Sunday, May 31, 2009

I'm A Sam Raimi Fan Again

During the '80s and early '90s, I was a huge Sam Raimi fan. During that time, he made a string of over-the-top movies that have subsequently become cult classics. His gonzo, in-your-face style set him apart from every director out there, making him my favorite director at the time.

But then, Raimi decided that he no longer wanted to be an original and extraordinary director, and started making movies that were as edgy as a bowling ball. When Spiderman emerged from copyright Hell and Raimi was tapped to write and direct, I thought maybe Raimi would snap back to form and would bring some of his directorial craziness to a movie series that would benefit greatly from it. But he directed those movies with all the flair and panache of Brett Ratner. Raimi had officially become a Directron 5000, turning out movies as standard and as boring as those made by any other nameless hack.

The selling-out of Sam Raimi was complete; he was dead to me.

Then I hear that Raimi was directing a horror movie called Drag Me to Hell, which was exciting for me, because Raimi's previous horror movies are what made me a fan in the first place. But considering the movie is rated PG-13, which...a PG-13 horror movie is an oxymoron along the lines of a virgin whore, and the fact that the numerous horror movies that Raimi has produced during the '00s have all left something to be desired, I was pretty non-plussed. But, I went and saw the movie anyway, because I figured I'd give one of my former faves one last chance.

And I couldn't have been more pleased. The Sam Raimi of old is back.

All of the zany directorial flourishes that Raimi appeared to have lost over the past decade are back in full effect. The whip pans, extreme close-ups, even the classic "shaky cam" are all put to good use. Raimi can't seem go five minutes without putting something absolutely disgusting on the screen; it may be PG-13, but it's a hard PG-13, if you can imagine such a thing. And even though the movie has a ridiculous plot and set pieces that are laughably stupid, Raimi doesn't even attempt to take himself seriously. Playing this movie straight would be death, but Raimi goes for laughs as much as scares and manages to dole out an equal number of both. This is exactly what I expected and needed from a Sam Raimi horror movie.

The Sam Raimi I loved as a kid is back, and I'm tentatively calling myself a fan again. Thomas Wolfe once postulated that you couldn't go home again, returning to your roots once you've found success elsewhere. Well, Sam Raimi has, and I hope he stays there.

And, as long as you're here, take a moment and vote in the poll for your favorite "old school" Raimi movie.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Summertime Blues

Now that TV is officially on summer vacation, my DVR sits dormant, with nothing to tape on a nightly basis. Until TV resumes in September, I've had to find programming to watch in the interim.

Oh, I know I could catch up on my reading, sure. Chuck Palahniuk has a new book out, which I actually started. But it's written in such an unreadable prose that it makes A Clockwork Orange read like Fun with Dick and Jane. So, I'm pretty soured on reading right now.

However, there are still things to watch on TV, and here's what I'm watching to pass the summer months:

Rescue Me (FX)
Rescue Me should be done by now, but FX has been nice enough to produce a double season of 22 episodes, so there's still half a season to go. And, now that The Shield is gone, this is the best show on FX, which, honestly, is really saying something. And, once that wraps up in September, stick around for Sons of Anarchy.

Jon & Kate Plus 8 (TLC)
I really hate this show. The few episodes I've seen in the past have basically been about how boring it is to have eight children. And, when you've got a show this boring, you've got to spice it up a little to keep people watching. So, all of the sudden, both Jon and Kate are "having affairs." Suddenly, they're on the cover of every tabloid and their show is hot. Not that I will watch it, because it's still a stupid show about having eight kids, but it is something to watch. (And what's up with Kate's hair? Russell Brand wears that same hairdo for shock value, but does she really think that looks good?)

Life Without People (The History Channel)
An absolutely fascinating show that speculates what would happen to our planet if the human race were to just suddenly cease to exist. It's somewhat depressing to think that the only reason Mother Nature hasn't completely destroyed civilization is that humans are able to rebuild it faster than she can tear it down.

