in, (The Astronaut’s Wife, The Cider House Rules, and The Legend of Bagger Vance --an eclectic assortment from her resume I realize). But besides the fact that I think she looks better as a blonde, I can’t really pin point any reason why she shouldn’t put forth another fine performance as assasin Aeon Flux. Frances McDormand is awesome, and seeing her on a cast list is always a good sign, though its hard to tell how big her role in the film actually is based off the trailer. Then there’s that Marton Csokas, who plays Trevor Goodchild, and appears to be the heavy in Aeon Flux, was a bit of a ham in Kingdom of Heaven, and there’s not really any indication that he will be any different in this pic.

Flying through the air, razor sharp blades of grass, and marbles that you can command at will to explode things? I’m game for all of those things, but there’s just nothing about this trailer that really pulls me in and sells me on it. Writing team Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay who wrote the screenplay based off Peter Chung’s characters, are fairly new on the scene, and this is their first science fiction film --their previous cedits are Crazy/Beautiful and The Tuxedo, neither of which I’ve seen. Most of my hopes for this film are riding on my admiration for director Karyn Kusama, I’d love it if this wasn’t just a sophmore slump for her.

As for the tagline, I get what they’re going for --but it doesn’t really make sense. I think what they mean is, the future is changing (fluctuating). But the phrase they chose is:

“The Future is Flux”


Thursday, August 25, 2005

SNAKES ON A PLANE = B Movie Heaven

Ok, so by now this is probably old hat to most of you, but just in case, I figure I’d post a little blog about this new flick called.....SNAKES ON A PLANE. If you haven’t already read about it on Defamer or other random sites , read on here. My boss was talking about it a few days ago and then I got another tip off today from a dear reader with the link to the film’s IMDB page.

So what’s the deal with this movie? The title basically says it all “Snakes on a Plane” is about well.....snakes on a plane. Think Anaconda meets Passenger 57. (Always bet on black) The logline of the movie as listed on IMDB says:

On board a flight over the Pacific Ocean, an assassin, bent on killing a passenger who's a witness in protective custody, let loose a crate full of deadly snakes.

There have been tons of movies with creepy crawlies --Arachnaphobia, Creep Show (that cockroach scene is forever burned in my mind...), Raiders of the Lost Arc (snakes, why did it have to be snakes) and many more. Tiny confined spaces, are another phobia factor that movies have played upon to create sensations of clausterphobia --but small inescapable spaces AND vermin? Brillant. There are so many things that come to mind! Surely the pilot will have to be bit, and they have to convince some rogue badass passenger who hasn’t flow in ten years to take over. Will there be poisonous ones? Contricting ones? And what about weapons! These days you can’t even carry a damn eyebrow tweezer on board on the chance that you will use them to poke the captain’s eyes out and commandeer the plane. You can’t toss them out of the plane, because you’ll depressurize the cabin and then freeze or suffocate to death. Not to mix metaphors or anything, but talk about a can of worms!

There are four writers listed in the credits for screenplay,
Sebastian Gutierrez, John Heffernan, David Loucka, and Sheldon Turner. I have no clue which one of them actually came up with the conceit for the movie, but whoever did is genius.

I imagine if the filmmakers know what they’re doing, they’ll know how to build the tension and make it 100 minutes or so of sheer suspense. The film’s director, David R. Ellis, seems to be a chamelion of sorts. Ellis has done stunt man work for almost seventy movies since 1976. He’s also done 2nd AD and 2nd unit stuff for big stuff like Matrix Reloaded and the first Harry Potter. And he’s acted in a few features including guessed it, Rocky III! Ellis’film directing roster has B movie written all over it, having done Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco, Final Destination 2, and Cellular. Now I actually haven’t seen any of those movies, but I’ve heard that Final Destination 2 has some cool sequences in it. As for Cellular, it just seemed like an awful script that was a rip on Phone Booth (which I thought was pretty sub par in and of itself). Still, Ellis knows crazy stunts, and seems to be drawn to that “B-movie” sensibility, which I think will have drastic results. It will either be completely awesome, filled with just the right amount of tension, humor and action or awe-inspiringly terrible, with wooden dialogue, and foolishly improbably sequences, --and in its terribleness it will be truly great. Either way it seems like a win, win situation.

Sam L. Jackson is the star (another sign in my opinion that the movie will be great even if it is bad) and there are some other TV type actors in it, including Julianna Margulies.

Now a lot of head scratching has been generated by New Line Cinema, the studio behind the film, because they want to change the title to Pacific Air Flight 121. Obviously they don’t see the campy charm of having a title reminscne of all those insane 50’s films, like Attack of the 50 foot woman and Beast from 20,000 fathoms. Titles that told you exactly what sort of stupendous event and/or figure the movie centered on. Why you actively choose a title which sounds like part of an announcement made over an airport telecom system? I mean come on, Snakes on a plane, man, snakes on a plane!

Here’s a still from the movie which is currently filming and will be released next summer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The New Yorker finds Red Eye short sighted

As I desperately tried to play catch up this weekend with all the movies that I feel compelled to go see, I managed to catch a matinee of Red Eye, Wes Craven's new picture.

An atypical foray for Craven, who gained noteriety from his Horror films, Redeye is a straight Thriller. Redeye tells the story of Lisa (Rachel McAdams), who is held hostage on a plane and blackmailed by a mercenary hit man, Jackson (Cillian Murphey). Jackson wants Lisa to use her managerial clout at the hotel where she works to change the room where the department of homeland security will be staying. But by changing the room, she will be aiding the assasinationf of the political figure and his entire family, in a what appears to be an act by terrorists trying to make a vague statement. However, if Lisa refuses to make the call from the plane, Jackson will make a call of his own, and have her father killed.

