Wednesday, May 31, 2006

LOST Season 2 Wrap Up Part II – Theory Talk

Even though I just posted a huge piece LOST and the season finale, I still didn’t address everything that I wanted too. So here, for some lighter fare, I’ve put forth some comments and theories.

1)The Hurley Bird – Was everyone as shocked as I was when the giant green parrot swooped down from a tree as Sawyer, Michael, Jack, Kate and Hurley made their way to the Others? And did the bird actually say Hurley’s name? I must have rewound this moment about six times on my TiVo and I still couldn’t figure out what was going on. As for the larger implications of this, I don’t really think there are any. This bird falls in line with the polar bear; some sort of funky zoological testing has occurred on this island. The question is, is it part of the Dharma Initiative? Or is it just another prop to make things appear as if the Dharma Initiative actually exists?

2)The Big Foot – Remember when Sayid, Jin and Sun were on the sail boat coasting around the perimeter of the island? They saw this classically sculptured enormous stone foot, with only four toes. Many of you have already pointed out the connection to Colossus, and the most famous of these was the Colossus of Rhodes, a tribute to the ancient Greek god of the sun, Helios. (The most well known myth about Helios is about his sun riding the sun chariot to his doom) There’s definitely some Greek mythology woven in here, between the foot and the name choice of Desmond’s lady, Penelope. As one talk backer aptly pointed out, Desmond could by viewed as a stand in for Ulysses, desperately trying to get home as he sailed the ocean. Whatever mythological and metaphorical implications the foot might have, the fact that it even exists is pretty huge. I can’t even begin to think how it ended up there…

3)The Walt Factor – There was so much going on in this two hour juggernaut, that I really didn’t even give much thought to Walt. There is still a lot of mystery surrounding what the Others did to him, as well as whatever special powers he might possess. I hope that even if he leaves the show (as the ending of the finale suggested that he might) that we will eventually learn the truth of his significance to the Others. An associate of mine, who shall be credited here as JBG, brought up some interesting points, weaving together clues that were scattered throughout the season:

“Remember in the Michael flashback episode, how Ms. Klugh asked him if Walt ever ‘appeared anywhere he wasn't supposed to?’ That was clearly an explanation of how he appeared to Shannon and Sayid. Remember how he (Walt) kept saying ‘don't push the button?’ “

I had completely forgotten about the fact that earlier on, survivors were having sightings of Walt. Is it possible that the boy is able to teleport? If so I wonder if once off the island, he would be able to teleport back… As for why Walt was telling them not to push the button, I’m uncertain. Clearly Walt knows something about the button that we don’t. But why would he urge them to not press the button and set free the electro-magnetic forces? Did the Others plant this message in his mind? If so, why would the Others want the button to remain unpressed. Wouldn’t they all be destroyed as well?

4) Jack, Sawyer and Kate – Seriously, anyone have any good theories on why they took these three? Do we think they are going to conduct some sort of bizarre behavioral experiment about males vying for female attention? Or is it much simpler. Does it have to do with how much they know about the island, and where they’ve been. I’m really clueless on this one.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

LOST Season 2 Wrap Up

My head is still reeling a little bit from last week’s two hour season finale of LOST. There was so much to take in and decipher. For whatever I’m about to dissect or analyze in the following paragraphs, let me just say that this was by far the most compelling of all the season finale’s I’ve watched this year. I was completely engrossed in everything that was going on, and though I had my frustrations, I have to say –the LOST writers have me in the palm of their hands. They are really building up to a larger mystery here and the suspense only continued to grow last night. A couple of questions were answered, such as the fact that the button actually has a purpose, and that it may have in fact caused the crash of Oceanic flight 815. But many more questions were put forth, about the island, the nature of the hatch, and of course the elusive Others.

First things first: Desmond. I’m quite fond of the actor, Henry Ian Cusick, who plays the role of Desmond. His character is interesting and I like the parallel of starting and ending this second season with his story. But I was a little confused as to why he was the central character in the finale. Book-ending aside, wouldn’t it have made a more sense if this episode was placed towards the end of the season, instead of culminating the season wrap up? I for one felt like we saw very little of several of the main characters in the show. The only central character who seemed to get a fair shake was Locke, everyone else, even Jack and Eko, was pretty limited to a few scenes with quick-paced dialogue. In this episode we learned a great deal about Desmond’s history –that he was a military man who also served time in prison (It’s a bit unclear as to whether or not his jail time was justified or now). We learned that he was in love with a wealthy woman, by the name of Penelope, whose father disapproved of him. Desmond’s flashbacks also covered some of his time on the island, and showed his old “partner” who lived in the Hatch with him, Inman. In yet another startling coincidence, Inman was the very same Colonel who bribed Sayid into torturing his former colleague in Iraq. But coincidences abounded in this episode. As it turns out, Libby, AKA Elizabeth, donated her dead husband’s sail boat to Desmond so that he could accomplish his race around the world. (I found myself wondering about the character’s timelines, and if Libby was at the mental hospital before or after she met Desmond.…) But for all this juicy back story, I found myself wondering, why now? Why the sudden return to Desmond? Sure it gave the season a nice symmetry, but I would argue that the primary story arc this season focused more on the Others than the button in The Hatch. Once the Hatch was revealed at the start of the second season, the urgency of the button pushing could only be stretched out for so long. It either did something, or did nothing, but either way, it didn’t present the myriad of possibilities and explanations that the Others did.

There were an innumerable amount of questions interlaced into Desmond’s flashbacks and story, and I have a hard time even postulating answers for them. Here are a few of them. What is Libby’s deal? I have a very unclear sense of her back story; she’s probably lied at some point, the question is about what. How did Inman end up in the Hatch? Are we to believe that there is some US military involvement in the Dharma Initiative or the Hanso Foundation? When Desmond was dragged into the Hatch from the beach on the island, were there several men in the yellow Hazmat suits? Or was it only Inman, and were the blurry images we saw, a product of Desmond’s hazy state of consciousness? What exactly did the failsafe –the key port underneath the ground level that the drunken Inman showed to Desmond, do? When the survivors on the island were shrouded in the shocking white light –was that a product of the button not being pushed, or of the failsafe being pushed?

And what of the big reveal of the episode/season? Based on the finale we are meant to believe that when Desmond didn’t push the button (after leaving the Hatch), the electro-magnetic surge that ensued caused Oceanic flight 815 to crash. But that just doesn’t make sense to me; in fact I have a feeling it’s all part of some big charade. Here’s why I don’t believe it. Everything that we’ve been building up to with the Others has indicated that they have fairly extensive knowledge of the passengers. Not only do they have their names, but they know exactly what each of them looks like, and it has been implied at various junctures that the Others had knowledge of these passengers, and maybe even of the flight before it crashed. But if the plane crashed because of some freak accident caused by a random action, or in this case, inaction on the part of Desmond, it doesn’t jive with the Others having pre-existing knowledge.

