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Marathon Ma’am

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 SpaceDuring 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.

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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.

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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?

 

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Tis the Season (Already?!)

We are barely into November. Barely. Single digits. I haven’t even put away my Halloween decorations yet. But that doesn’t matter. According to television and all retail businesses, it’s Christmas or whatever one chooses to celebrate this time of year. I’m going to incorporate the Solstice this year, I think.

That Thanksgiving thing must be like a practice run for the holidays or something. That’s my new theory.  It can’t even get its own proper Hallmark Channel movie. The one that aired this past Sunday night was called Love at the Thanksgiving Day Parade. With that title, you would think “it’s a Thanksgiving movie! Finally!” Not so fast! The promo image used for this television special shows our heroine smiling lovingly at a man in a Santa suit. Christmas strikes again!!

If holidays were represented by the characters and situations of the film…oh for example, Office Space, I think Thanksgiving would be like Milton. I’m not saying Christmas is Bill Lumbergh or anything. I love the holidays. I’m just saying that Christmas Lumbergh seems to be ever to gradually, shifting Milton Thanksgiving out-of-the-way. Just a thought.

I also have a confession for you. One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is to watch as many cheesy, sappy Hallmark and ABC Family movies as I can. I’m not proud of it, but it’s so much fun to predict the predictable plots and to sometimes tear up at a heartwarming scene. It does happen.

It happened this Sunday.  Again, it’s barely November, and I have sat through two Hallmark movies already. The first one was really good. It was A Season for Miracles starring Carla Gugino and David Conrad. Carla plays a down on her luck lady who is caring for her druggie sister’s two kids. She’s sort of on the run from child services who want to take the kids into foster care. Carla’s character wants to keep the family together and hides out in one of those television movie small towns where there’s only one cop and everyone knows everyone. I so want to live in one of those towns. Everyone seems to live in giant houses, no one requires payment for anything, and everyone’s so nice. I might have cried a little at the end.

The other movie I watched was called Christmas Song. This was the other end of the spectrum for holiday movies. This one was not so much about the spirit of goodness and helping one another than it was about singing some songs and getting the two competing music teachers to fall in love. Natasha Henstridge and Gabe Hogan star as the teachers who come from two private schools that recently merged. Guess what? There’s only room for one music program, and the crummy principal informs them that whomever has the winning team for the holiday singing competition, gets to keep their job. I feel like that’s a horrible way to decide who get to keep their employment. This movie was fun to watch mainly on the grounds that it was so predictable. I watched this one with my mother, and we had a great time theorizing which way the plot might go.

So yeah. I’ve already got two holiday movies under my belt. It’s like an infection, this holiday spirit. I really try to not involve myself too much until after Turkey Day. My tree, for example, won’t go up until December 1. But in the meantime, I’ve got a fir-scented votive candle already burning.

Ugh!!!! I can’t believe I’m ready for cookie baking and angel tree shopping and the music! I was in a Kohls earlier, and they already had the festive tunes on high rotation.

I’m going to do my best to keep the festiveness running in the background for now. I’ll just consider the two movies I’ve already seen as appetizers to the big main course that’s inevitably on its way to a television near all of us. I’ll be more than ready by then, and plan to toss a few reviews this way.

Next week, I’ll delve into my thoughts on the George Lucas Star Wars issue. I’ve had to let that stew a bit in order to fully discuss it. That’s mainly because I was practically in tears for about an hour after I heard the news. But that’s for next week.

Until next time, my little elves!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Halloween!!! I love October. I love how the temperature drops, how it gets darker earlier, how the leaves change, etc. I even have a list of movies I work my way through every year in anticipation of the greatest holiday this side of Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day. So for right now, while I work on the next review to present to you good people, here is my list of must-see movies for October.

Oh, and before I get to that list— and yes, I do realize that I killed the moment there—I just wanted to point out that I’m not big into ghosties or slasher films. I don’t like any Japanese horror films either because they truly freak me out. I never got more than ten minutes into The Ring and have no plans to find out what happens in the remainder of that film. As a child, I was completely terrified by Ghostbusters and The Lady in White. After seeing the former, I was convinced Slimer was going to come out of the faucet, and I can’t remember what frightened me about the latter other than it did.

That said, I’m sure my personal list isn’t very festive for some folks, but to each their own. And now, without further ado and in no particular order:

1. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I mean, how on earth could this not be watched at least 2 or 3 times this month? It’s the greatest TV special ever in terms of Halloween.

2. Shaun of the Dead. Funniest zombie movie I’ve ever seen. Bonus points because Bill Nighy is in the movie.

3. Underworld. Sequels aside, this first endeavor in the franchise was a pretty groovy movie. Extra Bill Nighy bonus points.

4. Sleepy Hollow. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp took a favorite story and made it even better. It’s creepy, silly, and cool. Extra points given for Christopher Walken and his pointy teeth.

5. 28 Days Later. They are infected zombie-like people, not zombies. Doesn’t really matter. It’s not the infected you need to be scared of.  Its sequel, 28 Weeks Later, is pretty good too.

6. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Actually, it’s okay to turn this off right after Tim Curry sings “Sweet Transvestite” because after that, in my opinion, the movie gets dull pretty quickly. Up until that point, however, it’s a blast.

7. Clue. I know it’s not exactly a Halloween movie. But, it is a good murder mystery movie (and a fun board game as well). I watch this one every Halloween.

