Monthly Archives: November 2012
Sometime over the Thanksgiving weekend, my brother announced that there were too many “Lincoln” movies and it was hard to keep them straight. The thought might have occurred to him about ten minutes into Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln when he leaned toward me in the theater and whispered “So….I’m guessing this is the one without the zombies.” I would have thought it obvious since this was the Daniel Day-Lewis / Spielberg movie and that the movie was not only sold out but that the theater was also full of kindly white-haired elder persons. This didn’t faze my brother at all, not did it alter his assumption that we were there to see the zombie Lincoln.
Apparently 2012 is the Year of Lincoln, and my brother isn’t the only person to fall victim of movie mix-up. Several weeks ago, I posted my review of Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies. Several of my Facebook brethren and others in real life kept asking if this was a sequel to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It is not. Others wondered if it was the same movie. It is not. Allow me to resolve this problem.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: This film is based on the Seth Grahame-Smith novel of the same name. Benjamin Walker plays the title character who lives a double life (one part politician, one part vampire killer). I have neither read the book nor seen the film (it’s in my queue) so I can’t say much more.
Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies: Bill Oberst Jr. portrays our favorite prez as both a man of honor and a man of crazy zombie-killing action. He slices, he dices, he shares words of wisdom with little Teddy Roosevelt. My review for that movie is here. Enjoy.
Lincoln: This is the Daniel Day-Lewis / Spielberg flick. It was wonderful. It felt like the Oscars were already in hand. Day-Lewis is Lincoln. Tommy Lee Jones and an almost unrecognizable James Spader do steal the movie at times. Loved it.
There have been other Lincoln sightings this year aside from cinematic ones. On TV’s New Girl, Schmidt dressed up as Lincoln for the Halloween episode. In a recent Saturday Night Live sketch, comedian Louis CK played the guy. Quick! Someone please air Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure or Kindergarten Cop!
This is neither the first nor the last occurrence of Hollywood releasing more than one movie of the same person/subject. In fact, 2012 might as well be the year of Alfred Hitchcock. Currently in theaters, there is a film called Hitchcock starring Anthony Hopkins. It’s about the making of Psycho. Also, HBO very recently did a movie called The Girl in which Toby Jones played the famously jowled director.
Earlier this year, we were given two different Snow White versions. If we look further back in time, Hollywood once spent one year trying to kill us with volcanoes (1997’s Dante’s Peak and Volcano) and another with meteors (1998’s Deep Impact and Armageddon). Go figure.
Anyways, I wanted to clear up the confusion with Mr. Lincoln and his many movies. Draw yourself a chart if you feel it will help. Otherwise, just enjoy whichever one you end up watching. Oh, and my brother really enjoyed Lincoln. I never doubted he would. I was just worried he was disappointed he didn’t see the zombie one. But there’s time for that.
****Special Note: I’ll open December with a new review. It’s a sappy Christmas-themed flick brought to us from the good people at Hallmark. So prepare yourselves for sugary goodness.****
I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving weekend. I know I did. I ate too much food, drank not enough wine, and enjoyed the company of beloved family members. Warm fuzzies all around. We don’t have too many traditions for Thanksgiving. I beg my mom to make her broccoli casserole every year (because it’s freakin’ awesome), and we usually ignore the Black Friday shopping. The traditions really come into play at Christmas.
But there is one tradition that isn’t a tradition so much as a habit: marathons. Not the running kind. The only way to get me to run is to set an angry grizzly or small dog on me. I’m talking the butt-numbing televised marathons the networks unleash just in time for all the belt loosening food comas.