Redeye felt like that cable TV movie that you get sucked into while flipping the channels. You end up watching the entire thing, but then it never crosses your mind again, and it floats away into the oblivion of consumed media. The base of this story had some very compelling elements, but the execution was pretty ho hum. For me, the best part of the film was the first twenty five minutes or so. During this time, we are introduced to the protagonist, Lisa Reisert, a young woman who is all business, and can not even leave her cell phone off after attenteding her grandmother's funeral. Early on, the film takes the time to develop her character with a combination of obvious cues and subtle hints, which I appreciated. (My biggest complaint about a lot of movies these days is that they don't take the time to do that.) We see that Lisa is close to her father, who is constantly worried about her, and gives her self help books. We watch her go into business mode as she coaches a co-worker over the phone, walking her through how to calm some angry but important customers. When we watch her meet Cillian Murphey's character, Jackson, we pick up on her shyness and hesitance to open herself up. But McAdams was able to also convey that underneath all that there was a part of herself that did want to make herself vulnerable. Cillian Murphey comes across as incredibly charming and personable, as he is meant to. He has a really unique sort of look about him, unconventionally attractive --with striking eyes and a disarming smile. I liked the little scene with them in the airport bar where they run into each other for the second time; they played well off each other and had good chemistry.

{On a brief aside, I thought the original teaser for this movie was brillant because they made it seem like it was going to be a romantic comedy, and then they turned it on its head and made it a thriller.}

The audience of course knows that Jackson is up to no good, but it is suspenseful to watch Lisa flirt with him and let down her walls a bit, with the last person she should be trusting in the entire airport. The ante is only upped when we see that they are sitting next to each other on a plane. But for me, shortly after they sit down, once the plane has taken off, just when things should be suddenly taking off with momentum and tension, they began to fall apart. There are a couple moments between Jackson and Lisa that are supposed to show some awkwardness between these two characters, but really the moments just come off as awkwardly played. Just after Lisa sits down, Jackson asks her with a deadpan face if she is stalking him --and she actually falls for it --getting nervous, and insisting denials. Yet this situation seems so clean cut, that anyone short of an idiot, would know he was being sarcastic, and would play along, with either a retalitatory wry quip, or pretending to affirm his suspicions.

There is also a scene where Jackson is trying to distract Lisa from the turbulent take off, as she hates flying. His lines should come out friendly and conversational, but instead they feel forced, awkward, and annoying. I’m not sure if this was a misstep in the direction at this moment, or a flaw in the dialogue, or maybe a bit of both, either way, the tension they had built up between these two people who seemed to like each other, but were fated to be at odds, was dissipated.

I wasn’t a big fan of the way that Jackson revealed his ulterior motives to Lisa. It felt kind of clunky and abrupt. One minute he was talking to her about her father, trying to calm her nerves through the plane’s bumpy ascent. The next, he was coming clean about the fact that he had a hit man stationed outside her father’s house who would kill her father on command. I think the first line of Jackson’s that really clues Lisa in to the fact that something is awry, is something like “That is my job. Trying to keep the focus on your father.” I’m not sure how I would have phrased it necessarily, if I had written the screenplay, but I’m pretty sure I would have done it differently. I think it might have been more tense, if first Jackson revealed that he was just trying to get her to call her hotel to make some changes in the arrangements for the dept. head of homeland security, and then after she naturally refused, he could throw the fact that he could hurt her father at any given moment in her face. I think I just wanted a sexier transition for Jackson as he went from charming suitor to psychotic criminal.

Once Jackson does reveal his true intentions, the story flattens out a bit. The entire second act of the movie is all about Lisa trying to resist making the call, and unsucessfully trying to draw someone’s attention to what Jackson is doing to her. Lisa tries to fake the phone call to the hotel, he realizes this and head butts her. She goes to the bathroom to leave a message for a flight attendent on the mirror, he discovered and roughed her up a bit. These mini set pieces are ok, but it seems like more could have been done to fill the audience with tension. Craven and writer Carl Ellsworth, insert these clever little foils for Jackson, but then never makes much use of them. There is the old lady who Lisa passed on her self help book to, and now wishes to discuss with her. The little girl travelling by herself who senses Lisa’s distress has sinister origins. The pair of teenage boys, who vacillate between being loud and obnoxious and dozing off to sleep. They are all interesting characters who could have been integrated into the plot more, but were relegated to the most minor of importance.

Eventually of course, Lisa is forced to make the call, and Jackson tells her that only when the plane lands will he verify her father’s safety. As the plane draws nearer to its arrival, and the sun rises, we learn an interesting detail about Lisa, some more background to her character and motivations. She had been attacked and raped about a year before. She looks deep into Jackson’s eyes, and tells him she swore then, she would never let anything like that happen to her again. And then she stabs him in the windpipe with a pen. The tension in the film picks up again here, and there is a neat sequence after Lisa stabs Jackson, where he staggers to the bathroom and she desperately tries to get out of the plane. Lisa is in a panic to call the hotel in time to alert them to the danger that the head of homeland security faces. The film ends with Lisa battling it out at her father’s house with Jackson who has followed her to get his revenge. As he wheezes up and down the stairs chasing her, she pelts vases and furniture at him. Lisa’s father shoots Jackson in the end, the head of homeland security gets out with his family on time to avoid the terrorist missle launcher aimed at his suite, and everyone appears to live happily ever after!

For me one of the odd things about this movie, was the problems it had establishing its tone. Was it a dark portrait of life post 9-11, where flying was no longer innocuous, and terrorists were lurking in every corner plotting to make another political statement through violence? Or is it a benign by the numbers thriller, where the bad guy gets his and all is right again in the world, once he is defeated?

Considering the plot of Redeye, I think it is impossible to ignore that the fact that the film reflected some of the fears generated from 9/11. Not only is Lisa literally afraid of flying, but our ultimate fear is realized in her experience with Jackson. Someone who appears to be just another casual passenger, is actually a cold blooded killer. Then of course there is the other piece of the plot which deals with a terrorist assasination of the head of homeland security.

