Category Archives: BOOKS, MOVIES, TV, MUSIC

Re-experiencing “Titanic”

We just watched “Titanic” again tonight.

Anyone who doesn’t cry like a baby at that movie is a cold, heartless bastard.

When it first came out, my wife and I together and with various friends saw it 8 times in the theater.

Still cry even now. =)
Back when it first came out I became obsessed with the Titanic. Seriously obsessed. About as obsessed as you can be without having to take medication. And it amazed me how exact, precise, perfect James Cameron recreated every fact and detail so that the Rose and Jack story is the ONLY fictional element of the movie. He got the details down to such a degree that the exact number of white flares are launched in the movie, at the right moments in the course of action. Even the dialogue Rose has with ship designer Mr. Andrews where he gives her his life vest, actually happened (although it was with one of the ship’s maids, not the fictional Rose.)

Sadly, the one mistake in the details ofthe movie was one that Cameron couldn’t have counted on. Recent evidence has determined that the ship broke up differently than portrayed. In brief, it started to tear in half, but not completely, allowing water to rush in and fill the double bottom that still held together, causing the bottom to suddenly sink further, which caused the two halves to actually crunch together at the top part of the tear before the larger fore section sunk.

Anyway. Excellent movie. Need to get the DVD. having to swap tapes in the middle is annoying.

Revisiting Narnia Was a Troublesome Trip

I finally got to see “Chronicles of Narnia” this weekend. (We don’t get out much.)

I have to say that I would have loved the movie if I wasn’t quite familiar with the Bible and somewhat familiar with C.S. Lewis’ writings.

With the exception of some special effects it was quite well produced. (The effects ran the gamut from simply incredible to rubber-doll syndrome.) The acting was quite good, especially from the kids. The script was well written… to a point. And that’s the point where my enjoyment of the movie was ruined by obtuse beat-you-over-the-head allegory. “Allegory” may imply more subtlety than the movie actually incorporated.

In the movie’s defense, it was true to the letter and spirit of the book. Good for it. But even when I read the book as a kid years ago, I was struck by how heavy the Christian allusions and metaphors were. (Of course at that time I loved it, now I find it tedious.)

Actually, if the Christian allegory was the only problem, I think I’d be OK with it. There’s nothing wrong with allegory, and skillfully done, allegory is a wonderful and entertaining literary technique. (Although I wonder if this was the book that made Lewis’ friend, Tolkien, state publicly and emphatically that he hated allegory.) It does make me wonder how some people who have watched the movie have come away curious why people say it was filled with Christian allegory. It’s obvious that those people, if they’ve had any at all, have only experienced Christianity at most through childhood Sunday School.

There’s the very obvious references to “sons of Adam” and “daughter’s of Eve,” and of course Asland’s sacrifice and resurrection. But during the last third of the movie just about every scene had religious allusion. Like the evil White Witch proclaiming that the life of a traitor belongs to her, and she requires blood as is put down in the “old law” and “as is tradition.” Oh my God, if that’s not heavy-handed reference to Hebrew Law. And then Asland’s post-resurrection reveal that if she truely understood the meaning of the old law she’d have realized the true meaning of sacrifice. And who can forget Asland’s line “It is finished”? It was hard for me not to roll my eyes. And then more subtleties like having “Peter” as the human (son of Adam) leader of Asland’s kingdom. (The first Pope, anyone?)
But like I said, allegory alone would have been OK. I would actually have probably been more annoyed if Lewis (and the film makers) had tried to sneak Christian allegory into the story. That would have felt like some kind of subversive attempt. Being so blatant and obvious, it feels more entertaining. And like, oh my! like what Dan Brown has done with “The Da Vinci Code.” Take a story, a setting, a plot, a theme, and then work it into a new narrative fiction story. Of course, Lewis does it with more skill and entertainment than Brown did with his potboiler.

My main problem comes as a personal issue I have with Lewis, and not the movie itself, which makes it quite unfair of me to blame the movie for whatever lack of enjoyment I had of it due to something not its fault. It’s my annoyance at Lewis’ non-fiction writings, mainly “Mere Christianity.” Early in the film when the older two kids are discussing with their host, the Professor, their youngest sibling’s stories of having been to this Narnia place inside the wardrobe, the professor poses to them, “Well, if she’s not mad, she must be either lying or… the alternative.” Or something like that. And I groaned greatly on the inside when I heard that and couldn’t pay attention to the movie for like the next minute or two.

