Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

One, Please

April 17, 2018

Frank was sitting in his office going over the latest receipts. He was also idly paging through some of the solicitations for upcoming movies on offer. He could hear the printer at the box office and its steady, familiar rhythm. Business was pretty good and it eased his anxiety about running a private movie theater. He had offers from all of the chains to join up but he kind of liked being able to pick the best movies. It made it so he had to worry about his business each week but it was a small price to pay. Besides, it was Monday and the weekend receipts were the best they had been in a long time. It probably had to do with half of the current movies being Oscar nominees. He had slipped away from the office often to rewatch a few of them and they were really good. He often did not care for most so-called Oscar movies but things were looking up.

There was a knock at the door and Frank looked up. There was almost never a problem on Mondays, at least not any that required Frank’s attention. The semi-retired woman who ran box office on Mondays, Sue, was firm and usually could disarm potential problems with a hard look. So, it was a surprise that there was a knock on the door of his private office.

“Come in?” Frank said, a little unsure.

The door opened and Sue poked her head inside. “Hey, Frank. There’s a guy out here complaining.”

“Complaining?” Frank asked. “You can usually deal with a little complaining, Susan.”

Sue grunted. “You know I hate when people use my full name. Something about him is just so… insistent. I think you should talk to him so I can get back to cleaning theater 3.”

“That’s Jimmy’s job,” Frank said. “Wake him up and tell him to get back to work. And you know what? Send the guy in here.”

“Mmhmm,” Sue said and closed the door. A few moments later, the door opened and an unassuming man walked in. He looked a little annoyed but grateful to get to talk to somebody about it.

Frank stood up and motioned to the chair on the other side of the desk. “Please, come in and sit down. My name is Frank Eastman and I own this theater.”

“Eastman,” the man said. “Like the man who invented the film camera. Fitting that you would own a movie theater.”

“I guess so,” Frank said. “I’m not sure if there’s any relation. What brings you to my office, Mister…” It was a blatant attempt at fishing for the man’s name.

“Mister is fine,” the man said. “I have a list of complaints, though. I guess I should get started?”

“Please,” Frank said. “If there’s a problem with my movie theater, I’m interested in fixing it.”

Mister smiled and shrugged. “These are not just problems with your theater, they are problems with all movie theaters.”

“Now you’ve really got my attention,” Frank said. The man seemed incredibly intelligent and warm so why had his complaints unnerved Sue so much? It seemed weird.

The man flipped open a small notepad. “Well, for starters. I had to move my seat because a woman sat down in front of me. She was wearing really strong perfume and it burned my eyes.”

“Alright,” Frank said. “That’s rude. I’m not a fan of people wearing perfume or cologne in public myself but what do you want me to do? It’s not like we can sniff people as they walk in and toss out the smelly ones.”

“Noted,” Mister said. “The couple behind me was talking during the whole movie. Every time I looked back at them, they lowered their voices and whispered but they would only get loud again over time. I had already moved, so I did not want to move again.”

“Well, again, that’s pretty rude but I can’t really stand over everybody’s shoulder and shush them whenever they talk. Movies can inspire people to talk sometimes and I can’t really stop it even if I sometimes want to.”

Mister only grunted at that. “Should I even get into the whole trouble with smartphones? Set aside talking and texting, just checking your phone during the movie can be distracting as the light from the screen suddenly acts as a beacon.”

Frank laughed a little at that. “I hate that too. I really do. I wish I could make the experience great for everyone. I specifically pump the volume to cover up when people talk. I sacrifice more theaters to make them bigger so everyone can find their seat. I do what I can. What do you want me to do? Nail your list to the door like Martin Luther?”

Mister shrugged. For some reason, as he got a little more worked up, he seemed to have more presence. “And why not? Is this not a temple?”

“A temple?” Frank asked. “Wow, I guess I feel the way that I used to feel in church in here sometimes. I’ve never heard anyone talk about it like that.”

“Because this is your temple where you honor me,” Mister said.

“You?” Frank asked. “Who are you?”

Mister sat up in his chair and smiled. “I am the God of Film.”

“What?” Frank asked. “Man, I don’t need crazy today. Monday’s supposed to be my slow day.”

“I can prove it,” Mister said. “There are cameras in each theater, right?”

“Yeah,” Frank said. “I use it to scan for camcorders but I also save a snapshot of each crowd just in case.”

“Bring up yesterday’s snapshots,” Mister said.

Frank shrugged and grabbed his laptop and brought up the folder. “Which showing am I looking at?”

“All of them,” Mister said. “You’ll find me dead center.”

Frank frowned and started looking through the pictures. The first matinee’s picture showed Mister right where he said he was. The next picture, there was Mister again. The third picture was the same. Again and again and again there was Mister dead center, best seat in the house. Then Frank realized the implications of that. Several of those pictures were taken simultaneously. That was impossible.

“What are you?” Frank asked.

“I told you,” Mister said. “The God of Film. Did you expect me to look more like this?” He snapped his fingers and he suddenly changed into an extremely handsome young man with shiny black sunglasses and a big toothy grin. “Or this?” He snapped his fingers and he was suddenly a tall, platinum blonde wearing a fur coat. “This is my temple and you are my priest.”

“I never did any of this for you,” Frank said. “I bought this building to set up a movie theater because I love movies. If I worship anything, it is stories. If I want to watch a movie in peace, I can watch it in my living room or I can screen it here alone. I’m lucky that way. People come to the theater for the experience. Part of that experience is pushing past the petty annoyances and just getting lost in whatever story is playing out in front of you. And you know what? If you can’t get past that, then that’s on you. I’m not sure I even want you around anymore. I have the right to refuse service to anyone.”

“Not to me,” Film said. “You cannot deny me.”