But so what? Redeye was one of those movies which grazes political issues without actually dealing with any of them head on. Who was Cillian Murphey’s character, Jackson, anyways? Some vague rougish figure who was contracted out by some unknown terrorist cell? The movie did a slapdash job of trying to create a direct link between the homeland security department policies and the reason why the head was specifically a target. There was a brief moment where we see a clip of the head on TV, talking very generally about “cracking down” on terrorism. Perhaps this is an allusion to the fact that terrorism strikes out at random, that there is never a real connection to anything a figure of country has done, just senseless acts of violence. While terrorism is certainly characteristic of senseless violence, and unjustifiable, it is also usually in response to a very specific set of political policies or goals of the target nation. The thing that annoyed me about this movie, was that it chose a topic which was so linked to our current day fears, yet refused to explore it below surface level. Ok, so they didn’t want it to become some politically driven heavy handed hoo ha. Fine. But how can you make a movie about terrorism in this day and age that doesn't really deal with the relevance or meaning that it has in our society right now? What about simply using the anxiety that arose from 9/11 to create a deeper sense of tension and fear in the film, particularly in the scenes with Lisa and Jackson on the plane? Developing the idea of feeling vulnerable in a place(planes) that used to be thought of generally as safe? Paranoia about strangers, doubting who to trust?

Redeye was ok ---it was fine. I was fairly engaged throughout the duration of the film. But because it lacked much depth or meaning, it falls into the catagory of a rental for me, and it is certainly not the cleverest or skillful movie Craven has ever done. Come on WC, show me the horror!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The New Yorker Eats her Words: Sky High is the sleeper hit of the summer.

If you recall a few months ago, I was railing against the Sky High trailer. Going back and rereading it, I sound pretty darn harsh, complaining about everything from the cheap looking FX to the inexperienced writers and actors. I even went as far as to say it gave a bad name to the superhero genre and looked like it lacked the slightest smidge of originality.

I was dead wrong.

Not only was Sky High a lot better than I thought it would be, it was actually a well done, enjoyable, funny movie. Better than a lot of the snooze-fest of films that have been rolled out this summer season. What made Sky High feel original, in my opinion, was that it didn’t take a superhero movie and put it in the context of a high school, (like parts of X-Men and Spiderman), rather it took a high school movie, and made it about characters who happened to be superheroes. It took the much used model of a teen movie about the young adult search for identity and romance, and plugged in characters with super powers and a fantastical setting, to yield charming results.

The movie centers around Will Stronghold, son of The Commander and Jetstream the two most powerful, successful, and well known superheroes in the whole world. Will is about to begin his freshman year at Sky High, a high school for teens with superhuman powers. His parents are thrilled that Will is going to attend their Alma Mater, and cannot wait to unleash the Stronghold Three to the world, the most powerful Superhero family ever. There’s only one problem…Will doesn’t have any powers. In this world, superheroes seem to attain their superhuman powers as they hit puberty. Will has watched powers of those around him bloom, --like his best friend Layla, who has the power to manipulate any and all vegetation, but he himself, remains “ordinary”. Terrified of what his parents would think if they discovered they had a powerless son, Will has hidden the fact that he has not yet found his superhuman strength (his father’s power) or learned to fly (his mother’s power). We travel with Will up to his new school, which is cleverly placed in… the sky, on a flying school bus, and watch as he navigates through all the perils of high school. Bullys, pretty girls, outcasts, popular kids, strange teachers, and of course, homework.

Sky High is very simple and straightforward, but the issues it does touch upon, it deals with nicely. Grounded in the age old theme of the popular vs. the losers, Sky High has its own brand of social hierarchy. All kids at the school are separated into two groups: Heroes and Hero support (aka sidekicks). Those with remarkable powers, such as superhuman speed, strength, intelligence, ability to manipulate one of the forces of nature, or shape-shifting are put into the hero classification. Those who are more limited in their powers, i.e.--can only shape shift into one particular item(such as a hamster), glow in the dark, or turn into a puddle at a moment’s notice, are dubbed sidekicks. All of the school is basically segregated into these two groups. There is a great scene where Bruce Campbell, who plays the over zealous gym teacher, Coach Boomer, calls upon each student in the gym, during what appears to be their version of gym class. He commands them to display their power in front of everyone, so that they may be placed properly on the right learning track – that of hero or sidekick.

I love that the filmmakers chose something as humiliating as gym class to be the forum where these kids must show their powers, which they themselves are not even well acquainted with yet. Coach Boomer is completely unapologetic with his bellowing declarations; he dubs them winners or losers without a second thought. Will of course is petrified that his secret of being powerless is to be revealed in front of all freshman, a moment that I could relate to, as I recalled former gym class days of my own where it was revealed to other students that I could not catch a ball if my life depended on it. Will is then sent to the school nurse, who tells him that he may just be a later bloomer, but that there is also the chance he may never develop any powers at all. Will’s fear that he may never obtain any superhero powers, is of course indicative of so many things we worry about when we are that age. Letting our parents down, growing up to be failures, lacking in a way that all others around us aren’t. So because Will can relate to being a non-hero, he happily bonds with his fellow sidekicks, appreciating their unique powers and off-beat and resilient personalities. He knows what its like to feel left out, even from his own family, and so he has no delusions of grandeur, or propensity for pompousness, and embraces the sidekicks (aka Hero Support) as his people. Will of course eventually does get his power, and is tempted away from his friends by the lure of the pretty senior class president, Gwen, and the newfound acceptance he found among the school once his powers appeared. In a neat sequence, Will wows the school in a match of “Save the Citizen” which I thought was a delightfully amusing conceit, where two teams of two play against each other (one team plays the villains, the other, the heroes) to either savethe citizen (played by a wooden dummy being lowered to its doom on metal spikes). In the end of course Will realizes the error of his ways, ditches the pretty girl (who turns out to be the Super Villain) and with the help of his sidekick friends saves the school.

One of the strengths of the film was the casting. Michael Angarano, who stars as Will Stronghold, puts forth a sweetly innocent and understated performance. He sells every choice his character makes in throughout the film, and its easy to root for him. Kurt Russell as The Commander, and Kelly Preston as Jetstream, are the wonderfully goofy yet apropos All American parents to Will. Their roles are funny because they were played as traditional parents first, and superheroes second. The rest of the kids all put in very solid performances, endearing and comedic. It was also fun to watch comedians and cult actors in the teacher roles, who looked like they were having a lot of fun. Kids in the Hall veterans Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald, Bruce Campbell, Lynda Carter, Broken Lizard’s Kevin Heffernan, and Cloris Leachman. These actors and actresses brought great small flourishes to their roles, and made the film that much funnier and enjoyable to watch.

