Monday, December 14, 2009

Not In the Christmas Spirit YET? I'm Here to Help.

First, an adorable picture of my cat, Darby, in a gigantic Christmas gift bag.

And now . . . "The Carol of the Bells, Muppet Style

That is all.

Monday, December 7, 2009

I Heart Christmas

Since I work in retail, it would be logical to assume that I am less than fond of Christmas. Nothing could be farther from the truth, however. While working retail during the Christmas season is less than wonderful, I still love the holiday season. I have so many wonderful memories of holiday traditions and fun times around Christmas and New Years!

Part of these memories involve classic Christmas specials, movies, and books. So here are my top five favorite lists for Christmas. Check 'em twice!

Top Five Christmas Movies:

5. Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
This film combines two of my favorite things: Muppets and Dicken's A Christmas Carol. Michael Caine makes a great Ebeneezer Scrooge and all of the classic Muppets make appearances. The film is surprising faithful to the story and is made all the better by the sharp wit of the Jim Henson team.

4. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
This classic story has a beautiful message: "No man is poor who has friends." Beautifully acted by Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Henry Travers, it is truly what Christmas is all about . . . friends, family, and giving to others.

3. A Christmas Carol (1984)
Although the Alastir Sim version is traditionally viewed to be the definitive adaptation, I prefer the 1984 version starring George C. Scott. Exceptionally true to the original story, this version has some of my favorite moments, including the introduction of Ignorance and Want (a chilling moment befitting a good ghost story) and Marley showing Scrooge the destitute woman and child outside his home. Scott is excellent as a gruff and unforgiving Scrooge and Frank Finlay makes for a truly terrifying Marley. If you adore the original text as I do, you will love this version.

2. Love Actually (2003)
Though most view this as a non-holiday movie, it is set mostly at Christmastime and it is one of my favorites. It never fails to put me in a good mood!

1. Scrooged (1988)
Yet another version of Dicken's immortal classic. While it is the least faithful of the adaptations I have listed, it's one of the best. It's hilarious, moving, and full of memorable (and quotable!) moments. Bill Murray, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, and David Johansen make this 1988 film a classic.

Top Five Favorite Christmas Specials:

5. Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
Like the Muppet Christmas Carol, the fun of Mickey's Christmas Carol is seeing many classic Disney characters (Goofy as Marley, Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Willie the Giant as the Ghost of Christmas Present, just to name a few) as characters in the story. One of my childhood favorites!

4. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Although the Rankin-Bass stop-motion features can be a little unnerving at times, they are still classics. What makes Rudolph so special are the memorable songs ("Holly Jolly Christmas", "Silver and Gold", etc.), especially "We're a Couple of Misfits" (which I identified with even as a child), and . . . the Bumble!

3. The Snowman (1982)
With no dialouge, The Snowman is amazing in its effectiveness. The music is beautiful, as is the the imagery of a boy and his magic snowman!

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
This special is dear to my heart. It was a part of every Christmas since I was born and relatives called me Cindy Lou Who because I resembled the small Who in the cartoon. Like It's a Wonderful Life, this one is all about the Christmas spirit.

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
I have always felt a kinship with Charlie Brown, from his disastrous Halloween costume ("I got a rock.") to the sad little tree he picks out in this Christmas special. When I think of Christmas I always think of the Peanuts singing, their faces raised to the sky and their mouths in perfect Os.

Top Five Holiday Books:

5. Twas the Night Before Christmas (2002)
Clement C. Moore's classic poem is brought vividly to life by the beautifully detailed illustrations by Mary Engelbreit. It is a lovely Christmas keepsake that subsequent generations can enjoy.

4. The Little Match Girl (1987)
One of my favorite Hans Christian Anderson tales, with beautiful illustratrions by Rachel Isadora. A poingant and lovely holiday tale.

3. Bialosky's Christmas (1984)
A childhood favorite showing Bialosky Bear getting ready for his Christmas party. I loved this one because Bialosky had many of the same traditions that my family did.

2. The Best Christmas Pagent Ever (1988)
Barbara Robinson's amusing tale of a group of wild, underprivilege children learning the story of Christmas. This one was so great because it was realistic. Definitely a break from the more sickeningly sweet Christmas fare.