That was basically Lewis’ “trilemma” poser regarding the validity of Jesus’ divinity. He states in “mere Christianity”, to paraphrase, if the the prophesies are true, than what Jesus said about his fulfilling them makes him insane, lying, or telling the truth. And it’s best for the concept of absolute morality that he’s telling the truth because if he’s not it negates everything Jesus says about morality. The problem is, the trilemma, as I discuss in earlier blog: Trilemma Delimma, that reasoning fails on two counts. a) Just because one thing someone says may be wrong, does not make everything that person says is wrong. For example, the Pope believes he’s the divinely ordained voice of God on Earth. Non-Catholics don’t believe this. So, even if the Pope is completely wrong about that, does that mean EVERYTHING else he says about morality and behavior and righteousness is wrong?! And b) It assumes that the Bible is 100% accurate, when that can’t be proven. We don’t have any 1st-hand accounts of what Jesus said. We don’t even have original copies of the Gospel writings. What we have are copies of copies of stories written by people who weren’t there. Well, there’s some debate whether, I think it was Matthew and Luke, were there or not at the events. Even so, we don’t have their original writings, and even so, we can’t be certain that they themselves got down exactly what was said. So any statement of absoluteness based on what Jesus said is suspect because the source of the “recording” is suspect.

Anyway, after things like that, it made it hard to enjoy the movie. And again when Asland tells Peter that there is an absolute power greater than even him which governs right and wrong, it’s a statement right out of “Mere Christianity.” (Oh yeah, back to allegory, Asland states that he was present at the writing of the “old law,” harking back to the Christian belief that Jesus is Logos and was around at the creation of/is “The Word.”) And so Lewis’ infusion of his philosophy made the movie annoying.

Again, I can’t fault the movie for these, they’re being honest with the book, and that’s great. The movie did what it set out to do well and entertainingly, and I applaud it. I in fact mainly enjoyed it. I’m just annoyed with Lewis and his horrendously flawed logic and circuitous reasoning. If I’d never read “Mere Christianity” I probably would have fully enjoyed “Narnia.”

The Doctor is In. WAY In!

I was a big fan of Doctor Who back in the 80’s, watching it as a kid on PBS, being one of only like four kids in my school who had even heard of Doctor Who. (One of maybe five kids total in grade school who also watched Monty Python, played Dungeons and Dragons, and created codes and cryptograms. Explains a lot, I think.) I even still have my “Doctor Who Technical Manual.”

Sci-Fi Channel has started airing the latest incarnation of the Doctor Who series (it went off air in the early 90’s and has just returned in 2005.) But I’d heard they had to edit our a few minutes of each episode to make enough room for their commercials and create false commercial breaks as the BBC aired versions of Doctor Who are 46 minutes long with no commercial breaks. And this editing really messes up the flow of the show and removes some vital clues to the entire story arc. If you can get the DVD’s or original BBC versions somehow, I highly recommend it!

I watched the last few episodes of the 2005 season last night, and I haven’t cried that hard at a show in years. The emotional storytelling, writing, performances in those last couple of episodes are simply brillant! Doctor Who is definitely a new incarnation!

It still has a certain amount of cheese, and it wouldn’t be Doctor Who if it didn’t. The show has always been loved partly because of its cheeky humor and unapologetically low budget special effects. And this new version, while containing a better budget, honors that tradition beautifully. But this new version has an emotional thread that I certainly never remember Tom Baker’s version of the Doctor ever having.

Anyway, I just wanted to put my recomendation out there for any Whovians, or sci-fi fans in general, get your hands on the latest version of Doctor Who. You won’t be disappointed!

Silent Hill

Saw the new movie Silent Hill over the weekend. Not bad. It’s gotten really poor reviews, and I can understand why. If you’re not a fan of the games it’s based on, it’s pretty lame dialogue and plot-wise. But as a fan of the games, not bad.

The dialogue is very similar to the style of the dialogue in the game, but the reason the plot is rather shallow is because it’s trying to do in two hours what the first Silent Hill game does in say 40 hours. But, that’s forgiveable as well.

What I was really disappointed in was it wasn’t as scary as I was hoping. But, I set my standards pretty high. Even so, the movie wasn’t nearly as scary as the games.

I like scary movies and books, but they have to be skillfully done. I hate slasher movies (well, the first “Scream” was OK because it was novel and actually had a decent script and was at the time unique in its self-awareness. But in general, I avoid slasher movies like the plague.) A slasher movie is not scary. They are grotesque and horrific perhaps, but never scary. The Kubrick version of “The Shining” was pretty scary because it evoked a mood, a feeling, a dreadful and unnerving feeling that really creeps you out. (Even if it didn’t do a very good job in presenting the themes of Stephen King’s book.) I really really liked “The Blair Witch Project” because it relied on the viewer’s imagination to provide scares. It understood (because of low budget perhaps) that what is unseen can usually be scarier than what is seen.