Mythbusters (Discovery Channel)
This has been on forever, and never fails to be interesting. I'm amazed at the lengths they'll go to disprove the dumbest things. And tune in an hour early to catch Time Warp, which shows what science looks like at 5000 frames per second.

Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
Ever since Six Feet Under and The Sopranos aired their long-overdue finales, and Rome and Deadwood got canceled, HBO has ceased to be the place for "Must See TV" on premium cable. That mantle has been taken over by Showtime, which puts out show after quality show. Their newest is Nurse Jackie, in which Edie Falco plays a saintly nurse who also happens to be a terrible human being. It doesn't technically start until June 8, but you can check out the pilot on-demand. And, if you tune in on the 8th, be sure to come a half hour early and catch the fifth season premiere of Weeds.

Pushing Daisies (ABC)
Seeing as ABC was dumb enough to air their ratings darling Dancing with the Stars during the spring, they've got absolutely nothing to show during the summer. So, they're showing all the remaining episodes of the shows they canceled this season. Which gives everyone a chance to watch Pushing Daisies before it goes away forever. There's only three episodes left, and ABC, for some unknown reason, has chosen to pull the previously-available past episodes from their website (yet you can watch as many episodes of According to Jim and Supernanny as you please). So, if you miss them, you miss them. And that would make you an idiot.

Three months seems like a long time, but it goes fast if you've got good shows to watch.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Don't Get It

Last night, I fucked around and finally saw the international smash hit Twilight. I'd taken a pass on seeing it, because...well, it's just a movie I had no desire to see. But The Girl swears by it. She's read all the Twilight books and has seen the movie twice. So, since she seems to like it, I thought I'd give it a go. And I really don't get what the big deal is about.

Don't get me wrong: I actually like vampires and their associated media. I'm the only person I know who's actually read Dracula. I've even read Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, the book that gave Bram Stoker the idea for Dracula. In terms of movies, the string of vampire movies that Hammer Films produced during the '60s and '70s are some of my favorite horror films. So I'm down with the whole vampire thing. But I just can't even claim to understand what's to like about Twilight.

These vampires, the Cullens, are the lamest bunch of lame-asses ever assembled. They don't drink the blood of humans because they don't want to kill anyone. They can't go out in the sun because their skin shimmers like diamonds in direct sunlight. And even though they're not actually related, they all live together in a beautiful modern home as a nice, nuclear family. When Bella comes to visit, they welcome her into their home and are nice enough to cook her a lovely non-blood dinner. They even go outside later to play a nice game of family baseball.

Vampires. Really.

It's like Stephanie Meyer, the writer of the Twilight books, has taken the beautiful, romanticized versions of vampires from Anne Rice's novels and removed all the terrible and evil (and slightly gay) aspects of those vampires, leaving only a completely sterile version of vampires whose most difficult burden in life is how much product to put in their hair.

I guess this is what you get when a practicing Mormon writes a vampire book. All the lusty and eroticized elements are removed, replaced with good Christian values and a lot of hand holding and longing glances and "oh, I'll die without you." In fact, if you take out the vampire element altogether, what you have is a very bad version of Romeo and Juliet, where the characters unfortunately live on for three more books. (Even The Girl admits that the books are about as engaging as drying paint.)

So, as a vampire fan, I just cannot get into this whole Twilight thing, as it's basically just a teen romance with vampires who are vampires in name only. And, seeing as I'm not a teenage girl, I think they suck.

I'll take Christopher Lee's Dracula over Robert Pattison's Edward any day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sony Cannibalizes Itself

I've made it no secret that I think Sony does some incredibly stupid things (read my previous rants here and here and even here). Ragging on Sony is something I love, because I can't think of a bigger company that has, in the name of the almighty dollar, done so many things that end up costing it money.