8. Arsenic and Old Lace. Maybe for the fact that it’s set on Halloween, or that two little old ladies turn out to be innocent-looking serial killers, but this slightly creepy screwball comedy is an annual favorite.

9. Meet Me in St. Louis.  Most people would consider this a Christmas film since the famous “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” song is in it. But the Halloween section where little Margaret O’Brien’s “Tootie” works herself up to be the most horrible is the best part. Also, it’s a little scary that the children of the neighborhood are building bonfires on the street.

10. Army of Darkness. Why this one? Because it’s a classic. Any of the other movies in the series (Evil Dead; Evil Dead 2) could just as easily sit in the #10 spot, but Army of Darkness is the most fun of the three. From this movie, you know that you “shop smart; shop s-mart.” You know what a boomstick is. You know or maybe think you know the magic words to safely collect the Necronomicon. I could go on for days about the wonderfulness that is Bruce Campbell, but I won’t. If you aren’t sold on Bruce by now, I worry about you.

And for the Meh Movie of the list………………

11.  The Queen of the Damned. I actually saw this movie in the theater. For the most part, the movie is just silly. It’s nothing like the book, and the characters feel more like caricatures than anything else. Still, it’s vampires, and some of the music is okay. I do like one of the music videos Lestat’s band does. It’s in the style of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari which is a very creepy silent film. If you can’t seen that little gem, you need to go find it.

Shanghai Afternoon

A couple of weeks ago, Shanghai Noon came on TV. I remembering seeing this movie when it was in theaters and greatly enjoying it. So tuning in to see it on the small screen was a no-brainer. I settled in and laughed my butt off as Owen Wilson’s wayward Roy O’Bannion and Jackie Chan’s steadfast Chon Wang bickered, fought, and ultimately teamed up to fight off the bad guys and rescue the kidnapped princess.

It was fun and funny! Wilson manages to combine brilliant and clueless in such a way that it’s hard to tell if Roy is cluelessly brilliant or just brilliantly clueless. Chan (whose stunts in the movie are way cool) manages his fish out of water role just fine. He’s both naive and clever. I know I just said they were both, but it’s true. And together, they work really well with one another. Chon keeps Roy somewhere near the straight and narrow, and Roy helps Chon loosen up a bit.

So that was Shanghai Noon, and that was a couple of weeks ago. Still smiling off of my enjoyable movie viewing, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Noon‘s sequel, Shanghai Knights, was on TV just this past weekend. So of course, I had to watch it.  The thing is…while my favorite duo are a-okay reprising their roles, the movie is kind of crappy. I think part of it is that the filmmakers thought to add in all these historic, literary, and film references. There weren’t too many of these in the first movie at all. Chon’s name was the major joke since Roy tells him that Chon Wang is a “terrible cowboy name!”

In the sequel our heroes team up again—this time in London. The goal is to find Chon’s sister and also recover the stolen Imperial Seal of China. There’s also a dastardly plot to kill Queen Victoria.  Super. I think the movie would have been okay with just that and allow Wilson and Chan to do their comedy thing. Instead, we had lovely historical liberties such as a young Arthur Conan Doyle as a Scotland Yard detective (in real life he was a doctor) who finds inspiration for Sherlock Holmes from Chon and Roy (it’s a running gag through in several scenes.). We are also entertained with a fight scene turned dance number to Singin’ in the Rain and a Keystone Cops gag. Don’t even get me started on young Charlie Chaplin who seems more like the Artful Dodger than anything else.

I don’t know. Maybe I was expecting too much. The good thing is that the characters of Chon and Roy remained the same, fun guys from the first movie. Chon is still a little too serious (though that’s probably a good thing) and Roy keeps winding up in trouble. Alone, they don’t get anywhere. Together, they save the day and make me laugh. I love it.

If memory serves, Shanghai Knights did moderately well at the box office, and I think at one point there was talk of a sequel. It would have been called Shanghai Dawn. I have no idea what it would be been about. I don’t think anyone got much further than “we’ll call it Shanghai Dawn.”  According to Wikipedia, in 2003 there was an interview with Owen Wilson where he assumed the movie would begin in Hollywood (where our heroes were bound at the end of the 2nd movie) and go on Africa maybe.

I like to imagine if it had been made and was also a success, we could have looked forward to what I’m going to title “Shanghai Afternoon.” I suppose this movie would take place with an older Roy and Chon. If Shanghai Dawn took place maybe 3 years after Knights  then the time would be 1890.  So lets set my fantasy sequel sometime during 1900.

If you recall, Roy had invested money in zeppelins. He was convinced it was a good way to go. In 1900, the first zeppelin flight took place in Germany. We’ll put Roy there. Meanwhile, Chon has gone back to being a sheriff somewheres in California maybe. Roy has written to Chon inviting him to the big debut and the two reunite in Germany. And that is where the movie gets crazy. Someone tries to steal the zeppelin, and in trying to save it, Chon and Roy find themselves floating off over the lands of Europe for a few hours that afternoon. While they wait for rescue (or eventual landing/crash) the two catch up and reminisce about the good old days. Voila: Shanghai Afternoon. It would be more of an art-house piece, I think, and wouldn’t make so much as a nickel in box office receipts. 