The novel Amityville Horror really scared me big time when I read it around age 16. Even though I knew then the whole “real story” of the story was bogus. Because the imagination is more powerful than anyone’s audio/visual creation.

And so that’s why I really like the Silent Hill games. When you watch a movie, like this “Silent Hill” movie in particular, you can feel sympathy for the character, but when you are playing the game you feel empathy. Because your actions affect the character and the development of the story, you feel more involved and immersed in the world of the game. And so when you’re sitting there with a controller in your hand and looking at a very dark and creepy room and you hear distant scrape-step in the distance of your 5.1 surround audio, you feel fright and anxiety at going on, opening that next door, going around the corner. Then that radio that lets you know with a burst of static that something evil is near comes to life, actual shivers run up my spine and my gut hardens and I’m squinting as I walk my character on.

So, because the game does such a great job evoking fear, the movie had a lot to live up to. It did an OK job in being creepy and horrific but it could have done a better job being actually frightening and scary.

I did like the homages to the games. For example in the game, if you get to the end of the game with this knife you find, you actually aren’t able to get to one of the “happy” endings of the game. And so in the movie the main character who acquires a knife, ends up losing it at one part. Only a fan of the game would get the deeping import of that little moment.

It’s obvious that the director of the movie is a huge fan of the games, as he claims, because there is quite a bit in the movie that is a skillful nod to the game. Usually subtle, and most likely unappreciated by people unfamiliar with the games.

Anyway, not bad.

Dark City Full of A.I., Revisited

Watched a couple of movies this weekend I haven’t watched in years. In fact, I got the A.I. DVD when it came out a couple of years ago, and actually haven’t watched it since, until this weekend!

Dark City
A great sci-fi flick! That is SUCH an underrated movie. It’s one of those I so wish I could completely forget so I could watch it again anew and have that 1st-time experience with it again. The way Alex Proyas draws you in, picks you up and carries you through the movie is masterful! The visceral momentum he establishes in the first third of the movie brings you along, takes you on a ride. And the visuals are just stunning! The entire style is a unique (for the time…there’s been a lot of copycatting since) blend of Art Deco, Film Noir, silent era sci-fi like “Metropolis“, and post-modernism. Speaking of “Metropolis”, “Dark City” pays it significant homage with it’s style. But the movie also successfully makes you feel the same disconnect, confusion, and uncertainty the main character feels as he wakes up with amnesia in this weird place.

I reviewed this after it came out: I know a lot of people hated it, but I think “A.I.” is a classic sci-fi and should be remembered and catalogued with the great movies of sci-fi, and perhaps time will allow it. “2001,” “Metropolis,” “Star Wars,” “Close Encounters,” it’s easily as good as any of those.
Why? Just the verisimilitude alone makes it worthy of extreme praise. There’s rarely a moment in the movie when you didn’t believe 100% that the world they presented wasn’t real. Every set, every prop, every sound and image, looked right out of what the near-future will likely look like.
The emotional content. There’s two types of good, successful sci-fi. Hard sci-fi with little emotional appeal itself, but may spark an emotional response. Like “2001“. It’s a very cold, sterile movie, with little actual emotional content. However, pertly because of that, the feeling of loneliness and paranoia, the feeling of expansive wonder, are elevated against that austere presentation. Then there is sci-fi that strives for an emotional response, and that’s more dangerous, because when it fails, it fails bad. But sci-fi has always had some connection with evoking emotional appeals as sci-fi often tries to expose some aspect of the human condition, warn away some aspect of human weakness. “The Twilight Zone” is an example of emotional sci-fi that worked more often than not.
“A.I.” often bordered on the sentimental (which is a bad thing) but generally, at least for me, stayed within the realm of believably powerfully emotional. I nearly cry through most of the movie, and at the end of my last viewing I bawled. The emotional impact of that movie is just overwhelming. I think partly made all the more poignant for me because of the themes of love between a parent and a child. But also because I can easily anthropomorphize inanimate objects easily, and so I feel an emotional impact at the plight of the “mechas” and empathy toward their fates and what happens to them.

That link above goes to a much more in-depth review of the movie. So I’m not going to repeat myself too much more. Just to say that the themes it deals with and the successful emotional impact it delivers, in my opinion elevates “A.I.” to great sci-fi to be remembered for as long as film history is studied.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince review

I finished
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last night.
Very good, not the best one, though.