I thought I would highlight the usual movie marathons that seem to be airing every year as well as some of the TV shows that also get air time. Some of these have moved out towards Christmas and others are no more. So here we go:
1. Mystery Science Theater 3000. Back in the day there was a most excellent program on Comedy Central. It told the tale of Joel (or later Mike) who was stranded on the Satellite of Love with only his robot friends to entertain him. He was forced to watch cheesy movies, and we the viewer got to watch said movies along with Joel/Mike, Crow and Tom Servo as they heckled and riffed on such cinematic delights such as The Magic Sword; Horrors of Spider Island; and Prince of Space. During its tenure at Comedy Central, the show was a Saturday morning mainstay for my brother and me. But it was Thanksgiving that the show went into marathon mode. For 30 hours, MST3K celebrated “Turkey Day” (a joke I just now got). We would tune in and watch episode after episode and laugh our way through the holiday. The show later moved to Syfy (née SciFi) but alas no such marathon took place.
2. Bond-a-thon. I can’t remember which network hosts it (I think TNT did at one time, and then Spike) but someone is usually airing the James Bond movies at some point during Thanksgiving weekend. I used to watch these. It’s fun to guess the movie when you jump in while one is currently in progress.
3. Star Wars. I would suggest that the SW films marathon during the weekend, but I think these air every weekend. It’s that or the Lord of the Rings movies. One is always on during the weekends. But whatever.
4. Harry Potter movies. I know for a fact, I have stumbled into a Harry Potter movie marathon during Thanksgiving weekends. I very clearly remember getting caught up last year while visiting my grandmother. The network that airs this one (ABC Family) can take a normally two-hour film and put in so many commercial breaks that the movie stretches out to almost four hours! I’m waiting for the day when the movie interrupts the stream of commercials. It’s that crazy. Like SW and LOTR, HP movies are becoming more and more commonplace. Toss in a holiday weekend, and Hogwarts will be there.
5. A Christmas Story. Yes, I am aware that this movie airs on heavy repeat right around Christmas Day. But it’s almost that time. I’m just reminding you in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade.
So those were the movie marathons. I didn’t really engage in any of those this year. Instead, my family and I enjoyed a few hours of some regular television programming:
1. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I thank my lucky stars for the day my brother told me about this show. It’s got to be the funniest and most disturbing television show I’ve ever seen. I’ve never been so appalled while laughing so hard I’m crying ever in my life. Oddly enough, my family tends to watch this on Christmas Day. I usually get the latest season on DVD for my sibling, and we always put it in and enjoy a few episodes. Well, Christmas came early this year! It was on the tube, and one of my favorite episodes, “The Gang Solves the Oil Crisis” was on. “Wildcard, bitches! Yeeeee haw!”
2. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Some channel (I can’t remember which!) aired a TNG marathon! In my humble opinion, I really think the TNG series is the best. Patrick Stewart is the man, and no one should ever go anywhere near a holodeck ever.
3. This is a bonus one. This show did not air this year as far as I know, but I have such a happy, funny memory of it. The show is Ninja Warrior. One Thanksgiving, several years ago, G4 aired a marathon of this program. My brother and I watched it all day long. Even when we were sitting down with family to eat our holiday meal, both of us kept peering over our shoulders at the television set which we had left on. We were that into the ‘thon. It was awesome.
So, those are televised movie/TV marathons I’ve caught in the past whilst celebrating Thanksgiving day and weekend. Some people shop. Me? I pour more wine and settle in for some televised entertainment. How about you folks?
On October 30, I took a five-minute break at work to browse the headlines. What I read came as a horrible shock. George Lucas had sold Lucasfilm Ltd. to Disney for 4 billion dollars. The sale included Star Wars and all the licenses, movies, TV options, games, etc and so on and so forth. I almost cried. Seriously. I was almost in tears. My co-workers, should they ever be interviewed for my reaction, would tell you that I sat there mumbling to myself for a good 5-10 minutes saying “No, nononononono noooooooooo” over and over again. I felt a dull sort of crack form in my cold little heart. Something stable and solid and foundation-like in my life had suddenly changed.
