War of the Worlds

First of all, thanks, Tee, for letting me don your shoes and write a movie review. Now watch what I do with it, you may never let me do it again.

Instead of doing a normal review, I'm going to turn this one interactive. Reading various discussions of this film on the net, a question occurred to me that I find intriguing, and I want to know what our listeners think.

So, I'll give a quick review of the movie, then get on to the question.

The Gist: Tom Cruise gets the kids for the weekend. The aliens invade. Tom and kids run for their lives.

The Good: The special effects. The acting. The little girl. The other special effects.

The Bad: Seeing the aliens before the end. The teenage kid (his character, not the actor, he was quite good).

The Ugly: Watching the aliens eat.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

War of the Worlds
Genre: Fantasy
Official Webpage: www.waroftheworlds.com

Ok, there's the review. That took a lot out of me. Now on to the question I pose to you, the Dragon Page listener.

This is an interesting movie for me, because it illustrates for me two different thoughts on making movies from other source material. Should we try to keep as close to the original material as we can, or should we use the source material as a guide, but be free to modify it as we see fit?

From a scientific standpoint, the plot of War of the Worlds suffers on two counts. The first is the idea of three-legged aliens and their three-legged vehicles. The second is the foundational idea of the plot: aliens that are superior in every possible way are finally outdone by simple germs that mankind has evolved into symbiotic relationships with.

As discussed in the ?Movie Answer Man? section of Roger Ebert's website, three legs ? tripods ? make great stationary foundations, but suck when it comes to locomotion. Even if aliens could evolve to have three legs, which is unlikely, there would be no reason for them to use that model in their machinery. Humans don't use two and four legged or wheeled vehicles because there are two-legged and four-legged animals. We use them because those designs work. And they'd work for three-legged aliens, too.

Also, given what we know today about how viruses and bacteria work, the idea that they would wipe out the aliens, while not completely out of the realm of possibility, is a loooooooong shot. As they like to say on fark.com, here comes the science.

So, some would argue, justifiably so, that since the science upon which the movie is based is about as accurate as that of The Core, the movie is a dud. The writers should have done a bit of research before they sat down to write the script.

However? errors in science or not, these germ-wimpy walking camera stands are faithful to the original work. Can you have War of the Worlds with an ending other than germs killing the aliens? Then it's not War of the Worlds, is it?

So, my question to you, dear reader, is: If we want to revisit a previous work, do we stay close to the original, or do we correct and modify the stories to coincide with current scientific knowledge, which, of course, may one day become obsolete? Do science fiction stories, like scientific theories, need revision as scientific knowledge grows?

Most fans of science fiction novels enjoy reading the old stuff even when they know full well that the ideas they are based on are slightly, or even grossly, flawed. All the evidence says that there are not now, nor have there ever been men from Mars, yet Stranger in a Strange Land is still in print and considered a must read. Readers have no trouble understanding that science fiction of the past is based on the scientific understanding of the day, and adjust to it. But does the same logic apply to remakes of older works?

So, I want to know what you think. You're not limited to discussion of WotW, of course. When a movie is translated from the book to the screen, what should and should not change?   [Read more...]

Fantastic Four

Marvel Comics has been heading back to their seemingly bottomless well of superheroes since discovering their creations were a bankable commodity at the box office. While we have been enjoying terrific departures like both Spider-Man and X-Men films, we have also survived less-than-stellar offerings like Hulk and Elektra.

This summer, Marvel told us to ?Prepare for the Fantastic?? as director Tim Story was bringing to the big screen The Fantastic Four. I was really on the fence about whether or not this was going to live up to the hype?and the lovable legend?of this Marvel institution. I wanted this film to rock because I'm a fan of actor Ioan Gruffudd since getting into his A&E Horatio Hornblower films. I really want to see him make an impact in film because he's one of those actors you can't help but like?but Reed Richards? I wasn't too sure the more I thought about it. Then there was the issue of Jessica Alba playing Sue Storm. Why would you even think of having her be invisible?! It also didn't help that my summer got a good comic book kickoff with Christian Bale and Batman Begins.

Then I heard Michael Chiklis would be playing Thing. Slam dunk. So, even with the looming deadline of my current writing project, I caught Fantastic Four?and it was time well spent.

Dr. Reed Richards is a brilliant mind with a bankrupt payroll. He's on the cover of Wired, but it's because he's in search of a sponsor. With his straight-talking compadre, pilot and astronaut Ben Grimm, at his side, Reed goes to pay a call on his college acquaintance, mega-mogul and megalomaniac Victor Von Doom to ask for financial help in analyzing this nasty cosmic cloud that will be passing close to Earth, close enough to study. Victor can't help but enjoy this humbling moment for his academic rival, and even rubs salt into Reed's wounded pride by inviting his own team on the launch?Reed's ?mart and ?ot ex-girlfriend, Sue Storm, and her brother, hotshot pilot Johnny Storm. With their sponsor tagging along to keep an eye on the investment, these five head up to the Von Doom Space Station to observe the oncoming cosmic cloud.

Things look okay on arrival, but quickly go wrong (of course?) when the cloud picks up velocity and hits the station full force. Von Doom hides himself in a shielded section of the station, but everyone else is hit by the radiation. The team makes it back to Earth in one piece, but gradually Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny start showing some odd after-effects to the cosmic energy.

As for the safely-shielded Victor Von Doom?well, that radiation was pretty darn powerful. He's going through some changes, too, and he's not taking it too well.