I had an argument with a friend of mine, who put forth the idea that The Others could have also orchestrated Desmond’s action at just the right time, via Inman, when they knew Oceanic Flight 815 was flying overhead. But I don’t buy this. Let’s retrace Desmond’s steps shall we? Inman has been exiting the Hatch for months, but Desmond is told he cannot leave, because he must press the button. Desmond is curious about going above ground to the surface, despite the fact that Inman warns him the air is unsafe to breathe, and dons a Hazmat suit every time he goes up. So one day Desmond watches Inman preparing to leave the Hatch, and sees there is a tear in the leg of his Hazmat suit. Suspicious, Desmond follows him, and discovers, not only that the air is breathable, but that Inman has been repairing his sail boat. This leads Desmond to question his entire purpose in the Hatch, including the button, and the two get into a physical fight. Desmond accidentally kills Inman, and horrified, runs back to the Hatch, where the button is approaching count down. Desmond lets it go to zero, and when he feels the powerful magnetic forces tearing through the Hatch, he panics and enters the numbers. Of course, he doesn’t press the button soon enough, and in the process Oceanic 815 is brought down.

Now, are we truly meant to believe that all of these little moments and actions were perfectly orchestrated at just the right time? It seems impossible. My friend argued that maybe Inman was in with the Others, and they lured him out at just the right time so he would be late in returning to the button. But how could they possibly know he would glance at Inman’s torn suit on that particular day and decide to follow him, after days of not doing so. Therefore in my opinion, only two things are possible. One is that the crash was really an accident. The second is that the reveal of the cause for the plane crash is not the whole story, and I have to go with the second. BUT, if the second clause is true, then this means, that the finale, basically answered nearly nothing. It confirmed the fact that the button has power, and gave a potentially false answer to the question of the crash. Though I liked the fact that Henry Gale was revealed to be the leader of the Others, --in fact it has come amazing implications (the survivors didn’t kill their leader when they had the chance!), it doesn’t really count as an answer to one of the millions of questions floating around in the ether.

I think that this season LOST officially entered Twin Peaks territory. Now, I’ve never seen Twin Peaks (crazy, I know), but I hear that during its short lived tenure(two seasons, I think), it dealt with the murder of Laura Palmer, a young woman in a small town. The primary driving plot of this show was centered on solving the mystery behind her death. Now, the show was cancelled before it got a chance to reveal its true secrets, and a couple years later a film set as a prequel was released to try and delve further into the mystery, (the film was Fire Walk With Me). Both the TV show and the film were endeavors of the quirky, if not enigmatic David Lynch.

Now, some people thought Twin Peaks was brilliant because it created a setting and cast of characters that were so fascinating, that the mystery behind the death of Laura Palmer became more of a backdrop for the show. In fact, I’ve even heard some Twin Peaks purists argue, that the show was better off because of the fact that the real truth behind Laura’s death was never unveiled. It was better this way, they contend, because each person could think up their own answer to the ever looming questions.

Again, I’ve never seen Twin Peaks, so I can’t really put in my own two cents about this specific show. But I fear that LOST is entering this dangerous territory, where clues that have been laid down since the show began, will ultimately be forgotten as the story forges ahead, intent on weaving more and more of a tangled web of plotting. Will LOST’s questions ever be answered completely? Will all these pieces add up to a cohesive whole? And if they’re never answered, is that OK, because ultimately it is a story about humanity playing itself out in a cultural vacuum? At the risk of sounding like an impatient, ignorant, MTV-generation American, I say the secret does matter. It matters, and I think it should be told. This show hasn’t been framed to be a strictly Robinson Crusoe like tale, or a mere inter-personal drama. It has been set up from the beginning as a true mystery, and as such, I do believe it has an obligation to its audience, to reveal the unknowns. To be frank, I don’t think it has strong enough characters to simply carry on its story without the mysterious elements. Locke is by far, in my opinion, the best character, and Sawyer is great. But the rest of them sort of fade away into one-notedom if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong, they all have their moments, but there are so many of them now, that they don’t get as much attention and development as they did in the first season.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I found the finale to be one of the more compelling couple hours of Television I had seen in quite some time. And you can bet your bippy that I’m going to be clawing at my set come next fall for the season premiere. But I feel something that I didn’t feel last year after the first season. Last year I was genuinely engaged by the cliffhanger of the Hatch. Some people were annoyed by it, but I wasn’t. Between the Black Rock, Rousseau kidnapping the baby, and the others showing their faces, I felt there was action aplenty. But I felt differently about this finale. Maybe, it’s gotten a little old?

It’s one thing to have a cliffhanger, like wondering whether or not Michael and Walt will be saved, or will ever appear in the series again. Or why the Others were specifically interested in Jack, Sawyer and Kate? But the bottom line is, we still know very, very little about what the heck is going on here. OK, so one of the observation hatch was a set up (their logs ended up tossed on the ground). The outside world does exist, (as proven by the Russian guys monitoring electro-magnetic activity at the behest of Desmond’s girlfriend) and this is not a post-apocalyptic or purgatorial affair. The button in the Hatch does something. The crash MAY have partially been explained. But we still don’t have a cotton pickin’ clue as to what the Others are really about, what the Dharma Initiative is, how the Hanso Foundation plays in, and if the oodles of coincidences are really anything more than just coincidences. But hey, it worked didn’t it? I mean here I am pondering paragraph upon paragraph as to the meaning of it all. I think next season will be very telling as to the direction that the show will go in. This season really felt like a stretch, in terms of how far they could spread certain isolated incidents into an entire year’s worth of show. I’m hoping the third season will be pivotal.

An Update from the New Yorker

Hello All,

Just a quick word here to let you all know I'm still alive and kicking. My internet at home decided to break this weekend, so I've basically been shut out from the outside world. Hey, if it's not one thing, it's another, right?

However, never fear, a LOST season wrap up is forthcoming, as well as a review of X Men 3: The Last Stand. But in the mean time, I simply ADORE this poster.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

LOST: The Musical

I'm still processing the multitude of strange elements dealt with in last night's season finale of LOST. As I mull things over in my mind, here is a silly parody of the show that was posted up on You Tube today.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The New Yorker is quite possibly the last person on earth to see the full length Pirates trailer, but she loves every minute of it…

I’m not sure why, but it’s taken me FOREVER to watch the full length trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest. For a while there, I was trying to access links that wouldn’t work, or trailers that wouldn’t download properly. But yesterday, at long last I saw it, and feel confident in saying without a doubt:

Pirates will be the biggest movie of the summer.

Now this might be old news to many a geek and movie buff out there, but there have been some other prime contenders for this top spot this season. Besides Pirates, I’d say the other three competitors for THE blockbuster summer movie of the season were/are MI3, X-Men3 and Superman Returns. Yeah, Snakes on a Plane has a ton of buzz, but it’s more a B movie triumph than a blockbuster affair.

MI3 failed to really thrill, both at the box office and with the fans. It was a fun, enjoyable movie, but it didn’t have that special something that drives the geeks back a second and third time. So far X-Men 3 is not getting much love from the critics , mostly, it seems, because of the R (Ratner) factor. As for Superman Returns, I think it looks fantastic, but everyone else I know is yawing at the trailer. What’s the one movie that seems to unite disparate groups of audience goers? Parents and children, men and women, geeks and non-geeks? Pirates. I’m not exactly sure what it is about this movie (well, actually I have an idea), but Disney and Bruckheimer have really struck gold (pun intended) with this one. Pirates achieves this fairly unique tone, unmatched by most other films out there. It’s a fanciful blend of genres, a comedic pirate fantasy movie. Like Indiana Jones before it, it took an antiquated genre (for Indy it was the adventure serials of the 30’s, for Pirates, it was the swashbuckling films of the 40’s and 50’s), and revamped it for a new generation. Now, I’m not saying Pirates has achieved Indy status, at least not yet. The Indy movies were incredibly tight and sleekly done, there wasn’t a moment of dead time. The first Pirates, however, could have afforded to trim the fat a little bit, but there’s definitely a similarity in tone between these films. Pirates also reminds me of one of my father’s old favorites, that I watch repeatedly as a child --The Crimson Pirate, starring Burt Lancaster as a jolly, mischievous pirate with a comedic sidekick.