But it's been a while since I've been able to rip on Sony. They were victorious in their format war with HD-DVD (a first for Sony) and they finally managed to pull into second place in the console wars, a miracle, considering the PS3 is priced $100 more than the Xbox 360.

In April, Sony lowered the price of the PS2 to $99. Sony has been extremely loyal to the PS2, still continuing to put out a full roster of games for the console that has made them hundreds of millions of dollars. But, a price drop is to be expected, as the system is nearing the end of its life cycle, and the price drop usually signals the beginning of the end for a console. But maybe they'll reconsider, as reports are coming out that the PS3 has dropped to fourth in console sales behind the Wii, the Xbox 360, and (wait for it)...the PS2.

Yes, by dropping the price of the PS2, Sony has managed to cannibalize sales of the PS3 from itself. They are barely able to turn a profit on the PS3, and they lose sales on it by discounting their last-generation system. It just goes to show you that, regardless of how many bells and whistles it buys you, $300 is $300.

I suspect that legendary Sony founder Akio Morita, who turned Sony into the media giant it is today, is spinning in his grave right now.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Finals Week Is Over

Now that all of the season finales have aired, here's my thoughts on how some of my favorite shows ended up (oh, and if I ruin one of your shows, it's not my fault that you can't keep up with your TiVo):

Chase and Cameron get married, and House ends up in the nuthatch. This show is exactly on pace for where it should be.

I really have no idea what happened in Fringe's finale, as my DVR failed to record the end. American Idol runs long every Tuesday and Fringe, in terms of actual program v. commercials, is one of the longest shows on TV, so I always miss the end of it. I'm just glad it's coming back next season; maybe then I'll find out what happened.

The Unit
Betty Blue gets married, Colonel Ryan takes his promotion, and Jonas' wife leaves him. Actually, a very good finale, one that wrapped things up nicely, since CBS canceled the show a week later. But, never fear, fans: it'll be back with new episodes in syndication, so check your local listings next season.

The Mentalist
The thing I've always enjoyed about The Mentalist was that, unlike all the other Crime Shows on CBS (seriously: the Miniature Killer?!?), every episode was not about a serial killer. Mind you, the reason that Patrick Jane does what he does is because his family was serially murdered, but it's not the focus of the show. In fact, it was only mentioned twice during the first season. The thing I liked about the show was the fact that it's not deadly serious about itself and that it messes around a bit, something that's hard do when you're focused on catching a serial killer. And it's this quality, that it's actually fun to watch Patrick Jane fuck around with people, that made me prefer it over Lie to Me, the other show with this same premise (and only had one serial killer episode). So, all that being said, why, oh why, did they decide to end the season with a serious-as-cancer-serial-killer downer of an episode? I'm beginning to think these shows actually hate their audiences.

Why is this show still on the air? It jumped the shark as soon as Hiro jumped into feudal Japan, which happened waaaaay back in the first season finale. Two season later, it's just a mess. It keeps trying to reinvent itself ala Lost, with disastrous results. It's like when John Byrne tried to update Superman and Spiderman by rewriting their origins in their respective comics: the fans hated it and those changes have since been forgotten. But, hey: If Spiderman can make a deal with the Devil to annul his marriage to Mary Jane Watson (and destroy 22 years worth of continuity in the process), then I guess it's all right for Nathan and Syler to be the same person.

While I like 24 and do mostly enjoy the show, really: how many terrorist plots does Jack Bauer need to foil in a day? Can't you just have him just work on one giant one, instead of having to tackle a new one every five or so hours? Not that the show is realistic in the least, but credibility gets stretched to the breaking point when Jack ends up saving the world at least four times during a day (AND while he's dying of a viral infection, no less). And what's with the new liberal slant to the show, where suddenly everyone is completely abhorred by Jack's methods of violence and torture, and treat him as though he is the lowest piece of shit on the face of the Earth, even though he has saved Los Angeles from complete destruction at least a dozen times? And I'm glad to see that, after a few seasons of rest, they hauled out the old "Kim Bauer in Peril" storyline again; I thought maybe they'd sneak Audrey Rains in there, too, but got disappointed on that one. About the only good thing I have to say about the season is that I was glad to see they figured out a way to write Aaron Pierce, who's the only character besides Jack to appear in every season, back into the show; here's to hoping he's still there next season.