What makes Marvel Comics and their movies (when done right) so cool is how Marvel treats their superheroes. Spider-Man is a hero to the general public, but vilified by Chief Editor J. Jonah Jameson's The Daily Bugle. While continuously saving the world from Magneto and his mutated homies, Professor Xavier's X-Men are lumped into the same category as the villains. The house that Stan built loves to take conventions of the superhero and give them a spin that wouldn't break but flip the finger to them. What Stan and co-creator Jack Kirby did with Fantastic Four was unheard of in the comic book community. These four weren't exalted heroes, feared vigilantes, or misunderstood evolutions. Secret identities were chucked out of the window, and our heroes were regarded as celebrities, complete with paparazzi! I actually own an issue where the team is interviewing a new Public Relations agent. Now, how many superhero teams have a PR rep? This is part of the charm of Fantastic Four, both the comic book series and this movie.

My major beef with Fantastic Four is the writing in the first hour felt a little rushed and somewhat choppy. They crammed a lot of stuff in that segment between Victor's gradual transformation to Dr. Doom, and our reluctant heroes becoming The Fantastic Four. We then see one fantastic rescue by Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben?and that's it. I would have liked another feat from the team, or perhaps a quick montage of daring-do as we see in the Spider-Man films. Sure, the vignettes with the four of them ?adjusting? to their abilities was clever and amusing, but I would have liked to see them doing more. While the subplots with Johnny Storm at the X-Games and Victor losing his business helps develop the genesis of both the Human Torch and Dr. Doom, these plotlines could have been edited better or just toned down to leave more room for heroic feats. The running time of the film was 109 minutes. Another half-hour on this film would have been nice. Really, really nice.

Why so nice, you ask? The actors. I loved watching them do their thing! Julian McMahnon was a real delight as he tapped back into that evil streak he showed so well on Charmed as Cole, bringing Dr. Doom to life. Michael Chiklis was?as I thought he would be?a wonderful Ben Grimm/Thing, never letting the extensive make-up effects hinder his performance. Ioan Gruffudd shines as Reed Richards and Jessica Alba shows that sexy kick-ass side of her as Sue Storm, but Chris Evans steals the movie with his rock-and-roll extremist approach to Johnny Storm, staying true to the Marvel character and keeping the spirit of fun alive that this franchise is famous for. Once we are deep into the ?Let's figure out what the heck is happening to us?? plotline, the banter between characters is quick, snappy, and sharp. We do get ?It's clobberin' time!? from Thing, but we also get some other terrific exchanges between heroes and villain, and between the heroes themselves.

Fantastic Four is a far cry from Batman Begins, but it is solid entertainment. This is a comic book movie, and one I hope will see future installments. Much like the original X-Men film, a stage has been set. The only direction they can go from here is up. Until that sequel, enjoy the popcorn with this one.

Rating: 4 out of 5   [Read more...]

SpiderBabe

It's a typical Friday night for me. I'm at Mike's house. It's midnight, and Mike and his wife have been in bed for at least three hours. For those of you keeping score, that means Michael does all his drinking during the day.

I'm not going to sleep for another hour or two. I'm sitting in the living room, about fifteen feet away from a massive library of the best modern science fiction donated to us by generous writers, many of whom want us to read their stuff and interview them on our show.

I'm watching late night cable TV.

For some reason, Dinner for Five wasn't on, and I find myself watching a movie on Cinemax. You know the kind I'm talking about. Yes, you do, and don't pretend you don't watch now and then. Now, normally, I would watch about ten minutes or so of a flick like this, until the bad acting and horrible dialogue would finally be more than I can bear. But I end up watching it all the way to the end, and the whole time I'm thinking, "God, this would be a riot to review for the Dragon Page." Why? Because it's a T&A spoof of Spiderman.

By dawn's morning light, I completely forgot about it, but by later that afternoon, I remembered again.

Torn between the idea that it would be fun and funny to write a review for a movie like this, and that it would be dumb to write a review for a movie like this, I decided to let fate decide. I sent a letter to Seduction Cinema and asked for a review copy of the DVD, SpiderBabe. If they didn't send it, no harm no foul. If they did send it, who am I to argue with fate?

And here you are, reading this review instead of R.A. Salvatore's newest Dark Elf novel.

Patricia Porker is your everyday, demure, mild-mannered college freshman until she gets bitten by a genetically engineered, radioactive spider. When she wakes up the next day, she is imbued with superhuman powers, a new look, and a sexual gluttany that, thankfully for us, she has no qualms about feeding, and feeding, and feeding. After a burglar kills her Uncle Flem, a burglar she could have stopped, she vows to use her powers to help mankind, and get the man of her dreams. Her adventures lead her into a face to face battle with Femtilian, a super-villain created by a military-funded secret experiment gone wrong. Who will win in the end?

Man, this idea could so be made into a big budget feature.

So what does this movie have that puts it above your average sexploitation romp? Two things. First is the star, Misty Mundae, who I fell in love with immediately. And apparently, so has everyone else, as she is in practically every Seduction Cinema movie made now. Non-enhanced, non-sunbeded, pretty in an Amber Benson, not Pamela Anderson kind of way, she stole my heart. Sorry, Mur, we both knew it couldn't last.

And second, this film is actually funny. The jokes are puerile, to be sure, but I actually laughed hard, out loud, several times, at things that were intentionally funny. And the acting is actually watchable. Once or twice I asked myself, "Did I just witness... comic timing?" What more can you want out of a movie like this?