Based off the trailer, Pirates 2 looks to be just as enthralling as the first, if not more so. Once again, it (naturally) takes place in the Caribbean, and I’ll take a moment here to point out, that another wonderfully refreshing element of this franchise, is the location. So often I think pirates and battleship epics have been associated with Europe and other cold climate destinations. But there’s something about the fact that these fantasies unfold over turquoise waters with palm trees and white sandy beaches in the background, that adds to the visual beauty and lively tone of the films. Johnny Depp seems as loopy as ever as he reprises his role as Captain Jack Sparrow, and Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, seems to have picked up a bit of girth, looking even manlier for the second time around. It seems that Elizabeth (Keira Knightly) has decided to try her luck at the Pirate career path, which is an idea I’m fond of, and I’m pleased that Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook (the two wacky pirates) have returned for the fun as well. It’s certainly impressive that Disney has been able to keep everyone on board for all three installments of this trilogy. Not only does it have gangbusters casting, but Gore Verbinski has returned to direct, and Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio wrote the script as well. Elliot and Rossio’s scripts are great pacey fun with imaginative set pieces that don’t leave their characters in the dust in the process. I think Davy Jones and his sea creature minions look great; wonderfully detailed and inventive. I also love the fact that some sort of enormous octopus is involved in this film; the shot of the ship ensnared in the tentacles of the octo-monster is amazing.

Only forty three days and counting!

Monday, May 22, 2006

LOST; the endgame approaches

OK, so I know I’ve been delinquent on my weekly LOST recap, but I went away for a few days and was without computer access. I am back now, albeit exhausted from my travels, but I will try and piece together a slapdash entry for last week’s LOST episode.

I had read in some foolish spoiler heavy magazine article that last week’s episode, “Three Minutes” would be driven by a Michael flashback. I was both pleased and relieved when I saw that (like Claire’s before him), his flashback centered on events that had taken place on the island, namely his time with The Others. As moving as I found the first episode that depicted his situation with Walt, by the second time round, things were feeling recycled, and I don’t think I could have sat through yet another rehashing of his attempts at trying to retain custody over his son.

I wasn’t really sold on the first fifteen minutes or so of the episode. They were showing a fair amount of footage from past episodes, and I was worried that it was going to be chock full of things we’d already seen. I did, however, like the way that the timeline was woven together, and that how, for instance, we learned that Michael was standing in the jungle with the Others when Kate was captured, and the Sea Billie had a standoff with Jack, Sawyer and Locke. Things started to get really interesting when Michael was brought to that strange beachside shanty town filled with filthy looking Others and slipshod tents. They shot Michael up with something right away, and I wonder if it was a drug that was meant to alter Michael’s psychological state, or if it was actually more of this “vaccine” business that’s been bandied about for two seasons now. Speaking of unmarked vials and syringes, what the heck was up with Charlie giving Claire that case filled with “medicine.” Though I think the fact that Charlie shot himself with the drug will surely play out in the future, I thought it was a bizarre mechanism to use as the thing that will win Charlie’s favor back with Claire. It was insane enough that Claire was grateful for it. Who in their right minds would shoot their baby up with an unknown substance. “Oh Gee Chahlie, thanks for this random chemical that might kill my baybee.” Her fears should not necessarily be allayed by the fact that Charlie claims he’s taken it without ill effect –that hardly counts as a proper medical trial. It harkens back to that muddled episode a couple months ago, where, convinced that her baby was “sick,” Claire sought out to find the “medicine” –I mean it’s all so ridiculous, and for now this plot line just annoys me.

When Michael was sitting on the beach and one of the Others mentioned a “her”, I half expected the French Woman to come out and expose herself as a traitor. Of course we all know by now, she didn’t, and instead a solemn looking woman, (did we even get a name for her?) emerged from the tent and started grilling Michael about Walt. The most terrifying and revealing moment in this episode came during the scene when Michael and the woman spoke in her tent at night. The degree of information that the Others have is startling, and I still haven’t cracked one good theory as to why they are interested in some survivors more than others. The woman bribed Michael and promised him that Walt would be returned to him if he set the artist formerly known as Henry Gale free, and bring back a few others from the camp. But what is the significance of the specific group comprised of Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Hurley? Why not Sayid? (He’s physically fit and could pose a threat to them.) Why not Sun? (She’s pregnant.) There doesn’t seem to be any common denominator among the four that were chosen. There’s also the fact that the woman knew all of their full names. I guess it’s possible that Ethan had stolen the passenger manifest and passed on the survivors names to his cohorts, but here’s the other thing to consider. Clearly this woman, and the Others, must not only have the names of the survivor, but must know what they each look like –otherwise how would they know that anyone who came with Michael was not who they said they were. While discussing this phenomenon with a friend, he reminded me that in the episode “The Other 48 Days,” it had been revealed to Ana Lucia that there was some sort of list, and that the tail end survivors were somehow being systematically picked off by the Others, and not by random either. Could this relate back to the “good” and “bad” folk as well?

My question is, how is all this possible? There is some mighty big conspiracy going on here, but I’m not sure what it is. As I see it, there are only a couple possibilities. The first is that there are surveillance cameras on the island that have yet to be revealed (somewhere in the forest and the beach, etc.). It is possible that the Others could be using video surveillance cameras in the hatch –it occurred to me all the people the woman requested Michael to bring have spent significant time in the Hatch. However, this doesn’t explain how the Others knew which survivors they were capturing from the tail section group. All signs seem to lead back to the fact that The Others already knew who these passengers were before they even boarded the plane. It’s also apparent that the Others are much more high tech than they appear to be. I’m curious as to where their actual headquarters is. Is it in another hatch? Is it on another island? When Walt was brought into the tent, he said something along the lines of, “They’re not who they say they are” or “They’re not what they seem” so clearly the theory of the Others as some larger conspiracy has now been officially solidified. But if The Others really are just a bunch of scientists playing dress up, what’s the point? To play mind games with the survivors so they can observe their responses? I’m still holding out for the idea that some of the Others (such as Alex, Rousseau’s daughter, and maybe even Henry Gale) have been coerced into the group against their will.

On a brief aside, Sayid is the man. I love that he was the one that picked up that Michael was not acting himself. I can’t wait to see how this whole scenario plans out between Michael, the Others, and the survivors. There’s also the matter of the sail boat that comes to shore at the very end of the episode. My guess is that it’s going to be empty, but the survivors find some sort of momentous clue on there which tips them off to the bigger Others conspiracy.