Grey's Anatomy
So, basically, Katherine Heigel and T.R. Knight get the off-season to decide if they want to continue on the show or not, since they both got killed off. My guess is no on both, Heigel because she could probably be successful in a movie career (and because everyone appears to hate her), and Knight because, well, he got written off the show, plain and simple. The only characters on the show who actually have less going on than George are Dr. Sloan and Lexie, but they conveniently happen to be dating each other, so they actually have a plotline. Which leaves George, who, if you count off all the characters in pairs, is the only one who doesn't have anyone with which to interact without being a third wheel. So, goodbye to him. (Oh, and if you think George's death was totally shocking, remember when Omar Epps was on E.R. 12 years ago? He got killed off that show the same way George did. So much for originality.) I also thought it was rather clever that they figured out a way to postpone the big "Wedding Event" until a future sweeps period; these TV people are fucking geniuses!!

I've come to expect all kinds of craziness from Lost. I've learned to swallow a lot during the course of this show, mainly because they always seem to come up with an interesting way of explaining everything. So, I've been pretty tolerant. But when I saw Juliette fall to her apparent death, I thought, "That's it: I'm done. This show has officially lost me (no pun intended)." Because, if you're a fan of the show, by this point in the game, you hate both Jack and Kate, and were happy to see them off the island. Sawyer and Juliette: I liked that. That felt right. But then they put Jack and Kate back on the island. And then they started pushing Kate back towards Sawyer, and Jack started making his typical precariously stupid command decisions again. And then Juliette fell to the bottom of the Swan, and I thought, "I've put up with a lot, but doing that to put Kate and Sawyer back together just broke the camel's back." But, as it turns out, Juliette was NOT dead, and she detonated the nuclear device which destroys the Swan and probably everyone with it. So, who the fuck knows what's happening on Lost. I guess that's why it's such a great show: it always leaves us wanting more.

And, as long as we're on the subject of finales, we might as well talk about the shows that involuntarily aired their series finales (ie, they got canceled):

-Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles got the hook, despite there being a Terminator movie a week away;

-It's actually harder to figure out what NBC didn't cancel than figuring out what they did. They chose to stick with the terrible Parks and Recreation and let My Name is Earl go, but the real insult was when they canceled Medium, and it was promptly snatched up by CBS AND they get to watch Scrubs continue on for yet another season on ABC;

-CBS, much like me, decided that adding the black guy to Eleventh Hour ruined that show, and solved the problem by cancelling it;

-ABC long ago canceled Pushing Daisies, but they're nice enough to begin airing the remaining episodes in two weeks;

-Fox canceled two great animated shows in King of the Hill and Sit Down, Shut Up, and gave the go-ahead on a third Seth McFarland abortion, upping their McFarland programming to an hour and a half a week, which is approximately 120 minutes too many;

-CBS canceled Without a Trace, the second top 20-rated show it's canned in a week. It just goes to show that, when you air more than half of the shows in the top 20, you can pretty do whatever the fuck you want;

-Most of the mid-season shows won't be coming back;

-And, as if though you cared, Mind of Mencia won't be back.

America can finally laugh again.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Last Five Or So Movies

Powder Blue (2009)
A number of years ago, I watched a Jessica Biel movie solely because she was rumored to have a nude scene in it. Those rumors proved to be false. Just the other day, I watched this one for the same reason. And those rumors proved to be true. So, I can cross that off my "To Do" list.

Taken (2008)
Luc Besson writes an pretty standard action movie with a very unconventional lead in Liam Neeson, and it makes a shitload of money. So, apparently, there is no formula to making money in the movie biz. It's all just dumb luck.