Sure the film was Disnified, and had the kids drinking sodas instead of beers at the parties, with making out toned down to respectable pecks, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong being that they audience they were going for were young kids (the movie had a PG rating). The ultimate message of the movie, “we can all be heroes” and “everyone is special” is certainly not that original or different, but went down surprisingly easy without feeling too cloying or sentimental. This movie was silliness of the best kind, it had moments of complete goofiness and ridiculousness, and even stupidity. But the film knew what it was, and has no aspirations to be any deeper or heavier than it was. For example, at one point, a member of the sidekick group, whose only power is her ability to change into a guinea pig, helps to save the day. She is the only one small enough to crawl through a pipe where a bomb has been rigged, and chews away at a wire to disconnect the timer on the bomb. At one point the guinea pig says out loud “this is so stupid” and yes in a way it is, but it is also funny, and I found myself laughing instead of questioning the logic of the plot perhaps because of the filmmaker’s admission of just how ludicrous it is. But that is the beauty of Sky High, it is a fantasy, a world where Superheroes commonly exist, and giant robots routinely attack urban centers. It is a fairy tale about growing up.

I think that often there is a backlash in the film world against movies with happy endings, which may seem to be unrealistically positive. I do not think this sentiment is without merit, because certainly darkness has its place among light. What I do find highly annoying are the films on the opposite end of the Hollywood happy ending syndrome, stories that have bitterness and melancholy just for the sake of itself. To me, these movies are just as egregious as the bland unrealistic syrupy adult romantic comedies churned out every year. (i.e. Just Like Heaven – dear God if I have to see that trailer one more time…. “I’m sensing some seriously intense feelings she might have for you bro!”) But there’s a difference between saccharin and sweet, the former feels fake and the latter is real; Sky High has characters and moments that make it authentic, not contrived.

This film ranks surprisingly high for me among the summer movies released this year -- go see Sky High, if you just sit back and let yourself enjoy it you will be surprised by how much you like it.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Fog Blog

Wasn't it only a few days ago that I was lamenting the state of
current Horror movies as I reviewed The Skeleton Key?  I proclaimed
that everything felt lackluster and devoid of originality.

Well it didn't take much for me to get sucked back into the loop
again.  After watching the trailer for remake of The Fog, I couldn't help but have
my curiousity peeked, a small bubble of excitement somehow finding its
way to the surface of my blogosphere.

What? Excitement for another remake?

Yes.  Its seems a bit unbelievable doesn't it?  The past couple years
have been chock full of remakes of the "classics" particuarly from the
70's - such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Amityville Horror.
The original John Carpenter The Fog was released in 1980.  I remember
my father buying the video when I was a young child, and being
petrified of hearing those slow three consecutive knocks at my door.
This was the sound that heralded the evil held within the creeping fog
of Antonio Bay.

John Carpenter is a staple of the horror and sci-fi genre, who I
believe was very influential because of the unique tone he strikes in
his films.  His style somehow conveys stark realism within a dreamlike
context.  Like the kind of nightmare that is so completely vivid, you
have to keep reminding yourself it was just a dream when you wake up.
The first Halloween film feels like it could happen to anyone, anywhere.  The circumstances are perfectly ordinary.  Just a young woman babysitting on Halloween night.  But the suspense, and the sense of terror that he creates in some of those scenes makes you want to tear your hair out with insanity.  You are screaming for Jamie Lee Curtis' to wake up and realize that everything
is not ok, and she is living in a nightmare. There is nothing scarier than
thinking you are safe in the constructs of the normalcy of your life, only to
discover something evil has invaded your reality.

The Fog is interesting, because like Halloween, which is about more than just a creepy serial killer, it is frightening on multiple levels. From a purely visual persective, Fog looks very cool and cinematic.  It is a wonderfully eerie and mysterious thing.  It has a sort of mind of its own, coming and going as it pleases.  Its misty aura casts a shroud of doubt on everything we see.  Was there a figure standing there?  Or was that just the fog playing tricks on your
eyes.  Of course, its not just about Fog, it is also about the unseen and the unknown.  The people of Antonio Bay have no idea that their town was built on a former lepers colony - the town's founders having forced out the lepers to meet certain death.  They are horrified to discover that they have been living on the site of a heinous crime, a grim past of evil surrounding them, shadowing their everyday lives. It is symbolic of our fears of the dark secrets that may lie in our own identity and our past, without our knowledge.

Sure, in retrospect there are some moments in the original Fog that now
seem a bit outdated or goofy, but I really think it holds, up and I
still find it to be very unsettling.

Which is why when I originally heard about the remake, I turned my
head to the sky groaning, thinking "oh no, not another one." They were going to turn “The Fog” into some flashy gorefest that would surely lack even a modicum of the style and substance that the first one had.

However, after seeing the trailer I changed my mind. Sometimes I think I am like the goldfish who is still surprised by the plastic castle in his bowl everytime he passes it despite the fact he’s seen it billions of times. Forget the fact that a lot of these horror remakes don’t touch the quality of the originals, and that the genre has taken a turn for the banal recently. Call me feeble minded or easily entertained, but what can I say, I thought it was a well done trailer, and my hopes have been raised for this movie.

The trailer relies heavily on, well, fog. My friend told me he thinks the fog looks like a product of a cheap smoke machine, but I disagree --I think it looks cool. I like the shots of it at the beginning where it rolls into the bay, and also that one shot where Selma Blair’s car becomes enveloped in the misty haze as she watches it purposefully slip through her car’s AC vents. From the looks of the trailer it appears that they’ve kept some of the original characters --(Selma Blair plays radio DJ Stevie Wayne, played in the original by Adrienne Barbeau), but it seems like the Nick Castle and Elizabeth characters (played in the ‘80 version by Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Atkins) may have been altered. The 2005 version has these characters played by Tom Welling and Maggie Grace (LOST cast represent!) but they appear to be more of an established couple, then the spontaneously involved swingin’ singles that Jamie Lee and Atkins were.