I’m very much looking forward to the season finale of this show. Last year’s finale was terrific, and there’s a tremendous amount of hype that this finale is going to top it and more. I will say this though. I have a really funny feeling about the direction this show is going in. I smell some sort of multi-national corporate scam, and more and more I feel that all the survivors are connected by some piece of history shared by their parents/ancestors. I really hope it doesn’t turn out to be just a geo-political conspiracy though. Last week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly had the LOST cast members on the cover and did a huge expose on the show. They mentioned a common rumor in the feature article that the head exec over at ABC discourages the writers from playing up the sci-fi elements in the show. If it is true, it’s a pretty odd thing to do, considering that the show draws pretty heavily from the science fiction genre. I’ve always been more interested in the episodes that incorporate the mysterious and fantastical over those that played more like an hour of straight drama. I am dying to know how all this Hanso Foundation and Dharma Initiative stuff ties up, I just hope these boys can pull it off.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bye Bye West Wing

Last night I watched the West Wing Finale, which aired this past Sunday night. The show ran for seven good long years, and spanned the two term fictitious presidency of Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen). The last two seasons also delved into the presidential election and saw it through from primaries to inauguration.

West Wing was one of those rare shows that had about as good a run as a TV show can hope for. It had several sustained quality years, but wasn’t dragged in the dirt like many a respectable show because the network didn’t try to suck as much mileage out of it as possible. Granted, some of this was due to the fact that logistically it wouldn’t have been believable to extend the Bartlet presidency. But in theory, they could have continued on with Matt Santos as president. That however, would have been a mistake, and I’m glad they didn’t go there.

Many people wrote off the show a couple years back when creator Aaron Sorkin left to go work on other endeavors. But I stuck around to watch the last two seasons, and I’m glad I did. Yes, the show morphed a bit, but not in a negative way, and the quality did not decline. The fast paced dialogue and quick wit of the characters remained, and I thought it was fascinating to watch the campaign trails of Matthew Santos and Arnold Vinick unfold. Say what you will about the insidious politics spouted by the show, but I thought they created a real and sympathetic character out of Republican candidate Arnold Vinick.

I can understand why West Wing wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, particularly if one’s political viewpoints did not align with those espoused by the administration depicted on the show. But I think the show surpassed any limits its political tone might have implied by creating something of outstanding quality. Week after week it presented intelligent, well written, well acted episodes, that raised the bar for network television. The show succeeded not only because it presented important and interesting issues in a polished manner, but because it had created a cast of memorable and dynamic characters. Bartlet and his family, CJ Craig, Josh Lyman, Toby Ziegler, Leo McGarry (John Spencer RIP), and on and on. They also consistently brought on fresh faces with interesting stories behind them, like Janeane Garofolo or Mary Louise Parker for instance. The show was able to sustain itself for as long as it did because it creating compelling characters that had unique relationships with one another.

Even though I know it was West Wing’s time to go, I will still miss it. There’s not exactly an excess of smart television out there, and The West Wing leaves some big shoes to be filled.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Oh Poor Poseidon

Poseidon only brought in $20 Million at the box office this weekend, not too pretty considering it had a budget in the range of $150 Million. It didn’t even make the number one spot, and was surpassed by MI3 in its sophomore session. People have been mocking Poseidon for weeks now, maybe pun upon pun and predicting the depths that the disaster action flick would sink to on its opening weekend. I for one had no real expectations about the film. OK, I mean I had seen the trailer , so I knew it was going to be goofy. But it’s been years since I’ve seen the original The Poseidon Adventure, and I only had vague recollections of the 1972 picture going into the remake.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, and missed the trailers, the concept couldn’t be simpler. A large ocean cruise liner capsizes in the middle of the ocean. A few survivors band together and make their way through the ship, as they attempt to escape through the top of the boat. (The boat has flipped, so the bottom is now on top, etc.) The cast of characters is a rag tag group of people from all walks of life. There is Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), a former firefighter and New York City mayor. His daughter Jennifer, (Emmy Rossum, the lead in the feature film version of The Phantom of the Opera), has just gotten engaged to her boyfriend, Christian (Mike Vogel), much to the chagrin of her overprotective father. Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), an architect, who has just been dumped by his long term life partner, which renders him fairly weepy for most of the film. Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas), a former Navy officer who is “only in it for himself”. There’s also Maggie (Jacinda Barrett, that’s right, cast member of Real World London), a young single mother travelling with her ten year old son, Conor (Jimmy Bennett) and Elena Gonzalez (Mia Maestro), a funky Hispanic girl who is on her way to New York to visit her brother in the hospital. There are even a couple more, but I can’t bear to rattle anymore off. Actually I can manage just one more. Fergie of Black Eyed Peas fame, made a cameo of terrifying proportions. For those of you who are dubious about going to check this one out, it might be worth a rental just for that.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that character development was kept to a minimum, and the emotional moments in the film were played up extravagantly to make up for the fact they tentatively came out of no where. There was a lot of furniture chewing going on here. The Visual FX were a mixed bag. Every piece of exterior scenery in this entire film was done with CGI, it was all shot on sets and green screen. So the sky, the water, the clouds and the exterior of the boat were all animated. The seams were definitely visible at the beginning of the film, when the boat was cruising through the ocean in daylight. Luckily, night fell pretty quickly, and the interiors of the boat, which were shot on a sound stage, looked decent. The sequence of the boat over turning had some mildly entertaining moments, and I thought the FX of the Poseidon under water didn’t look half bad.

Here’s the thing about Poseidon. This was not, by any stretch of the imagination a good film. But it wasn’t that bad either. It was what I like to call a benign blockbuster. I didn’t hate this movie. I was bored at times, and laughed inappropriately at others, but out of the last couple years of summer doozies, this was not the worst by far. There just wasn’t a lot to hate. Poseidon was straightforward in its presentation, it didn’t pretend to be anything that it wasn’t. There were probably only about ten minutes of movie before the “rouge wave” came around and knocked the cruise liner ass over tea kettle. What followed was a series of action set pieces. The survivors crossing an elevator shaft on a piece of sheet metal. The survivors traversing the width of a humongous ballroom on a makeshift zip line. The survivors battling fiery explosions and rushing water at every turn. Of course not everyone makes it out alive, after all it is a disaster movie. But as suspected, a good number do survive and are happily rescued.

You can hate a film like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen because if took a brilliant concept and botched it royally. You can hate Van Helsing because it was bloated and tried to created complications where there didn’t need to be any (I defy anyone who says they can explain the plot of that film in a cohesive fashion). You can hate Planet of the Apes because it defiled the original classic film. But you can’t really hate Poseidon for just being. Sure the original was better, but it wasn’t an unforgettable film. And we’re talking about a disaster movie here, one of the most unpretentious, what you see is what you get sub-genres in Hollywood. Think of Poseidon’s peers; Armageddon, Deep Impact, Volcano, Dante’s Peak, Earthquake, Twister, etc. I mean none of these films are exactly mind blowing feats of cinema.

To those people who have been decrying Poseidon’s name for weeks on end, I ask, what did you expect?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday Funny

I'm not sure exactly why this makes me laugh. But it does.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The New Yorker proclaims today LOST Theory Day

Still not sure quite what to make of last night’s LOST. I could bellyache about how I wasn’t satisfied with Mr. Eko’s flashback, or complain that I thought that the pacing was too slow, but I have bigger fish to fry. Last night’s episode had some startling and perplexing implications about the larger mythology, and I'm in the mood to theorize.