The Wild, Wild West: Season One (1965)
This was one of my favorite shows as a kid, when I caught it on its first or second syndication run. Even though it was basically "James Bond on horses," it was a very original premise, one that wouldn't appear again until another one of my faves, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., used it 30 years later. And, if you've never seen the show, the Will Smith movie of the same name does it absolutely no justice (surprise, surprise).

Angels and Demons (2009)
Three years ago, I saw The DaVinci Code. Three years later, almost to the day, I saw Angels and Demons. And it has all the same problems the first movie had, and is actually worse. And I disliked it even more, chiefly because of its horrid screenplay. I hate movies that force you into thinking that a certain individual is the bad guy by having him do extremely suspicious things, even casting the character with an actor who plays a villain 99% of the time, only to have the person who is totally above suspicion and whom it makes no sense to be the bad guy actually turn out to be the bad guy. The Girl claimed she wasn't fooled and when I asked her why, she said because the movie tried so hard to make you think the bad guy was who it wasn't that the alternative, however impossible, was the only possible solution. That's screenwriting at its worst. This used to happen all the time in cheapo '70s Italian Horror Movies, but this is a big-budget 2009 movie; that bargain-basement shit don't fly here. Oh, and you're welcome for ruining the movie for you; you didn't need to pay to see it anyway.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
What, with all the hype for the newest Star Trek movie, I thought it was about time to go back to watch the oldest Star Trek movie. And, since it's an odd-numbered movie, of course it sucks. However, Douglas Trumbull's Oscar-nominated FX are almost worth the admission price; thankfully, they take up more screentime than the actual plot.

After a whole bunch of losers, this brilliantly goofy thing is the tops:

Synecdoche, New York (2008)
If you thought that, based on his previous works, Charlie Kaufman was capable of some fairly twisted visions, you have no idea what he's capable of until you see this, his first foray as a writer/director. It starts out harmlessly enough, with Phillip Seymour Hoffman trying to launch a play while dealing with his failing marriage and health. But then it gradually all starts to come apart, as life literally becomes art, and vice versa. It ends in complete insanity. Kaufman's visual ideas have been heavily influenced by his collaborations with Michel Gondry; odd touches like the paintings on canvases the size of pinheads, Emily Mortimer's perpetually burning house, or the warehouse with the full-scale model of Schenectady inside, with each model having its own warehouse with its own full-scale model inside all seem to be co-opted from a Gondry daydream. But be forewarned: the movie starts very slowly; it almost seems as though Kaufman has lost his touch for the bizarre during the first half hour. But, rest assured, it does eventually turn out to be the craziest fucking movie I've ever seen.

Makes Lost almost seem logical by comparison. Check it out.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Selling-Out Of Green Day Is Complete

Remember Green Day? Not the band that won universal critical acclaim and every award possible five years ago for American Idiot. No, remember the band who, 15 years ago, jump-started punk rock with their major label debut Dookie? If you don't, that's fine, because, based on their new record, neither does Green Day.

When Dookie came out, punk rock was dead. Oh sure, it was still out there, but it wasn't getting any play. Even The Ramones were about a year away from calling it quits. And when Dookie came out, it was big again. Suddenly, you've got bands like The Offspring, Bad Religion, and Rancid getting big play on the radio, putting out records that are legitimate punk rock. They went on to influence "punk" bands like A Simple Plan, Good Charlotte, and Sum 41.

Flash-forward a number of years, and Green Day puts out a "rock opera" called American Idiot. It's not all that punky. They follow that up with a live album, where Billy Joe Armstrong is heard to yell such punkish things as "We love you!" and "You guys are the greatest audience!" And now they have 21st Century Breakdown, another concept album "inspired by Bruce Springsteen." The shit bands that were influenced by Green Day are now more punk than Green Day. They've officially turned that corner where they've gone from a band that makes loud, fast songs about getting high to making radio-friendly pop tunes about how much they hate America. They have officially sold out.