1. A Christmas Carol (1843)
You've probably noticed a theme in my favorites. I have loved Dicken's A Christmas Carol for as long as I can remember. We read the book every year at Christmas and for several years in a row saw wonderful productions performed by the Omaha Community Playhouse. I have seen almost all the versions of this classic tale, but the original text still remains my favorite. Dickens is a wonderful writer with many classics to his name, but this is one of his best beloved. If you have not read it, I highly suggest you do so as soon as possible. Make it one of your new Christmas traditions!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Rocks!

So, I had a turkey-less Thanksgiving which was awesome . . . but that's not the best part. The best part is that we saw Pirate Radio (originally The Boat That Rocked) and IT WAS AWESOME! See it. See it now. Are you going yet? Are you?

Maybe you need convincing . . . It has Bill Nighy (Davy Jones from Pirates of the Carribean). It has Nick Frost (of Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz/"Spaced" fame). It has BOTH Chris O'Dowd and Katherine Parkinson (Roy and Jen from "It Crowd"). AND . . . it has some seriously rocking tunes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Paradise in Plasticine

So, we just got finished watching an episode of "James May's Toy Stories". We learned a lot about plasticine, but mostly we learned that a lot of people who are super serious about gardening are kind of mean.

The "real" gardeners came to make fun of James May (and some were downright insulting) and his plasticine (modeling clay to us Americans) flowers. Apparently, he was being "low-class", "vulgar", and "tarnishing the repuation of the horticultural community". Never mind that the majority of the flowers were made by hardworking British people, including veterans of the British army. The garden was beautiful, cheerful, and probably the closest many Britons would get to showcase in the Chelsea flower show.

Initially, the judges looked down their noses at May's work of art, but then had to scramble to throw some praise his way when the plasticine garden was clearly the public's favorite.

Personally, I think the detractors were not worried about the horticulturalists reputation as much as they were jealous.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Book vs. Movie: The Eternal Debate

Most intellectually-minded people will insist that the book is usually better. I usually like to watch the flick first and then read the book, because it allows me to view the two as separate entities. On the whole, I get personally attached to books much more easily than films (although I am a film lover, as well). If I see the film first, I can enjoy it without missing my favorite parts from the book that they didn't include. It also makes reading the book more enjoyable, because it's always exciting to find the extra little story facets that books invariably include.

With short stories that are adapted for films, it gets a little dicey. Often, the short story can easily stand on its own, and the extraneous story added to make the film at least 90 minutes seems like filler. It's very hard to turn a short story into a movie and do it right. Two of my favorites are both based on Stephen King stories, The Mist and 1408.

King's story "The Mist" is a solid, creepy story that uses a menacing mist and sci-fi creatures as a smoke screen for a good old-fashioned claustrophobic cabin fever mob mentality tale.

Along the same line, Frank Darabont's (of The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption fame) The Mist looks like a high-budget sci-fi creature feature, but is just as compelling and well-acted (especially by veteran actress Marcia Gay Harden) as any of his other films. It jives with the original story and doesn't make you feel like you've watched 30 minutes of decent plot packed with 60 minutes of fluff. It is everything you expect from an excellent adaptation.

Even more rarely, you get an adaptation that surpasses the story, which is the case of Mikael Hafstrom's 1408. King's story is essentially about a jaded writer who writes about haunted places, but doesn't actually believe in ghosts or spirituality. He visits a supposedly haunted hotel and believes he'll have a routine stay, but is overcome by the unexplainable happenings in his room. For King, it's a fairly subtle story, with few of his normal shockers. It's a good story, but not one of his best.

The film, on the other hand, seems more like King's work than the original. It's got the black humor and dread-inducing creepy moments that you've come to expect from the Master of Horror. Of course, the film's quality is mostly due to its two principles, John Cusack and Samuel Jackson. Cusack is pitch-perfect as the talented writer turned tortured skeptical hack, but it is Jackson's performance that makes the film refreshing. He plays an urbane and vaguely menacing hotel manager who warns Cusack's character several times to avoid room 1408. Hafstrom is good in his own right. He plays some interesting games with the audience, including making us wonder if Jackson's character is truly the manager, or a product of the room (reminiscent of The Shining). The use of The Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" at pivotal scary moments is also a killer move (I'll never think of that song the same way again). And, while the original is good, the film is much better. (I would reccommend Hafstrom's original director's cut ending rather than the theatrically released finale.)