Mr. Eko goes to visit the family of the daughter who has been miraculously revived, and has a conversation with the girl’s father, who also happens to be Claire’s psychic. Last season’s episode “Raised by Another” was one of the creepiest episodes aired to date. The insistence of the sinister psychic that Claire’s baby must not fall into the hands of “others,” and that she must raise it herself was unsettling to say the least. His sudden change of heart and urgency that she get on a plane to give her baby up in America, was disturbing when considering that the psychic foresaw the plane crash. As it turned out, she would be the one to care for the baby, which is what he had argued for in the first place. But last night when the psychic spoke to Mr. Eko, he confessed that he was a fraud, and much to the chagrin of his wife, fabricated his psychic readings.

There are a few different possibilities here.

1) The psychic didn’t know what he was talking about when he told Claire that if her baby fell into the wrong hands it could be disastrous. He told her that to frighten her, and then since he’s an unsavory character, he lined up some buyers for the baby in America, and was somehow going to get a back end fee for setting up Claire’s baby with the couple in the U.S. The fact that the plane crashed and the baby’s well being would later be endangered was all a coincidence. This is my least favorite possibility. The eerie premonition of the baby’s importance is completely deflated if it was all just some mumbo jumbo spouted by a second rate faux psychic. I suppose there is an argument to be made that there’s something still significant about the role that fate played in Claire’s trajectory. The psychic actually wasn’t a psychic, and didn’t know about the plane crash, but his suspicious actions led her to the island at any rate.

2) The psychic was lying when he told Mr. Eko he was a fraud. This, however, doesn’t seem like a viable possibility. There was no impetus for him to bring up his profession at all, no reason for him to lay himself out on the line to a priest he had just met. His confession of disbelief in miracles seemed like a genuine reflection of his regard for “otherworldly” matters.

3) The psychic does in fact have the gift of sight, but he does understand it or believe it, and chooses to be cynical about his abilities, chalking them up to lucky guessing and coincidence.

Whatever the case may be, this scene laid to waste the crux of a solid episode from last season. I like it when inexplicable and potentially supernatural elements converge via the survivors on the island. Claire’s baby has a loaded future, Walt has special powers, Locke was miraculously healed, people continue to have visions on the island, etc. But now more than ever the show seems to be leaning towards a more specific scientific reasoning for everything, which I find remiss because I liked the whole “magic island” feel.

Also in this episode, Mr. Eko and Locke discover the pearl station, another piece in the Dharma Initiative puzzle. There, the two men discovered a monitoring station which had active video surveillance of “The Hatch” and another Orientation video. The video, much like the first one found by Eko earlier in the season, detailed the tasks to be fulfilled at the Pearl station. The men on duty are meant to record what they saw in the hatch in simple logs and then send them (via messenger tubes) to a central command of sorts. The video instructions did not give much explanation for the purpose of their duties, only that they must be completed. To complicate things, the station looked empty and unused, as if no one had been working there for years.

Here are some of my theories.

1)The island was once the sight of some grand scientific experiment perhaps funded by the Hanso Foundation that went awry. The leaders of the Others were once the executors of the experiments, but after “the accident”, they run wild and crazed through the jungle. They have now also absorbed the former test subjects into their group, and order them to do their bidding. So contrary to what I’ve said before (but in agreement with certain talk backers here) the Others are in fact comprised of two groups of people. Those who used to run the Dharma Initiative, and those who were the Guinea pigs. Just what this terrible event was, I’m not sure, but it might be that they lost control of the elements they were trying to harness such as the electro-magnetic forces and the biological components.

2) The experiment is on going. The Dharma Initiative is bogus, and the pearl station was nothing more than a staging prop, something to make the survivors believe that they are at the site of a failed testing ground. The orientation video tapes and equipment were purpose planted with the intention of being found. The Others are all just actors who use costumes (see fake beard) and technology to manipulate the survivors into thinking there is some rhyme or reason to the things that they find on the island. Everything is a part of the facade, the Black Rock, the Hatches, even Rousseau is cahoots with them. They even kidnapped Claire knowing that she would eventually have flashbacks and remember exactly what they wanted her to remember. This is why the medical hatch was abandoned when Claire, Kate and Rousseau went back to it. It was nothing more than a fake set. The coincidences and connections among the survivors exist because…well, I’m not exactly how that would fit into it. Maybe they are all unique in some way, or are drawn to each other for a certain reason. Maybe it’s a six degrees of separation thing, or maybe their ancestors were all involved in some crazy WWII scheme, who knows. I’m not sure how I feel about the experiment within an experiment thing however. If one was conducting a behavioral study on humans in an enclosed environment, why would the cover up be so close to the actual truth? It could be considered reverse psychology, but I’m not sure.

That’s all I got for today. Anyone have a better idea?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The New Yorker makes a bashful confession

Moments after mocking a fellow geek and friend, I purchased Bad Twin , the LOST tie in novel released this month. Written by fictional author Gary Troup, who was on Oceanic Flight 815, the book is the published incarnation of the manuscript that Sawyer was reading in last week's episode. Hopefully, the book will include the last pages of the novel, where as Jack threw the last few pages of the manuscript into the fire to get Sawyer’s attention.

This is a little embarrassing I know, and I shouldn’t be falling for it, but I just can’t help myself. The novel, which seems to be a noir pot boiler, must surely contain some sort of clues or thematic links to upcoming events in the TV show. What I want to know is, who is the poor schlub that had to crank out this 256 page mystery and not get any of the credit for it?

Oh who am I trying to kid, I would have taken the job in a second…

Full Length Lady in the Water

I was alerted yesterday by a cohort of mine, that the full length trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s next film, Lady in the Water has hit the internet.

I’ve been dubious of this project since I first blogged about it, over a year ago. The teaser for this thing was a geniune head scratcher, but after catching more glimpses of the film, my uncertainty has been replaced by genuine curiosity.

I will say this, the new longer trailer makes the film look far more promising that the initial teaser did. Shyamalan has always had a way with the camera, and there are a couple of shots in here that are stunning. The overhead shot of the swimming pool at night is terrifying, and I also love the later overhead shot with the tenants standing around it. (If you pause your quicktime and use your arrows to scroll through the frames in slo mo, there is something white in the water….mayhaps the lady!) I was intrigued when Paul Giamatti’s character was shown finding the circular portal while under water. I’m fond of the idea of a doorway to another world resting at the bottom of a swimming pool in a dreary apartment complex. Also Bryce Dallas Howard, who I thought was quite good in The Village, seems like a near perfect casting choice for the sea nymph role here. She has this eerie haunting beauty that makes her look other worldly. As for Giamatti, this isn’t exactly his typical sort of movie he always puts in a good performance. It’ll be interesting to see him in a genre piece.

What I’m not so sure about are those creatures that threaten the sea nymph and her people. Are they actual wolves or fairy tale monsters? Or maybe it’s just some of the neighborhood kids running around in furry costumes and scaring people in an attempt to keep their community intact. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

Beyond whether or not the conflict of the story in LITW will work, the more important issue lie in how it will affect Shyamalan’s reputation as a film maker. I have a tremendous amount of respect for this man and his work. Besides Sixth Sense, which was universally lauded and loved, I was a big fan of both Unbreakable and Signs. But Shyamalan’s popularity seems to have faded as his films have gone on and took a sharp plummet after The Village. (Many hated The Village, I wasn’t one of those people, I thought it was misguided but OK) It seems that LITW will seal his fate. I’m almost as curious as to what the general audience reaction will be as I am to see the movie itself.