Like the movie of “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” “Half-Blood Prince” feels like a 2nd act after the real establishment of action (book 5, “Order of the Phoenix”) and what will be the final and climactic next book. The previous, “Order of the Phoenix” book, had more interpersonal and person conflict. Involved more of the darker aspects of growing up and being a teenager, and seemed to have a lot more of the intricate and exciting development of the main plotline regarding the rising power of The Dark Lord and his servants, and the trials and tribulations of the Order of the Phoenix and Harry’s home-grown D.A. “army” working to fight Voldemort and the Death Eaters.

This book does solidify some of that, a little, but with a couple of exceptions doesn’t really do much more than serve as an expansion of what was really introduced in the previous book and what will be resolved in the last book. About three big things happen in this book, that really alters the storyline. Of course I won’t spoil them, but I will say that it involves a death, a relationship, and a seemingly drastic character development (that I feel will be revealed in the last book as not what it appears to be.) One other thing is it sets up a drastic change in the last book. Like the five previous books, this one follows the same formula of Summer at the Aunt and Uncles’, getting ready for the school year, stuff happens that takes WAY too long as it should because it has to stretch the nine school-year months, and ends at the end of the year. But it establishes a possibly huge departure from that formula in the last book to come. Which I welcome. And I’m glad to see. I think when Rowling frees herself from that formula constriction, it frees up the plot and instills in the reader that anything can happen.

While still a lengthy book (well, compared to the rest…not compared to say, one of the “Wheel of Time” books,) it still rushed by too much of what it shouldn’t have and still didn’t develop what I think are key opportunities for good character development and conflict. Some of which involving Draco Malfoy, Professor Snape, Professor Dumbledore….

In the end, it was an entertaining book, perhaps the 3rd best at worst, 2nd best at best, thus far…and definitely making me anxious to read the last book. In like 2007 or something. =(

of Revenge of the Sith with a side of Galactic Hitchhikers

So I started to FINALLY watch all three extended versions of the �Lord of the Rings� movies back-to-back Sunday. 12 hours of supurb fantasy entertainment goodness!
But was interrupted durring �Two Towers� for a couple of hours, so had to cut the marathon short. Will need to try again some other week-end.

So I watched Star Wars episodes 1 and 2. Holymoly episode 1 was terrible! Horrible.
2 was only somewhat better.

I saw Episode 3 last night at the first, Midnight showing of it. Glee! It was far and away better than those two. And the only thing keeping it from being the best of all 6 movies is it still had some really bad dialogue and sections of terrible acting (even from the good actors, confirming for me that the blame lays solely on the shoulders of writer/director Lucas.) Even so, it may be better than at least �Return of the Jedi.� If for no other reason than because it doesn’t end with dancing teddy bears.

They did a good job in establishing the lead-up into episode 4. Ships begin looking a lot more like the ones found in ep. 4, some sets and scenes. And certainly the story itself. For example, it’s somewhat hard to believe that a 20-something Anikin could become the large and menacing figure of Darth Vader. But even if it didn’t make sense that Aniken WOULD be at his most manipulably emotional stage at that age, but in Episode 4 Obi-Wan tells Luke �a young Jedi named Darth Vader helped the Emperor hunt down and kill all the Jedi.� That one mysterious, terrible sentence becomes fully realized in Episode 3. But why does Yoda go to Degobah? What is Obi-Wan doing conveniently on Tatoine? It’s all established here. And done not at all badly. Even with the moments of bad acting and laughably horrible lines. It successfully tears at your emotions when you seen Anakin struggling with his rage and suppressed guilt and moral turmoil on the lava moon. ( :: small Spoiler warning :: ) The money-shot for the movie, for me, is when you see Anakin overlooking the laval after having just slaughtered the leaders of the Separatists Movement, he appears angry and rageful and full of hate…and his cheek is moist with tears. You can see that he is struggling painfully at the death of his innocence and repressing his sense of good and justice as the Dark Side struggles to take complete control. That is the moment he has truly become Darth Vader.

And that why it sucks so much that Episode 1 sucks so bad. The loss of Aniken to Darth Vader would be a hundred times more powerful and the tragedy a hundred times more heartwrentching if we had actually liked young Aniken. If he hadn’t been some annoying…REALLY annoying little kid. When I watched Episode 1 again, I had to struggle to keep in mind the idea that this overly happy yet somewhat frightened and very innocent kid would have such terrible things happen to him as to help contort his love into revenge and devotion into rage and become something evil and terrible.

:: sigh :: What a ride these 25 years have been. I still recall seeing the original in the theater.