My other idea is that the two run a small movie theater in an even smaller town and they are both old. Yeah. I didn’t get too far there, did I? Who knows Maybe Chan and Wilson plan to skip right over Shanghai Dawn and focus on a better picture down the road. Maybe they are just patiently biding their time until the time is just right for more Roy and Chon.  If ever that day arrives, I’ll buy a ticket.

**Special Note: I will not, however, buy a ticket for the 3-D IMAX version. That’s insanely expensive! I’m not made of money, you know.**

Dance Party in the Shaman Cave

Back in the 90s, Sean Connery was in a cool movie called Medicine Man. He played a scientist who was searching for a cancer cure in the South American rainforest. He had gone slightly native, and it was funny to see him all calm and collected opposite Lorraine Bracco’s very New Yorker character.  The rainforest shots are lovely, and the movie is fun and exciting.  So why am I bringing it up? I have no idea. After watching this week’s movie, I found myself really wanting to toss Medicine Man on the queue. I’m just sharing.

This week’s movie goes by one of two titles depending on where you search. Netflix has it listed as Lost Treasure of the Maya which makes sense since the movie is about the search for a lost Mayan treasure. IMDB says the movie is titled No Bad Days which in my opinion, is a horrible title.  For this review, we are sticking with Lost Treasure of the Maya.

LTOTM opens with a caption telling me it’s 1240 a.d. in the Yucatan Peninsula. There are really nice shots of jungle, but our nature retrospective is cut short when a Mayan dude carrying a satchel goes sprinting through the forest. He’s being chased by a bunch of dudes who looked like they just ended their shift working for Rainbow Brite. One guy is painted red, another yellow, etc. At first, I thought this might have been some cut footage from Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto but I was wrong.

The painted men chase Satchel Man all through the jungle and even into a pool of water at the base of a short cliff. I have to say, the cinematography in this is pretty solid. Even the shots of the men swimming underwater is so well-lit and so clear. The pool of water leads into a series of underground caves. Satchel manages to lose Red man, and he takes the time to pull out what looks like a green mask thingy (distant relation to the idol from Raiders of the Lost Ark?) and hide it. As he swims away from the caves, he’s caught by the Rainbow brigade and is killed. All that running and swimming and hiding and more swimming was all for naught—or was it?

As movie intros go, that one was actually pretty intense. Without any characters speaking for any background information, I found myself already invested.

During “Present Day” a young American woman named Alexis arrives in Cancun. Her archaeologist sister has gone missing, and no one seems to be searching for her. We know that the sister was on the verge of a great discovery, but that’s the last anyone heard. Alexis seems like a smart girl, but she can get a little shrill and annoying like when she’s shouting in English at the Mexican cop and seems offended when he doesn’t speak her language. Lucky for Alexis, almost every other character she encounters is fluent in English.

Our hero in this movie is a guy named Nico. Nico is sort of like a local Magnum PI only not. Nico has some mysterious past he doesn’t like to talk about, and that’s fine. When it’s brought up, I felt it was too forced. Most of the time, Nico likes to be good-looking, drunk and lazy. He’s got a bartender buddy who, per his job description, knows all and always gives sage advice. Here’s how we meet our illustrious hero without a last name:

Alexis and Nico meet while he’s recovering from an afternoon bender of girly drinks (the kind with the fruit on the top) and drunken beach wandering. It would seem that Alexis’s strategy for finding her sister is to ask every single person in Cancun whether or not they’ve seen her. It’s a thorough plan but not very time-sensitive. Nico is resting in a chair. He’s got his shades on and he looks very comfy. Alexis keeps talking to him before she realizes that he’s asleep. Heh.

Now I’m going to talk about our villains. I wish they had been a little more formidable. Michael Madsen of the groovy Kill Bill movies plays Lester. He’s supposedly a collector of Mayan treasures who moonlights  as an antiquities mob boss. Sure.  We are repeatedly told throughout the movie that Lester is dangerous and that Alexis’s search is stirring up trouble and attention. Um ok…

Lester is after that Mayan mask that was hidden away all those years ago, and the sister has been kidnapped by Javier to help find it. Most of the scenes with Lester involve him on the phone with his chief enforcer Javier having the following conversation:

  • Lester: “Have you found it yet?”
  • Javier: “No, but we’re very close.”
  • Lester at this point utters some kind of threat about what will happen if he doesn’t find it.
  • Javier repeats assurances that they will find the mask soon.

This is a good time to point out that characters in this movie buy into the whole end of the world 2012 theory. It’s brought up many times even though it has nothing to do with the central plot of the film. I’m not sure why. Maybe the filmmakers through that concept would make it more marketable with distributors. Who knows. Anyways, just mentioning it. The topic is a running debate between Nico and Alexis throughout the movie all the way to a kind of cheesy epilogue we could have done without.

Anyways, since I actually enjoyed this movie, I’m not going to share many more plot spoilers. But, I will point out some more things I really enjoyed.

  1. Cool supporting characters. Okay, so the villains were sucky. But the Wise Bartender was a pretty sly dude, and there’s a shaman friend of Alexis’s sister who can throw an awesome vision quest dance party.
  2. Nico. The character is really funny when he’s not trying to be serious. I liked him as  a sort of reluctant hero. There’s a good scene when he’s waking up from his visit to the Shaman’s cave and he sees his face in the mirror—he’s covered in tribal paint. It made me laugh.
  3. There’s a really good scene where Nico is questioning a member of the sister’s dig team (one that wasn’t kidnapped) about why she’s gone missing. The team member tells a wholesome story about going to church and his kids and being threatened by some man, but the footage shows a completely different, but true story where we see the team member get crazy drunk in a bar and then volunteer info to one of Javier’s men.
  4. The action sequences are pretty exciting and are shot really well. Again, the production value for this movie was really good.