Check out both stories and both films. Even if you disagree with me one way or another, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hallelujah! (Spoiler Alerts for "How I Met Your Mother" & "Big Bang")

After a crap day of work, I was elated to find that Robin and Barney broke up (finally . . . thank God). The show gained a little bit of its funny back. It was like a huge weight was lifted!

"Big Bang" was awesome as usual. For the record, I totally side with Leonard. If his ex-girlfriend crashed on his couch and he didn't tell Penny until the last minute, she would have a cow. It's common courtesy to ask your significant other. Stuart (the comic book guy) was as sweet and funny as ever, and the line about Howard being the closest thing to the Koothrappalis' daughter-in-law was priceless!

Only two more days till "Glee"!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bwa ha ha ha ha . . .

Chris Gore (AOTS's film reviewer) posted this on Twitter today and I was rolling on the floor. I always feel sad for people like this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thank God for Netflix!

Halloween is one of my favorite times of year. We had wonderful traditions when I was growing up . . . decorating the house, trips to Vala's Pumpkin Patch (singing Pumpkin Carols on the way), watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and "A Garfield Halloween" on TV, hot cider steeped with cloves, carving pumpkins, creating elaborate construction paper witches, watching the costume-making process as my mom laboriously worked on beautiful outfits, costume parties with my parents' friends, and trick or treating with my Dad (wearing his arrow-through-the-head, as always).

As an adult, I've kept a few of the originals (decorating, hot cider, "Great Pumpkin" and "Garfield Halloween", and carving pumpkins) and developed some of my own traditions, mostly around watching mass quantities of scary movies. I read Ghost Story by Peter Straub every year around this time, and after reading John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Right One In, I may add that as well. As far as guilty pleasures go, Bravo shows it's countdown of "100 Scariest Movie Moments" and AMC usually runs all three Omen movies on Halloween night. To my shock and horror, neither one of these events is taking place this year! Bravo, in between inane repeats of "Housewives of Orange County" has "13 Scarier Movie Moments", which is a measly 1 hour long special, and there is no mention of the Omen films anywhere on the TV Guide schedule. Luckily, I've been able to watch the "Scariest Movie Moments" special online (not quite as good, but better than nothing) and thanks to Netflix, I will be spending my Halloween with Damien Thorne once again.

Another of my favorite Halloween traditions is the Midnite Movie at the Esquire Theater here in Denver. Although the Midnite Movie runs throughout the year on weekends, they always pick an especially scary film for the week of Halloween. This year does not disappoint, as the flick will be The Exorcist! See it this weekend . . . if you dare!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WHEATON!!! (WARNING: Serious Spoilers for this Week's "Big Bang Theory")

Seriously, how awesome was Wil Wheaton in this week's "Big Bang Theory"? He didn't have a huge role, but it was sooo funny to see him lay the smack down on Sheldon. (Especially since I have a hunch he's a super nice guy in real life.) Raj was also pretty hilarious and it's nice to see that his character is getting more good lines. (My personal favorite so far: "I swear to cow.") Another refreshing new development: Howard actually connected with a girl without totally creeping her out!

The nice thing about the series is that the secondary characters can pick up the slack where the main characters fall a bit flat. As happy as I was to see Leonard and Penny hook up, their relationship isn't a sparky as it was when Leonard loved her from afar. (Hopefully it's just a transitional period.) The finally getting together can suck the life out of most shows. Perfect example: Robin and Barney's relationship is killing "How I Met Your Mother". I mean, come on, a huge part of the show is Barney scoring with random chicks and being an ass. Luckily for "Big Bang" all of the recurring characters are strong performers, which makes the damage minimal. (There were some cute moments with them, though. I loved the Google bit.) I think as long as they play up the other characters strengths, Leonard and Penny can be as cutesy-wutesy as they wanna be (well . . . almost).

Incidentally, Wil Wheaton has a pretty awesome blog (with a post about tonight's episode). Check it out!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Certified Gleek

I love Fox's "Glee". Unfortunately for the show, this pretty much seals its doom. Every show I've loved and been excited to watch (with the exceptions of "Big Bang Theory" and "Mad Men") has been swiftly cancelled with little to no mercy. Don't believe me? Look at the fates of "My So-Called Life", "Popular", "Freaks and Geeks", "Carnivale", "Dead Like Me", and most depressing of all - "Pushing Daisies." (By the way, someone owes Bryan Fuller big time.) It seems like any time a show is a little to close to home or a little too quirky, the network gods squash it into a crimson stain on the TV Guide schedule. I understand that it has to do with ratings and viewers and all that crap, but it's really frustrating seeing mind-numbing shows like "Flavor of Love" (which had several seasons!), "Real World" (seriously, they're still making these?), and "American Idol/Dancing with the Stars/So You Think You Can Dance", et al become a part of the American lexicon. I am a firm believer that you lose IQ points watching these shows. And a smart, fun, unusual show can't catch a break. What is wrong with this picture?