“Well, to quote a really good movie: ‘I cast you out!'” Frank yelled out. Film looked pained and then he faded away, crossfading to somewhere else. It left Frank alone in his temple to do his receipts.

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Fantastic Mr. Fox

April 7, 2017

I have always loved a good story. When I was little, there are two sets of stories that I remember best. The first was reading from a Disney storybook with my mom and once I knew how to read, I read for my brothers with my mom’s supervision. Undoubtedly, that is when and where I became a Disney nerd. The other stories were the ones my uncle made up when I was staying with him and my cousin. That was probably one of the many events that incited my passion for writing. When I was a little older, I discovered Roald Dahl. By the end of third grade, I had read every single Roald Dahl book. This had a bit of a different effect on me.

Roald Dahl sold books on the Brothers Grimm model of storytelling. He was not afraid to go dark because his childhood was dark. Just go and read his autobiographies and that is clear. He lived through World War I era England but that is not all. He also pretty much encountered all of the nasty characters from his books and short stories suffering through the British school system. His childhood was brutish and a struggle but he made it through to write about it happening to other people. The mix of that darkness and adventure made me less afraid of the lesser obstacles in my childhood. It also allowed me to embrace that darkness and contributed to me loving Halloween as much as I do.

I have said it before and I am sure many people would agree that Wes Anderson movies are strange. I think Wes Anderson delights in being weird and that is kind of one of the points of this movie. The animation is kind of difficult to adjust to. Anderson purposely had it filmed at a lower frame rate in order to clearly point out that it is stop-motion animation. It makes some of the movements a little jerky. He also used real fur for the animal puppets which makes the fur sort of squirms around especially on the faces. But, much like Team America: World Police, the characters inhabit those awkward puppets through the magic of both puppetry and animation. It helps that Anderson has always known how to frame his storytelling. Every shot is beautiful.

The story is kind of in two parts that are blended together really well. The original story was about a fox trying to feed his family but the farmers he steals from try to hunt him down. They go to outrageous lengths to try to kill the fox and his family and the community suffers. The foxes eventually outsmart the farmers and learn to survive. It was a tale about a father (who Dahl identified with) trying to protect his family and getting through the hard times as a result. That story is still there in this movie. In addition, there is another half of the story which is very Wes Anderson. It is about a dysfunctional family and community and learning to live not only with other people but yourself too. It is delightfully weird and quirky. It is helped along by brilliant voice acting from a lot of great people but especially George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman and Eric Anderson.

Overall, this was a really great movie. I was not sure how it would be considering some Roald Dahl adaptations are not very good. This one ended up more like Matilda and Willy Wonka than James and the Giant Peach or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I really should not have doubted it as Wes Anderson is a great artist and he had a good backbone of a story to work with in the first place. Also, the animation was done by Henry Selick who directed Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas which are two of my favorite animated films of all time. I definitely recommend this. It takes a bit of effort to get past the weirdness but what lies beyond is both touching and funny.

Top 11 Favorite Horror Villains

October 22, 2016

The following villains are my favorite horror villains mostly from film franchises. There are three that were also in books and one that was also in a play. These guys are my favorite villains and, on a sidenote, I wish there was more than one woman on the list. However, instead of talking about them generally, I wanted to talk about their motivations and how I identify with them somewhat. No matter what I say, I cannot condone or excuse anything these characters did. You should not respond to personal tragedy with violence or supernatural terror.


11 Jack Torrance

Jack is a great example of how the human mind can break if you apply enough of the right kind of pressure. He is arguably one of the most sympathetic characters on this list while still being incredibly sadistic and violent. He is a writer who just wanted to get some work done before his inner demons came out to play. It is hard to fight against that anger and resentment inside even if it is for the sake of people you love. When you lose yourself, anything can happen in the midst of that rage. Added to that, he was being egged on by a vortex of murderous ghosts. I definitely understand how powerful that anger is.


10 Hannibal Lecter

Lecter was a cannibal and a serial killer and you really can’t get past that. However, Dr. Lecter was also incredibly intelligent and had a personal code of honor he adhered to. More often than not, the people he killed or maimed were rude or jerks. They were assholes. Dr. Lecter had a clear picture in his head of what a good, useful person is. Personally, I can’t stand a bully. I would never kill or even physically harm anyone, though. I definitely have a lot of things that people can do that cause me to instantly lose respect for them. I wish a lot of the people who commit these things could disappear from my world but I would never actually act on that.


9 The Woman in Black

Regrettably, she is the only woman on this list and she might just have the saddest story of anybody here. She was not always a homicidal ghost. She was once a trying to get back to her baby when she drowned in the swampy land within a stone’s throw of her child. Now, anyone who sees her loses their child to the Grim Reaper’s bony hands usually by some impossible accident. It is horrible to feel cheated. That feeling gets even worse if being cheated hurts both you and your loved ones. You just want to burn the world down for daring to be so unfair. It is hard to accept the bad places we are put in.


8 Jason

When you take away all of the dead teenagers, Jason is hard not to feel sympathy for. He feels slighted for dying while those who were responsible for his safety neglected him. He wants revenge for this slight but cannot really go to a lawyer and file a wrongful death suit. Eventually, he just doesn’t want people in his territory and yet they keep invading his space over and over despite the danger. On top of all of that, they killed his mother. Sure she was murdering teenagers but you just don’t kill a guy’s mother. Really, he combines the motivations of Dr. Phibes and Jerry Dandridge strangely enough.


7 Pennywise

While Pennywise is probably the least scary clown in the history of horror clowns, I still like him. Pennywise is a great example of turning symbols of childhood into symbols of hate and fear. Pennywise just does not like kids. I often feel uncomfortable around children and sometimes I joke that I ‘hate’ children but they’re alright in small doses. Still, as uncomfortable as I can be around them, I really like some of the stuff that kids like. It is kind of a weird feeling sometimes to like all ages material but not really get along with all ages. Of course, Pennywise hates adults too so maybe we are pretty much alike.