I didn’t know which part of the news headline upset me the most. The fact that Uncle George sold Lucasfilm was bad enough. He had Kathleen Kennedy on board as his heir to the kingdom. I thought things would just pass along to her. Then the Disney aspect upset me. Disney is, in many ways, the evil Empire. Yes, they bring good, but all I could see was High School Musical and the crazy Disneyfication of beloved characters. Would they now appear in a Kingdom Hearts video game alongside Mickey Mouse? I don’t think I could survive Han Solo sitting around with Donald Duck or Goofy. The next part that upset me was the 4 billion part. In my mind, Star Wars alone is worth much, much more. But I’m not a film executive. Maybe that was a hefty fee. Who knows? Also, I was and still am concerned about the other Lucas companies. From what I understand Lucasfilm Ltd. is the parent company for Industrial Light & Magic, LucasArts, and Skywalker Sound. Does that mean that Disney now owns those as well? [Note: If someone can let me know, that would be super.]
So yeah, I was upset. For several days I pretty much felt like I had been betrayed. I don’t know a world without Star Wars. The original trilogy is this holy set of movies for me. To think that someone who isn’t George Lucas now has control over them is really scary to me.
So let’s fast-forward a few days. The news had sunk in a bit. A couple of friends of mine (who were also initially upset) pointed out that the prequels were pretty bad. I hate to say it, but it’s so true. Phantom Menace aside from the groovy Darth Maul and a cool light saber fight at the end, was a kids’ movie. And I HATE little kid Anakin Skywalker. I hate him and his “yay, I’m a slave!” mentality and his little bowl haircut. This kid does not deserve to grow up to be Darth Vader. Nope. Attack of the Clones wasn’t much better. We were stuck having to watch the lack of chemistry between Natalie Portman and Hayden Christiansen. When we weren’t doing that, we were stuck watching Christiansen’s teenage Anakin start to delve into his darker side. Not dark enough though. I saw no motivation. Revenge of the Sith wasn’t that bad. I enjoy parts of it—specifically any scene with Ewan McGregor. I’ve found that if you skillfully fast-forward the right scenes, you can enjoy what I like to call Star Wars Episode 3: The Adventures of Obi-Wan.
Right, so the prequels were definitely not all they could have been. Most of the blame for that can be aimed at Lucas who wrote and directed all three films. Maybe if other directors had been brought in, the movies could have been so much more. But they weren’t. Oh, and Jar Jar Binks is just wrong!
I was conflicted. I was angry at Lucas for selling the company, but I was also upset about the way the prequels turned out. I was also sort of relieved that Lucas wouldn’t be able to hurt and tweak the movies any more. I prefer the original, hokey Ewok song. Special Edition versions of the movies still don’t feel necessary to me. But at the same time, Lucas is the man who created the Star Wars universe. Without him, we wouldn’t have Obi-Wan, or Luke, or Lando. There would be no Millennium Falcon or Death Star. I didn’t have a solid opinion. Confusion!!!
And then there was a beacon of hope in the form of my hero, Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill was interviewed about his opinion of the sale, and he was onboard with it. Well, if Luke Skywalker says it’s okay, then I’m okay. So I decided that since (obviously) there was nothing I could do, I might as well just get over myself and see what happens.
But wait! There’s more! Announcements were made about three more Star Wars films. Episodes VII, VIII and IX? How could it be done? Our three leads are still active in their professions, but it’s been 30 years! How far in the future would these sequels be set? And what will the story be about? For about a week now, I’ve been brainstorming plot ideas with a buddy of mine. We have a few good ideas but only time will tell. I just have to have faith that since Disney now owns Marvel Studios and they didn’t screw up any films out of that universe, they’ll treat the Star Wars universe with the same respect.
In some ways, I feel like a hypocrite. On October 30 I was ready to join the mob of angry villagers with my pitchfork and torch. Two and a half weeks later, I’m looking forward to 2015 (the year of Episode VII). Maybe the whole thing is one big Jedi mind trick. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. These new films could go in one of two ways. They could be super-awesome, most excellent sequels and live on as wonderful Star Wars films. They would be known as worthy successors to the franchise. OR…they could go the way of the prequels as highly anticipated yet ultimately disappointing to the masses who grew up with only Original Trilogy. [I do understand that there are whole populations of children and teenagers who know the prequels as the main films of the series. *shudder*] Now would be a really good time for Yoda to do a little bit of future-checking.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (wearing sound-canceling earplugs whilst floating in a sensory deprivation tank), you are aware that the 2012 US Presidential election is upon us. It’s on us like a flea on a dog. And I’m sick of it all, as you are probably.