And just to be fair, here are two things I really didn’t enjoy or understand:

  1. There is a scene with Lester on his boat. He has two members of the dig team with him and he keeps asking them where the mask is. Neither one knows, but that’s not good enough. Lester is about to shoot one of them when a boat approaches with great fanfare and many expensive crane shots. Actor Keith David is driving the boat. I’m not sure of the name of his character. This is his only scene in the movie, and yet he got top billing. From boat to boat, Lester and Mr. David chit-chat about various threats Lester could be making towards the dig team guys. Then, once that’s done, Mr. David, sails onwards to other adventures. There was no point to that scene at all!!!!!! None! Why was it there?  I just don’t understand why that was there.
  2. During one scene, Nico and Alexis are running from Javier’s men in the very same jungle we saw in the introduction. At one point Alexis is hiding near a tree. That’s when we get gratuitous giant spider footage. The offending arachnid is literally crawling up Alexis’s leg and there’s one in her hair too. I know the scene was called for since it ultimately flushes her out of hiding, but come on!! No one needed to see that!

Right, so as I’ve already said, I actually enjoyed Lost Treasure of the Maya. It wasn’t a super-duper movie, but if it came on TV, I might consider watching it again. That’s saying a lot. Of course, I was watching Troop Beverly Hills the other night, so please form your own opinions.

If you do watch the movie, and realize it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, you can play a little game called Find the Product Placement. I’ll give you a hint. There are 2 very tight closeups of Pepsi products early in the movie. These are followed by at least 4 Tecate beer placements. The beer shots aren’t quite as obvious as the Pepsi ones, but they were easy to spot and you can make out name of the beer each time.  By the end of the movie, you might even be a little thirsty for Pepsi or Mexican beer. That means it’s working.

Recent Movie Roundup (week of 08/24/12)

Happy Friday to you, ladies and germs! I’m working on my next review (hint: it’s science fictiony) and thought that in the meantime, I would fill you in on the latest flicks I’ve caught over the past week.

In Theaters: I actually made it out into the public scene early this week. I went to go see the long-awaited The Bourne Legacy starring Jeremy Renner (yes, please), Rachel Weisz, and Edward Norton. I’ll be honest: It was no Matt Damon-esque Bourne movie. It had similar elements, but this was its own creature that happened to coexist with the Damon trilogy story-line. I am not certain a further continuation should be in the works, but for what it was, The Bourne Legacy  was pretty cool. I think the major difference is that Damon’s character had no idea what all was going on, and we got to discover the crazy along with him. Renner’s Aaron Cross does know what’s happening, and it’s up to him to stay a step ahead in order to survive. It was a slightly different perspective on the Bourne universe, and I appreciated that. It sort of falls in with my remake rule #2 that I told you about HERE, except this isn’t a remake. It’s more like a companion/sequel/installment/parallel piece of sorts. I enjoyed it and look forward to the day it can join the other Bourne movies on my shelf.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: I managed to watch a variety of movies via my trusty dvd player. I haven’t graduated to the whole Blu-ray thing yet, and I won’t until my player finally keels over. Until then, it’s dvd all the way.

1. In the Romantic Comedy genre, I chose The Decoy Bride starring David Tennant and Kelly Macdonald. This movie has been sitting on my queue for a while now mainly because I think Tennant was so geeky hot when he was the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who. I’m happy to say that I’m well over my crush at this point and can now just respect him for being a talented actor who happens to be a little attractive. Anyways….this movie is about a super-famous actress and her writer fiance who are trying to have a quiet wedding with no paparazzi spoiling the day. In order to do this, they find the most remote island off of Scotland in the Outer Hebrides. The actress’ agent discovers that one persistent photographer has found their location, and he decides to trick the photog with a decoy bride. Well….as things tend to happen in movies, the fake bride (Macdonald, in a hilarious role. I’d love to see her do more comedies) and our writer (Tennant) find out they’ve actually legally married one another. I’m not describing it well. Here’s the link to the trailer. Really, it was a very cute movie, and I’d totally watch it again. Actually, I’ve already watched it twice.

2. “By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!” Galaxy Quest sits very high on my list of all-time favorite movies. It’s no Star Wars but it’s so funny and so easy to watch over and over again. Every time I watch it I find something new to laugh at. If you weren’t aware, the film sort of parodies Star Trek and the fan craze surrounding it. In the movie, Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Tony Shalhoub play actors who were on a successful Trek-like show called Galaxy Quest. Aliens from a distant galaxy have discovered episodes of the long-defunct show and come to earth asking for the “crew’s” help in defeating an enemy. Also, it stars Alan Rickman who is a genius and Sam Rockwell whose character is crazy paranoid because he was originally hired as a possible red-shirt known only as Crewman #6.