Oh, yeah, I remember. The DVD set comes with an R-rated and Unrated Version, and the Unrated Version has fourteen other great reasons to watch Spiderbabe, and they've all got nipples. Nipples. Nipples, nipples, nipples. Nipples that are desperate to see the light of day. Nipples that manage to collect themselves into groups of four and six. Nipples that are friendly, and want to shake hands with other peoples' nipples. This movie is genius.

And for people who like DVD extras, like me, you won't be disappointed. Both versions of the film have several good, and different, extras. For a B-movie, this flick was pretty elaborate, with green screen fighting, exterior filming in New York, and an explosion or two. You can find behind the scenes segments on costuming, special effects, rehersals, and fight training. Seriously.

So, we have come to an end of this review. If you think this was inappropriate, as this wasn't actually a science fiction film, I have two things to say. One, if Tee Morris can review Paris Hilton's podcast, I can review whatever the hell I want. I'm just saying. And, two, you haven't seen where SpiderBabe's web shoots out from.

Rating: 3 out of 5   (higher rating than Episode III!)

SpiderBabe
Studio: Seduction Cinema; 2003
Genre: Soft-core lesbian spoof of major sci-fi feature
Official Webpage: Seduction Cinema
  [Read more...]

Review: Batman Begins

After licking the wounds left behind from Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, I was wondering if the world needed another telling of the Dark Knight. Did we truly have to go to the well one more time and rehash the old story of millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne becoming the most feared detective of Gotham City?

No, we didn't. Instead, we all got what we really needed: a re-inventing of a DC Comics icon, the re-telling of one man's journey to find his destiny, and the re-claiming of a legend.   [Read more...]

Movie Review: Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Anyone remember Danny DeVito's War of the Roses? Yeah, I'm trying to forget it, too. I thought that flick was supposed to be a comedy. I know, I know, it was a dark comedy, but the key word is still "comedy." War of the Roses kind of missed the mark for me. Wouldn't it be […]

Review: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Seriously, no one wanted to be the more wrong about Revenge of the Sith more than me. Contrary to popular belief, I am a raging fan of Star Wars (Note: I call it Star Wars and not A New Hope. Anyway, back to the review?) What got me back to seeing this film was the passionate testimony Matthew Stover gave on The Dragon Page over George's latest script, TD0013's thumbs up to what he saw at the Star Wars Celebration 3, and a challenge issued from Evo and Mike to give it a shot. So I sucked it up, wiped the slate clean, and gave Mighty George another go.

It's several hours later--and I'm still trying to figure out what I really think of this film.   [Read more...]

The Paris Hilton Podcast: A Review

I chose to post this review under ?Movies? as the PH Podcast makes no false pretense in being a promotional vehicle for House of Wax, a remake of the Vincent Price classic with Elisa Cuthbert (from TV's 24) and Paris Hilton leading the cast, and because this is the closest thing to "other media" that we have outside of "books."

So hang on...here we go...

Before I go into my review of Paris' debut foray into the podcasting arena, I want to say something in defense of Paris. I don't think Paris can't fend for herself or anything (One quick, easily hacked-and-posted-on-the-web phone call to mommy and daddy, and Paris has got the best legal minds in the business on her payroll?), but I do want to admit that I've been harsh when it comes to my opinion of Paris, and acknowledge that the deck is stacked against her no matter what she does. She's painted herself into a corner, if you think about it. When her homemade porn hit the net?a video, mind you, that made her famous?she did little to shy away from its press. In fact, she embraced it. Then came her reality TV show The Simple Life where Paris supposedly poked fun at herself, but it came across more as royalty humoring the masses. And just when you think Paris can't make more of a spectacle of herself, her portable Team Mobile Sidekick gets hacked and cell phone photos of her in various stages of undress and locking tongues with nameless bimbos in her posse, are posted all over the Internet. Still, even with issuing a stilted, emotionless public apology to her friends (who had to change their cell phone numbers) and to the public for a glimpse at what (or, more to the point, who) she does for fun, Paris continues to play the part of out-of-control rich heiress who cares for no one other than herself and whose company she keeps. This kind of lifestyle opens her up for scrutiny, and from the looks of the reviews on RottenTomatoes.com? one reviewer in particular calling House of Wax ?...the 2nd best Paris Hilton film I've seen this year.? (Michael A. Smith, NOLAN'S POP CULTURE REVIEW)?it is evident that the critics are pouncing on Paris like great whites on chum.

Honestly, I have to wonder how Paris is dealing with this. Sure, she lives in an ivory tower, but all the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll can't completely shield Paris from this press. The girl's got to have some kind of emotional reaction to all this, and I for one would love to hear it.

Then it was announced that Paris is doing her own podcast. I was impressed on several fronts. For one thing, I was impressed that Paris even knew what a podcast was. (It's good to be surrounded by handlers smarter than you!) Second, Paris (and her handlers) were intelligent and hip enough to realize they could reach a wide audience on the promotional front with a podcast. And finally, Paris was brave enough to agree to give us a glimpse into her world with a podcast. Maybe this would finally be the chance for the world to meet the real Paris. Maybe this was a moment for Paris to come clean on why she is the way she is. Maybe?just maybe?this would finally earn a break from a cold, judgmental world who looked on her disparagingly.

With a five-minute podcast, Paris did what she does best: she blew it.

The description of this podcast on Podcast Alley is as follows: Join Paris and friends as she shops, parties, poses and publicizes in the days leading up to the May 6 opening of House of Wax. Okay, maybe it's trivial...but who knows? Anything can happen in a podcast. then I noted the length of her initial podcast. Five minutes. I figured ?It's only five minutes. Not too bad for first time out. I can have a quick listen and now discuss it intelligently with other podcasters if it comes up.?

