MovieFreak Smashwords Edition. Reviews/columns/short stories/editorial pieces and constant ramblings by:
Keith Helinski Complied and edited 2011/2012.
Foreword by: Dennis Landmann
Foreword When Keith asked me to write a foreword to his collection of reviews and columns (and ramblings; a word he likes to use from time to time) that were published on MovieFreak.com throughout the years, the last eight years to be precise, I thought, perfect. Perfect, not in the sarcastic sense, but perfect in that it would get me to write something original. Like Keith, I started writing in high school for the newspaper. It was 1999 when MovieFreak grew out of my parentsâ€™ garage, inspired by my love for film. I started reviewing films on the site on a consistent basis after getting in contact with Paramount Studios, who provided me with advance copies of their new releases for me to cover.
What a fantastic opportunity and feeling it was, being able to watch films for free, having an outlet to publish to, and writing about the reasons why a film worked and didn’t work. A couple of years later, Keith Helinski made his way to the site. The site was starting to expand by featuring columns and editorials, and he seized the opportunity. An enthusiastic young fellow, it was clear from the early start, as Keith conveyed real passion for film that was refreshing and admirable. His retrospective article on the WB channel was the type of editorial writing I wanted to feature on the site. I saw potential for more of his thoughts to translate into editorials, and so I asked him to join as a contributor, and contribute he did, graduating from editorial pieces to film and DVD reviews. Looking back on these last eight years it is immediately apparent the improvements Keith has made in his writing since he started; a wonderful thing to see a passionate writer develop. As an editor, you start to notice these things. As you dig into this collection of reviews and columns I hope you see some of the same things I saw in Keith. I will venture a guess and say he probably isn’t done sharpening his writing and style, and wish him the best of success as he moves into the belly of the beast that is the creative writing world. Dennis Landmann Owner & Editor in Chief, MovieFreak.com September 18, 2011
A Moviefreak Retrospective by Keith Helinski, Part One Eight years ago, I wrote a profound epic piece called, ‘A Retrospect…The WB.’ I thought it was the coolest shit I have ever written and checked many movie/TV websites, looking to see if anyone would publish it. Surprisingly(!), I did not get one bite. I was about to call it quits in my young, writing, life, when I received a strange email from a dude name Dennis Landmann. He thought The WB piece was actually good and worth publishing on his site. And so ‘A Retrospect…The WB,’ was published October 15th, 2003. And that began a beautiful friendship over at MovieFreak.com. It was not until the following year; Dennis offered me an opportunity to write DVD reviews. At first, I was hesitant. On a technical side, I had no idea what I was writing (and to be honest, I
still don’t know!), but I winged it. For my age, I thought I was f’n cool as hell, getting DVDs for free (and in advanced), and the only thing I had to do was review them. Not bad of a gig at all! In truth, movie critics do not get the respect they most certainly deserve. Critiquing itself is an art form that is much unappreciated. Sure, anyone could bitch about a movie and get paid for it. But does anyone know about movies as much as say, Roger Ebert? The same applies with a restaurant critic, or a wine critic, or a music critic. Ebert (and a lot of well-known critics) has as much influence in the movie industry as those that make the movies. I also like to add that Ebert has given me much inspiration for my writing then, and even now. The fact that he is still writing to this day is inspiring. This ebook (appropriately named simply: MovieFreak) is a collection of my best and favorites from MovieFreak, as well as some unpublished gems that never made it on the site. But while this particular collection may feature a lot of MovieFreak pieces, my movie-critiquing career did not start from MovieFreak. It actually started with The Vanguard, my high school newspaper I wrote for. The very first ‘formal’ movie review I wrote was for a small, unknown movie called Spiderman, back in 2002. And that started my hobby of movie reviewing. It goes without saying that much of the inspiration and influence I got for my movie reviews comes from a mixture of both Ebert’s technical and critique-type writing and Stephen King’s sarcastic and lighthearted Entertainment Weekly columns. What you are about to dive into starts from my more recent writings to my ramblings from 2002 (including pieces published via Vanguard). I also threw in a couple of movie-related short stories for good measure. I cleaned up a little bit of grammar here and there without changing or altering my voice at the time. As Dennis would put it with some of my columns: “Sentence structures and wordings have not been altered or corrected for grammatical errors in hope of preserving the author's original voice, ramblings, and range of sanity!” I also wrote a few new pieces just for MovieFreak, topping out this collection. Consider it the butter in this lengthy bucket of popcorn! It is amazing that I have been writing movie reviews for almost a decade! I am very grateful for Dennis, who has been putting up with my ramblings and me all these years. I would not be the writer I am today (for better or worse) without the practice I gotten through the MovieFreak reviews. Mush-mush over. Enjoy the show!