6 The Leprechaun

The Leprechaun is a happy little fellow who lived with anger issues in Ireland. The trouble starts and the whole franchise is pretty much put into motion by people taking his gold. Unfortunately, he does not call the authorities to track down his stolen property and instead decides to kill for it. Unfortunately, I understand that impulse. I am fiercely territorial when it comes to my property. I get really upset when people enter my bedroom without asking. I get antsy when people handle my phone or go near my car. So I understand that impulse to get people away from my stuff. I do not believe that violence is the answer, though.


5 Dr. Anton Phibes

Phibes was undoubtedly a very smart person who suffered a horrible tragedy. He loved his wife and only wanted to hurt the people who had hurt her. I can understand that instinct. I don’t like it when people hurt me but I really don’t like when people hurt the ones I love. It can be too easy to lash out to protect or avenge the people you love even if it won’t actually help you. I don’t actually take action against those perpetrators but I find it nearly impossible to forgive. It is really hard to let go of that anger because letting it go feels like somebody is getting away with something.


4 Jerry Dandridge

He is possibly the most Eighties-tastic horror villain in film history. Jerry Dandridge moves into a peaceful Iowan suburb. He’s got a great big house, great furnishings and his buddy Billy Cole who lives with him. The only problem is that Jerry is a vampire and Billy is a… something else. They are killing people but they are really discreet about it. As far as we knew, he did not want to rule the world or anything. They just wanted to be left alone to do their own thing. While Jerry was indeed evil, I can definitely identify with that hunger for privacy. Thankfully, I do not also share his hunger for blood. I think a lot of us just want to be left alone.  I also wish I was as smooth and confident as Jerry Dandridge and of course I am talking about Chris Sarandon.


3 Evil Ash

In the entirety of the Evil Dead franchise, it is hard to pinpoint many actual villains with names and faces but the biggest one is Evil Ash. Evil Ash, for lack of a better name, is born two different times during the franchise when Deadite magic gets into Ash’s body. He literally splits from Ash’s body like an amoeba and looks and sounds just like him. He is a fairly intelligent deadite (undead) creature. Really, when he is born, he is stuck on the side of the Evil Dead. As with all deadites (except Sam), Evil Ash is immediately drafted into the dark side and is tasked with fighting for the Deadite army. Throughout his appearances, he is only playing the cards he is dealt. To a certain extent, it is hard to blame him for being evil since that is the way he was made. He has all of Ash’s positive and negative qualities, he just ends up on the wrong side of the fight.


2 Chucky aka Charles Lee Ray

Sometimes, I think that Charles Lee Ray is my spirit animal. By that, I don’t mean that I am confessing to being a killer doll who dabbles in voodoo and wisecracks. Well, I do like a good wisecrack. What I mean is that I think Chucky and I might share a similar trait in our brain chemistry. I was born with Attention Deficit Disorder and I think Chucky has it too. He has a lot of the symptoms, at least. During the Child’s Play films Chucky usually has one goal and that is to transfer his soul into a human body. Sure, he makes a lot of assumptions about how or why he can do that but it is still his stated goal. However, he is constantly diverting from his task to kill somebody else. Hell, in Child’s Play 2 he takes the time to murder a non-sentient doll and then buries it. He has a deadline but he just loves killing too much to get it done.


1 Freddy Krueger

Imagination is why I love and identify with Freddy Krueger. He puts so much thought and work into each and everything he does. It is not just the killing either. His taunting is so well laid out that it’s a good thing the dead don’t sleep or else he would never get it all done. He tailors each death individually like some weird boutique/concierge murderer. Usually, his only audience for these morbid art projects are the victims themselves who are going to be dead in a minute anyway. That shows dedication. He must have files on everyone in Springwood because he almost automatically knows how to kill just about anybody he meets in the most poetic way.

Baltimore on Film

April 2, 2016

I love when my hometown of Baltimore is in anything. I especially love when film trucks come to town and they shoot a movie or television show here. It feels like Baltimore often gets the short end of the stick because we’re often overlooked. Maybe it’s because we’re too close to Washington DC or maybe it’s because they see us as boring. Baltimore is anything but boring and the architecture and culture are near and dear to my heart. Now, everybody knows The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets and, although I love them, I don’t need to discuss them. I picked a couple that may surprise you. All of them are shows and movies that I really like.


Live Free or Die Hard

I love the Die Hard franchise. My whole family loves the Die Hard franchise. People are down on Live Free or Die Hard but I feel it’s a good Die Hard movie but understandably not the best. However, it’s still a lot of fun to watch. The movie is set mostly in Washington DC but has a fairly lengthy segment in Baltimore. They travel to a Baltimore neighborhood to visit with Kevin Smith’s character which is the greatest collision of Jersey and Baltimore since me. Aside from that establishing shot, numerous locations in Baltimore stood in for DC streets. It’s pretty hilarious for a Baltimore boy who grew up disliking DC.


Hairspray

I could have put all of John Waters’ films in here as my old neighbor’s movies are pretty much all set and largely filmed in the Baltimore area. Hairspray is a great example of this as we see all sorts of areas downtown and areas out in Baltimore County. The movie is set in Baltimore at a boiling point in the civil rights movies. Baltimore is a great city for that because we have historically been caught between the north and the south. Baltimore really comes alive in the movie and it looks like a place you want to live. When the movie originally came out I was six and I frequently was near locations in the movie even if I wasn’t aware. Also, forget about the new version as only one establishing shot was filmed in Baltimore. Most of it was filmed in Toronto of all places.