"Glee", like all the shows that were mercilessly cancelled after their 1st or 2nd season, is amazing. It deserves a fair shot, but it probably won't get one. Not enough people are watching it or not enough of the right people are watching it. There will be some lame excuse as to why it won't get picked up and television viewers will suffer for it. And then when the next awesome show comes along, we'll get attached and love it, and it, too, will die a premature death.

I hate to be so pessimistic, but unfortunately, I've been burned too many times. I sincerely hope that "Glee" gets the chance it so richly deserves, but I have to be prepared for the worst. I'm crossing my fingers for it to get picked up again, but at the very least if it's going to end, I'm hoping it doesn't end with a cliffhanger. Or is that too much to ask, Fox?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I posted my list of top five zombie movies and realized that there is SO much zombie stuff right now.

Kris, who is not a big reader, devoured (pun intended) Max Brooks's World War Z and Zombie Survival Guide (which was actually a birthday present for me, thank you very much!). Brooks presents the zombie apocalypse as an eventuality that the world must prepare for and the Survival Guide instructs you on how to defend yourself against the walking dead. World War Z is the "history" of the life-as-we-know-it ending war against the zombies. If you are a zombie fan, these are essential for your library.

The Starz channel, which has some of the best documentaries on horror flicks (Fantastic Flesh is amazing . . . find it on Netflix), is currently running Zombiemania on Starz OnDemand. There are interviews with George Romero, makeup and FX specialists Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero, and Max Brooks, among others. It pretty much goes into detail about most of the movies I discussed in my previous post and discusses the cultural significance of zombies.

There are countless zombie fiction books out there, bordering on becoming a separate genre, but the most surprising example combines fine English literature and the awesomeness of zombies. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Seth Grahame-Smith, with a co-author credit for Jane Austen) inserts a zombie warrior subplot into the original text of Pride and Prejudice. I have read excerpts, but the cover alone is hilarious enough to want to buy it. (Also available from Grahame-Smith - Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters). There is also a wealth of zombie graphic novels, and capitalizing on the success of Zombie Survival Guide are books like Zombies for Zombies, etc.

There are, of course, the zombie video games as well . . . multitudinous Resident Evils and the more recent Left 4 Dead series.

And finally, while it's not technically about zombies, Stephen King's Cell is reminiscent of the zombie genre and offers the same social commentary found in most zombie fiction and films. Even if you are not a King fan (which you should be), it is an awesome book. The book on tape (available through bookstores and iTunes) is a great alternative due to the excellent voice work of veteran actor Campbell Scott.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Being a huge zombie movie fan, I had to see Zombieland. Kris and I went to see it on opening night, and we weren't disappointed. It was funny, gory, and full of pop culture references - everything we could ask for in a zombie movie. I highly recommend the flick. See it with zombie-loving friends. I'd say more, but I don't want to give anything away.

It did get me thinking about my favorite zombie movies, and I've compiled a list of my top five.*

#5: Day of the Dead (George Romero, 1985) Straight-forward zombie apocolypse flick that would be unmemorable if not for six little words . . . . "Choke on 'em! Choke on 'em!" (This clip has fairly gory special effects, so not for the faint of heart. Click at your own risk.)

#4: Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968) The original and quintessential zombie flick makes the list for the nearly unprecedented use of an African-American hero and the distopic ending. It's also got a creepy kid zombie and is pretty darn scary for using chicken cutlets as body parts.

#3: Fido (Andrew Currie, 2006) It has an awesome cast (Scottish comedian Billy Connolly and Matrix star Carrie-Anne Moss) and a kitschy-cool storyline. After a cataclysmic zombie war in an alternate universe 1950s, zombies are captured, collared, and turned into servants. It's funny and sweet and satirical, which sounds counterintuitive for a zombie movie, but it definitely works. Highly underrated and worth the watch.