Never underestimate the power of five minutes. It offended me enough to write this 1000-plus word rant about it.

The opening jingle is goofy, trite, and appropriate for the brief look into Paris' simple indulgent life. And to Paris credit, it started off promising, then she manages to take a wrong turn in the first thirty seconds by stating ?I'm in the green room for the David Letterman show and it is?lame.? She proceeds to let everyone know how rough her week has been going from interview to interview, coast-to-coast, and how grueling?if not beneath her?promoting a film is.

When I'm not writing, I'm an actor. I'm here to dispel any myth that ?An actor's life is rough.? Okay, the loss of privacy?yeah, that's a huge one to stomach. But these ?grueling days on the sets? and ?having interviews? is not that taxing as say waiting tables, cleaning toilets, and hauling bags of peat moss from a truck to a non-descript part of a set. Trust me, acting?once you hit a series or stardom level?is a pleasure cruise compared to other part-time jobs you hold to pay the bills. Listening to Paris Hilton whine about it made me realize all the things I felt bad for her about were not only well-deserved but welcomed with open arms, naked breasts, and erect nipples awaiting.

But what makes this poor little rich girl and her podcast truly despicable is the final two minutes of the podcast?which is nothing more than the sounds of screaming fans all wanting her autograph and picture. This podcast isn't a swim in ?Lake Paris? but more like the ?Paris Tsunami? that completely overwhelms you in its unabashed attitude of ?See, I'm so special!?

I realize now the reason why the podcast itself is less than three minutes (provided you take out the PH jingle and the two minutes of moronic adoring fans): You can only keep a child's attention for so long until they are distracted by something else.

This podcast is a cry for help: a desperate, pathetic plea from Paris to love her, celebrate her amazing talents, and think she's all that and a bag of chips. I wish she could have surprised me in my expectation of her podcast and I felt compelled to take back everything I said about Poor Bitchy Rich. Sad to say, the heiress didn't surprise me in any way, shape or form...

It's true. Money can't buy you everything. Not even a personality.   [Read more...]

Review: Sin City

It's mean. It's intense. And it's the reason why you call a graphic novel, and not a comic book. It's Sin City, and I stand by my rating, although the review may have you scratching your head and asking "So what does he really think?"

What I think is, this is one of the most amazing movies I've seen in a long time--but that is because I know what Frank Miller offers in his works.   [Read more...]

Constantine

I had a feeling Evo going to see this film to review stood a snowball's chance in Hell, but I was willing to face Dante's Inferno and see Constantine, a dark, gothic comic book graphic novel of the battle between Heaven, Hell, and the guy caught in the crossfire. I will say Keanu did make up for his debacles we know as Matrix: Reloaded and Matrix: Revolutions; but much like its hero, Constantine is a bit rough around the edges.

Rating: 3 out of 5

I was looking over my last ?comic book inspired? movie review, Elektra, and I was kind of surprised I'm giving Constantine the same score because I liked Keanu Reeves' tormented hero a bit more than Jennifer Garner's kick-butt assassin. Still, would I sell my soul to see this movie on the big screen again? God, no.

John Constantine is not your likely hero. For one thing, he is single-handedly keeping Phillip Morris (and his lungs) in the black with chain-smoking faster than you can say ?You've come a long way, baby.? To tell the truth, John has. You see, John?when he was a kid?had it a lot worse than Haley Joel Osmet. John was seeing angels and demons. Instead of writing a best-selling thriller under the same title, he tired to off himself. His two minutes of death was spent in Hell, and that was enough to condemn his soul, make the Devil want him all the more, and get John into the exorcism business.

Two particularly nasty brushes with demons raise questions that John needs answers to, and quickly. Otherwise, all Hell is going to break loose?here on Earth. As he's trying to figure out what is going on between planes, LA Homicide detective Angela Dodson is trying to figure out what killed her twin sister. All the evidence points to suicide, but a supernatural utterance of the name ?Constantine? leads her to this enigmatic, brooding, and nicotine-craving exorcist.

Together, the two of them face ?Big Lou? and his minions, as well as their own personal demons, in a battle royale for all of Earth.

Sound promising? Well, I will say that out of all the films I've seen that have depicted Hell on the big screen, Constantine provides the most terrifying interpretation of what it would be. (Yeah, I was so convinced, I wouldn't say ?could be.? This is imagery horrifying enough to convert even the strongest atheist!) We go to Hell several times in the picture, and its visuals are just as powerful, intense, and hauntingly beautiful as the rest of the film. Constantine cannot be knocked for its visuals because they all work. You may see moments that are somewhat Matrix-like, but I think that is just the Keanu-factor working into this mix. If you are a fan of the Hellblazer series, then you would agree that the director and his crew captured the look and feel for this world. Nicely done.

Acting wise, Keanu has a lot of strong support from his fellow players. Rachel Weisz (who has seen her fill of action alongside Brendan Fraiser in The Mummy films) provides a nice counter in the same vein that Carrie-Anne Moss did in The Matrix. Djimon Hounsou (that softened up Russell Crowe a bit in Gladiator) also makes an impression with Midnite, a gifted witch doctor who is trying desperately to play both sides of the fence. Constantine is nearly stolen by the performances turned in by Tilda Swinton as Archangel Gabriel (who just gives you the creeps from Frame One) and Peter Stormare as the Prince of Darkness himself, or as Constantine calls him?Lou. Stormare's Satan is so edgy and so nasty, he becomes a contender for ?Best Beelzebub? against John Glover's Devil seen in the short-lived TV show, Brimstone.