X-Files – The Unusual Suspects

I watched the X-Files almost every Sunday for the first few seasons. It was a great show that mixed mystery, science and the supernatural together. I loved the characters, especially Mulder and Scully because both actors made it work so well. An early indicator of my love of conspiracy theories was probably how much I loved The Lone Gunmen, a ragtag group of informants for Mulder. In season five I was overjoyed to learn that the characters would be given their origin story. Not only do they get a well-written backstory but it’s also set in Baltimore. In fact, much of it is filmed in the Baltimore Convention Center. We also get an appearance from Detective Munch of Homicide and Law and Order: SVU fame.


Twelve Monkeys

Twelve Monkeys is a great movie but admittedly it’s a very strange movie. The science fiction elements end up being a little confusing but you tend to expect such things from a movie with time travel in it. There are great performances in the movie that cover a lot of the weak points and the movie ends up being a great Terry Gilliam movie. In particular, we get a great performance from Bruce Willis and a show stealing performance from Brad Pitt. In the movie, a man is sent back in time to Baltimore to prevent a catastrophe. Unfortunately, a lot of iconic scenes take place in Pennsylvania but there are plenty of shots in Baltimore. Specifically, there were scenes shot on Gay Street and in Mount Vernon. I have been in these neighborhoods more times than I can count.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

April 1, 2016

My family has a personal connection to Abraham Lincoln. My brother owes his middle name to the sixteenth President of the United States. It makes a lot of sense. He was a very presidential president and accomplished a lot before he was laid low by an assassin’s bullet. Also, he was a lawyer and both of my parents are lawyers. Most of Abraham Lincoln’s life is hardly a secret. He grew up very poor but he was self-educated and frontier life made him pretty hardy. He became a lawyer and then joined the Illinois legislature before finally becoming President of the United States. He commanded the US during the Civil War, saw its conclusion and abolished slavery near the end. Finally, his life was taken by John Wilkes Boothe in Ford’s Theater in DC.

All of this forms the framework for the book that Seth Grahame-Smith wrote called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He took the real history and added in a secret vampire hunting quest that Honest Abe was engaged in. While he was making history in his day job, he was also declaring a private war against the vampires of our great nation. I expected the book to be silly and kind of lame but it wasn’t. The characters were well written and the author takes great pains to match actual events to fictional events. The plot was compelling and it was a hard book to put down. I rarely watch a movie after reading a book and vice versa but I thought I’d make an exception.

While I said that the book wasn’t silly, it was pretty hammy and heavy-handed. Vampire movies and books are often light and dark, good and evil as it makes things way easier. The movie skips a bit of the book and Lincoln’s history and zooms through his childhood. That’s fine, I didn’t come to see the story of a frontier child. I came to see one of the father’s of our country whoop some ass. We are given a fair background of the general time period and it already feels like we’re not getting the detail from the book. This movie feels like it’s going to be more about Abe’s story and not about matching fictional dates with historical dates. This is immensely acceptable because I’ve studied history. I want a good story.

We dive right into the supernatural and it’s not only the vampires who are magical, it’s the honest one himself as well. Also, the movie is built like a lot of epic/vaguely artsy blockbusters that came before it. While I could make a few 300 and Gangs of New York comparisons, the film felt more like a revenge movie (Kill Bill) mixed with a war film (Gettysburg). The movie knows that it is silly and also knows not to take itself seriously while appearing to take itself deadly seriously. The vampire effect is actually really fun, like Buffy and Angel, it instantly turns human-looking creatures into absolute scary monsters. Vampires are feral beasts when cornered but gentlemanly when going about their normal business.

The movie is full of some great performances although obviously not a single one of them is Oscar quality. I really like a good weaselly performance from Jimmi Simpson, a television actor who does not often get his due. I was surprised to see Alan Tudyk who is one of my all-time favorite television actors and he plays Stephen Douglas, Abe’s historic political rival. Also, there’s a solid pre-Falcon Anthony Mackie which is awesome. Abraham Lincoln himself is played really well by Benjamin Walker even if he looks more like a young Liam Neeson than I imagine Lincoln looked. There are two main villains and both of them are pretty charismatic and sufficiently evil. In the end, the movie was a really fun sit that didn’t take too long and was interesting enough to keep my attention.

Media Update 2/18/2016

February 18, 2016


Deadpool

I went into this movie with so much hype I was nervous that it wasn’t going to hold up. I like Ryan Reynolds a lot because he’s a funny and charismatic guy who seems to put everything he has into each role he gets. He has now been in five comic book movies and until now none of them were really considered a hit. Two of them were flops. Now, you may remember me defending X-Men Origins: Wolverine on this blog and I stand by that but I agree that it could have been much better. This was much, much better. This was maybe 300% better. Do yourself a favor and watch some of the promotional material for the movie such as the cancer PSAs or the Australia Day promo. Get yourself in the mood for a raunchy, silly movie. Don’t get me wrong, the movie also has a lot of heart too but it primarily made me laugh from beginning to end. See this movie. (But be warned it’s a hard, hard R movie)


Battleship

Wow. So I have to assign some blame here for this one before I begin. While sitting and waiting for Deadpool to start I mentioned I had not seen this movie. Afterward, my friend Liz suggested I watch it on FX that evening. So I did and you can tell already what I thought of it. However, the movie was not without merit. It was a very pretty movie as the effects were all professionally done and the cgi was very believable. The story was alright but it felt like it wandered a little. The movie is a love letter to the US navy but alot of the navy men and women came off as emotionless or just plain assholes. It reminded me, yet again, why I never went into any sort of armed service. The two main characters were unlikeable at best and the main main character should not have been in the movie past the frist fifteen minutes. The movie was way too long and I would have cut at least 45 minutes by eliminating characters and plotlines. Stay away from this movie unless you’re drunk among snarky friends.