Not that it's really surprising. All legitimate punk bands eventually go pop. The Clash were a full-fledged Top 40 band by the end of their career. Hüsker Dü turned into what would have been called an "alternative" band before they broke up. And it's a poorly-kept secret that the Godfather of Punk Rock, Joey Ramone, really would rather have been a pop star. Basically, all punk bands realize what a limited musical genre punk is, and they just go on to something else. I mean, you can put out album after album of 15 tracks of essentially the same song, or you can branch out a little, add a little pop to that punk.

And that's where Green Day is now. Unfortunately for them, they were so good at the punk rock thing that, now that they've gone pop, they sound like every other shitbag band out there. They were one of the few bands who were actually creatively better when they were "punks." Now, they might as well just change their names to Good Charlotte II, because that's what they are.

Oh well; had to happen sometime.

BTW, the new Eminem album is great, just great. I never figured Dominic West for an Eminem fan, but he must be, as it's the only reason I can explain his cameo on the album.

Good stuff. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Celebrities Know Everything

If you don't know who Aziz Ansari, don't worry; nobody does. With basically only a two minute cameo in Observe and Report and a supporting role in Parks and Recreation, Greg Daniels' hilariously unfunny ripoff of The Office, to his credit, there's no reason you should know who he is.

The thing with celebrities like this is that, because nobody knows who they are, they have to do publicity stunts to get their names out there. Like Lindsay Lohan, for example. Despite the fact that she hasn't been in a noteworthy movie in five years, she's in the news every day, because, just as we begin to forget about her, she gets her tits out or fakes a lesbian relationship. It's a good way to keep your name out there.

And while that works out great for a 22-year old coke whore, it's not a good strategy for 26-year old Indian male. So, you've got to be more inventive in that case. Which is why Ansari decided to make up a fight with AMC Theatres and the IMAX Corporation.

Ansari claims that he attempted to see Star Trek in the IMAX format at an AMC theatre. He paid a $5 premium to do so, and, when he entered the theatre, was shocked to see that the movie was actually just IMAX Digital, an IMAX-branded projection system which uses a standard aspect ratio, instead of the true IMAX, which is analog 70mm on a 76'x97' screen. After watching the movie and being disappointed with his viewing experience, he asked for the $5 premium back, as he didn't feel he had been entitled to the full IMAX experience. When he was denied this, he decided to attack AMC, IMAX, and, just for the fuck of it, Regal Theatres.

Look at that: instant publicity. But, ya know, this may not seem like a publicity stunt, but there's no way it could be anything else, because anyone with a functioning brainstem would have no reason to complain.

The true 70mm IMAX format requires a lot of space to execute. It's a format that is very apparent. There's a couple of signs that might indicate you're NOT going to see a true IMAX movie:

-If the theatre is not tall enough to accommodate a 70+ foot tall screen, they might not show IMAX films there;

-If, directly outside your film's theatre, there isn't a massive, sideways-running projector with 10 foot wide film spools, there might not be an IMAX film showing in that theatre;

-If there isn't a three story tall screen at the front of your theatre, chances are, you're not going to see an IMAX film.

Now, if you're sharp enough to notice any of these things, the thing to do would be to go directly to the box office, ask for a manager, and say, "I'm sorry, I thought this film was going to be in full IMAX format. I see it's not, so I'm no longer interested in seeing the film; I'd like my money back." What you DON'T do is sit through the whole movie, and THEN ask for your money back and get pissed off when they (obviously) refuse, and THEN attack the company, even after they give you free passes.

So, how do I know this is a publicity stunt? Because no one is actually this stupid in real life.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Who Knew Journey Was This Popular?

I don't think there's a man, woman, or child under the age of 25 who doesn't know who Journey is, and who can't recite all the lyrics to at least one of their songs. Journey is a really well-known band...or was.