Beautiful imagery. Solid characters. And here's where Constantine takes a wrong turn?

The imagery in Constantine is nothing short of impressive. The transitions into Hell. The harbinger of the Apocalypse. The angels and demons among us. It's all very powerful. Too much imagery, however, can make one numb; and that is exactly what happens with first-time director Francis Lawrence at the helm. He goes out of his way to make this film look like the DC graphic novel, and had he stopped there I think Constantine would have been a better film. Unfortunately, he started going into stylized camera angles, intricate scene and set composition, and all these other wacky touches that was supposed to make Constantine stand out (I guess).

To quote the late Warren Oats in the film Stripes: ?Lighten up, Francis.?

By the end, if I had been bombarded by another angelic or demonic image, I think I would have converted to Buddahism in the theatre lobby. ?Less is more? as they say, but not in the case of Constantine.

Now as far as scripts go, we've got Jamie Delano & Garth Ennis who were writing for the comic book Hellblazer (Hey, IMDB called it a ?comic book? this time?don't give me that hoity-toity look?). Then we've got Kevin Brodbin coming up with the story, Kevin Brodbin and Frank A. Cappello turning it into a screenplay. Too many cooks, you think? Well, in some places, yeah?but I could still follow what was going on. However, I am not a fan of intricate character building, only to have said characters systematically bumped off before the ending credits roll. I'm not going to spoil things here for those of you who are waiting to hear more buzz about Keanu, his Heavenly hosts, and his friends from Hell; but why put me through some terrific scenes and intriguing character development only to erase said characters from the mix? When one major player takes a fall, I think that's a sting. When it's two, the sting becomes more of a shove. But when supporting players are fish in a barrel, what's the point? So while the story for Constantine works on a whole, it is quite hollow from a chartacter's point of view.

I now reach the point of my review that I call ?Evo's Circle of Hell? as I tackle the big question: How was Keanu?

Well ? okay ? let's ? talk ? about ? Keanu. ? I ? found ? his ? performance ? a ?step ? up ? from ? the ? last ? two ? Matrix ? films?

?but?

For ? some ? weird ? reason ? Keanu ? would ? take ? a ? simple ? sentence ? and ? make ? it ? last ? as ? long ? as ? a ? two ? page ? Shakespearean ? soliloquy.

No kidding. While Evo would argue ?That's Keanu?? I would defend the big lug because he was never this bad in past films like the original Matrix, Dangerous Liaisons, Much Ado About Nothing, or even those goofy Bill & Ted movies. Keanu, I believe, was under the thumb of Director Francis Lawrence who had Constantine brood a lot, tug his coat a lot, and speak slowly a lot. There were some highly needed moments of levity that Keanu pulled off like a pro (especially a joke at the end of the film?very nice touch!), and I really believe that was the real Keanu sneaking out to play. Sadly, this is all lost as the director was trying way too hard (again) to create the brooding hero, but instead makes Constantine look like a drop out from the William Shatner School of Acting.

Constantine was not a complete waste-of-time, but my frustrations come from how good this film could have been had the director loosened up a bit, Keanu picked up the pace in his dialogue, and the screenwriters hadn't felt the need for collateral damage. I would say the film is a good rental or a fine matinee, but that's if you've got nothing better to see or nothing else to do.   [Read more...]

Donnie Darko - The Director's Cut

I love director's cuts and special edition movies on DVD. There is no question about that, so after seeing the major improvements to Riddick, Hellboy, Daredevil and the host of other titles filling my collection, I decided it was time to give Donnie Darko a second look. I'm happy to report - director's cuts still rock my world.

Rating: 4 out of 5

When I first saw Donnie Darko a couple years ago, I couldn't understand why this movie was getting so much buzz from the fan community. It was strange, confusing, and overall made my head hurt. The story was so loose, that many times during the flick I was able to make up my own storyline. I read all the comments about how it made you think, and that you had to really work at understanding the mysteries inside the movie. Well no shit! The story was so weird and confusing that you could have inserted a dozen other time-travel themes from Star Trek TNG into this film with no effect on the outcome. So I was not expecting much from Donnie Darko - the Director's Cut.

In the original film, Donnie (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) narrowly escapes death when the engine of a plane falls from the sky onto the family home. Frank ? a six-foot tall rabbit that only Donnie can see ? then tell him that the world will end in twenty eight days, six hours, forty two minutes and twelve seconds. After this revelation, Donnie falls into an almost surreal world at home and at school. He becomes obsessed with time travel and with a book written by an old woman in town whom the kids call Grandma Death.

Now the images of Frank the rabbit were just plain disturbing, and I spent most of the time trying to figure out if Donny was insane, or had just taken too many hits of acid. The thing that really drove me crazy was that Donny would get a look on his face throughout the movie that was reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, making me certain that he ?was' insane. You will say that this was the point; they were redirecting you from the real truth inside the movie. Problem is, even at the end of the film, I still thought he was insane regardless.

Ok enough bitching about the original film. If you have not seen the original, I'll do my best to not give out any spoilers, but I do want to give you a few points of new features that just made this movie finally work for me.