On a brief aside, there’s a moment in the trailer when they show Maggie Grace and Tom Welling’s character in bed together. Tom Welling bears a striking resemblance to Ian Somerhalder who portrayed the character of Boone in LOST. There’s a brief flash before Tom Welling’s face comes out of the shadow, where he could certainly be mistaken for Somerhalder. Boone and Shannon having a sleepover? Wierd, ewww. (A couple years back Somerhalder was actually cast in a guest star role in Smallville, Tom Welling’s show, involving some sort of evil twin scenario I think because they look so much alike...)

At first it seems like the entire film takes place over the course of one night. The narrative text that floats across the screen says “but tonight something form the past has come back.” But then there is a bizarro snippet of Maggie Grace yelling at a bedraggled priest in the daylight, asking him why they need to get off the island. Yet its the only segment of the entire trailer that takes place during the day, which I thought was a little strange.

The set piece with Selma Blair in the car seems neat (I am a sucker for underwater scenes), and the shot of the decayed arm on the beach is creepy. I also liked the scene with the little boy hiding from the rattling door from which a green foggy glow emanates. Not to get catty, but the only thing that scares me which shouldn’t is the hideous barn jacked from an LL Bean catalog long forgotten that Maggie Grace seems to be wearing for a lot of the film. Blech.

I also do not care much for that last “scare” moment in the trailer where they intercut Maggie Grace looking for Tom Welling’s character “Nick” --yet they randomly show one of the fisherman who was on the boat frozen/scared to death.

Otherwise my interest for the lastest horror film, and hopefully not fruitlessly, piqued. Both John Carpenter and Debra Hill who wrote the original 1980 screenplay were credited, which is another sign that they have left a lot of the orignal story intact. As for director Rupert Wainwright, I’ve never seen any of his previous works, which include the TV show Wolf Lake, and the film Stigmata. Wainwright originall hails from UK and alot of his earlier work was only released there. As of right now I have no reason to not have an open mind about his artistic abilities.

I think the one sheet is neat looking, but its also fairly reminiscent of The Frighteners, the much maligned Peter Jackson film. Take a look...

Regardless, come October, I think I’ll be willing to Fog it up.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bay Boy, Bay Boy, Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

We all know how I feel about Mr. Michael Bay. Here's a terrific article that my friend pointed out to me from the illustrious ONION .

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Oliver Who?

Roman Polanksi doing Oliver Twist? Wouldn’t that sort of be like Quentin Tarantino re-making Pollyanna? I had heard Polanski was doing this a while back, but it completely fell out of my consciousness until yesterday when I saw the trailer on the Apple trailers website today. For the first time since starting this blog, I find myself completely and utterly speechless. I am so dumbfounded that I don’t even know how to rant or rave, as I simply don’t understand the trailer that played before my eyes. It was so wacky, so cute, so warm, so funny…. This from the director who did Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, and The Ninth Gate? Even his most recent film, The Pianist, which I thought had an incredibly moving message of hope and faith, was still very dark, and certainly not light in spirit.

So why this? I don’t even think this is a case of “selling out” or “going soft” because the entire production design and all the performances appear to be so stylized, so it doesn’t seem to be a matter of slacking off. Maybe Oliver Twist is a favorite book of Polanski’s. Maybe he has a penchant for pickpockets. Either way, I’m still befuddled by this trailer. It really seems like he went whole hog with the thing, casting a whole bunch of Brits, doing outlandish costumes, ---it sort of reeks of an expensive Masterpiece Theatre.

I myself haven’t read the book in ages, and am tempted to revisit Dickens’ old tome now that I’ve seen the trailer. Dickens certainly wrote a lot of stories which contained dark, dreary misery, but I think the thing that strikes me most odd about this trailer, is that it seems to lack all of these things. Everything comes off in the style of a melodrama; and it comes across as being more of a jolly old rumpus adventure, than a depressing drama. I suppose it’s possible that the trailer was just cut this way, and the film has a different tone. Still….would somebody please watch this trailer too, and tell me what the hell is going on here?!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Studios need new Skeleton Key, this one is old and tired.

A Skeleton Key is a key that is meant to open all doors in the house. It has a master mold that fits any keyhole. The three act structure of film, serves as a sort of skeleton key which assists the writer in opening up the story. Genre conventions are another piece of architecture that guide the writer and cue him to certain necessary beats.

If you haven’t guessed already I’m trying to build an (albeit foggy) analogy here, one between keys and stories. All stories have similarities in that they use the same building blocks, there are only finite number of themes endemic to the human journey. However there are certain genres, particularly in the world of Big Hollywood studio films, that feel about as unique and inspired as a bowl of soggy corn flakes. Their stories feel predictable, with stale dialogue and tired stock characters. Sadly I feel the horror genre is one of the ones that in recent years has suffered the most, and The Skeleton Key is a prime example.

The beginning of the film is standard fare. Kate Hudson plays a young woman named Caroline, who responds to an ad for a job as a caretaker for an elderly infirm man. This man, Ben, lives in a creaky old house situated in the Bayou swamp land. Ben has suffered a stroke and the doctor has not given him much time to live. His wife, Violet is a colorful vintage southerner who is wary of Caroline, and is kept in check by her estate lawyer, Luke (played by an uncharacteristically tepid Peter Sarsgaard)

So Caroline takes the job and moves in to become Ben’s nurse. Slowly but surely odd things start to happen, and Caroline starts to nose around the place, using her Skeleton Key to unlock a hidden and ominous room in the attic. Turns out there’s some Voodoo, or as they term in the film “Hoodoo” (Voodoo is a religion, Hoodoo is magic? It’s all sort of unclear…) going on in the house. Caroline believes her patient, Ben, who is unable to speak or walk, is in danger, and she tries to help him as she searches for the truth about what led to his illness and what is going on in the house.