-Jurassic Park Trilogy Blu Ray review column -The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo short -Hugo short -My STAR WARS story feature -Dear Roger Ebert…feature -The Lion King in 3D(!) feature -Six Feet Under short -The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Blu Ray review -Cinema Paradiso short story -Almost Famous short -Everwood Season 4 DVD review -Super 8 movie review -Pirates IV short Raise Your Glass: Stuck in the Twilight Saga short story - You Don’t Know Jack movie review
Jurassic Park - Ultimate Trilogy SYNOPSIS God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs... Dinosaurs eat man. Steven Spielberg inherits the box office. CRITIQUE My obsession with movies really started the summer of ’93. I was 8 years old and was into Batman/Ghostbusters/ALF/Ninja Turtles/Disney. I never saw movies as anything but just movies. I never analyzed, never critiqued, and never once looked at it as an art form. It was, simply, just, movies. There was a huge movie that came out June 11 that year. It was everywhere. It was hard to avoid it, actually. It certainly caught my interest. And it caught my dad’s, too. He took me to see it roughly two weeks after its release at the old Showcase Sterling (which does not exist anymore). The Universal logo appeared with jungle sounds, and then, boom!
The first scene caught me by surprised. I was riveted, scared, enticed, all the adjectives that describe a moviegoer scrabbling in their theater chair in terror and delight! But nothing prepared me for the T-Rex scene! The scene still gives me Goosebumps to this day! For an 8-year-old, Jurassic Park left a huge impression on me. I was amazed what movies could actually do, like bringing back dinosaurs. And man was I JP-ed that summer. I collected the toys, the books, the comics, the soundtrack, the McDonalds cups (pains me that I got rid of a good majority of those collectibles!) I even regretfully penciled a fence and dinosaurs behind that fence on my walls in my room. I saw Jurassic Park two more times that year, once on my birthday just weeks after seeing it the first time around. And the third time months later at the $1 theater. I, luckily, was able to see Jurassic Park the fourth time around on the big screen many years later at the Universal Cineplex in Orlando, FL, back in 2008. I remember when the VHS was first released; it was such an event (at least in my life!) And I played that damn tape over and over. I played it before school, after school. Bored my family. Bored my babysitters. I did not care. I was in Jurassic Park-glory! Jurassic Park tells the story of an ambitious man (John Hammond) that longs to create a unique amusement park. He accomplishes this feat by finding a way to bring dinosaurs back to life, and then sells these dinosaurs as a theme park attraction. But as Ian Malcolm points out, John Hammond bit more than he could chew. And a soft opening over a weekend, in hopes to create appeal for the theme park, turns into a nightmare no one could ever imagine. A perfect story idea for a perfect blockbuster. But was Jurassic Park truly a perfect movie? So much concern went into the visuals of this film, that character depth kind of got placed to the side. The source material, Michael Crichton’s wonderful novel by the same name, does a better job fleshing out the story, the philosophy, the horror, and of course, the characters. Crichton came up with a brilliant idea, one of those ideas that makes you wonder, ‘why haven’t they thought of that before?’ His idea was actually a lot simpler than the novel he intended to write. But to sell the idea, he took it and combined it with a previous story of his (Westworld). Little he realized how big the idea would become. In fact, with all his anti-Disney within Westworld (and Jurassic Park), I wonder if he has any regret of giving Jurassic Park to Universal, considering how Jurassic Park in itself has become a theme park attraction. Jurassic Park is not a perfect movie. It has its share of plot holes, movie mistakes, and now: outdated effects. I do wish after all these years, the movie were more close to the book. There were so many key moments from the book that would have made great movie magic (the Tyrannosaur chasing Grant and the kids through a river, finding the Raptor nest tail end of the book, Hammond’s own death scene).