The biggest improvement within the film has to be the extra 20 minutes of footage, most of which (and most important to the story) is of the crazy old woman (Grandma Death) who wrote the time-travel book. The information we as the audience gain from the flash-sequences are absolutely the saving grace for me. I stood up at one point and just had to shout out loud, ?I finally know what this movie is about!? It was that big of a change for me. The other major improvement has to be the sound track. (yeah, no kidding) the old track was haunting and weird and just made me feel creepy all over. (It actually distracted me at times) Now, the score blends with the film, the way a score is suppose to, you don't notice it unless you are listening for it. Add in the fact that Frank the rabbit actually talks to Donnie, and you have the beginnings of a real movie with a real plot. There are several other scenes added that vastly improve this film, but I would not be able to tell you about them without giving something away, so I'll just end by saying, ?Get this film, it is really cool - now.?   [Read more...]

Review: Elektra

Following in the footsteps of Ben Affleck and proudly wearing a fashion statement ?that brings out the bitch in everyone,? Jennifer Garner steps into her own Marvel Comics vehicle with Elektra, an epic saga of a super-assassin caught between an ages-long battle of Good vs. Evil. While Jennifer looked great in her "Elektra Red," I found myself missing Ben decked out in his Darewear.

My wife, Natalie, thinks I'm an idiot.   [Read more...]

Review: Battlestar Galactica: The 2005 Series

Before The Dragon Page's website was hacked (no doubt, by Bonnie Hammer and her pretty-people Cylons), I posted a spirited review of Battlestar Galacatica: The Mini-Series along with Evo. We both went off on the mini-series on many levels, and I discovered in talking with other Battlestar Galactica fans on the short-comings and annoyances with this ambitious remake that we were not alone in our opinions.

To sum up, here were some issues voiced:

  • New Cylons seen only at the beginning and at the end
  • Pretty People Cylons who boff humans into submission
  • Baltar, a GQ Pretty Boy who is haunted by erotic fantasies between him and a PPC named ?Six?
  • One mention too many of Classic Battlestar Galactica
  • Starbuck as a chick
  • Overly horny, overly dysfunctional, overly angst-ridden characters
  • Reality Camera SFX used in outer space
  • Preoccupation with ?zoom lens? SFX for ?jump? effects
  • Too much ?Let's talk about what happened?? SFX as opposed to seeing it
  • A really contrived ending

However, on second viewing of the mini-series Skiffy aired to herald tonight's premiere, there were some things I wanted to admit the new Battlestar Galactica had going for it:

  • Cutting edge SFX
  • Less ?SciFi?/More ?Military? approach to Battlestar Galactica such as pilot callsigns, infantry jargon, etc.
  • Concentration on interpersonal and less-than-perfect relationships (within reason)
  • Edward James Olmos as Adama?great choice

While I bonded with Richard Hatch at GalaxyCon 2, I'm apparently not on his Christmas card list (and after the ball-busting I received from him on the show, you think I would be?); but the guys from The Dragon Page are in good with Classic Apollo who sent them a sneak peek of the new Battlestar, and the guys were impressed. So, on the recommendation of the guys, I promised to open my mind and give Bonniestar Galac?er, I mean?Battlestar Galactica a try.

The opening kickoff episode ?33? gets its title from the Cylons' tactic of attacking the Colonials every thirty-three minutes, and so they have been doing?for five days. Five days, every thirty-three minutes. Strung out, sleep deprived, and a little whacked-out after two-hundred-plus jumps, the crew lose a civilian ship christened The Olympia and all thirteen hundred souls. Only Baltar seems a-okay with this as the vessel was carrying a fellow scientist with some important information about ?a traitor to the human race? on Galactica. Baltar does the math and figures out it's him. The good news: three hours has elapsed with no Cylon attack. Then the Olympic reappears, calling for assistance. Adama's got a bad feeling and calls the hands to General Quarters. Galactica picks up two signals: thermonuclear warhead signatures (on a civilian ship?!) and Cylon Basestars coming out of jump. Both Adama and the President have to decide whether or not to destroy the ship.

The second episode, ?Water,? begins with Boomer waking up in the maintenance bay, soaking wet. As she collects her bearings, she looks into her gym bag to find a towel, a fresh change of clothes, and?a detonator connected to a block of plastic explosive. While trying to remember her missing block of time, explosions rip open the Galactica, and vent their water supply into space. Now, Raptor-class shuttles hunt for a planet with water while Boomer's boyfriend, Chief Petty Officer Tyrol, covers up her involvement in this complete and utter SNAFU. One by one, the Raptors come back with no good news. On Boomer's shuttle, she reports to her co-pilot that the last planet they're surveying is also dry?even though she's staring at a readout reporting multiple sources of water. She can't quite understand what is going on?

What Boomer doesn't realize: she's a Cylon!

Okay, just let me air out my issues first, then I'll give you final impressions?

Galactica is really going for storytelling on an epic scale, developing not one, but two plotlines. While the humans are hauling ass out of the galaxy, a Raptor co-pilot that goes by the callsign of Helo struggles to stay alive on Cylon-occupied Caprica. He thinks he is completely alone until Boomer (yep, another PPC) shows up out of the blue to rescue him. This subplot might have looked good on paper, but it tends to distract from Galactica's quest for Cylon-Free Space.

The writers are also working hard on developing interpersonal relationships full of strive, struggle, and (of course) sex. My problem here is that, at times, it shows. Chemistry and interaction between the characters sometimes comes across a bit forced, if not awkward. Now that the cast has a series, maybe this problem will resolve itself from episode to episode; but in these two episodes, we dealt with Col. Tigh struggling with his alcoholism, Apollo struggling with his new-found position on his dad's ship, Boomer struggling with her identity, and Baltar struggling with his guilt in handing over the human race to the Cylons on a silver platter. With so much struggling, I think the writers need to loosen up a little.