The problem with this movie is that it is too obvious. I think one of my friends was astute when she pointed out that toning down a few of the lines here and there, would have done heaps for making it less on the nose. Writer Ehren Kruger, (perhaps at the nudging of overeager studio execs) spelled things out about the characters and the plot along the way without much subtlety. For example, Kruger made a point constantly of emphasizing the fact that Caroline had lost her father a couple years back, and that while he was ill, she wasn’t there for him in the way she now wishes she was. This of course is meant to serve as a backdrop for why her character, an attractive and lively twenty five year old woman, has made it her life’s work to care for elderly dying men. The connection seems logical enough, but I don’t think it was necessary to constantly reference Caroline’s father, through dialogue, time and time again. Simple shots of the photograph showing her as a child with her father, and maybe a mention here and there would have provided a less clunky and more organic piece of character development. I was tempted at times to yell out loud at the screen “We get the picture!”

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, when I commented on the trailer, I think the concept of making a horror film about Voodoo is potentially very interesting. It’s not like a lot of the sleek new horror films involving evil electronics, or savvy psycho killers. It’s more complex than just a haunted house, or vengeful ghost. From the little I know of Voodoo, it seems like this incredibly intricate, variegated, cultural enitity, --a practice and religion that is not just black and white, but deals with both good and evil, and everything in between. Its philosophies deal with a sense of universality, the interconnectedness of all things, and karmic ideals. Sadly, very little of this is incorporated into The
Skeleton Key. The filmmakers choose to gloss over one of the major thematic points in the film, which is the relation of Voodoo/Hoodoo to issues of race as they exist in the south and as they once existed. The film briefly touches upon it, when Violet recounts the story of Papa Justify and Mama Cecile, two servants who were worked to the bone by their wealthy and callous employers. One night at a huge house party, the owners lost track of their children. As all their guests went searching for them, the owner of the house came upon the servants in the attic, who were performing some sort of Voodoo ritual in front of the children. Apalled that their children had been exposed to this sort of “devil’s witchcraft”, the father and their party guests lynched the two servants in their front yard. This portion of the film was done as a flashback, with Violet’s voice narrating, as Caroline listened, in a grainy antique looking black and white. In and of itself I thought this bit in the movie was well done, but unfortunately, within the context of the larger film it became sort of predictable and lacked thematic depth. It was just another “ghost story” about a rich mean old white man, who killed some innocent servants, whose spirits would forever seek revenge. Instead of using the story as a lynchpin to explore race relations, and the fear and concerns that are entrenched between the white and black members of society, the film took a sort of flip and inconsequential stance on the part that race played in the story.

Also I thought was the settings, of New Orleans and the Bayou which I think have great visual cinematic potential were grossly underused. There were a couple of fairly meaningless scenes with Caroline and her best friend, Jill (played by a pretty but blank faced Joy Bryant), in cheesy New Orleans bars, and a couple of brief throwaway segments of “b-roll” footage, haphazardly cut into the film, of the swamps and the swampfolk. Talk about a waste of location. When the film did try and foray into the “world” surrounding Caroline, it came across as forced and incongruent. Caroline stops a couple times at a gas station run by some “scary Creole folk” including a startling looking old blind woman. Later in the film Caroline gets some “info” from the old woman, but none of it really makes any sense. While I also liked the idea that Caroline goes into the Hoodoo shop to get some help in breaking the curse she believed was cast on Ben, the shop had about as much atmosphere and character as a Pier 1 Imports store. I wasn’t really sold on the fact that Caroline was delving into the depths of the New Orleans underworld.

While The Skeleton Key does deal with some elements of horror, such as the supernatural powers of voodoo, and spirits, it was really played more like a Thriller. There were a lot of fake scares, where Caroline was startled by a door slamming shut, or something being knocked over, but overall the movie really wasn’t that scary. In fact, the moment that I thought was scariest in the trailer, wasn’t even in the G.D. movie! The moment when Caroline plays the record and we hear the distorted words “We’ve been waiting for you Caroline…” was actually just a line that Violet says to her at the end of the movie, as we discover for certain (without much shock) that Violet and Luke are the bad guys, bodies inhabited by the old spirits of Papa Justify and Mama Cecile. The record that Caroline finds with Papa Justify conducting some sort of strange ritual, is creepy enough, but is never accounted for. How was it made? Why was it made? What sort of power does it hold? None of these questions are ever answered.

In fact as I watch the trailer again, I see there is a good deal of footage that did not appear in the film, --all the scenes showing Caroline and Jill attending a Voodoo worship session were not included, though I think they might have been interesting to see. Perhaps originally Jill’s character wasn’t such a throwaway, and actually held some inside knowledge about the religion.

For me the best part of the film was Gena Rowlands performance as the character Violet. She really harkened back to an older era of film villains, with a Hitchcockian sensibility, and made Violet, funny, scary, spunky and treacherous. Veiled through worn out mumus, a syrupy Southern accent, and old world beliefs, she hid her evil intentions with apparent physical weakness ane vulnerability which only made her all the most sinister. While her dialogue and character was written with the same handicaps as the rest of the movie, more than anyone else in the film, she really added her own spark to the role and brought it to life.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Kate Hudson’s work, but she was fine. Peter Saarsgard was phoning it in a bit, and John Hurt did the best he could do with no lines or backstory. Noticeably poor I thought was the scoring and the soundtrack. There were urban songs when there should have been old south blues, and a twangy country guitar in the score that broke the mood.

All in all this was just another movie by the books that could have gone in an interesting direction. What could have been a dark immersive journey into Voodoo and the old South was a banal TV movie of the week, about a girl trying to escape a crazy old woman. Would somebody please make a well done and original horror movie? Please?! I don’t think I can take anymore of this mediocrity; it’s really killing the genre for me…..

Friday, August 12, 2005


I discovered Harry Potter about seven years ago, while perusing an eclectic children’s toy store in Harvard Square. Apparently because I am a shallow person, and judge a book by its cover, I was taken in immediately by the artwork on the sleeve of a book called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. After reading the description on the inside flap, I immediately concluded that this would be a book that I would have loved as a younger child, and decided to get it for my youngest brother, who was about ten years old at the time. Little did I know at that time that Harry Potter was to become an insane intercontinental sensation, and a series that a couple years later, I would grow to love myself. My junior year in college, when I should have been studying for finals, I locked myself in my room and devoured the first three volumes of Harry Potter during my school’s “reading period”.

