Review: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

The summer began with Van Helsing returning to the days of the creature feature and the Hammer House horror films. It ends with a return to the days of mechanized monsters and Saturday afternoon serials.

Move over Indiana Jones. Make room for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow!

RATING: 5 out of 5

Okay, let me start this review by saying that everything I said early in the summer about Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow being a stinker I take back. I'm not only choking on my ill-chosen words?I'm dry-heaving on them.

In my defense, it had all the makings of a lemon. First, there was the title. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow? You've got to be kidding! Have we completely run out of original ideas that now we are recycling cheap serials and dressing them up in over-the-top special effects? Then there was the Jude Law factor. Jude Law was one of those actors I put in the same class as David Spade and Matthew McConnehey. How do these guys get work? I've described Law as a human brake in all the other films I've seen him in. He just bores the hell out of me, and he was the lead guy. Well, that gives me another reason not to see this film. The trailer looked slick, and that was a warning as well. Sometimes, when teasers and trailers look too cool, that's a warning to me. But the big red flag for me was its release date?being pushed back from early summer to mid-summer to September.

Ouch.

Still, there was that morbid curiosity about a movie carrying a title like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and not blinking an eye at that. It was when I heard its director, Kerry Conran, was a raging Mac geek and he hard-wired all his G4s and G5s and created sets for this flick. Apparently three-quarters of this film was all shot in a blue screen setting, the sets and setting computer generated in order to give the film an "old-fashioned" look. Allright, I was hooked. I was now curious about this odd film that had everything going against it.

Maybe I'm a sucker for the art deco. Maybe I've got a thing for the cliffhanger serials with their impossible escapes from impending doom. Maybe I'm a pushover for a tough chick in an eyepatch. Whatever the case?I loved every minute of it!

So let me take you back to 1939, but this is a world where Hitler never came into power. Oh sure, there was a World War I, insinuating there was another World War earlier but there is no Third Reich?although there is a third zeppelin bearing the name Hindenburg. There is a Radio City Music Hall, and they're even showing The Wizard of Oz, but there's no organized air force or national army. Instead, the world relies on a mercenary flying squadron under the command of Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan. Since the Bat Signal was out for repairs, Cap gets the call that downtown Gotham is under attack by giant robots. So turning his tricked-up P40 Tomahawk towards the city, Sky Captain takes on these lumbering leviathans and saves the city.

Of course, he couldn't help but think, ?That was too easy.? He was right.

A second wave of robots?this time, winged hawks that are a lot faster and nastier than the first group?take on Sky Captain, his base, and the entire city. He finds his base in shambles, his gadget expert and head mechanic Dex Dearborn kidnapped, and a clue pointing the way to Nepal.

Now, you would think this rescue would be a piece of cake for our bomber jacket-wearing hero, but he's got company on this little adventure: ace-reporter and all-around-pain-in-the-tail-rudder Polly Perkins (Gwenyth Paltrow playing Lois Lane better than Terri Hatcher and Margot Kidder put together!). She's along for a ride in the sky as she's tracking a story involving disappearing German scientists who are all running from the Dr. Totenkopf (played by Sir Laurence Olivier), an evil renegade scientist who's carrying out his plans to create the perfect world.

Yes, I said, "played by Sir Laurence Oliver." You have got to see it to believe it.

Not seeing Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow on the big screen would truly be a missed experience. As I mentioned earlier, writer and director Kerry Conran set out to create something very familiar but also something quite different. If anyone remembers the somewhat forgettable Dick Tracy, Warren Beatty wanted to capture the feel of a comic book so he shot everything using only primary colors. Nice idea, Warren, but something was missing from the effort. (Maybe if he hadn't been playing ?Hide the Baloney in Breathless Mahoney? with Madonna, he would have made a better picture.) Conran, however, captured not only a comic book look with his Macintosh-created sets, but he also captured the feel of the Saturday morning serials using just enough shadow and soft-focus to give Sky Captain a ?Neo Film Noir? atmosphere. There was also some terrific touches such as the robots' death rays sounding remarkably like the Martian's death rays from Geroge Pal's War of the Worlds, and how Conran would use a halo effect around notes, newspapers, and maps to emphasize what our heroes were cluing in on. You can help but smile at how world-wide travel or emergency signals broadcast across the country is depicted. Pure fun and romance there?