On a side note, I also got to see �The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy� last week.
I have a certain affinity and love for the book having read it back in Jr. High, some 20 years ago, and having played Ford Prefect in a sort of �Noises Off!� treatment of it in college. So, while I have some certain reservations and complaints, in general I really liked it. It was great to see it on the Big Screen (hugs and kisses to the BBC version and all.) And they did a very good job, I think, honoring the book (and radio play that actually came before the book.) There were a lot of things in the film that only real fans would get. Like Mr. Prosser’s somewhat Mongolian appearance and the appearance of the BBC’s Marvin and inclusion of some design work from Douglas Adams’ computer game �Starship Titanic.�

Good flick. =)

Hooray for March, 2 — More Music

Leahy (they’re also Canadian, thechnically. With names like Siobheann Donohue, Angus, and Donnal, I think there’s some Celt in them. =) Their music is mostly traditional Celtic folk, and even though American blue-grass music comes heavily from Celtic folk music, you can’t really tell where blue-grass and Celtic begins and ends with them.)
Their 1st album came out around the time Riverdance first became big in America, so it rode the Irish music wave for a short bit. Fortunately, they lasted longer than that and still make music.

Nickel Creek – The least Irish band mentioned so far. They’re fully American, and their music is mostly pop/blue-grass, but they’re so darn good with enjoyable blue-grass and a couple of traditional Irish folk tunes, I thought I’d mention them. I like em!
(Yes, I differentiate blue-grass and “enjoyable blue-grass.” I really don’t care for blue-grass in general, but I like the neo-blue-grass of Nickel Creek and Alison Krauss.)

I guess I should also include U2. Haven’t really cared much for them since “Joshuah Tree.” Save for a couple of songs.

I’ll post more Irish music as I remember and come across them in my collection. =)

Hooray for March! �ireann go Br�ch!

Flag of Ireland

Tabhair p�g dom, t�im �ireannach!

Some bands from Ireland, for the liking:
The Corrs
Loreena McKennitt (OK, so she’s Canadian, but she’s of Gaelic decent and embraces Gaelic music in her own.)
Cocteau Twins (They’re mostly Scotish, but I won’t hold that against them *g*)
The Cranberries
The Chieftains

Huh. I just realized that’s a LOT of “C”s. Weird.

Anyway, despite the religious origin of St. Patrick’s Day (what, does the “St.” give it away?) I love to celebrate it just for the Irish heritage component. And co-opt the entire month of March to do so. =)

The Search

I love Roger Ebert. When I think he’s wrong, I usually think he’s completely wrong. But most of the time he hits things right on the head of the nail.

After watching “Lost in Translation” I searched for reviews on Sofia Coppala’s previous and first film, “The Virgin Suicides” (which I still have yet to see, and have wanted to ever since I saw its amazing trailer that still makes my eyes water when I watch it. I’m a trailer sucker.)

And in Ebert’s review of it, he ends with this:

“We see her talking to a psychiatrist after she tries to slash her wrists. “You’re not even old enough to know how hard life gets,” he tells her. “Obviously, doctor,” she says, “you’ve never been a 13-year-old girl.” No, but his profession and every adult life is to some degree a search for the happiness she does not even know she has.”

Maybe I’m a freak but that last sentance had me choke back a tear of poingent sad truth.

Lost In Translation and Garden State

Taking a break from the heady (read: “self-absorbed”) stuff for a sec, I finally saw “Lost in Translation” last night.

(Yeah, when you work full-time AND try to Web design on the side and have a 6-year-old and a wife who works nearly full-time AND goes to school full-time, you don’t get to go see movies very often.)

I have a rule: No matter how bad or good a movie is, if it contains special effects, it’s better in a theater. Which means when my wife and I have the opportunity to see a movie in a theater it tends to be an action adventure. But, there are some non-action films that also benefit from the large screen, big sound theater experience, and “Lost in Translation” would likely have been one of these.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED the movie! Loved it. I will own the DVD, I promise you. However, the movie was a bout being lost. Being isolated, being a stranger in a strange land (god I hate Heinlein. Sorry. Unrelated comment, but had to be said.) Sofia Coppola is confident enough of a director that she can tell of her story through silence. Being a theatre student, I can tell you some of the hardest but most rewarding moments are the silences. If you can convey pages on subtext in a silence, you have done your job well. And in every scene where you simply watch the character watching people or scenery or some action, you get a tremendous sense of who they are, what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking. And Bill Murrey and Scarlett Johanssen perfectly projected their characters in that way.

But I think the overwhelming sense of lonliness and isolation would have been more dramatic when you see it on a larger, bigger environment. When they’re looking at the cityscapes of Tokyo, the entire city reaching into the sky, cold, stark metal and glass disguised by gaudy neon and electric light and video, it would have had a much more effective…effect.