For that reason, I thought I would lead us back to a time when one of the United States’ most revered leaders was in charge. That man would be Abraham Lincoln. The cinematic path leads us to Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies. Do not confuse this movie with the recent 2012 theatrical release of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. They are not the same. One is not a sequel or off-shoot of the other. Also Zombies was a direct to DVD release and happened to come out the same year.
Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies stars Bill Oberst Jr. I don’t know if you are familiar with him, but when I was in college, we had these things called Fine Arts and Lectures events. It was a condition of graduation that you attended a certain number of these FLA events per year. Several of these happened to be one-man theatrical performances by a certain Bill Oberst Jr. He performed as Lewis Grizzard, Jesus, and Mark Twain. I remember being very impressed by his Mark Twain. But this isn’t about Twain. It’s about Lincoln—and zombies.
Our film intros with a young boy chopping wood outside his frontier house. We hear a gunshot. The boy runs inside the house to find his father bleeding out in a chair. There is a zombie lady chained up to a wall. The man has shot himself. When he’s not gasping for his final breath, he manages to utter “Sorry Abe. I couldn’t do it.” So, what’s a boy to do? Young Abe picks up a scythe (who keeps these in the dining room?) and beheads the zombie lady who I presume is/was his mama. Cue the opening credits!!
The bulk of the film takes place towards the end of the Civil War. Lincoln is planning a trip to Gettysburg to deliver what will be his most famous speech ever. As he’s heading out the door, one of his advisors announces that a group of Union soldiers had been dispatched to take down a Confederate stronghold. However, only one soldier returned alive, but not at all well. His symptoms seem zombie-like, and Lincoln, already familiar with zombies, decides to travel to the Union location to get a look at the soldier for himself.
Let’s talk about makeup. Zombies in this movie look less like your run-of-the-mill freshly dead undead. Instead, they look like they’ve been in the ground a few weeks. All of them are ashen-faced and have crazy eyes. Their clothes, however, seem sturdy and recently laundered. Even some of the undead remember to wear their hats and bonnets as is the custom of polite society. Manners, it would seem, are as important in the afterlife as they are today.
After visiting with the zombie soldier, Lincoln explains that a small team of men need to go secure the Confederate fort and try to get a handle on the zombie disease. Just as this decision is made, the zombie soldier gets loose and attacks his fellow men.
Obviously, bullets in the chest won’t work, and it seems President Lincoln is the one who must save the day; and boy does he! In an incredible slow motion shot from below, we see Lincoln leap through the air all Matrix-like. He’s to tall and leggy and this leap into the air is all crane kick from The Karate Kid. It’s hilarious and yet kind of cool if it wasn’t so hilarious. You know, because it’s Abraham Lincoln.
Oh, and Lincoln has a sword. Where did that come from? And then a guy tosses him a small scythe. He totally beheads zombie soldier like he’s made of butter. Lincoln decides to lead the mission to the zombie fort.
One would think soldiers would be the ideal choice for a mission to a zombie fort. No! Instead, it’s Lincoln’s Secret Service men or some men who work for him. The Gents (for that is what I call them) are all in their nicest suits and like to wave their flasks around shouting “Hear, Hear!”
The President and Gents arrive at the fort only to find it empty with just a scattering of zombies to dispatch. They do so with ease. Who knew zombies were such bleeders? I mean, there’s blood spatter everywhere. They’re like ticks or something. Ew. After all the fighting, General Andrew (Stonewall) Jackson and some of his men are discovered hiding away in a back storeroom.