Speaking of Baltar?I do have a major issue with the computer chip that PPC Six apparently planted into Baltar's brain, producing either an image of Six sitting next to him in the real world that no one else can see, or reproducing an idyllic setting of his summer home where the two are doing a horizontal hula?

And just what is your problem with that, John?

Harvey, for the thousandth time, my name's not John. It's Tee.

Sorry, old habits. You understand?

Sure I do.

Excellent. Now, about Wormholes?

What does have to do with this review?

Absolutely nothing.

So I thought. Now Here's an ideas. Change outta that weird ?Gimp-style? leather outfit, change into a Hawaiian shirt, and we can unwind a bit?with Margaritas shooters.

Splendid idea, John?

Sorry?the point I'm getting at is I think we've seen this before, and it was done a lot better than Baltar's reoccurring wet dream.

Now that I've aired out my issues?WOW! Solid, kick-ass Military SF with a very deep, human touch! (There was a particularly touching scene where Petty Officer Dualla walked through a shrine of photographs created for missing Caprica family members. A 9-11 moment in outer space. Very intense.)

Two Starbucks Meet for Coffee

at (you guessed it?)

As Starbuck would lay his/her cards on the table after creating a full pyramid, I am too. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that someone at Skiffy listened to the fans, took the feedback under consideration, and is offering a bold, ambitious, and strikingly-beautiful new Science Fiction epic! To say I was impressed would be a grand understatement. This new, edgy Battlestar Galactica is delivering the goods on its first night with interest, and whatever issues they had with the mini-series is in the past. They are looking forward, and promising even more incredible plot twists and confrontations. The writing improved between the mini-series and tonight, and between the two episodes, ?Water? really showed what this cast can do with an intriguing script and terrific dialog. Let's see if they can maintain this break-neck pace throughout a season...or longer...

So before I completely gag on this crow pie, let me say it for the record. Battlestar Galactica has made quite a first impression on me, and I look forward to the episodes to come.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5   [Read more...]

Review: Daredevil - The Director's Cut

If you have been paying attention to our show, you will recall my saying that the Director's Cut of Daredevil is considered the most improved movie of 2004. I know you're all saying, "come on." "More than the extended version of The Lord of the Rings? More than The Chronicles of Riddick?" In a word, Yes.

Rating 4 out of 5   [Read more...]

Equilibrium

Equilibrium is a movie that has polarized opinions of Sci-fi fans and reviewers alike. Granted, this film is a rip-off of several other concepts and holds an action sequence that is almost blow-for-blow just like the one in The Matrix, but in as many areas that this film fails, it does hold a few pearls that can make it worth watching.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

In a futuristic post-apocalyptic world, society has rebuilt itself and has eliminated war by suppressing all emotions with a powerful drug nicknamed Equilibrium. Books, art and music are strictly forbidden and feeling (of any kind) is a crime punishable by death. Of course there is an underground resistance working hard to fight this new r?me and it is striving to open the world's eyes to a tyrannical government that is far worse than the thing it has been established to curtail. Clerick John Preston (played by Christian Bale) is a top ranking government agent responsible for destroying those who resist the rules. When he accidentally misses a dose of Prozium, (the mind-altering drug that hinders emotion) Preston begins to ?feel' for the first time in his life.

There are several parts of this film that are hard to take seriously. The actors ?all' show emotion throughout the film. Smiling, laughing, sly winks, grins, and nods are everywhere, making it hard for us to know who is feeling and who is fully medicated. The action scenes are a total rip-off of The Matrix films and Bale dressed all in black looks amazingly like Keanu Reeves. Even the story is a big rip off of Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and others. With all of this against it I'm sure you're wondering why I liked it. (Actually, so am I...)

However, in defense of this film, I did like the overall idea and the story as a whole. It is a rip-off of other work, but it blends these concepts into an idea that is relatively its own. There are some great twists that caught me off guard. I can usually guess the outcome of a film by the halfway point, but in this case a couple stories took me a whole new direction that I did not expect. The most original part of the film (and the one that got my attention) was the Gun-Kata. The best way to explain it is a martial arts/mathematical process that allows the Clericks to take out multiple opponents with only hand weapons. (Hence The Matrix type action but in a more plausible form) The idea was original, and watching it in action was a whole lot of fun. Actually, I would say this was the best part of the film. I also liked the growth of Bale's character as he begins feeling for the first time, and watching him try to fake his way through daily life as one of the enforcers of this oppressive society. Of course, this would have been more dramatic if the actor's playing next to him could have kept a straight face, but I was able to ignore that to get through it.

This is not a prize-winning film, and there are a ton of flaws and rip-offs that are hard to take, but if you are looking for something different to fill a Sunday morning, this may be a good one to try. You may hate it, you may like it, but I doubt you'll love it.   [Read more...]

Review: Earthsea (The Mini-Series)

How do you take a well-written trilogy of books filled with interesting magic, strong characters, and cool concepts and turn it into four hours of shallow plots, incomplete storylines, and confusing characters? Give your work over to the Sci Fi Channel to develop.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Earthsea had great potential, and I was eagerly anticipating this four hour miniseries coming to the screen, but in the end it was anything but great. Now I must admit that I have not read the Earthsea books, and I am making the assumption here that the books were far superior to what we got within the four hour debacle presented on Skiffy channel. I am confident in this assumption due to the number of rave reviews the book series received over the past several years. Even Ursula K. LeGuin herself has expressed disappointment in the final product Sci-fi put forth, so this review should not come as any great surprise.