Saying that just now, I had a revelation. So subtly, so delicately the movie showed more about the Japanese culture and society than I think is readily evident, portrayed in their buildings. In the daylight, from up above, Scarlett’s character looks at the city below her in quiet contemplation, and we see a city very much like any American city, gray and bleak. Reaching up above the lives below, cold, hard, closed, isolated building among themselves. From below, walking among the buildings you are bombarded with lights and sounds and movement and LED and plasma, and it’s a techno circus. But, it’s a cover. All the lights all the video displays, are all affixed carefully onto the buildings to disguise and hide what’s underneith.

All people do it, I think Japanese culture as a whole has mastered the ability to hide what’s inside with a decorative outside.

Anyway, it was a beautiful, poignent movie. And I know a lot of people thought it was highly overrated. Well, it’s not “Citizen Caine”, sure. It meanders a little, but, then, so do the lives of the main characters. It’s about two people who have lost direction, lost focus. The movie follows them for a week as they try to find something. The feel, the tone, and whole mood and look of the film captures this theme perfectly. We really feel connected to these characters, with them in their lonliness and isolation. Hoping the best for them. Rooting for them.

It was a beautiful film.

Another film I got to see recently was Garden State.
That was a surprising film! It was written, directed, and lead acted by Zach Braff who you may know as the quirky goofball from “Scrubs”. Who the heck would have thought he could make a movie as quietly intelligent and dramatic as this (without it being a “drama” per se.) It reminded me a lot of “Good Will Hunting,” and I think comparisons to “The Graduate” are too obvious. While like “Good Will Hunting” it was a first film by a young actor, “Good Will Hunting” was directed by an accomplished director and “Garden State” but a first time director. Taking that into consideration, and “Garden State” is extraordinarily impressive.

“Garden State” is also about someone lost (I like lost movies it seems) who has the opportunity to find himself for the first time. Learn who he is and what he wants, and how he fits into the world and people around him. A world where until the week the movie takes place, you couldn’t even claim that he was an observer of. A lot happens around him that he’s been oblivious to, and he begins to really see things for what they are and what they could be.

“Lost In Translation” is a beautiful, exquisite film, “Garden State” is a smart, fascinating one. Both have incredible soundtracks (which I will be adding to my Amazon Wish List! *g*)

The Wonderfulcles of Riddick!

“Chronicles of Riddick” is at the cheap movies now. Holymotherofflippingfreakingoodnessheck! I have not walked out of a theater as excited and inspired and as this in years! As completely unimpressed as and nonplussed as I was coming out of “Tomb Raider” is completely opposite to what I feel post-Riddick.
The 1st “The Crow” movie inspired me to see it in the theater about 5 times. (That’s a LOT for me.) I wanna see Riddick at least as many.

“Chronicles Of Riddick” is the sequel to “Pitch Black.” A very solid, good sci-horror. Not tremendous, but very solid and…with a very inspired spark. The cinematography, the attention to details, set “Pitch Black” apart for me. “Riddick” to that inspiration and improved upon it tenfold. You don’t HAVE to see “Pitch Black” before seeing “Riddick,” but I highly recommend it. You get some set up to who Riddick is and important bits of how he and two other characters, “Jack” and the priest, are important to him…which drives a lot of his motivations throughout the movie.

What’s interesting, is “Riddick” is almost right out of the “Fading Suns” game setting. No, I know it’s not really. I mean I’m certain movie writers, directors, producers, etc, don’t have time for silly role-playing-games. But 75% of everything in “Riddick” can be found in “Fading Suns.” Heck, even down to some hair cuts! I’d say if you took “Dune” and “Chronicles of Riddick” and smyooshed them together, you’d get “Fading Suns.” I’m thinking of getting back into that game system big time now. =)

Back to the movie. The writing was on a level above normal sci-fi and three levels above normal action movies. Sure, there’s not a lot of dialogue (but then neither did “The Ice Storm”,) but what there is always was appropriate to the moment and setting. (Except the use of “Jesus” as a curse. You wouldn’t think his name would still be around to be used as a curse word 10,000 or so years in the future, but then, it looks like Islam sort of survived.) There were one-liners, yeah. But they weren’t your normal Swartzenegger one-liners. They were a little better, and definitely more naturally delivered. They always seemed natural and part of the characters and never took me out of the setting to think “Oh geez, how cheesy.” And when a line would come close to the line, there seemed to always be follow-up dialogue that seemed to convey “yeah, that last line was a little cheesy, so now you will pay for that, cheesy line giving character.”

There was a certain amount of Shakespeareaness to the plot as well. (Extremely evident at the end.) It gave the plot a little more depth than your regular sci-action movie. Nice to see!