The real looming question here is, will there be a twist ending? It is Shyamalan’s wacky twist endings that have become his signature trademark over the years. All of his recent works, with arguably the exception of Signs, have had a big reveal at the end. But what was once considered genius (in Sixth Sense) became perceived as a gimmick (The Village). I think the biggest surprise Shyamalan could give his fans here is to forgo his traditional ending, and rely solely on his masterful storytelling.

Monday, May 08, 2006


As I giddily walked into the Cinerama Dome this weekend with my compatriots, I felt ready and eager to start the summer movie season. It's not that I was dying to see Mission Impossible 3. It's that I was dying to celebrate the kickoff of my favorite movie time of the year. Most people count off the days on their calendar till the fall and winter arrives, when the "award" films start hitting the theatres, but not I. I await with baited breath for the first big blockbuster in May to signal the slew of monsters, car chases, and super powers that are unleashed by the studios every year without fail. Every summer promises to be bigger than the last, and though that that's not always necessarily the case, it's always fun to suss out the line up and hope for the best. As an adult, summer movies are one of the last things we can cling to that reek of childhood. Gone are the last days of school, and the sweet sensation of finishing your last final and walking out into that warm summer air. Lining up on the street each balmy Friday night of summer and munching on popcorn reminds of being a kid again. We all need that escape from the drudgery filled reality of our lives.But enough sentimentality, and onto the movie. I walked into MI3 with mixed expectations. I liked the first one, but couldn't abide the second one. I thought the trailer was well done, and I'm a big fan of JJ Abrams, but I still wasn't convinced that the movie was going to be any better than bearable.

I was pleasantly surprised. MI3 had great action sequences, a fun cast, and cool spy gear. I realize I'm not talking about anything to revolutionary here, and while I do believe that summer movies CAN have depth, MI3 wasn't one of them. But that was OK by me, because I think it completely succeeded in its endeavors.

The movie goes something like this. IMF employee Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is engaged to Julia (Michelle Monaghan), a lovely nurse. Ethan no longer goes out on missions, and chooses to train new faces instead. When his superior, John Musgrave (Billy Cruddup) asks him to go on a mission to rescue junior agent Lindsey Farris (Keri Russel), Ethan agrees against his better judgement. Ethan teams up with his old buddy Luther (Ving Rhames), and attractive newbies, Declan (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) and Zhen (Maggie Q). Together they travel to Berlin where Lindsey has been abducted by master mind black market criminal, Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Their rescue mission doesn't go as planned, and when the team returns to IMF headquarters, Ethan does a little research on Davian. With the help of tech guru, Benji (Simon Pegg) Ethan learns that Davian is about to acquire a top secret piece of merchandise known as the rabbit's foot. Ethan and his crew head back over seas, this time to Rome, where they intend to capture Davian and acquire the rabbit's foot. Ethan conducts these operations without the knowledge and approval of IMF head, John Brassel (Laurence Fishburne). The rest of the movie tracks Ethan and co. as they chase Davian and the rabbit's foot. Along the way, Davian kidnaps Julia, and the stakes are raised, as her life is now added to the equation.

First off, did anyone notice the INSANE cast list I just rattled off? The most impressive element of this movie might just be the fact that Abrams corralled all these different actors under one title. I enjoyed the diversity of the casting, but at times couldn't help but notice the looming spectre of globalization, as Asian super star Maggie Q fired guns next to UK film star Johnathan Rhys-Myers, and so on. Still, I'm not complaining, I enjoyed the myriad of hot shots, and it was nice to see Abrams bring in some of his old standbys like Keri Russel and even Greg Grunberg for a lil cameo. Everyone put in a solid performance, which comprised mostly of looking really suave, and even Cruise, who wears a little thin recently, delivered. Actually my favorite description of his performance was written by Todd McCarthy of Variety, who put it brilliantly when he said Cruise was "determined to give a persuasive human impersonation of a Ferrari." I really couldn't have said it any better myself.

The thing about this movie was, there wasn't really much of a story. It was just a series of missions attempting to retrieve someone or something. The first mission was to bring back Agent Farris, the second was to arrest Davian, and the third was to rescue Julia. The issue of the rabbit's foot was secondary, because even though it was a necessary plot mechanism we never find out what it is, or what it's remotely about. Not only does the rabbit's foot remain a mystery, but Davian as a villain, remains pretty vague and ambiguous; he's a "bad guy" in the broadest sense of the term. We learn early on that he traffics in information and illegal goods with subversive foreign governments. Davian is sadistic, he enjoys torturing people, and does not value human life, but his ultimate goals remain evasive. Does he want to take over the world? Infect the human population with a deadly virus? Or does he just enjoy crime for the thrill of it, and to maintain a luxurious lifestyle. I think the filmmakers were trying to say that it doesn't matter, and that any explanation would sound ridiculous, so why not for go it. Still, while it was fun watching Phillip Seymour Hoffman take on a role like this, I would have liked to see him have a little more to work with.

The script was definitely on the lighter side, as in not too much dialogue. There was a lot of action, A LOT. My favorite part of the film was when Ethan and Co. broke into the Vatican to snag Davian. I enjoyed watching the agents use their high tech gadgetry in heist like scenarios, more than the machine guns firing into an explosive abyss. Don't get me wrong, the first action sequence in Berlin was incredible, both the stuff on the ground and in the air. But by the time the highway sequence rolled around, with the missile launchers and overturned SUV's, I was starting the flinch a little bit. The style of this action sequence in particular that one, was very harsh. It had that shaky hand held camera work, crazy angles, and mile a minute cuts. You blink and you loose about a thousand frames. The gritty filters and constant movement was too much even for me at times, and I'm normally not sensitive to that sort of thing. I also found the base jumping from the tippy tops of Shanghai sky scrapers preferable over the blitzkrieg of gunfire.

I liked this movie. It's hard not to smile when you see Cruise and co. in their best Armani sunglasses coasting on a motor boat in Rome; it inevitably emotes "cool". There was a nice light hearted feel to much of the film, and even some humor, provided primarily by Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg. JJ Abrams did a fine job directing the film, both in capturing the right attitudes from his stars, and choreographing visual sequences. But I didn't love this movie, because there wasn't much to love. The heart of MI3, which was meant to be Ethan's love for his fiance/wife Julia, served to sell the action in the movie, but wasn't dimensional enough to make him a true protagonist. Action movies, like any movie, can have emotionally resonant moments: think Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. Those felt like movies about actual people. MI3 though quite enjoyable, felt like a movie about celebrities and explosions.

Of course a little FX driven escapism never hurt anyone, and I think it was a pretty good kickoff to the summer movie fair. Mmmm, I can smell the cotton candy in the air already…

Friday, May 05, 2006

Lucas Redeemed!!

I just read an article on MSNBC this morning announcing that the original three Star Wars films are to be released on DVD in their original formats! That means no special edition hoo haa! Hooray!