Despite all the zombies and such, Jackson refuses to assist Lincoln in anything. His corporal who turns out to be Pat Garrett (famous for killing Billy the Kid and from what I can tell never crossed paths with Lincoln or even served during the war) sort of defects from the South and agrees to help Lincoln out.
Let’s take an awkward pause right here to talk about dialects. Oberst’s Lincoln is really quite impressive. He’s no Daniel Day-Lewis by any means, but he looks like Lincoln, and he seems to carry that same amount of gravitas that’s easily found on the five dollar bill. My only problem with Oberst’s performance is that his Lincoln sounds a lot like Lloyd Bridges in Airplane. I just can’t get past that. Also, his accent travels from that of a southern drawl to a little JFK in places. It’s never completely consistent.
Stonewall Jackson’s southern twang seems to come and go as it pleases. I really, really hate it when folks can’t commit to the dialect. Either commit and learn it or just don’t use it. This is why I think it’s nice when Kenneth Branagh doesn’t make his actors change how they talk in any of his Shakespeare adaptations. I digress…
So one of the major problems with this movie is that when there’s action, the movie is fine. But when there’s no slicing and dicing, the movie drags on and on. We do not need to watch the Gents as they split into teams and tip-toe around the fort. We do not need to see three minutes of “securing the fort” footage. I believe you. Just show someone slapping a lock on a door, and I’m convinced. Ten seconds. Done.
Apparently, Lincoln is bored with the fort too. He takes a small group of men, and they travel to a nearby town. Hidden in a house are two prostitutes and Teddy Roosevelt. I’m not joking. Feel free to read and then re-read that sentence a few times to let it sink in. The head lady of ill-repute is Mary. She’s a hooker with a heart of gold and also happens to be an old acquaintance of the President. Her protege, Sofia, is also her daughter. So it’s a family business. Okay… Never fear, kids. The theory that Abe could be Mary’s baby-daddy is defused straight away.
I bet you are wondering about Teddy Roosevelt, huh? It’s probably just a common name for the times….not. Nope, it’s a little boy named Teddy Roosevelt who will one day be President. Mary took him in because he had nowhere to go. So she’s caring for him, like any nice lady with a questionable career choice would.
Lincoln, his few Gents, Mary, Sofia, and future President Roosevelt all travel back to the fort mainly because there’s nothing else to do in this movie. Once again, there is much fighting and bloodshed.
Lincoln’s favorite move is to decapitate the zombies. He does this with ease; he does this with flair. Sofia is kind of like a ninja with whatever pointy farm tool she’s got in her hand. Mary, unfortunately, gets some zombie blood in her mouth and falls ill. If this was 28 Days Later that’s all it would take to infect her. I think the same rules apply in this movie as well.
Anyways, there’s a big fight coming up as is common practice in all movies. Our heroes must attempt a last stand. We get a nice hero shot of Lincoln. All we see is his silhouette as he’s backlit by the morning sun. He unsheathes his scythe and marches into battle.
So now we have shots and shots of heads being sliced off. During all this butchery, Lincoln takes the time instill words of wisdom to young Teddy. “Remember Teddy, a man divided against himself cannot stand.” Har har. Earlier in the film, when Lincoln gave young Teddy a shovel, he advised him to walk softly and “carry this big stick.” Wha wha….
There are also classic fight lines such as “emancipate this!!” Ha ha. Heads roll, blood flows, bodies fall. Yes, yes, all very exciting. Let’s get creative for a while. At one point, Lincoln and Teddy are in this enclosure. There are zombies on the other side of a wall. And before you can say “Millard Fillmore,” Teddy is sitting on Lincoln’s shoulders. He’s got a shotgun and is picking off the zombies one by one. Whatever works…
Anyways, the last stand doesn’t work out like it should have. Zombies chase Gents to and fro. One Gent even gets chased right under a moving train. So everyone falls back to the fort to regroup and take a breather.