But again what impressed me were the details. For example, when an armada of ships leave a planet, you can see fine billowing of dust falling down around people down below. Subtle, not pointed up, but there to give a layer of reality. Likewise, space travel reality. We all know real space travel takes a freakin long time. We see characters get ready for some kind of stasis in prep for interstellar travel. It’s never pointed up, there’s no ship computer saying “commencing hibernation preparation,” you’re never told by anything exactly what they’re doing or why, but the savvy viewer will get it. We’re not bonked over the head constantly with “this is what the future is like bonkbonk!” It presents settings, actions, items, everything out there to be observed and not necessarily explained. Which I LOVE. It makes everything a little more believable, realistic, and not pandering. It’s obvious the movie was created by people who love sci-fi for its own sake, and not simply as a setting for money-making action movies.

Go! See the movie! Go go go now!

Fiction on the Sci-Fi(ction) Channel? No way!

CNN article explaining SciFi special a hoax

Background (in case you don’t want to read the article nor watch Sci-Fi channel commercials,) in conjunction with M. Night Shaymalan’s new movie “The Villiage”, Sci-Fi Channel produced a documentary that was supposed to be an expose’ on M. Night that gets “too personal” and M. Night refuses to be a part of any more. It’s supposed to be very revealing and a little mysterious.

Here’s the deal, it’s a documentary produced by the SCI-FI Channel, to be aired right before the release of a new spooky movie, made by a director known for spooky “what’s real, what’s not” themes. Is there anyone with an IQ over 90 who actually thought the documentary was totally real?

But, because reasonable people like us understand this, we can still be excited about the air of mystery around it and enjoy the feeling of spookiness about it and participate in the fictional drama.

So it really, really surprises me that CNN would make some big deal about the fact that this fictional documentary was…fictional. Who didn’t “get it”? And why ruin that dramatic feeling by making a big deal about it being a hoax? It’s entertainment for goodness sake, not some “48 Hours” or “Nightline” special.

Here’s something I don’t get: the article mentions a couple of times that people felt they “went over the line.” But they don’t explain HOW. What the heck is “over the line”? Was it over the line for the surprise ending of “The Sixth Sense”? Was Orson Wells’ “War of the Worlds” over the line? Was the Web marketing of “Blair Witch”, which claimed the movie was real, over the line? Every “got” that. The whole premise was fun to consciously “buy into.” Why make a big deal it was faked as if you were personally hurt or damaged by it?

I just don’t get it.

Passion of Christ

(Yeah, I know, old news. Just haven’t gotten around to typing anything about it yet.)

Interesting. I was worried when I read film critic Roger Ebert say it was one of the most violent movies he’s ever seen, considering this reviewer has seen the likes of everything from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to “Elephant”. I get what he meant now. It’s a bloody movie, to be sure, but it’s not as bloody or gory as a “slasher” movie. But the fact that 90% of the movie is all about an unbelievable amount of realistic violence perpetrated upon one man, makes it a very horrifically violent movie to watch.

But how is it as a movie? It’s extremely well produced, and edited, and some of the scenes are beautifully composed. There are moments that are visually stirring, from the image of Satan looking at Jesus in the Garden of Gestheneme with a look of curious and intrigued amusement, to the symbolic showing of God crying, it’s a very well made movie! But, not really that good of a movie as a whole.

I contend it’s an attempt at “Theatre of Cruelty.” The act of bombarding the viewer with imagery that is so either violent and grotesque or surreal and incongruous (or both) that it shocks the viewer into experiencing the moment with heart and gut, completely bypassing the mind and the barriers it puts up to protect us from things we don’t understand or can’t handle on a “safe” level. Not to be compared with slasher and horror movies that bombard the viewer with violence or grotesque for the purpose of “entertainment” or simple gross-out effect. “Theatre of Cruelty” strives to open minds and hearts to be able to experience life in a greater capacity than we do in our sheltered shells. I THINK Gibson wants to shock us into considering the concepts of sacrifice and ultimate love.

But here’s my problem with it: That’s only half the story, and it’s probably the least beneficial half of the whole Christian intent. It’s the intent the Church had from circa 500 A.D. until around the 1950’s with the advent of the Vatican II (which Gibson’s own Catholic sub-set he belongs to rebels against.) Using only the message of Jesus’ sacrifice and pain and torture is a method of guilting people into belief and complicity. Only small handfuls of verse in the Gospels deal with the crucifixion; perhaps 2% of the entirety of the Gospels. The purpose, meaning, crux of the entire Christian message I believe is the concept of love and redemption. A message the original Christians focused on. The use of Christ’s tool of death, the cross, wasn’t a Christian symbol until after the Church became involved in politics and running people’s lives from a place of secular power.