After all these years, cracking open the new Harry Potter has become like revisiting a group of old friends. The unforgettable characters and universal themes that remain as familiar as ever. It is with immense delight that I have watched the main characters grow from ages eleven to sixteen, and with the change in age, everything that comes with the territory, teen angst, growing pains, crushes and rebellion.

I have only read each volume once, and found myself with this installment more than ever trying to jog my memory over some of the more specific details of the previous books.

With this book, as with all her others, Rowling weaves together a multiple interconnecting storylines. Voldemort and his minions are terrorizing wizards and witches across the globe, and even the Muggles are feeling the aftershocks of their heinous crimes. Harry, Ron, and Hermione enjoy new responsibilities as upperclassmen, as captain of the Quidditch team, prefects, and elders at the school. Harry begins to take private lessons with Dumbledore where together, they explore Voldemort’s youth and past, as they search for answers that may aide them in his destruction. As Ron and Hermione struggle through their ever evolving love/hate relationship, Harry must confront the fact that after all these years, he’s beginning to notice some feelings he has for Ginny Weasley (Ron’s sister), and he doesn’t know how his “best mate” will react. Harry’s antagonism with student arch-nemesis Draco Malfoy is more powerful than ever as Harry suspects he is involved with the Dark Arts, and is aspiring to become a death eater himself.

Oh, and of course there’s the half blood prince, the former owner of a Potions textbook that Harry has stumbled upon, with enhancements for each potion scrawled on the margins. The textbook’s notes have made Harry the star pupil of his Potions class, no longer lead by Snape, but by new comer Professor Slugworth. Finally, after all these years, Severus Snape has been granted his ultimate wish, and now leads the class of Defense Against the Dark Arts, a position which no professor has been able to maintain for more than one year at Hogwarts in more years than anyone can remember. And so as we delve deeper into Potter’s world, these questions hang above our heads –is Snape actually on the dark side? Will Voldemort’s true weakness be revealed? Will Ron and Hermione snog? Will Harry ever snog anyone again? What the heck is that Draco boy up to, and why is Dumbledores’ right hand all black and knarled?

Interesting that the same year Lucas puts out the last chapter in his Star Wars saga dealing with Annakin Skywalker’s final transformation into Darth Vader, Rowling explores deeper than ever the metamorphosis of a young boy named Tom Riddle into the evil entity, Voldemort. What is it about these personal journeys from dark into light that fascinate us so much? Is it our desire to find a clear turning point or event? Is it easier to believe that some people are born twisted out of the wombs? Or better to think that abuse, misfortune, and an environment of depravity created evil dictators, serial killers, and intergalactic tyrants?

I myself, cannot help but be drawn into the mythology of Tom Riddle, a trouble youth who seemed to be destined for dark things. Some of the most enjoyable portions of the book for me, were the “memories” that Harry and Dumbledore watched together after tumbling through the Pensieve, learning more and more about Riddle/Voldemort with each flashback.

(I love the conceit that memories in the wizarding world may be extracted from the owner’s mind as silvery wisps of liquid kept in tiny glass bottles)

I liked that the peek into Tom Riddles’ history began before he was even born, and started with the origins of his family. I loved learning about Tom’s mother, Merope and how miserable her life was, the wretched house where she lived, how she was treated terribly by her father and brother, longing to run away with the handsome, dashing muggle who would pass by her window. Also intriguing were the first few glimpses that we got of Tom Riddle as a young boy. It couldn’t have been pure coincidence that Tom was just about to turn eleven when Dumbledore visited him at the Orphanage to explain to him what his mysterious gifts were about. Clearly Rowling meant to draw a parallel, between Tom and Harry, because it was the exact age Harry was when he first discovered the meaning behind his “strange powers.” (Also like Harry, Riddle was an orphan) Unlike Harry, who at worst used his powers for mild mischief, Tom Riddle seemed to have abused his power to sinister effect. The two young men had two similar backgrounds, but appear to be polar opposites. Rowling is obviously saying something, I’m just not sure what it is. Is she drawing a parallel between the two young men to show that what defines people’s characters are not their environments but their innate propensity for good or evil? Of course, Tom and Harry’s origins are not exactly alike, --Tom seemed to be conceived out of desperation, despair, and false pretenses (Riddle Sr. was under the effect’s of Merope’s love potion at the time), while Harry came out of two good hearted people who were in love. I’m guessing that there will be more revealed about the parallels between the two in the final chapter, but ultimately I’m not entirely sure where Rowling is going with this one.

I found the plot point involving Slughorn’s memories to be quite clever. I liked the fact that wizards can alter their own memories, like movies cleaned up for TV with bad dubbing. I also liked the scene where Harry takes the Felix Felicis and it leads him down to Hagrid’s hut, and he gets Slughorn drunk in order to extract the real memory of what he told Tom Riddle after class that fateful day. To me this was Rowling at her best, --she takes a plot point that she had introduced much earlier in the story, and just when you have forgotten about it, she brings it back, and leads you down a road of adventure that you least expect.

The last hundred or so pages of the book were completely riveting. The chapter entitled “The Cave” was amazing, Rowling’s depiction of the black still lake with the green glow far off in the distance was as visual as it was eerie. When Harry attempts the summoning charm for the Horcrux, and Rowling writes:

“With a noise like an explosion, something very large and pale erupted out of the dark water some twenty feet away; before Harry could see what it was, it had vanished again with a crashing splash, that made great, deep ripples on the mirrored surface.”

My heart froze with terror. I really thought Rowling stepped it up having a lake filled with tons of dead corpses. She created great tension in this whole scene, especially by having Dumbledore make Harry swear to force him to drink from the basin. It was torturous to read Dumbledore writhing with agony, and then Harry fighting off zombies? I felt as though I could picture exactly how the filming of this scene will look. This chapter make actually go down as one of my favorites in the Potter series.