3. The Mechanic. You know what? I really liked Jason Statham in movies like The Italian Job and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. But it seems that lately, he’s playing the same kind of character. He’s usually in an action flick where he’s sort of an anti-hero. In The Mechanic he’s a hitman who ends up training the psychotic son of his mentor (whom he killed–awkward?). Ben Foster plays the crazy son, and he’s kind of cool only with his cropped hair and his tough guy stance, he looks sort of like Jason Statham Jr. And maybe that’s what they were going for. I don’t know. The plot felt kind of pointless, and I honestly couldn’t recall the title of the movie about two days after watching it.  The action sequences were pretty groovy, though.

4. Last, but not least: Chain Reaction. This flick is all the way from 1996 and stars Keanu Reeves. The movie is about a team of scientists who are able to obtain clean energy from water, except that once the experiment finally works, things go horribly wrong along the lines of secret government conspiracies and the like. The movie was directed by Andrew Davis who also directed The Fugitive. This movie has a slightly similar framework. We have a hero who is framed for something he didn’t do. Instead of working with the police, he goes on the run and attempts to solve the mystery on his own. The FBI agent in hot pursuit also starts putting the pieces together and so on and so forth. I remember seeing this in the theater. It’s one of those movies that I enjoy watching from time to time, but I keep expecting it to be better than it turns out to be. Ah well, maybe next time.

Coming soon to a theater or blog near youDredd.  Have you seen the trailer for this yet? Good grief. I like Karl Urban, and okay so he’s attempting to do what Stallone so obviously screwed up in the horrendous Judge Dredd movie from back in the day. BUT, is there a reason for him to use the gruff and whispery Batman voice for his character? Also, (and I’m linking the trailer for you HERE), I think every generic action movie line is used in this thing. Well, they are used in the trailer, at least.  “Judgement time” “Let’s finish this.” Augh!!! The whole second half of the trailer was full of possible catchphrases. Still, the visuals look kind of cool. I’ll rent it and we’ll see if it ends up back here, kneeling before the wrath of Andrea. You never know…

Anyways, that was my week. Did you see anything of note? I’ve love to hear if you did.

Reuse, Remake, Recycle

“O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention”

That’s right! I’m invoking some Shakespeare for this week’s entry, and like the Chorus from Henry V, I have implored the Muse for some inspiration regarding this week’s topic. I’m to that level of desperation.

It seems that almost every film out these days is a sequel or something based on a book or a remake of a movie that was based on a book or a TV show (sometimes vice versa). A film based on an original idea comes along on occasion, and everyone celebrates how refreshing and how….ORIGINAL the movie is. Wouldn’t it be great if more films were like that?

Yes, yes it would! But Hollywood, in my opinion, isn’t all about the art. It’s usually, mostly, about the money. Don’t get me wrong. There are true artists out there who bring so much substance and love to film that I gladly hand over my money to see their work. Martin Scorsese is one of these people. Danny Boyle, Tim Burton, and Christopher Nolan are other good examples.

Where was I? Oh yeah, money. If there’s money to be made, then Hollywood will find a way to make it. Remakes and films based on books seem like a sure-fire way to make some green. Now, I love books. I read all the time, and when a book I enjoyed is made into a film, the odds are good I’ll go see it. Making a movie based on something with an already present fan-base is a safe move. Look at the Harry Potter films or The Hunger Games. I won’t mention that other series, but you know which one I mean. Safe bet!

And what about that movie that came out X number of years ago that did really well (or in some cases, poorly) that’s still stuck in the public consciousness? People sure do feel nostalgic for that. I bet we could update it or (and this is my favorite) “re-imagine” it. Yeah!

I don’t mean to come across as flippant and oh so cynical about this. Okay, maybe a little. Remakes and movies based on other material are by no means new concepts. Take one of my favorite movies of all time: My Man Godfrey. The version I love stars William Powell and Carol Lombard. It’s one of the funniest movies ever. It was made in 1936 and then was remade in 1957 starring June Allyson and David Niven.

Now, there have been some some movies that have definitely benefitted from a Hollywood upgrade: Ocean’s Eleven was pretty cool.  The Thomas Crown Affair was a whole lot of fun.   But I keep thinking of Gus Van Sant’s blasphemous and totally narcissistic attempt at remaking Psycho. [Special Note: Psycho was based on a book] What ever was he thinking? Was it a social experiment or did he just really enjoy doing a shot-for-shot remake of a classic film? I have no idea.

This weekend, a remake of 1990’s Total Recall comes out. The original movie was loosely based on a Philip K. Dick short story, and I remember the movie being really cool at the time. While the story is still groovy, the movie now looks really dated. I’m guessing that’s part of the reason for a remake. With our special effect technology of just 20+ years since the original, we can make the future look really futuristic.

Len Wiseman is the director, and I’ve enjoyed his work with the Underworld  movies. Colin Farrell steps into the Arnold role, and I know he’ll do just fine. So I’m not worried about the movie doing well or anything. I just kind of wish there wasn’t a need for a remake. Did I feel a hole in my life from the lack of a newer version of Total Recall? Nope. Not one bit.

My suggestions for remakes (if they must be done) are these:

  1. Do not remake anything that looks like it could be in the category of Super Classic Movie. This would include Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Casablanca, etc.
  2. If you must remake a film, then at least do the movie from a different angle. Don’t make the same movie twice.
  3. Do not make an “American” version of a successful foreign film. Most of us can read. Acquire some US distribution rights and promote the thing over here! I’m looking at you, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
  4. Try to remake obscure movies that could definitely go with some updating and improvement. Maybe the story that wasn’t any good then, is the perfect story to tell now.
  5. If you can’t find that obscure gem, only remake movies that folks might not have heard of for eons of time. I think that 1938’s Carefree  starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire could be a fun modern day romantic comedy if it was done right.