Colony

So there seems to be a lot of Science Fiction shows that started up recently. As I’ve stated I’m not the biggest fan of science fiction because it gets a little bogged down in talking about technology. I prefer science fantasy but I will give science fiction a fair shot if it looks interesting enough. Colony is about a world after aliens have successfully invaded and dominated the Earth. They killed a lot of people and divided the city we see so that any resistance cannot communicate and merge into a larger faction. The main character is a former FBI agent (or something equivalent) who is pressganged into working for the human representatives of the aliens. While he is working for the transitional government and trying to subvert it from the inside, his wife is working for the resistance. It’s kind of a sci-fi spy thriller but the emphasis is on the thriller part. It’s a pretty good show and, while I won’t be watching every week, I’m interested to see where it goes.

Links of the Week:
Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance
The Misfits – Where Eagles Dare
Fall Out Boy – Alone Together
Deadpool Australia Day
Neil Degrasse Tyson – Diss Track

Weekly Updates:
– I am going to Magfest tomorrow
– I am watching a lot of Lucha Underground
– I’m watching the Indiana Jones Mythbusters episode right now
– I ran into somebody deprived of TV during their childhood
– The above person did not know Family Feud
– Not much else to talk about today

Top 11 “Iconic” Movies of My Childhood

April 23, 2015

Top 11

Here is a list of the some of the movies that guided my childhood and informed my preferences later in life even to this day.  I was born in December of 1982 so do the math where I haven’t and realize that I was probably irrevocably altered by Tim Burton for better or worse.

Top 11 “Iconic” Films of My Childhood

11 The Goonies (1985)

This one is thick with so much eighties nostalgia that if you sliced it, it would bleed such radical blood. The movie is an adventure movie where a bunch of kids and some teenagers search for pirate treasure which is pretty awesome. It was even more awesome when I was a kid. The kids stuck together no matter what and they struggled to keep the faith of their mission. Forget Mikey, I always liked Data as the awkward inventor type. That’s mostly how I felt as a kid. I even liked to wear a long jacket a lot like he did. Even back then the movie felt kind of wistful and slow in places. While it is inspiring, the “our time” speech feels kind of sad as well.

10 Star Trek IV (1986)

I remember being a Star Trek fan long before I was a Star Wars fan. I don’t remember who introduced me to the series but by third grade my friends and I were poring over technical drawings. I never really cared too much about how the ships were put together. I cared more about what the plans said about what life on the ship was like. In my opinion, Star Trek IV is the most enjoyable out of the original six. Sure the crew had aged quite a bit by this point but it’s so interesting to see a future society interact with a more contemporary society. It’s also the funniest Star Trek movie (Generations is actually a close second). I often hear or read about this movie being demaned as the “Dumb Whale Movie” but it’s way more memorable than most of the other movies.

9 Clueless (1995)

This was a surprise hit in my family about the time when I was thirteen. The movie is so good at being a parody of nineties culture that it’s easy to miss that there’s actually a pretty introspective message to it all. Besides, it’s the closest I’ll probably ever get to reading Emma. I think this movie is the first time that I felt safe watching and enjoying a “girl” movie, a distinction that is getting harder and harder to make. It was rare that I watched and enjoyed a movie with so little explosions but Clueless is funny and the characters are relateable. Well, they’re not as relateable now but they were when I was a young teenager.

8 Crybaby (1990)

Any list of movies I enjoyed in my childhood has to include a movie from my hometown of Baltimore. I’m Baltimore through and through and wherever I’ve been, I have always had the city deep in my heart. Not only that but John Waters has always spoken to the weird, geeky and sometimes dark side of me that is fun to explore. The first exposure I had to his movies were a few glimpsed scenes of Serial Mom before it was shut off. Crybaby is the story of a love story amidst the battle between the Squares and the Drapes, a local motorcycle gang. All of this takes place in the suburbs and rural areas ouside of Baltimore. This movie helped prepare me for how cliquish school would get. It’s also way, way better than Grease.

7 Back to the Future II (1989)

The Back to the Future series is awesome. The team up of Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox made for screen chemistry that was off the charts. The first movie was good but I actually prefer the sequels as they up the stakes considerably without dilluting the product. I struggled to decide whether I should put 2 or 3 in this spot but I opted for 2 for several reasons. 1) Where else are you going to find a movie where Michael J. Fox plays three different characters while somebody does a Crispin Glover impression? 2) The future sequence is great because it’s completely optimistic and not a crumbling, post-apocalyptic mess. 3) It is the most science fiction heavy of the series and introduced alternate universe theories to mainstream pop culture. On top of all of that, it’s a great mix of funny and dark and inspiring.

6 Jurassic Park (1993)

I was pretty sure as a young boy that liking dinosaurs was just a fact of life for young boys. I mean, all of the television, toys and theme parks seemed to tell me so. Jurrasic Park was a no-brainer and I’m sure that’s what Amblin and Universal were thinking. Of course, that movie could have ended up being a cash grab but they chose some good source material and injected a lot of heart into it. I remember watching the movie for the dinosaurs but loving it for the people. The cast is amazing and the special effects hold up so much better than some of the cgi monstrosities that showed up just a few years later. Even Jeff Goldblum looked good in this one even though he’s usually kind of a cartoon character.

5 Beetlejuice (1988)

Tim Burton was always pretty much the patron saint of all of the somewhat gothy, geeky and misunderstood kids of the world. For everyone else he was probably an entertaining director who had some hits and some misses but was financially successful. I was always in the first group and Tim Burton’s style of weirdness definitely resonated with me in ways that I felt my friends couldn’t understand. Now, Beetlejuice isn’t exactly a brilliant film but it’s a whole lot of fun. It was the first time where I saw horror movie material used for comedy instead. At this point, Tim Burton’s art direction was still very new and exciting and it feels like there were more hits than misses. It didn’t hurt that Delia Dietz was one of my dream girls.