By itself, “The Passion” stands as a sick celebration of violence and torture; and to really enjoy “The Passion” is, in my opinion, an exercise in sado-masochism. If it were say the 3rd movie of a trilogy or quadrility, with the rest of the movies regarding the rest of the message of Christianity, then I think it would have its place and work well.

“Underworld” soundtrack

Music: “Underworld” Soundtrack
I just finished the “Matrix” review, and that was long and tiring. So, this’ll be short.

I’m a HUGE fan of NineInchNails and Tool, and the trailers for the movie “Underworld” look incredible, so, I bought the CD. I mean, how can you go wrong with NIN and Filter members, former Limp Biz’ and RedHotChiliePepper guitarists, and the like. The amount of industrial music performers and producers in that album is an amazing feat! I was really looking forward to this CD.

However, the CD is extremely limp, and not the Bizkity kind.
Only two tracks, “REV22:20” and Skinny Puppy’s “Optimissed” are any good in that they have life and creativity. The former simply because it does, the later probably because it’s not original for the soundtrack. (The remix for “Judith” will likely grow on me, I think.)
The rest of the CD is simply loud and crunchy with very little musical skill or originality.
My brother, to give credit where it’s due, I think hit it on the head when he said Lohner was what Trent Reznor wanted him to be with NIN and isn’t uniquely talented in himself, Frusciante is brilliant with a funky group like RedHotCP’s, Wes Borland is cool because of his image, not because he’s talented, and Patrick is pretty descent hit or miss, not consistently. Put all these people together, and you get great mediocrity.

I’m really disappointed. I’ll admit my expectations were quite high, but I judge the CD by how interested I am in listening to it, not by its coolness factor. How many of the tracks would I want to put on a mix CD for long drives. And I’d have to say only two tracks (plus the “Red Tape” song used in the trailers.) The rest is simply not interesting at best or annoying at worst. Even David Bowie couldn’t save “Bring me the Disco King” from being laughable.

My recommendation, do NOT buy this simply because it looks like it’d be cool; listen to it first. You’ll probably find you’re only going to want a track or two, especially since the CD booklet is worthless and not enough to make this CD worth buying retail.

MATRIX: Reloaded

Movie: “Matrix: Reloaded” (finally got to see it.)
Wow, great movie! I was SO worried going into it. I was sure the action would be old, or get old fast, I had heard the plot was impossible to understand, the dialogue was mystical nonsense, and it was full of incontinuity.
Action has really begun to bore me. Starting with the 1st “Tomb Raider” I’ve become jaded by action and have started just tuning it out. With certain exceptions like “Black Hawk Down”. But pointless big budget explosions and cars flying up in the air and whatnot, just boring. But “Matrix 2” shocked me out of my action ennui! Even the scene with Neo vs. a hundred Agent Smiths. The clips in commercials I’ve seen had me worried it’d just be plodding annoying. It was like a ballet! It was a stunningly choreographed display with so much going on but so well put together and organized, it didn’t bore nor overwhelm. I didn’t even mind the parts that looked obviously CGI and too rubbery or plastic, which is a HUGE peeve of mine.

And of course stylistically it’s incredible! Each individual looks like an individual in the perfect clothes for their personae. We get to see more of the Zionists (hey, uhm, I just realized that. Not to be confused with Extremist Jewish sects….) in their in-Matrix form, and they’re fantastic costume designs! Each bad guy is dressed like someone you’d feel good about being whipped up by. One of the best looking scenes is probably not any of the fight scenes but the one where Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus are talking to the Merovingian and Persephone(sp) with the Raynart twins and the Chinese guy nearby…just a stunning costume scene!

As for the plot, brilliant! It was faithful to the mystical philosophy mixed with sci-fi established in the 1st movie, and evolved it into a great set-up for the 3rd. However, I can see why most people would find it unintelligible. There were two scenes that were pretty long (for an action movie) dialogue heavy, and laden with mystical explanation or technical philosophy, and I saw the 20-30 year old audience kinda shuffling and looking around as it went right over their heads. And I don’t REALLY blame them. To follow the dialogue, at least the 1st time through, you really need to have a grasp of quantum mechanics/theory and Buddhist fatalism. A FANTASTIC mix, by the way! Quantum mechanics defines existence by choices, and Buddhist fatalism defines personal reality through acceptance of existence and dharma. If you are at least familiar with these concepts you can follow the dialogue and plot pretty well, and experience a great development of realization, and a rollarcoaster of possibilities without having it minimized because you have to see it again to just catch the drift. Discussion about toward the end with spoilers. I’ll warn ya.

In fact I want to get right to it, so, great movie! Now, beware spoilers in the EXTENDED ENTRY. Don’t read the extended entry below if you don’t want to see spolier! =)
Continue reading MATRIX: Reloaded