And this film has, in my opinion, one of the funniest last lines for a movie!

If you happen to miss Sky Captain? on the big screen, no need to worry? the film will still work on the small screen on account of its charm, sense of fun, and cinema cliffhanger approach to things. On the big screen, however, you truly appreciate how innovative and to what lengths Conran went to in creating this old-fashioned comic book romp.

And I would be amiss if I didn't mention another outstanding highlight of this film?Angelina Jolie who outdoes her Lara Croft performances and redefines ?cool? in her role as Francesca ?Frankie? Cook, captain of the British Amphibian Manta Squadron. Jolie is so ultra-hot in this flick that she proves beyond the shadow of a doubt you can make an eyepatch sexy!

As passionate as I was over Hugh Jackman and his monster mash Van Helsing, I am equally enthusiastic (if not more so) over Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, an unexpected September surprise. And in a strange way, we have come full circle in our 2004 summer onslaught of movies! Sky Captain ends the season in the same vein that Van Helsing started it: nostalgically looking back to films of yesteryear (in this case, those terrific pulp Science Fiction-Adventure?) and recapturing their magic!   [Read more...]

Billibub Baddings

Do you hear that sound? That is the sound of a thousand Sacred Cows of Fantasy being tipped in the night.

Let me share a piece of wisdom I've picked up being the reviewer for the Dragon Page. You simply cannot go wrong reading anything Tee Morris writes. You won't find a better blend of action, humor, suspense, and romance anywhere else.   [Read more...]

Review: "Ella Enchanted" - The Movie

Have you read the Ella Enchanted book review yet? If not, you can check it out here.

Some movies I find quite easy to review. Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope is a great movie. Star Wars Episode I, The Phantom Menace, not so much.

There is one type of movie that I believe defies reviews, and that is the goofy comedy. I honestly believe that these are movies that you either like or don't, and to hell with logic.   [Read more...]

Review: "Ella Enchanted" - The Book

The DVD for Ella Enchanted has just come out recently, so I decided to go for a 2-4-1 deal. With my book review, you also get a brand new, one of a kind movie review at no extra charge! (Only at participating stores. Check local store for details. Offer does not include state and local taxes. Void where prohibited.)   [Read more...]

Elric

Think we should review comics? Hate the idea? Let us know... Michael Moorcock's Elric returns to comics with the legendary Walt Simonson delivering the artwork. What more could you want? Before Elric became the legendary figure fantasy fans know and love, he was a young man still trying to find his identity and carve his […]

Twisted Rhymes

Of all the forms of speculative fiction (i.e. science fiction, hard science fiction, space opera, space western, fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, time travel, magical realism, fairy tales, mythology, Authurian legend, chick fantasy, romantic horror, action/adventure fantasy, etc.), horror is easily my least favorite genre. I know all the monsters and demons are supposed to be evil incarnate, but I always find myself wondering why they have to be so mean, you know?

Also, I'm not a big poetry fan. I mean, shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Um... you're hot and sweaty and full of mosquitoes. Whose woods these are I don't think I know. I've seen lots of things more lovely than a tree. Stop with all the pretty words, just gimme the story.

So what do I get in the mail to review for the Dragon Page this week? I get a CD of horror poetry to review for chrissakes! Horror poetry!! And if you've ever read one of my reviews before then you knew by the second sentence that I'm going to give this CD a big thumbs up.

Twisted Rhymes, by Bob Harper, is a collection of ten horror stories told in rhyme. Each piece is performed to sound effects and music designed to compliment the narration.