Journey hasn't been musically relevant since before Steve Perry got kicked out of the band. Hell, Raised on Radio is the last record that anyone can name a single off of, and that was 23 years ago. The '90s pushed them into non-existence, and relegated their music to the wasteland of Classic Rock. So, before I start this whole thing, I'll paraphrase Dickens and say, Journey was dead, to begin with; there was no doubt whatsoever about that.

But then a funny thing happened. David Chase decided to stick the song "Don't Stop Believin'" into the series finale of The Sopranos, and suddenly, Journey is the greatest band ever and this song is EVERYWHERE. I'm hearing it on sports shows, in commercials, in bars, in presidential campaigns. It's the most-downloaded song in the iTunes catalog. The previews for Fox's Glee feature a choral version of it. If there's a Journey song on the radio (which now happens more frequently now), nine time out of 10, it's this song. I have heard this song more in the past six months than I've heard it in the previous 28 years.

Let me get this straight: This is a Journey song we're talking about. Neal Schon, Steve Perry, that Journey, right?


It's not even close to the best Journey song. It's not even the best song off Escape. Yet this is the song that has co-eds across the nation singing at the tops of their lungs at their local taverns. Maybe I've just gotten old, but I don't get it. Just when I think I start to understand the world, it does some crazy shit like think a Journey song is good and completely destroys my worldview.

I don't know why I try anymore.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Yet Another New, Improved Enterprise

I've never been quite as big a Star Trek geek as I could be. Yes, I've seen all of the original show's episodes and all the movies, but there are entire series that I haven't seen an episode of.

But, that being said, I was saddened when Paramount decided to shutter the movie franchise seven years ago. And I was excited when J.J. Abrams decided to bring it back (because, quite frankly, it was about time someone who wasn't Jonathan Frakes got to direct one). And I was not really all that disappointed.

I like that there were some nice shoutouts to the past , like Kirk cheating on the Kobayashi Maru test, Rachel Nichols' turn as a green-skinned Orion cadet, the mind-controlling slugs, the fact that they actually kept Kirk an Iowa native and kept Starfleet in San Francisco. It's also the first time that we get to see first-hand how the "classic" crew got together.

Of course, die-hard fans will balk at the fact that the movie takes some liberties with Star Trek dogma, like Vulcan being destroyed, and Spock's mother along with it, Captain Pike not ending up in that box with the flashing light, and Chekov being along on the Enterprise's maiden voyage (and where's his Davy Jones wig?). But the movie cleverly places this Star Trek in an alternate timeline, created by time-traveling Romulans. Sure, it messes with the canon, but it creates all-new story possibilities (a neat trick, that).

The movie itself is a mixed bag. The fact that it's all new actors playing all the roles (except for Leonard Nimoy, who plays Future Spock) kinda disconnects it from the other movies. A lot of the action scenes seem to exist just because the screenplay called for an action scene at that point. And I haven't seen this much intentional lensflare in a movie since Close Encounters of the Third Kind; it's almost blinding at times.

But, for all it's bad points, it's still a Star Trek movie, and a flawed Star Trek movie is better than none at all.

BTW, this film is the 11th in the series, which should technically make it one of the "bad" odd-numbered films, but I think that whole thing went out the window when the "awful" 10th movie, Star Trek: Nemisis, killed the franchise. Feel free to voice your opinion of what constitutes a "good" Star Trek in the "Best Star Trek Movie" poll.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

J.J. Abrams Sure Understands Cross-Promotion

So, the big Star Trek movie is coming out this weekend. It's directed by J.J. Abrams, who, as you may or may not know, is one of the creators and writers of Fringe. And, if you're writing for a show which two other studios have already paid for, why wouldn't you sneak in some free publicity for your movie?