Here’s where if the movie wasn’t skewed enough, it just gets better. One of Lincoln’s Gents turns out to be John Wilkes Booth. Yes, that one. As he explains to a zombie (I don’t know why) he used his acting skills to infiltrate Lincoln’s inner circle. He’s actually a Confederate spy. Mwah ha ha.
As the survivors of the next to the last stand take a few minutes to themselves, Lincoln takes the time to pray for the living and the undead. As he does so, Booth sneaks up behind him with a knife but doesn’t do the deed. For the next two minutes, it all straight out of Hamlet. Booth even quotes lines from the play with him acting as Hamlet and Lincoln as Claudius. What gives?
Right, so after all this time, Jackson has a change of heart. He shows Lincoln his secret stash of gunpowder. It’s a huge room chock full of the stuff. Lincoln has a plan to lead the zombies into the fort and have them bottleneck in the gunpowder room. Then, he’ll light a fuse and ka-boom. No more zombies. Seems like a good plan.
What he didn’t count on though, was the zombies trodding all over the fuse, thereby snuffing it out. Jackson goes on a suicide mission and takes a torch with him into the fray. Somehow, and I’m not sure how, he makes it through the zombie horde to the gunpowder cache. He lights the fuse and BOOM!!!
While all that was happening, we get a cool shot of Lincoln and one of the gents escaping the fort on a zip-line just before the blast. There’s all this smoke. Our gents and hussies and future politicians were all safely hidden in tunnels. Through all the smoke, we see Lincoln walk out in slow-motion. This would have been way cooler had we not seen him zip to safety 30 seconds ago.
All seems totally fine with the world at this point, except Mary decides to be a Debbie Downer and die now. The thing is, she’s very chatty and seems to be healthy. But she keeps going on about how this is it. Lincoln takes her away so she can die with dignity or something.
Cut to the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln gives his speech. I really think this is just a venue for Oberst to display his talent at reenacting historical figures, which he does very well. Now his speech has a double-meaning because the words now include what went down at the zombie fort.
The big twist at the end—AND YES, I’M GOING TO REVEAL IT—is that Lincoln never did take Mary off to die. Nope. He’s got her chained in a barn. There’s a doctor there whose only job is to keep her alive and study her. Lincoln wants to better understand this zombie disease. This goes against everything he’s advised his Gents in the movie since he’s all about killing thy neighbor if there’s so much as a scratch on them. Must be love then.
Anyways, Lincoln loses all intelligence and unlocks Mary’s chains. So of course, she attacks him. And now he’s infected. We also learn that Lincoln was aware that Booth was a spy and also knew that Booth was planning to kill him.
So he makes it easy. He sends word to Booth of his planning to attend the theater that evening. And we all know what happens from that point on.
Our last shot of Lincoln shows him walking out the front door of the White House for the last time. He’s not looking too great, and he knows this is the end. He takes one last, forlorn look upon his house, his nation (if you will) and walks away into the night.
So what is this movie trying to tell us? Is it trying to tell us that Booth is sort of the hero of the tale? He’s inadvertantly stopped a further zombie epidemic from happening. Is the movie suggesting that Lincoln’s great love was a hooker with a heart of gold? Are we supposed to believe that Lincoln was some sort of mentor for Roosevelt? Nah… All of those are just silly.
I really should have anticipated the campy and ridiculousness of Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies. After all, this movie was brought to us by The Asylum. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, let me enlighten you. They are the delightful people behind Grimm’s Snow White (you can read my review of that one here) as well as other fun films such as 2-Headed Shark Attack and everybody’s favorite, Nazis at the Center of the Earth.
But whatever. This was my Halloween/Election Day pick to watch. I’d like to give a special shout-out and credit to my friend Jessica who brought this movie to my attention. If you have any suggestions for me, please let me know, and if I use your selection, I’ll make sure to give credit where credit’s due.
Remember kids, if you are a registered voter in the US of A, please go out and vote this Tuesday, November 6. The future of our nation is at hand, and personally, I’d prefer to avoid a zombie apocalypse. My scythe is out for repairs, so now’s a bad time.