I think one of the reasons I like these stories is that they are not so much scary or hateful as they are creepy. Mr. Harper is a good story teller, using rhythm and repetition to build the tension. Some of the stories, like Royal Blood, & And Nothing More, are more than a little influenced by Poe. They're mood pieces. Almost like appetizers for bigger and better things to come.

While the background sounds are used to great effect, I did wonder whether some of the stories wouldn't have been even more eerie if the background effects were removed, and all you heard was the narrator's voice. I imagined what it would be like to use the poems as a basis for a Halloween game in which the pieces are recited by individuals or groups trying to come up with the scariest performances. Dim the lights, ignite the candles, and tell the rhyming ghost stories.

Some of the stories were certainly better than others, but isn't that always the case? From the first few lines of track one, to the end of track ten, I wore a smile that never left my face. Can't ask for more than that.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Twisted Rhymes by Bob Harper
Published by: BHP Productions
Genre: Horror
Author's Webpage: www.horrorsound.com
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Code 46

Before I get too far into this review, I need to make a few statements:

1) It is impossible to review an indy flick without giving massive spoilers away
2) I'm a sucker for indy films

As long as you understand the ramifications of both of those points, read on.   [Read more...]

Review: "Bride of the Fat White Vampire" by Andrew Fox

God, I love the sci-fi-fantasy-horror-magicrealism-pagan-mystic genres, cause every once in a while you come across a book like Bride of the Fat White Vampire, by Andrew Fox. Funny, clever, and highly entertaining.   [Read more...]

Review: AVP: Alien vs. Predator

I don't believe I'm about to do this...

RATING: 5 out of 5

Surprised? So was I. So was I.   [Read more...]

Review: Collateral

Keep in mind...this isn't a Tom Cruise film but a film by Michael Mann, and that means your attention is going to be kept on the screen from beginning to end. With incredible performances, a slick look, and just enough of an edge to leave a mark on you, Collateral is a film worth the time and the ticket price.   [Read more...]

Review: The Bourne Supremacy

The Bourne Supremacy sports the tagline "They should have left him alone." And after seeing this sequel, I kinda wished that, too.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5   [Read more...]

Review: The Bourne Identity

The new Die Hard of cable and satellite as you just can't turn it off when it comes on, The Bourne Identity is just one butt-awesome and ultra-cool flick!!!

RATING: 5 out of 5

Now why, oh why, is Tee reviewing a film that is over two years old?

Keep reading and you'll understand the method behind the madness...   [Read more...]

Review: Spider-Man 2

Simply put: This is the greatest comic-book film ever made. Spider-Man 2 leaves the original in the dust, raising the bar for the comic book film and delivering on so many levels.

RATING: 5 out of 5   [Read more...]

Review: Catwoman

You know, films like Spiderman and Superman make me wonder why there aren't more superhero movies. Of course, films like Daredevil and The Hulk make me wonder why some don't just go straight to video. But then roles in the occasional rarity in the market, films like Catwoman.

The best way to enjoy Catwoman in the theater this summer is by buying the largest soft drink container they sell at the concession stand and slamming the entire contents before the title slides start. That way, you are likely to spend more time in the toilet than in your seat. Trust me. The view from the commode is better than in the theater.   [Read more...]

Review: I, Robot

First of all, just to get it out of the way, I haven't read the stories. As a card carrying geek, I hang my head in shame.

I have every belief that if I had indeed read Asimov's work, I'd spill hatred and bile into the review, wondering how anyone could make such crap from such wonderful source material.

But, since I haven't, I must judge the movie on it's own merits. Based on that restriction, I think the movie is a cookie cutter action flick... that I enjoyed watching a lot.   [Read more...]

Review: The Piaculum

Just between you and me, I thought the life of a book reviewer would have more glamour to it, you know? A little cash, a little flash, a little redheaded something on my arm once in a while.

Nope. The life of a book reviewer sucks. No chicks. No cool cars. Have to dig around in the couch cushions for laundry money.

But sometimes I come across a book that makes me smile.   [Read more...]