Anyways, I’ve ranted and I hope I’ve made a few coherent points. In the beginning of this, I tossed some Shakespeare at you. It wasn’t for my inspirational needs. I invoked the Muse for Hollywood. Remakes are great if done right and if the demand is there. Films based on books or plays or TV shows are fun—again, if done right.  But nothing beats an original story. We’ve got to have some fresh blood here! We’ve got to find a deeper gene pool for the art of film! Bring me more Run Lola Run; Star Wars; The Three Colors Trilogy; Goonies; 28 Days Later; Amelie; Inception. Fetch me some Evil Dead; Heathers;; Labyrinth; Matrix; Grosse Point Blank; Shallow Grave. I demand The Usual Suspects!!!!

I know it’s in you, Hollywood!  Besides, if you make something new now, you’ll have new material to remake later. It’s a win-win situation.

Top Billing for Everyone!

In this day in age, superheroes are everywhere. You can’t get away from them no matter how hard you try. They are just there to save the day no matter what.  This week’s movie, makes me think along the lines of Mystery Men in which there was a superhero for everything, but no one had any really spectacular powers.

So what’s this week’s movie, you ask? Well, Super Friends, I’ll tell you: Cross starring Brian Austin Green and Michael Clark Duncan AND Vinnie Jones AND Jake Busey AND Danny Trejo AND C. Thomas Howell AND Tom Sizemore AND!!! David Carradine. Too many “ands?” We haven’t even started. But first, let’s approach the obvious:

Danny Trejo….Michael Clarke Duncan…Vinnie Jones: I think action film. I think things blowing up, and all sorts of awesomeness. Brian Austin Green (BAG)? Huh?  To me, he’s always David Silver from 90210. Has he been in anything since? I’m gonna go look this up and see. That’s a project for a rainy day.

The movie opens with a creative exposition montage that looks like a live-action comic book. Apparently, the world has been at war since it’s creation (cue a shot of Danny Trejo telling us we are “in the wrong place at the wrong time”). The gods forged amulets and gave them to those they deemed special. One such amulet, The Cross of the Isles, was considered the most powerful. I’d also consider it the most green. It’s very green and shiny. The amulets were passed down through the generations and so on and so forth.  There is also a magical Staff of Sekhmet which is powerful enough to kill everyone on the Earth! It requires blood from each of the twelve bloodlines of the gods in order to activate it. Busey’s character refers to it as Satan in a stick. Ha!

I also want to point out that the one line uttered by Danny Trejo is his only line and his only appearance in the film. Yet, he got top billing. It’s a waste, I tell you! Trejo makes any movie cool, but you have to have him in it long enough for the coolness to actually soak in! When will they learn?

Back to the movie. BAG plays Callan Cross. He’s the last in the line of Crosses and he possesses the Cross of the Isles which he always wears. It’s super power is that it creates a cool green force shield that appears around him as bullets strike and deflect. What’s funny is that during one particular shootout in which Callan’s team is trying to save a girl from some thugs, Callan shows up to the party late, and then just shuts down the opposing side. Why not get him there early and send him in first, I say? Or is this like not letting Voltron form the Blazing Sword right off the bat? That always bothered me about Voltron. You knew nothing else would work except for Blazing Sword, but no, we had to wait it out until it was a last resort. Frustrating…

Anyways, the movie continues with Tom Sizemore as Detective Nitti. He’s investigating that very same shootout I mentioned a paragraph ago. He’s after Callan and his team since he considers them to be vigilantes despite the fact that they go around with all their good-deed-doing. None of this matters because we don’t see Sizemore again until the very end in a stupid movie bookend ploy that doesn’t fly.

I need to point out something very important here. The opening credits to this film, after you get past the intro take like five minutes. This is because there are about 200 characters in the movie. This is not a Dickens novel. There is no reason for this many characters. If they were extras, no big deal. But no! Almost every person who has screen time has a name that appears next to a shot of them and their specialty. Also, everyone has a Matrix name. Allow me to introduce a few of the good guys:

Riot: He’s a polite guy who is head to toe in kevlar. Backfire: (Jake Busey) He’s an explosive expert. Also, everyone in the entire movie calls him “Fastball” so I’m thinking there was a change of name and no one corrected the captions. War is Riot’s brother. He has a short temper, and he’s also the director of this movie. There is no reference made to the whereabouts of Pestilence, Famine, or Death. Pity.  Shark is a dude with very cool hair. He like to wallop thugs with pool cues. But wait, there’s more!

Ranger: He’s a sniper. Saint: He’s an assassin who dresses like a priest. Juliane: A blond chick with straight hair who specializes in communications. Lucia: A blond chick with wavy hair who likes to shoot things. And let me point out that while I was taking notes, I got the 2 ladies mixed up I don’t know how many times. They look just alike!!!  Nuke: A guy who talks to Jake Busey in one scene and is never heard from again in the movie, but he gets a full into caption nonetheless. I mean, how many people are in the movie??!! Where’s Waldo?