Goodbye wormy looking baby Jabba, farewell Gredo shooting first, and welcome back original Jub-Jub ewok ending. I am thrilled beyond words. Up until now I’ve had to get by on DVD burns of the original laser disc editions that a friend of mine got off Ebay. The quality was passable, but it was disappointing to go without the original DVD cover art and special features. For a long time I held out and refused to buy the Star Wars Special Edition DVD box set when it was released in the fall of 2004. Finally this year, I received it as a gift, and resigned myself to the fact that the original films were never to be released in my lifetime. Others may have suspected that this was not true, but I had lost all hope. Lucas made it very clear that he held the final answer in the matter, and that he wasn’t about to budge

Some may complain that this is just another ploy on behalf of Lucasfilm to make more money, but I disagree. I think that finally things are being handled as they should have been all along. Whether or not the Special Editions should have ever been made is a separate issue. Now that the Special Editions do exist, it is only fair and just that both editions be availible to the public.

For me, the moments I’ll be most happy to see in crystal clear DVD format are the original songs of Jedi. The original tune that the band play’s in Jabba’s palace is way better than the loopy, pyschotically upbeat song that replaced it. The rousing Ewok song at the celebration in the end is also far better than the new age laser rock of the S.E. I’ll also be pleased to see Sebastian Shaw’s kindly spectral face next to Obi-Wan, as opposed to Hayden Christenson. I never understood why he changed that.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

HUGE LOST! (spoilers)

Last night’s episode of LOST had some crazy stuff happening all around. Michael resurfacing from the Jungle. Henry Gale leaking out more information about his people and his “mission.” Ana Lucia’s flashback revealing that she spent some QT with Jack’s father. Ana Lucia and Sawyer getting it on (oo la la), and of course the grande finale where all hell broke loose in the hatch.

First, a look back on Michelle Rodrguez’s character, Ana Lucia. When the episode started and I realized it was going to be another flashback for her I was excited. I know I’m in the minority here, but I liked this character. She was something new and different, a female, hispanic cop with an attitude. I know a lot of people felt that she was very one note, and just angry and tough all of the time. But I think that last night more than ever, revealed that she had a heart and soul and wasn’t just programmed to be tough 100% percent of the time. In particular, I liked unlike Kate, who’s painted as being a saint even though she’s done some terrible things, --Ana Lucia’s nature was dealt with in a frank fashion. Yes, she had done some bad things, and made mistakes, but she didn’t put on a sweet face at every turn. With her it was what you see is what you get.

Now as for the whole coincidence of her meeting up with Jack’s father and jaunting off to Austrailia, --I wasn’t that crazy about it. Yes, there was a neat parallel about the fact that Ana met Jack in a similar fashion to the way she met his father –at an airpot bar. But it was a bit of a stretch that “Tom” would ask her to come to Australia to be his body guard. It would seem more likely that a man of his age and situation would be more interested in having a fling from her, than seeking “protection”. Though the fact is he was probably just lonely and wanted some company, it was still an odd way to frame it. From an abstract perspective, I like the idea of two lost souls travelling to Australia to drown their sorrows, (after all Australia is historically THE place to start a new life). But if didn’t exactly make for a very exciting or action packed flashback. I do think the coincidences are getting totally out of hand at this point. I mean the tidbit where Jack’s dad opens the car door onto Sawyer was just too much –I nearly laughed out loud.
They’re going over the top with these connections and I find myself more and more suspicious of the reasoning for all of it.

Alright, onto Henry Gale; he alluded to some interesting things this episode. He seemed to know all about Ana Lucia and Goodwin, the Other that Ana had killed. The question is how? Do the Others have some sort of advanced surveillance system (maybe the black smoke) that watches all of the survivors all of the time? What’s more is, Gale implied that the Others had passed some sort of moral judgements on her and the other survivors. Ana is a bad one, and Locke is a good one. Could this be true, or was this just Gale playing more mind games with everyone? Locke made a good point when he asked Gale why he tried to kill Ana Lucia, but he didn’t kill or hurt him when he had the chance. I was also curious about Gale’s apparent mission to bring Locke back. Locke has certainly had a strong connection with the island and it seems the Others might know about it. The idea that the Others are watching them, and seem to know and document their behavior, certainly adds a lot of creedence to the whole “experiment” theory. Did anyone catch the commercial for the Hanso Foundation? I had to rewind my TiVo to catch it, and I didn’t call the number, but check out the website . Lengthening life expecatancy? Studies on exotic animals and mental illness? Curing detrimental diseases? It’s all leading to some unveiling of a science project with a grand design.

As for the big shoot out at the end, I must confess, I didn’t see it coming. When Michael came out of his “sleep”, he seemed frazzled and disoriented, but certainly not furtive, let alone psychotic. I bought what he said about the Others having minimal living standards, and few weapons. But now that we know he’s got a screw loose, who knows how much of what he revealed about the Others is true. Is he setting up all the survivors for a big trap? And this is the other thing, why exactly did Michael kill Ana and Libby. It seems to be the general consensus that he only killed Libby because he was startled, and initially he only meant to kill Ana. Did he strike up a bargain with the others? Did they tell him if he let Henry Gale free they would give back Walt.? But if that were the case, he wouldn’t necessarily need to have killed Ana –he could have just knocked her out, or waited until the Hatch was empty. Maybe it was that the Others wanted specific revenge on Ana for killing Goodwin. This is the other thing, it’s sort of interesting that the two actresses who have recently had some trouble with the law , were the ones who’s characters were eliminated last night. Definitely all food for thought.

There is of course, also the issue of the “sickness” which Rousseau has referred to oft. In the past she has claimed that all her fellow crew members became “infected” and killed one another. Is it possible that Michael has gotten sick, and if so is it a biological virus, or psychological decompensation? I was a bit annoyed that they showed Michael alive and well in the scenes for next week’s episode. It would have been much more a cliffhanger if we were unsure that he had made it as they fade out just as he shoots himself. We can only assume that Henry Gale is now either gone or dead. My gut instinct was that Michael killed him, on order by the Others to make sure no more information gets leaked out. But on second thought if Michael was fufilling his part of the deal on behalf of the Others, it was more likely that he set Henry free.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Holy Hijinx Batman, the new Superman trailer is up!!

Ok. Must control breathing….must type out words….

Just finished watching the full length Superman Returns trailer , that was posted on Apple Trailers today.

It is without a doubt, amazing. I thought the teaser was incredible, with its majestic images, flashbulb storytelling, and original Marlon Brando voice over, but the trailer surpasses it. The teaser’s quick cuts lured us to the edges of Superman’s world, and touched upon pivotal moments of his character. The trailer gave a complete vision of what this world would be like.

First of all –Lex Luthor. Kevin Spacey looked just the part with his shaved, polished head and smug smile. I still think it will be near impossible to surpass Gene Hackman’s performance from the original Richard Donner film. Hackman’s zealous characterization of the villain was unforgettable, and his comedic repor with Ned Beatty’s, Otis was hilarious. Still it seems like Spacey’s Lex is going to be just as spunky and smart alecky –the scene where he tells Lois to repeat what she said is cute. As with Lex Luthor’s role in the ’78 version, --no one will ever be able to trump Jackie Cooper as newspaper boss, Perry White, --he was just too perfect. But I trust Frank Langella will do a good job –I like his delivery of dialogue in the trailer, and I thought he put in a solid performance in a similar role as William Paley in Good Night, and Good Luck. Even Kate Bosworth, who normally doesn’t strike my fancy, puts forth a sweet, almost bookish Lois Lane. I like that they stuck to Lois’ originally brunette coif, and conservative outfits. I had no idea that Lane’s subplot involved her getting married and having a kid, but I think its definitely an interesting way to go, so long as they steer clear of a lot of goofy kid jokes. As for Brandon Routh. He couldn’t look more the part. It’s almost eerie how closely he channels Christopher Reeve from the original films. Routh has piercing eyes and a handsome face, but only time will tell if he’s really got the acting chops to make the performance resonate. I’m certainly hopeful from the glimpses of his expressive features in the trailer that he will be able to cut the mustard.