Skiffy's vision of Earthsea fell short in three key areas in my opinion. Character development, dialogue, and storyline. (Not that any of these things are important to a good movie adaptation or anything.) I knew I was in trouble when the show started and we met our protagonist, Ged. Teenage angst always throws me off a story. I just hate the youthful arrogant character premise, because I find that it makes it hard for me to like the guy that we are suppose to be cheering for. I sat smirking for the first hour of the show as we watched him reject his father, thumb his nose at his way of life, only to then latch on to the first thing that catches his selfish, ungrateful attention, in the form of Ogion (Danny Glover), a powerful and respected wizard that lives near the village. Of course, being brought back from the dead, would understandably get your attention, even if you're an ungrateful, pissed off youth.

But I'm getting ahead of things, so let's recap, shall we? Earthsea is a world of islands. A tyrannical and power-hungry king is working hard to take over the planet. An ancient amulet that was forged to keep the peace on this planet was shattered and lost a long time ago giving our king freedom to do his dastardly deeds unchallenged. On another island, an ancient order of women have been keeping everything from going to shit for thousands of years, by holding back ?The Nameless Ones?. These immortal creatures are really, really bad, and only this order of women holds the power to keep them at bay. Now within this ancient order of faithful women, one of its powerful members is sleeping with the king and plotting the overthrow of the world. These two mental giants hope to gain immortality by releasing the ?Nameless Ones' ? yeah, the ones that have been kept locked away behind the really big doors in the temple labyrinth. On all of Earthsea, magic is a way of life and there are many wizards and magical folk wandering about the place. However, as in most stories, only the gifted are mages. Got it? Neither did I.

Ok, that's the set up, on to the film. The movie opens with a wrestling match between a young boy and a girl. The girl is giving as good as she gets and we first assume that these two will be our target characters. (Surprise! Don't pay attention to her, she'll be gone soon.) We meet Ged, who is a headstrong, young man with amazing natural magic skills. Ged has been trained - to some extent - by an old woman in the village, which has only added fuel to the boy's cheery nature. The old woman gives him a bling-bling, then she aids him in casting a spell that saves the village from attacking forces (the tyrannical king) which gets him killed.

Oh no, they killed our hero! You bastards! Not to worry, Ogion a powerful and respected wizard wanders into the village, brings Ged back to life, and offers to instruct the boy in the ways of magic. Ged - now breathing again - says, ?Hell yeah! Get me away from these hicks.? Ogion gives Ged his ?True' name Sparrowhawk, and Ged is ready to bolt for the door. However, before they go, Ogion makes Ged ask dad for his blessing (which turns out to be more pissed off teenage attitude). On the way out of the village, Ged stops to say wham-bam-thank-you-mam to his girlfriend, and away-they-go off to Ogion's home.

Now this is not any different than any other adventure story, and in most cases the concept works fine, but I cannot express how badly this was done inside the film. The girlfriend, (who by the way is never mentioned or heard from again) is introduced for back-story then cast aside. The father is developed only enough so that we feel bad for him when Gen spits in his eye, and the old woman who supposedly taught Ged all his magic is given two minutes of screen time, then tossed away with the girlfriend. You couldn't have done the first hour of this show any worse.

Moving on from there, I had hopes that things would get better, but instead the movie turned into Harry Potter. Ged is learning magic from Ogion, but not nearly fast enough for our hero. In Ged's arrogance he pulls a forbidden book from Ogion's library of magic and casts a spell that is evidently really bad (the movie doesn't let us in on why it was so bad) and Ogion begins to question whether he is the right guy to teach this little shit anything. Ogion sends him off to Roke, an island of magic where Ged can learn magic in a more formal setting. So begins the Harry Potter part of our story as Ged arrives at Hogwarts ? sorry - Roke. I'd tell you more, but I bet you have already seen The Sorcerer's Stone. Now during all of this, there is also the story of our fanatic king trying to take over the world one island at a time, and our order of witches/nuns/holy persons who are dealing with their own intrigue as the power-hungry concubine of the king lies, cheats, and kills to learn the secrets of freeing those really nasty things behind the really big doors. Confused? So was I.

If you think that this review is a mess, then you are beginning to get the picture. This movie suffers from one major flaw: too much, in too little. Four hours was not nearly enough time needed to cover this trilogy of books properly. All the problems that I have with what I saw stems from not spending enough time telling us the story, and trying to pack too much story into too small of a space. Even another two hours would have done wonders in fleshing out some of the details needed to make this series the epic film it could have been. There are characters that disappear into the film that really needed to be heard from again. Explanations were desperately needed so that we could understand this world and why it was the way it was. I really needed to know who/what the ?Nameless Ones? were and why we should care if they got free - and I needed to know why the doors were so damn big. None of these things are addressed, and it left me rather pissed off. I felt as if I was the butt of a four hour-long joke. The director was laughing at me saying; ?let's see how long we can keep this guy watching without giving him any answers.

Surprise! There are no answers!? Ha!   [Read more...]

Review: "National Treasure"

Ron Howard and Tom Hanks are gearing up to put Dan Brown's bestselling thriller on film, but producer Jerry Bruckheimer apparently tries to beat them to the punch with National Treasure which plays like The DaVinci Code...on steroids.   [Read more...]