4 Ghostbusters (1984)

Again, a supernatural comedy/adventure movie that took what should have been scary and made it hilarious. The movie took Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis at the height of their careers. Bill Murray is especially on point as a snarky asshole with a heart of gold. Of course, the three hapless scientists (and later also the awesome Winston) are up against a world of ghost trouble and an elder god. The comedy, effects and story still hold up even when a lot of other eighties movies look completely dated (like The Goonies). The movie actually has some tense and scary moments but most of it is really fun. I was two when this came out so I definitely saw it a little later on VHS but in my late teens I finally got to see it in a movie theater.

3 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

I worshipped Indiana Jones when I was a kid. I even got my folks to buy me an official Indiana Jones leather jacket and fedora. Thankfully for everyone involved, they did not buy me a whip because I would probably still be wearing an eyepatch. Indiana Jones was the ultimate hero for me. I was a smart kid but I disliked team sports but I loved being physically active. I could imagine myself swinging through temples and dealing with bad guys while using my brains to sort out ancient mysteries. I also never liked snakes either. I chose the third movie for this list because it is my favorite of the series. To me the movie is immensely helped by the addition of River Phoenix as young Indy and Sean Connery as Henry Jones Sr. The first movie feels like it drags a little in places and the second one has an insufferable female lead.

2 The Addams Family (1991)

Just like my early exposure to Tim Burton movies, this movie spoke to not only how different I felt but my desire to be different. It made it ok to “wave my freak flag high” which is what any geeky kid interested in the darker side of fiction probably wanted at the time. I was most taken at the time with young Wednesday Addams (another fictional character I had a crush on). She seems bored with what other people were interested in and had her own passions that she embraced. That’s exactly how I felt. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate one of the best casts any movie has ever had. Raul Julia and Angelica Huston in particular are captivating. It all makes me nostalgic for a television show that I never watched in the first place.

1 Batman (1989)

This was the alpha and omega of my childhood. This is the movie that spawned my interest in comic books which in turn led me to walking several miles to blow my allowance at the local comic book shop. Of course, it didn’t do that right away. Before this, the only Batman I had seen was Adam West who was goofy and looked like he’d have trouble fighting a plastic bag. I didn’t understand that the Batman television show was intentionally awful and that finally somebody had convinced Hollywood to do Batman somewhat seriously. All I understood was that Batman was kicking butt and his costume looked awesome and this was so awesome. I still love the tone, the dialogue, the pacing and the cast on this one. This is the best of the original four Batman movies and set the bar high for Joker portrayals on film. It’s also the only movie on this list that I actually saw in theaters, most of the others I saw on VHS months or years after their release. For that reason and many others, this movie will always be magical to me.

Adaptations

April 1, 2015

When ever somebody comes up with a good idea (or a bad idea really) in one medium, a lot of people try and think of a way to adapt it into another form of media. This has been happening for a long time and will continue to happen and I love it. Except when I hate it or I am indifferent. Adaptations are often very divisive among the more intense sections of a fandom especially when the adaptation changes details from the original work. People seem to either love or hate an adaption based on how much and what has changed from the source material. Quick thought: do you think people were pissed about I Am a Camera being adapted into Cabaret? Don’t research that. I’m certainly not going to. There probably were people who complained but it won Tony awards so probably nobody cared.


Iron Man 3

I love Iron Man 3 but there was a lot of grumbling from some comic book fans around the time this one came out. There is a certain twist at the end of the second act that throws a lot of people who are huge Iron Man fans. Those same fans were upset at how Whiplash was done in Iron Man 2 and so on through the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, I have a friend who can’t help but complain about every single movie Marvel puts out. He says he can’t enjoy them because they got details wrong. Each and every movie he hated, I loved because they were good movies. My thinking is that the movies are part of a separate universe where events came about a little differently. If the movies were exactly like the comics then I would be extremely bored. Instead, I like that they feed me little bits that are like the comic book and flesh out other details to make their own story.


Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

Again, I loved all of the Lord of the Rings movies. I haven’t seen the last Hobbit movie yet but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. There was some criticism because they left a lot of the stuff out of the books. A lot of that stuff was interesting but I have the extended versions on DVD and those things are already 3 – 4 hours long per movie. I can live with losing a few events and poems so that I can not be watching the same movie for 5 hours. The same goes for Harry Potter movies by the way. So people complained about all of this stuff getting cut out and then they turned around and complained about Return of the King having multiple endings even though that’s how it is in the books. It’s a hard balance to strike when you want to please the hardcore fans and the casual fans and the people who had no clue Lord of the Rings is even a thing.

Which brings me to The Hobbit which decided to go the opposite direction. They threw everything from the book in and then invented a lot of stuff to flesh it out. Some have argued that this was done merely as a money grab. While that may have been the original motivation, I believe that the movies benefitted from the original story getting stretched out. The Hobbit is as chock full of detail as any of Tolkien’s books but he actually left a lot out. There are whole sections where Gandalf disappears and then they end up telling rather than showing what he was doing. It’s much more interesting to see all of that played out. Also in the original book the Dwarves were just extra characters with little personality and it was nice to see them fleshed out a little more. Again, it doesn’t make the source material bad or incomplete, it just makes for a better movie.


Man of Steel

Here is where I might start coming off like a hypocrite. I hated Man of Steel for two reasons. The first reason was that I didn’t think it was a good movie on its own merits. The second reason I didn’t like it was because I didn’t think it was a very good adaptation of the source material. In the comics Superman isn’t an asshole, Lois Lane isn’t a ditz and Jonathan Kent isn’t an idiot. I kind of went into a little more depth on this in my Man of Steel review. Still, apparently they were adapting the jerkier Superman from the recently rebooted New 52 initiative that I haven’t really read any of. That’s fine, I guess, but at least make it a good movie.