Villains:  Michael Clarke Duncan is Erlik the Crime Boss. He’s actually pretty cool in this movie. The writer gave him really strange monologues about reading the sports pages and honesty at cards. I think he might have gotten the best deal out of this whole thing. Working for Erlik are English (who has the fakest of British accents) and Slag (who has a strange Boy George-type black streak on his shaved noggin). There is also The Viking (played by Vinnie Jones). Allow me to point out here that Vinnie Jones plays the standard short-tempered, slightly psycho Vinnie Jones character as seen in any film he’s ever been in. It’s useful and all, but just once I’d like to see him try his hand at someone a little clumsy, shy and maybe polite. Maybe have him do a comedy where he plays a butler for a zany family or where he’s a pastry chef. Something!

David Carradine plays a crazy doctor who is working for Erlik. I think, in all actuality, any scene with Carradine in it might have been shot for a different film. The camera angles go off-kilter, and the scenes just get weird.  Carradine’s taking his head Nerd status way over the top here. All the scenes come across as a campy late-nite film.

All the scenes with BAG, however, come across as a bad action flick where the hero has emotional baggage that he’s just not ready to deal with yet.  An example: We get a series of flashbacks with Callan and a chick named Zoey (sharpshooter) in an abandoned warehouse. Shots ring out, and since Callan can’t be killed, guess who ate the bullet? I have no idea how much time has passed, but Callan can’t move on beyond this girl’s death. He’s so upset, in fact, that he takes up a relationship with a chick he meets in the bar that night, and she’s immediately the replacement girlfriend. I guess she’s good for him. After all, they did meet during a bar fight with a couple drunk guys. Feisty Girl, as I referred to her in my notes, is conveniently, a self-defense guru. Her actual name is Sunshine. Yeah…..So I guess that whole emotional baggage storyline they introduced was POINTLESS as it seriously never comes into play ever again in the film.

Okay, let me explain the purpose of David Carradine’s whack-job doctor who does little else in the movie except laugh hysterically. Remember that all-powerful Egyptian staff? It comes into play here and now. The Viking is having Carradine collect and test blood from the twelve bloodlines descended from the gods. And that’s his whole role in the movie.

I hope you like reading all these captions, because each time one of Carradine’s henchmen (named Wire and Brute) show up to collect, we get info. The first victim is a girl captioned as “Descendent of Hera: Bloodline 1.” We see Wire and Brute approach her. Then the screen goes black and a caption appears as “Bloodline 1: Complete.” We get the same for the bloodlines of Cronos, Morpheus, Poseidon, and many other Greek gods. Question: How is it that the blood samples of the Greek gods activate the staff of an Egyptian god? Just wondering…

Anyways, Team Cross gets wind of all these people in the bloodlines disappearing, and so they attempt a search and rescue–in an abandoned warehouse. I love how everyone is dressed like a spy or assassin andJake Busey is wearing a bright blue jacket with flames on the sleeves. He’s the funny one in the group. You can just tell.

Our Gang finds the Blood of Hera girl passed out in the warehouse office. Everyone clears out except for Callan who looks around like he’s expecting trouble. He hears voices and someone ZOOMS right past him like the Flash. Cool. Is the Flash in this movie? Hope his amulet is safe. Hard to tell. He’s looking like it’s missing. The amulet is gone!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Flash stole it! Callan is understandably upset over this.  Now he’s the Weakest Link!

At this point, you might be wondering to yourself, Andrea mentioned C. Thomas Howell was in the movie, but she hasn’t said anything about his character yet. Hmmm. Well, there’s a reason for this. He plays a bartender in one scene, and one scene only. He has maybe three lines, and none of them offer sage wisdom or advice.

So okay, here’s the deal. Vinnie Jones, it turns out, stole the amulet from Callan. He’s fast like that and immortal which seems to negate the reason for his needing the amulet but whatever. My “This is Stupid” meter shot off the charts about 17 minutes into the thing, so at this point, I’m rolling with it.  The Viking wants to die. He’s had enough, and the only way he thinks he can get around to dying is if he activates the Staff of Sekhmet.

All this leads to yet another warehouse fight and a major showdown on the roof. By the way, I think the city in this movie must be called Warehouseville. With the exception of a few apartments, bars and a hospital, every single set is in an abandoned warehouse.

The showdown on the roof is definitely action-packed. Bad guys come out from the woodwork, and there are a lot of nifty gunfights and special effects. Will Vinnie Jones activate the staff and kill the world? Will Callan learn that true power comes from within and maybe he doesn’t need his missing amulet to fight evil? Will another hundred characters with nifty names be introduced? You have to watch to see.

Cross was not a good movie. It was fairly stupid and just odd. Characters are introduced and then never heard from again. What happens to David Carradine? I have no idea. The movie never says. Was C. Thomas Howell working that bar in real life or was he bored on a Wednesday evening? No clue. Also, whole scenes involving useless characters, plot-points and the like are played out and then never brought up again. Time wasters!!!

Here is what’s interesting. While not a good movie, Cross was really entertaining. Despite that fact that everyone with a pulse gets a name, you actually learn them pretty fast. The dialogue is campy and feels forced–maybe even a little made up on the spot. But it’s not shabby dialogue. Busey is hilarious in the movie. Any scene with him was a good scene. The action sequences were well-shot and fun to watch.