#2: Zombieland (Ruben Fleischer, 2009) . . . yes it is that good. Go see it to find out why.

#1: Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright 2004) Zombie purists may scoff, but Shaun of the Dead has it all. Underdog heroes, comic relief, nods to other films in the genre, loads of pop culture references, human and zombie killings alike, and scads of quoteable lines.

*Remember, these are MY top five, not the end all and be all of zombie movies. I'm sure you have your own list and your own reasons for ranking them as such.

By the way . . . you've got red on you.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Can Someone Please Call the Whaambulance?

This is a digression from my regular topics, but here goes: It's official . . . the Phillies fans are whiny babies. I'm not a fan of baseball (I could care less if the Rockies go to the Series), but even I am sick of the Phillies fans moaning about the times of the game not being "convenient" and the temperature making it hard for their guys to play. Guess what? When our teams have to play on the East Coast at 7:00, we're all still at work and that's inconvenient for us too. No one here cries into their beer and threatens to call the commissioner. And if they did, we'd tell them the same thing: Get over it. As for the temperature, not only is Philadelphia cold, it's also humid, which makes the cold ten times worse. At least we're in a dry climate and you don't feel like the wind is going to slice you open with a knife. If you're really a serious fan, you'll suck it up and spend your time rooting for your team instead of threatening to write Major League Baseball letters that will do absolutely jack.

Friday, October 2, 2009

You Are Travelling Through Another Dimension . . .

Today is the 50th anniversary of one of my favorite shows . . . "The Twilight Zone". The Sci-Fi Channel (and not the Sy Fy Channel . . . I categorically refuse to spell it that way) ran a mini-marathon of the show, which usually makes it's appearance on odd holidays (Labor Day, 4th of July, New Year's Eve). But more importantly . . . Bif Bang Pow Toys is releasing a trio of "Twilight Zone" bobbleheads in honor of the milestone!

There's the Talky Tina bobblehead from the episode "Living Doll" (starring Telly Savalas, pre-Kojak fame). The bobblehead talks, saying her memorable line "My name is Talky Tina and I'm going to kill you!" The price for this item is $17.99, due to the talking feature.

The second in the series is the spacetastic Invader Bobblehead from the episode "The Invaders", starring Agnes Moorhead(Endora from "Bewitched"). It retails for $12.99.

And finally, from one of my favorite episodes, "Nick of Time" (starring William Shatner), there's the Mystic Seer bobblehead. Fashioned to look like the dinerrific tabletop fortune teller, this bobblehead comes with fortune-telling cards. It is also $12.99

You can pre-order yours at for November delivery! I know I will!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nerdfest 2009

Kris's 26th birthday was earlier this month, and we celebrated by throwing him a big bash at my aunt's house. It was nerd-themed and awesomeness abounded. I made the cake from the video game Portal and most of the guests dressed like stereotypical nerds.

Kris as Bill Gates
Bill Gates Badge

Nerdy Guests!

My Portal Cake vs Portal Cake in Game

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Long Time, No Post

So, obviously since I haven't posted since May, I've been a little busy. Lots of stuff going on including me getting promoted, the death of Kris's Corolla in a sad-but-true accident, and Kris getting a new job - in computers no less!

So, here's a quickie update . . . I got promoted to manager in June, which was exciting because I now work full time and make over $10 an hour for the first time in my life! (And there was much rejoicing . . . yay.) Kris got into a moderately bad car accident the day before he left to meet me in Omaha (suckage), but because the car was paid off, he got a hefty insurance payout. He bought a moderately priced car, which left us enough money to pay off some bills and buy a few fun toys. We now have a 42" flat screen TV and I finally have a laptop (Aww . . . I love you Lappy!)! Proof positive that good can come from bad. And, finally, the most exciting news . . . Kris is no longer a mechanic. He is now a IT guy for a bank! Instead of slaving away in a hot bay, he now gets to spend 12 hours a day (3-4 days a week) watching a bank of computers. Sounds boring to me, but he loves it.

The reason I decided to pick this blog up again is that there is a TON of new stuff geared for geeks coming out and I am very excited!