If you missed last night's episode, there's a scene in which Josh Jackson and Anna Torv investigate a lead and encounter a man claiming to be Sarek (Spock's father), who proceeds to describe the plot of the upcoming film to them. And he was played by Clint Howard, who was in "The Corbomite Maneuver" episode of the original Star Trek (and, now that I look, has been on two of the other series as well). And I don't believe anyone actually said the words "Star Trek" once. Brilliant.

This isn't the first time Abrams has done this. Three years ago, he pulled a similar stunt in Mission: Impossible 3. And, since Paramount didn't seem to balk at giving free publicity to Disney's Lost on their dime, I guess Abrams figured Fox and Warner Bros wouldn't mind if he returned the favor for Paramount.

Seriously, this guy's a genius. I've seen bigger, stupider, and more involuntary examples before, but for one guy to get away with crap like this is really the work of a genius.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Not Enough Of A Good Thing

I've been a fan of Wolverine for 25 years. I have X-Men comics dating all the way back to the '60s. Needless to say, I'm fairly knowledgeable on the subject of Wolverine.

Yet, here I am, watching Wolverine, the Movie, being inundated with all of this new information that I didn't know about Wolverine and the Marvel Universe in general. Here's a sampling of the revelatory bombs I was forced to assimilate:

-That Wolverine is about 170 years old, and has fought in nearly every war that the U.S. has participated in, dating back to the Civil War (even though he's Canadian);

-That he and long-time enemy Sabertooth are actually brothers;

-That Silver Fox was just a girl with a dumb power, and not a covert terrorist;

-That Wolverine is, more or less, immortal, and there's a ridiculous deus ex machina that exploits this fact to explain why he can't remember his past;

-That Professor X can walk;

-That Blob was a good guy;

-That Deadpool is some kind of freak with everyone's powers;

-That Wolverine's claws are actually bone, even though I have an Official Guide to the Marvel Universe (c. 1982) which quite plainly shows them to be mechanical in nature (wow, I really geeked out there for a bit);

-That Emma Frost never had any psychic abilities;

-That William Stryker is still a Colonel and not a Reverend.

What did I expect: It's a movie version of a comic book. Of course they're going to change things that aren't easily explained or don't seem cool enough.

But it can't be entirely blamed on the film's writers. Marvel has retconned Wolverine's origins and powers so many times over the years that the Wolverine of today's comics (hell, the whole Marvel Universe in general) bears little resemblance to the one that first appeared 35 years ago.

Oh, "how's the movie," you ask? Well, it's terrible. I didn't think it was possible to make a worse X-Men movie than the abortion that Brett "I Break Everything I Touch" Ratner foisted upon the world, but I was wrong. While I appreciate the attempts of the writers to do interesting things with elements from the comics, like actually using Silver Fox and the long-forgotten Team X, the film is basically just scene after scene of someone trying to kill Wolverine, which we all know is a Sisyphean task, as Wolverine can't die. And I don't ever need to see another scene, ever again, of two characters running at and smashing into each other from 50 paces, because, after having seen it roughly a million times in this movie, I'm set for life. Even the special FX really aren't that great.

In terms of a franchise, it's my personal opinion the X-Men Origins is dead (even though this thing will make $200 million, easy), because, once you get Wolverine out of the way, every other X-Man basically has the same origin story: So-and-So found out they were a mutant, joined the X-Men, The End. And that story is not exactly cinematic gold. The only two characters who I would even consider having interesting-enough origins would be Rouge and Emma Frost. But (and here's the problem with doing origins after you've already told the rest of the story) the previous films have already altered their origins so greatly that they don't even sync with the comics anymore. So, we'll see what kind of boring shit they come up with there.

Ya know, last year at this time, I was pleased by a comic book adaptation (and then was gravely disappointed mere months later by another) that had everything that I, as a fan of the book, would want in a movie version. And now, this year at this time, here's another comic book adaptation that...well, I'm not sure what comic it's adapted from, but it sure is terrible.

Not something I ever remember reading.