Conclusion

There’s more examples to be sure but they all amount to the same basic premise. Adaptations are their own animal and shouldn’t be judged by the original source material. There are exceptions, of course, but as long as the differences between the two aren’t too big then I usually see it as a faithful adaptation. I’m commited to keeping an open mind about things and not letting more negative sections of the fandom piss me off. This is the guy who liked Daredevil talking though so maybe you just wrote off everything I just said.

A Blade Restrospective

January 22, 2015

Hello and welcome to the Blade retrospective where I talk about the Blade movies since I got the whole set cheap at Walmart.  I love buying cheap DVDs from Walmart and Target to add to my geeky movie collection.  I think that overall the Blade movies are good but don’t hold up to the current Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

All of the films are written by David S. Goyer who is very hit and miss as a writer.   He is responsible for good stuff like all three Nolanverse Batman movies, Dark City, the Constantine tv series and Jumper.  However he also is responsible for the awful FlashForward series, Nick Fury tv movie and Man of Steel.  He definitely has his faults but is just as capable of putting out decent stuff as he is of putting out crap.  There is no consistent director so all three films have different tones and visuals.

Let’s start reviewing the Blade movies.


Blade

The first movie is pretty good.  Wesley Snipes is absolutely the best casting choice anybody could have made.  He has the ability to be stoic while having the charisma to deliver a one-liner or two.  He actually does a decent job with a few emotional moments as well.  Kris Kristofferson is amazing as the gruff but loveable Whistler.  Stephen Dorff is Stephen Dorff, a villain you want to punch in the face forever which is actually a good thing here.  Rounding out the main cast is Donal Logue who I am actually a huge fan of.

The fight sequences are the highlight throughout which makes a lot of sense when you consider that Snipes knows martial arts.  The rest of the movie is pretty formulaic but that’s just fine with me.  There are plenty of cliches and corny bits but I found them fun and not yet tired.  Overall I recommend the movie if you like action and cool effects.


Blade II

The best Blade movie ever and not only because it was directed by Guillermo del Toro.  This time around they actually saw fit to develop the characters more.  They also went for a much creepier mood which fits a story about a vampire hunter teaming up with vampires to fight the next stage of evolution.  We get Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson returning and turning in even better performances.  Leading a cast of relative unknowns is awesome character actor Ron Perlman who is awesome.

As with any del Toro venture, this one is loaded with awesome visuals and dark storytelling.  However, the a lot of the cool fighting is still there as well.  This movie has more substance but it does have a few third act problems.  Since the movie was del Toro experimenting and proving that he could helm a Hellboy movie that makes some sense.  It still holds together better than the first one which was a bare bones action/horror/comic book film. Again, I recommend this film.


Blade Trinity

A lot of people did not seem to like this movie and, to be fair, I can see why.  After Blade II, Trinity is way too light with a change in cinematography and more jokes.  There is a distinct absence of Kris Kristofferson but we get Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds instead.  Then you add in four named villains.  One of them is played by Hunter Hearst Helmsley of WWE fame.  With all of this going on you could accuse the movie of having too big a cast but it’s only slightly bigger than Blade II.  Snipes seems to be barely trying which makes sense as he was upset and feuding with the screenwriter during production.

There seem to be less fight scenes due to the limitations of Biel and Reynolds and spreading the attention between the three leads.  Instead of fight scenes we get more action sequences and more ranged weapons.  I don’t see this as a huge problem but it does kind of stray from the meat of the first two movies.  Overall I would say that Trinity is not as bad as people think.  I think it follows the spirit of the first movie.  Reynolds is actually pretty funny and there’s plenty of vampire killing action.  While the movie feels lighter there are definitely some darker moments that seem edgier than the first movie. You know what?  I recommend this one too.

So that’s the Blade movies…  Wait, what?  A NEW CHALLENGER APPROACHES!?

3 out of 4 ain't bad
Blade IV: House of Chthon

Yes there was technically a fourth blade movie.  I was intrigued when I first bought the DVD and wondered why I never knew about this.  I usually keep abreast of comic book news.  I knew about the Blade anime series (which is decent) but I didn’t know about this.  It turns out this was the pilot for a Blade series that went 12 episodes.  It was on Spike TV which is the first nail in its coffin being on what is basically the Cops network.  I struggled through this movie because I apparently hate myself.  It was poorly paced and passionless throughout most of it.

The series includes Blade who is now played by a man named Sticky Fingaz who acts like LL Cool J doing his best Wesley Snipes impression.  Though, for a series supposedly about Blade, there is a distinct lack of Blade actually doing anything.  Instead we spend most of the “movie” following the female protagonist, Krista, trying to investigate the death of her brother and stumbling upon the existence of vampires.  Blade pops up now and then to kill a few vampires but is otherwise laughably ineffectual.  Eventually stuff actually happens and Krista gets captured and transformed into a vampire.  In the end, Blade and Krista seem to make an agreement to use Krista as an undercover agent inside the House of Chthon.  I yawn and I am grateful that the movie is over.

I have two words for you as advice concerning this movie:  Stay away.  It probably had potential considering the relative success of Dusk Till Dawn: The TV Series and Fargo: The TV series.  The pacing and acting are horrible and they probably decided to save all of the exposition for a later episode.  The writing is muddled and they save a good concept for the last twenty minutes after boring you for over an hour and 10 minutes.  All I know is that I don’t want to hear anybody badmouth Blade Trinity after watching that.

Top 11 Movies I’m Excited About in 2015

January 7, 2015

It’s been a while since I followed the lead of my friend Joe so I thought I’d talk about the Top 11 movies that I’m most excited about.  There’s a lot more movies that I saw while I researched this.  Mad Max: Fury Road, Pan, Cinderella, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the Jungle Book really look good too but didn’t make the list.


1. Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1)

Avengers is in my top 5 favorite movies and I’ve loved every single part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far.  I am interested to see the characters reunite after what they went through individually during Phase 2 and how the group dynamic may change and evolve.  Now that they more or less trust each other, it will be interesting to see them fight Ultron instead of each other.  Also, it will be interesting to see what they do with Quicksilver since he was already a huge hit in the recent X-Men movie.  We haven’t seen a cinematic Scarlet Witch yet so that should definitely be exciting.


2. Ant-man (July 17)

I’m sure we’re all disappointed that Edgar Wright didn’t get to do his take on Antman.  I would have liked to see that version but I think in the end it will be for the best.  While Hank Pym is an interesting character he also has kind of a history of being an asshole so I’m glad they are focusing instead on Scott Lang.  Having to take up the mantle of one of the smartest men on Earth has always made for a good story.  Besides, I loved Lang’s stints in the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and his relationship with his daughter Stature.  I have faith in this movie.


3. Inside Out (June 12)

I used to say “Pixar can do no wrong” and then Cars 2, Monsters U and Planes came along.  Still, they are the best animation studio on the planet.  (They were tied with Studio Ghibli in my heart but that’s over now)  The shots that I’ve seen of Inside Out so far have shown some smooth character design and animation and it will probably have that usual Pixar flair.  I don’t know a lot about the movie but I prefer to shelter myself from Pixar spoilers before I see the finished product.


4. Tomorrowland (May 22)

This movie has been the subject of a lot of speculation since it was inadvertently announced.  When the name first appeared on some crates at a Disney exhibit, the press guessed that it was part of Star Wars 7.  They were corrected and informed that it was a science fiction movie that has nothing to do with aliens.  Then Disney pretty much went radio silent on the movie for a while.  I am a huge Disney nerd so I’m intrigued about this movie especially after learning that filming was done at both Disneyland and my beloved Disney World.


5. Spectre (November 6)

I like James Bond.  Sure some of the movies sucked and were a total waste of time but at least they were memorable.  The current iteration is miles ahead of Pierce Brosnan’s tenure and I’m interested to see where they go.  They’re both retreading stuff we’ve seen before and showing us a lot of stuff we haven’t seen before.  It’s been all but confirmed that we’re getting the first appearance of Blofeld in this new continuity and that will be intensely interesting.  I hope he can at least match what


6. Jurrasic World (June 12)

I have unashamedly loved every single Jurassic Park movie.  Before you ask: Yes, even Lost World.  I have never regretted watching a Jurassic Park movie and I don’t expect that is going to change anytime soon.  This time, instead of Jeff Goldblum or Sam Neill, we’re getting Chris Pratt which is kind of sad and kind of awesome.  Guardians of the Galaxy quickly shot up to my top 5 movies ever so I’m excited to see more of his career.


7. Kingsman: The Secret Service (February 13)

Even if Matt Vaughn recently put down my beloved Dark Knight, he still puts out a really good comic book movie.  This looks really good and I like a good spy/action film.  It could end up giving Bond a run for his money but I won’t hold my breath.  Unfortunately it will be released the same week as Fifty Shades of Grey which is Valentine’s Day weekend. Yeah, let that sink in.


8. Furious 7 (April 3)

I am not defending this one because fuck you. I have grown to love the later Fast and Furious movies especially the last two.   The earlier ones were kind of boring but, as the movies got more ridiculous, they got more entertaining.  This is the part that Vin Diesel was born to play (that and XXX but I digress).   The movie will be loud, corny and flashy and will have the Rock in it.  I’m sold.


9. Mission Impossible 5 (December 25)

The Mission Impossible series has just gotten better as it has continued but in the opposite way that the Furious series has.  It has gotten a little edgier and a little more serious with each movie.   I loved the addition of Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg in the last movie and that will continue in the next movie.  At the same time they are bringing back Ving Rhames and adding Alec Baldwin.  I like to think that we can all just accept that Tom Cruise is a nutball who makes decent movies.


10. The Hateful Eight (November 13)

I’ve enjoyed everything that Quentin Tarantino has ever done in his career from top to bottom.  Tackling a western is actually pretty logical for him after Django Unchained and I’m interested to see what he can do with it.  Tarantino will also reunite with Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen and Kurt Russell while taking on Channing Tatum and Jennifer Jason Leigh. I could go on listing all of the neat casting choices he’s made but I’ll spare you.  He has a history of getting good performances out of unlikely actors and actresses so I’m excited to see what is probably his take on the Magnificent Seven.

macbeth

11. Macbeth (Sometime in 2015. Also no trailer yet so.. hmm)

I have studied Shakespeare since I first put my hands on Romeo and Juliet at age 14 and I have worked on a lot of stage productions of his plays.  I own at least two copies of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare and I have visited his birth home and his marriage home. I would have visited the Globe but it was under renovations at the time.  Macbeth is the bad luck title but since this is the internet and not the theater we’re ok.  I watch pretty much every version of Shakespeare that hits theaters except for some of the obscure modernizations.  This one stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cottilard who are both on point.  I always thought Macbeth was a more interesting story than Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet which sometimes unfairly get more press.  We’ll see how this one turns out.

Bonus:

Yes I left off Star Wars 7.  I am really hesitant about this one.  Don’t get me wrong, I was a huge fan of Star Wars as a kid and I owned a lot of the action figures and watched the original trilogy over and over.  (God I wish I had those figures now so I could eBay them so fast)  Also, I didn’t hate the second trilogy as much as a lot of people did. Sure, Phantom Menace was a disappointment but it had some cool moments.  The trilogy more or less redeemed itself as it went on despite some really cheesy moments that I just conveniently repress.  The thing is, I thought Star Wars was all done and I had accepted that.  Maybe I’ll get more excited as we get closer.


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