At first, when I had heard talk that a main character was going to die, I thought that it was going to be one of the kids (either Ron or Hermione). But it became clear as the book went on, that good old Albus D was probably not going to make it to book 7. I must say I felt as lost as Harry must have when I read those last chapters. Who would council Harry when he was feeling conflicted? Who would help lead him out of confusion and darkness towards light. It was very Obi-Wan Kenobe for Albus to go the way he did, and others who I’ve discussed it with have agreed that this was an inescapable part of Harry’s Hero’s Journey. In order for Harry to complete his growth and become the Hero that he is meant to be, Dumbledore must leave him. Only then will he be able to defeat Voldemort. Just in the way that Obi Wan passing was a necessary step for Luke to defeat Darth Vader.

And what of Snape? As has been posted on many a website before mine, SNAPE KILLED DUMBLEDORE Now me, I’ve always resided on the camp that Snape was actually evil. From day one, I never really believed that he truly cared for Harry’s well being, even if he did purportedly save him from death once or twice. When this book opened up with the scene between Snape, Bellatrix and Narcissa, I found myself yelling out loud, “I knew it! I knew it!” Of course I was still shocked that he killed Dumbledore, but I also felt glad that his true colors were finally out in the open. Now I have discussed this with a number of folk, who believe that Snape is in fact playing the double agent, and that he killed Dumbledore, on Dumbledore’s request so that he could gain the ultimate trust from the dark lord. These folk tell me that if I go back and read the last chapters of the book, where he kills Dumbledore, and fights with Harry, it is quite apparent that he is not evil. Well, I went back and read them, and I’m still not convinced. Rowling writes about Snapes face being “suffused with hatred” and appearing “demented, inhuman”. I don’t really buy it that he’s secretly not a baddie. If you ask me he’s a double double agent. He is working for Voldemort, even though Dumbledore thought he was pretending to work for Voldemort, but really working for him. Besides he’s always hated Harry’s father, and it comes out in this book that he was the one who told Voldemort of the Potter’s whereabouts, though apparently he claims he didn’t know it would lead to their death. Dumbledore’s explanation that Snape felt horrible guilt for his actions never flew with me. People have argued that Dumbledore would never trust someone evil, but I think Dumbledore is simply too good hearted and trusting. After all he was the one who brought Tom Riddle to Hogwarts, and tried to coddle him into goodness. But it didn’t work. Dumbledore’s only flaw was that he didn’t know when it was time to give up on someone.

As for the reveal of Snapes’ identity as the Half Blood Prince, I was a bit disappointed. The idea of Harry finding an old text book with hidden secrets in it was fascinating. Whoever owned the book seemed to have a highly varied knowledge of magic, and a good sense of humor. The hexes written on the text’s margins helped Harry along the way, and his excellent performance in Potions classes benefited him and Ron and Hermione, in ways that resonated for the entirety of the book –most significantly the Felix Felicis potion, that assisted in saving all their lives in the end. {The Felix Felicis potion bit was brilliant, I particularly like the chapter where we the readers, as well as the characters in the book are led to believe that Ron took the potion, when in fact he didn’t! While by no means a novel philosophical concept for that Ron’s luck to be “all in his head”, I was definitely fooled as much as Hermione. }

But back to the Potions textbook. Why did I feel so let down when it was revealed that Severus Snape was the previous owner of the book? Logistical discrepancies aside, (doesn’t Harry realize the person must have been at Hogwarts at least fifty years before him, and this eliminated anyone from his parent’s class because they were not old enough??) I didn’t understand the full implications of Harry using Snapes’ notes to carry him through the semester. Harry believes that Snape is a dark servant of Lord Voldemort, but what does it mean if Snapes old tricks helped Harry? Is this a message that perhaps Snape isn’t really evil after all ? Am I to believe Snape purposefully slipped it to him to help Harry through the year? ( I don’t buy it)

I thought the final chapter, “The White Tomb” was touchingly written, and felt a lump rise to my throat as Rowling said goodbye to one of the most beloved characters in the series. But as with all her books, she masters at finding just the right balance of sadness and joy. There is no more clear or buoyant theme in any of her books than that of friendship. No matter what happens around them, tragedy, dark magic, school politics, thwarted crushes, opposing points of view, one thing always remains triumphant for Harry, Ron and Hermione, and that is their friendship. Even in the midst of death, floats the light of a new beginning: Bill and Fleur’s wedding.

“…In spite of everything, in spite of the dark and twisting path he saw stretching ahead for himself, in spite of the final meeting with Voldemort he knew must come, whether in a month, in a year, or in ten, he felt his heart lift at the thought that there was sill one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione.”

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Plug for My Date with Drew

Hey Folks, I know I’ve been MIA for a while (still working on my Harry Potter review), but I just wanted to take a short beat and plug a little movie called My Date With Drew.

My Date with Drew is a small independent documentary that was actually completed about two years ago, and finally got the distribution to get a nationwide release. Now Romantic Comedy isn’t exactly my genre….however, this movie really hit home with me because what it’s really about is achieving your dream. The movie follows everyman and aspiring filmmaker, Brian Herzlinger, as he tries to achieve his lifelong fanstasy of going on a date with his childhood crush Drew Barrymore. But beyond that, Brian is trying to do something that will boost him out of his career rut ---something that would nudge him closer to his overall goal of being a filmmaker. The concept of working towards a goal that has tremendous personal value but seems like an enormous challenge, is one I think that we can all relate to and find inspiring.

It just so happens that I also met two of the filmmakers personally at a screening that I attended on Sunday evening, and the fact that they are warm, enthused individuals who seem passionate about their work makes me root for this movie even more. Small movies like these are the little gems that often get overlooked within the barrage of big studio output. But that doesn’t mean they pack less of a punch, and often times, despite of and perhaps because of the fact that they come out of limited resources, they shine with a raw sort of glow that comes from people doing that they truly love to do.

So go out and see My Date with Drew ---I won’t put any spoilers on this one, and give away if he gets the date or not, just go see it. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

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