Thanks to a generous gift of a Red Lobster gift card, we got to go out on a cute lil' married date tonight and we saw Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs . . . which was awesome. So many funny jokes, especially if you are a geek/nerd. If it seems like little kid fare, think again. Even though it's animated and technically made for little kids, I felt like it really appealed to adults, and mostly to those who suffered being made fun of for being different throughout their childhood, adolescence, and probably early adulthood. Go see it and go see it in 3D, the flying food makes the extra $3.50 worth it!

Among the flurry of trailers before the movie was the Fathom Event sponsored encore of Rifftrax presents Plan Nine From Outer Space! For those not in the know, Rifftrax is the brainchild of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" alums Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett. It's basically the same concept as "MST3K" (making fun of movies), but applied to a wide variety that include cult classics, big blockbusters, and new releases (Twilight, for example). You can download the audio tracks of the riffs and begin them simultaneously with the film. Ed Wood's iconic and reviled Plan Nine From Outer Space is torn to pieces for the delight of theater audiences on October 8th, 2009 at 7:30 PM in participating theaters all over this great nation. Click here for more info and/or to snap up your tickets. (We already got ours!)

Among the many new TV series premiering this fall (and the return of our favorites . . . "Big Bang Theory", we're looking in your direction!), my personal favorite is "Glee". A shy Spanish teacher attempts to resuscitate the once-great glee club, while dealing with his own personal problems. Will Schuester, tired of the favoritism placed on the lucrative McKinley High cheerleading squad (the Cheerios) coached by Sue Sylvester (the always hilarious Jane Lynch), decides to recruit students into "glee" and return as regionals champs. He finds that the kids attracted to the glee club are (of course) the school's social misfits . . . an overachieving fame-crazed brainy girl with an awesome voice but horrible social skills, a shy, stuttering punk/goth girl, a divaesque plus-size chick with a powerhouse voice, a wheelchair bound nebbish guy who can sing and rock the guitar, a stereotypically gay kid who has a choirboy voice, and the typical dumb jock with a deep side.

The music is amazing (a mix of show tunes, Top 40 hits, and classics) and the performers are extremely talented. There are a lot of funny moments (high school football team dancing to "Single Ladies" during a game, anyone?) and if you you're a drama/musical fan, you'll love this show. While it has it's fair share of stereotyped characters and situations, the show does try to use them in original ways (think "Popular" and The Breakfast Club). "Glee" is on Wednesday nights on Fox at 9:00 PM.

A show I just discovered (thank you, Netflix Instant) that probably everyone else knows about is "The IT Crowd". For those of you, who like me, are slow on the uptake, "The IT Crowd" is the BBC series about the disgruntled IT Department at mega-conglomerate Reynholm Industries. Roy (Chris O'Dowd) and Moss (Richard Ayoade) are the poor, put-upon peons of the company. Forced to work in the dank basement of the otherwise slick, modern office building, they are joined by Jen (Katherine Parkinson), their new manager, who knows nothing about computers. She decides to be their go-between, and hopes to make them more "normal". An added bonus is the appearance of Noel Fielding (of "Mighty Boosh" fame) as the up-and-comer turned Gothic prodigal son, Richmond Avenal. British humor combined with nerdiness makes an awesomely quirky and addicting show that every geek, nerd, and dork should check out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Entertaining My Inner Child

We went to see Star Trek this weekend and during the trailers, Kris leaned over to me and said, "It's like they're replaying my childhood!" Many of the Summer blockbusters do have a familiar ring . . . Terminator, Transformers, Star Trek, Land of the Lost, etc. All they need now is a live action "Masters of the Universe" flick (which I'm sure is probably in the works even as I type this) and we'll be transported back to the awesomeness of the early 80s!

This brings up the question, however, where is the orginality in movies? Why are there so many remakes . . . from horror flicks to retro throwbacks? I hear the disdain from my friends when yet another shoddy rehash of a horror movie pops up on the Coming Attractions and I myself am guilty of rolling my eyes and exclaiming, "Why can't someone come up with an original idea?" The thing is, though, many of our beloved childhood/adolescent films have been inspired by previous ideas. My favorite Disney films come from children's literature and fairy tales. The "Transformers" cartoon series (the originator of the Transformers films) is actually a Japanese cartoon from the 70s that Americans appropriated for their own use (ditto "Sailor Moon").

It's not so much the originality that should be called into question, but the quality. Filmmakers should be examining the original film and saying, "Is my version going to be as good as the original? What do I have to bring to the table? Will the newer version resonate like the original did?" Instead of slapping together a poorly written script, casting a few big(ish) name actors to draw in crowds, and loading the film with CGI special effects, shouldn't they be concentrating on the things that made the first film, TV show, or book so memorable and effective?