The camera work and VFX for this film are artistically done, it ‘s all very impressive stuff. The shot of Superman hovering above earth in space, with his cap fluttering into the darkness is gorgeous. The framing of the shot takes the sensibility of a comic book panel and gives it a cinematic twist. Clark Kent’s giant leap into the lush green cornfields, is equally stunning. The flying looks great, and I love the dark hushed art deco flair of the buildings in Metropolis. That shot of the people standing in the street and looking up at the sky, which was in the teaser, still gets me everytime. The shot Superman and Lois floating up in front of the revolving Daily Planet globe is very fetching. I love that they are keeping the original John Williams theme, though Williams himself did not score Superman Returns, and I’m curious to see, or rather hear, what the composer decided to do for the rest of the film. Luthor’s ship on the water looks a little off, but the sequence with the Superman and the fierly plane among the clouds is bound to be memorable.

As far as trailers go, I thought this one was really sleekily done. The editing, the timing of the music, and the shots. It was all pitch perfect. Spiderman 2 still remains my favorite of the recent comic superhero films but based off this trailer, I think Supes might give Spidey a bit of a run for his money…

I am REALLY excited for this movie. Fifty nine days and counting!!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sopranos Hits Its Stride

It wasn’t so long ago that I was bellyaching about the slow, strange pace of The Sopranos this season. It wasn’t really until the fifth episode, “Mr. and Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request” that things started to get interesting for me. Tony was released from the boredom of his bizarre coma world and began to face the reality of the power vaccum that had been created in his absence. The disintegration of Johnny Sac’s image coupled with Tony’s own fears about his personal weakness made for an important and compelling episode. Of course the biggest event of the episode was the run in between Vito and a couple mobsters at a gay club. I thought the episode was good, but portions of it dragged a bit; still I felt hopeful about the future of the season.

The sixth episode “Live Free or Die” continued to give us a payoff after a season and a half worth of build up on Vito’s secret. The Vito subplot really exhibits the power and cleverness of the Sopranos writers. I for one, am putty in their hands when it comes to their portrayal of characters. I never really liked Vito before this season, most likely because the writers didn’t want me too. He was made to look like a mean spirited, sneaky guy who would kill family if necessary and stab his boss in the back. Even when they threw in the seed for Vito’s preferences last season, it still wasn’t in the context of making him a sympathetic character. A few episodes back he was plotting ways to sneak extra money while Tony was in the hospital. But somehow in episode six, Live Free or Die, I suddenly found myself rooting for Vito. Once outed, Vito was in a very compromising position, and this added a dimension of vulnerability and despair to his character. Whereas two weeks ago I wanted to kick him for trying to withhold collection money from Carmella, I was now suddenly hoping that he could find peace and quiet in the New Hampshire countryside. There was something strangely touching about watching him discover what life could be like if he lived in a more tolerant community.

Last week’s episode “The Luxury Lounge” had some great scenes, but was a mixed bag for me. I loved the plot with Artie, in part because I just think he’s a great character, and I like that he’s been around since the beginning of the show. Artie is such a melodramatic and tortured guy, and yet he’s a chef at a resturant, not a mob boss. He has such a unique relationship with Tony, and the juxtapositions and collisions of their two worlds are often humorous and even poignant at times. I also like Benny’s character, played by good old Max Casella, who I will forever associate with Doogie Howser, Ed Wood, and of course Newsies. (By the way, while googling Casella, I came across some Newsies fan fiction …who knew?) The conflict between Benny and Artie played out unexpectedly; I really thought Artie was going off the deep end when he went to Benny’s house to confront him about the credit card scam. Yet again Tony intervened to save Artie, but I’m curious to see how this new tension resolves itself in the future. The portion of the episode that I wasn’t crazy about was Christopher’s “business” trip to LA. Sometimes when the Sopranos go to Hollywood it’s fun and funny, but at other times it’s forced and smug. I thought this episode was one of those latter occasions. It was funny to see Christopher foisted onto Ben Kingsley with his pitch, but the idea of the luxury lounge itself seemed pointless. Sure, rich people get all sorts of things for free, and it’s a bit ridiculous and annoying, but what did that have to do with anything? Christopher’s enthusiam for the merchandise handed out was curious because one would assume he could nab any of those fancy watches or fashionable sunglasses when they fell off the back of the truck. The scenes of Christopher in LA, were surely meant to show that his addiction problem was on the rise again and to plant the seeds of conflict between his mob business and movie business. But by the fourth time he had an awkward run in with Ben Kingsley it got a little old. A good episode, but I wasn’t enthralled by it.

Last night’s episode “Johnny Cakes” was the best episode of the season by far, and in my mind, the strongest in quite some time. There were so many elements coming into play here, so many vital moments and decisions for characters and themes woven in with each other seamlessly. First off, I loved the underlying motif of globalization that ran through the entire episode. The scene with the men from Tony’s crew in the would be Starbuck’s and the issue of the Jamba Juice buyout were great because they reflected not only the current changes in our society, but the way that these changes might affect the mafia. After all the mob could be considered one of the oldest mom and pop institutions around. Throughout the episode Tony was faced with a bevy of important decisions, critical to the direction of his character. The fact that he walked out on Julianna, the real estate beauty, was huge. Never in the history of The Sopranos, has Tony’s conscious really kicked in over his perpetual unfaithfulness to Carmella. Sure he’s felt some guilt in the past, but it’s never stopped him from acting on his impulses. The temptations for Tony in this episode were neatly layered over one another. He had the choice of cheating on Carmella, and forgetting not only his marriage vows but all the recent outpouring of love and support she has given him; he chose not to. But Tony didn’t get away completely clean. When faced with the choice, by the same woman, to give up part of the culture and heritage of his neighborhood for some extra cash, Tony was torn, but eventually gave in when the monetary compensation was great enough. Both these choices were ones that resonated with the very core of who Tony is. As he struggled with what was right and wrong, he also had to watch his son AJ do the same. In this episode we saw more of AJ’s tough guy posturing and rude antics, but we also saw the underbelly of what drives his behavior. It was interesting to see AJ at a club, meek and inexperienced, feeling that the only thing he had to trade on was his family name. His attempt to kill Junior was pathetic, but also sad, and the scene that followed in the parking lot after with Tony was moving. There they were, father and son standing in front of one another. AJ wanting to be like his father, and do right by him, but Tony wishing to eradicate the traces he saw of himself in his son. His desire for AJ to be a “nice guy” –not one immersed in the crime underworld was made tragic in the face of his realization that AJ probably would not be able to escape the lifestyle he, himself had led. Vito too, was faced with huge decisions, as he struggled with his identity, unsure of how to deal with his feelings for another man. The better things get for Vito, the more I clench my teeth, because it seems like an inevitablity that he if he does find true happiness, it will be only a matter of time before he is hunted down and killed by his former friends and associates.

Overall I thought it was a terrific episode, and it seems like things are really starting to get rolling for the grand finale.

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