I think one major problem is that no one knew exactly which movie they were making. Any attempts at drama looked dumb. There’s one scene where Lucia (or is it Juliane?) was attempting to squeeze out a couple tears. Instead, she looked like she was passing a kidney stone.  Action sequences worked the best as I’ve already explained. The sci-fi/fantasy element was interesting, but because there was so much going on, it wasn’t as important as it could have been.  The comedy was okay, but sometimes the movie was funny when I don’t think it meant to be. David Carradine’s scenes (as I’ve already said) came from some other movie that I’m convinced they edited into the final cut.

Final Thoughts:  I honestly think this flick was made out of pocket by and for the director’s friends. I think that was the intended audience for this movie all along. You can tell everyone is having a great time, and I guess at the end of the day, that’s okay. But for those of us who don’t personally know anyone involved with the movie, it’s like trying to understand someone else’s inside joke.  I worry that the cast and filmmakers had such a good time doing this one, that they’ll all get together some summer and make a sequel. And of course, I’ll have to watch it. It’s what I do.

Wolverines and Spiders and Bats—Oh My!

So the new Spider-Man movie releases this week. If you’ve read any of the coverage on this film, you’d know that folks are a bit divided on it. Is it a wise move in rebooting a bankable franchise so soon? What does this say about our Batman prospects since the last installment of that franchise releases this summer?

Bruce is so cool.

I’m a little bit unsure about seeing The Amazing Spider-Man. I sort of feel it is too soon. But then again, the last movie was so bad that I haven’t seen it since that initial ill-fated trip to the theater. Not even Bruce Campbell’s shining beacon of a comedic cameo could save this film. While I enjoyed that scene, along with Topher Grace’s jangly teeth as Venom, and James Franco’s character development as Harry Osborn/ New Goblin, the rest of the movie was pretty much worthy of being in one of my reviews.

First of all, there were too many villains. What allowed the first two Spider-Man movies to work was the concentration on one villain. That’s what went wrong, in my opinion, with the Batman franchise once Joel Schumacher took over. His first foray, Batman Forever, introduced both The Riddler AND Two-Face. We could have done without Two-Face completely. I think it was more of a “how many Bat-villains can we fit into this movie” type thing. Schumacher did the same thing again with Batman & Robin. This time, we had to deal with Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. The movies began to feel more like the Adam West TV-show, and a lot less than the darker storyline that Tim Burton had brought to the screen. I know there are a lot of Burton version naysayers out that, and that’s their opinion. But I think Burton saw the darkness in Batman and put his own spin on that.

Christopher Nolan has also seen the dark side of the Bat, and his versions while not phantasmagorical like Burton’s, are certainly not campy like Schumacher’s. Thank goodness. His movies have been gritty and dark, full of stressful situations and tough decisions. In his movies Batman never has it easy. Every obstacle is a test, and there are no correct answers. But more to that later. Back to the spider issue.

I love Sam Raimi. He’s just awesome. I love the Evil Dead movies, and so I was eagerly on board when the first Spider-Man was released back in 2002. The movie was really cool, and when Spider-Man 2  came out a couple years later, I was happy to go see it. I liked that one as well. But something happened around the time of the third film. I don’t know if it was the studio thinking “Bigger = Better= $$$$$$$$$” or issues with the script or what. But aside from the multiple villain mistake, this movie was all over the place. There was a musical dance number in the movie for Pete’s sake!!! I still cannot get over this. Also, Peter Parker had emo-hair and I swear I saw eyeliner on the boy.

And I’ll be honest here. I like Tobey Maguire, but I’ve never been a big fan of him as a superhero. He just seemed too docile. Now, I know Peter Parker is an every-guy and that’s part of the appeal to the character, but I never saw that drive in him. I never saw that need for revenge coupled with the need to defend people from criminals and ne’er-do-wells. This should have sprouted after the death of his uncle at the hands of a man Peter would have caught much earlier and giving us the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” thing. I know it was there, but maybe it was just too subtle. I just didn’t see it.

And that’s sort of why I’m onboard with Andrew Garfield as Peter/Spidey in the new version. Garfield looks gentle but at the same time, I can see a little edge to him. Did you see him in The Social Network? Most folks did. Now go rent the first Red Riding movie. Edge. Not super-sharp and dangerous, but edge nonetheless. I feel the drive might be there in this movie, with this Peter Parker.

I plan to rent The Amazing Spider-Man. I hope the movie does well, but Spider-Man isn’t my guy. My guy is Batman.

Maybe something isn’t wired quite right in my brain, but I love that man. Spider-Man is, above all else, a do-gooder. Superman, while really cool, is a boy scout. Batman….Batman is vengeance and Sherlock Holmes and obsession and all sorts of mysterious emotional baggage. He’s like a shadowy spy. He’s James Bond without the fanfare. He fights evil without having any kind of superhuman/alien powers. His superpower is his mind. That’s just Andrea-candy, that is.

What about the bad-boy thing? Could it be that? Maybe a little, but really who out there doesn’t find Wolverine to be the #1 pick over Cyclops? I dare you to bring that person to me, and when you do, I’ll call them a liar.

I’ve sort of digressed from my opening bit about the new Spider-Man movie. I’m not sure what point I was making. Oh yeah–is it a gamble? A little bit, but I think to the legions of Spider-Man fans, it’s a no-brainer. Like with me and my Bat, they’ll be in line for any incarnation of their hero. Me? I’m waiting for later this month when I can watch my hero. In the meantime, I’ve got Batman: The Animated Series on my Netflix queue. I hope my next disc gets here soon.