For instance, the reason why Watchmen was so effective, in my opinion, was because the filmmakers genuinely sought to honor the spirit, message, and appearance of the comic book. Now, that's not to say there weren't flaws (the over-abundant visuals of Dr. Manhattan and the ridiculous and unrealistic sex scene between Nite Owl and Silk Spectre II, just to name two), but the heart and soul of the original source was there. The parts were carefully cast (with the exception of Malin Akerman) and the story, for the most part was intact. I know die-hard Watchmen comic fans might not agree, but I felt that the separation 0f The Black Freighter as its own entity and the exclusion of the Ozymandias-created giant squid made the film more accessible to those who had not previously read the book and subsequently made more Watchmen fans. The film was a good example of how filmmakers can take an idea from another medium and adapt it for the screen without losing what made the original great.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Don't Look Now . . . Good Advice?

Don't Look Now (1973)

Directed by Nicolas Roeg

Starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie

So, apparently you can feel meh about Don't Look Now. It seems like the kind of movie that arty film buffs think you should like, but it doesn't quite deliver.

After the accidental drowning death of their young daughter, Christine, John and Laura Baxter travel to Venice for a "working vacation" as John restores an old Venetian church. While there, Laura meets two sisters who claim they see Christine's presence trying to contact the couple. Laura becomes obsessed with finding out more, but John is skeptical. In the periphery, a serial killer is murdering young women all around Venice. John repeatedly sees a small figure in a red raincoat who reminds him of his deceased daughter. As he pursues the figure, he begins to question his wife's sanity and that of his own.

The cinematography is beautiful in that ethereal 70s way (a la The Omen and Rosemary's Baby), especially the opening scene. Roeg juxtaposes the two Baxter children playing outside with the interior scene of their parents working on individual projects and chatting. He plays with motifs throughout the movie, including the color red, breaking glass, and doubles. The film was shot on location in Venice, which means the backdrop is gorgeous and mood enhancing. There's a slow buildup of suspense that you don't find in many modern movies. All of the elements are there for a wonderful thriller, but the true scare never comes.

The film's flaws overshadow it's good points. There's an unneeded, ridiculously long sex scene (the director's reasoning was to balance out the constant bickering between husband and wife through the rest of the movie, but I'm not buying it). The buildup of suspense is far too slow and never reaches a climax. The ultimate flaw, however, is the ending. It's bizarre (and not in a good way) and it leaves you with an unfinished, unsatisfying "huh?" feeling.

I think this is a great experience for film students, but it's definitely not for mainstream horror fans. For those that want to know the ending without watching the movie, check out Bravo's "100 Scariest Horror Movie Moments" (Don't Look Now is 22) and watch classic horror films like The Omen, Rosemary's Baby, and The Wicker Man instead.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Random Thoughts about Thursday Night Television

I am increasingly entertained by the wide spectrum of reviews in Comcast programming descriptions. The majority are pretty straight forward, but occasionally you'll get an odd one. My personal favorite at the moment? The description for the god-awful Hitcher remake: "Thumbs down on this slapdash remake of the 1986 chiller about a couple who pick up a psychopathic hitchhiker!" Why can't they all be this honest? (Incidentally, be sure to watch the original Hitcher with C. Thomas Howell, though. It's a classic slasher/car chase flick that's worth a viewing.)

I also love the FearNet descriptions on On Demand. Check out this one for The Dentist: "Dr. Feinstein is the coolest dentist ever! His office is all tricked out with different theme rooms. It's really fun! That is, until he catches his wife with the pool boy. And he goes nuts. And starts torturing his patients. But hey, before that, fun guy!" They're not all gems, but a lot of them crack me up.

There are clips for "Bob the Builder" on the On Demand menu and I just realized that Greg Proops is the voice of Bob. This seems vaugely disturbing in a way I can't quite explain. Maybe it has something to do with him also voicing a expletive-laden commentary on the ultra-violent (but also very cool) MadWorld for the Wii. Obviously, celebrities can simultaneously do children's shows and violent video games, but it did make me do a double take.

Well, I'm off to watch Don't Look Now. Expect the next post to be a strongly worded review, mostly because it seems like one of those movies that you either love or hate.