Shortcomings aside, Jurassic Park is an extraordinary b-movie. It is actually more than just a bmovie, it was an experience like none-other in its day, and 18 years later, it is still a thrill for me. The Lost World expands from Jurassic Park by adding a back story, although John Hammond had ‘Jurassic Park,’ he also had another island that the creation of dinosaurs took place at. Nature took its course, and the dinosaurs still exist on this ‘site b.’ After finding this out, two teams set out to this island; one to observe, the other to take-over. Which team finds the island first, though? I was a 12-year-old when this movie came out summer of ’97. Jurassic Park was still a big thrill for me, as well as the anticipation for the sequel. I never noticed the criticism and the bashing of the movie till years later. Putting my soft spot of the movie to the side for just a moment, it is not a great movie at all. In fact, it is the weakest of Spielberg films (higher than Hook or 1941, but still down in the pits of mediocrity). There is very little depth, followed by a whole lot of large, uninspired set pieces. It also makes no sense whatsoever. Explain something to me: if the Rex is locked inside the cargo of the ship, what killed the people up above as it was heading to San Diego? But, aside all the negative energy that surrounds this movie, I still enjoy watching The Lost World to this day. The score, for instance, is fantastic. John Williams could HAVE duplicated the Jurassic Park score, but instead, created a different kind of score for this movie. Much like the first movie, I remember I was obsessed with that score (and I still play it once in a blue moon). I always get Goosebumps after that one-hour mark, and Tyrannosaurs comes on queue, in its terrifying glory! That trailer across the cliff scene is great, edge-of-your-seat summer movie magic. The raptors in the tall-grass is another great sequence. AND, despite how it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever as to how it played out, I am guilty for LOVIN’ that Rex in San Diego climax. I remember sitting in a pack theater the night the movie premiered, and everyone in that theater house laughed, clapped, and was in awe at that sequence. Steven Spielberg has a way of toying with the movie audience, no denying that! When the first movie came out, I remember having nightmares of a Tyrannosaurus standing next to my house, roaring its head off. I could not believe that nightmare made it to the sequel! All and all, it is not a great film, but it is not the worse film in film history. Spielberg had his reasons why he wanted to do it (Jaws 2, 3, Revenge anyone?!?!) But I do wish he went forward with his own idea of where the sequel could go…which was a missed opportunity with… Jurassic Park III tells yet another tale of human beings invading a ‘lost world’ with dinosaurs. This time, the story regards a divorced couple, whose’s son ‘accidentally’ stumbles upon the island, and their desperate attempt to rescue him.
I did not care for part III at all. I was disappointed in the rehash plot of human beings going into the island, ‘OH NO, RUN,’ and BOOM – end of movie. The movie was 30 minutes shorter than The Lost World, but felt oddly longer to me! I think the biggest disappointment for me, it could have went into the direction of where Spielberg wanted to go: a team retrieves the can of embryos Nerdy dropped in the first movie, and Voilà(!), you have potential of a real blockbuster there. There was also potential of cherry picking between the two books Crichton wrote with Ingen’s competitors (Biosyn) and the ‘Five Death’ Islands. Even a prequel story with how both islands came to be would have been compelling. Instead, a recycled mixture of the first two movies rolled into one stinker (did not help when the script writing was rushed, and then leaked online)! Jurassic Park III is not a horrible movie by standards of real, horrible, movies. It certainly is no Spiderman 3, X-Men 3, Batman & Robin! The special effects are grand on their own merits. I especially loved the Pterodactyl sequence. I was always disappointed they never made it in the first two movies, so to see them get their own section was great. And Sam Neill was good at being Sam Neill! However, that is not enough to WOW me. I still can not watch the entire movie without fast forwarding. At least, as bad as it might be, I can watch The Lost World in its entirety. THE VIDEO All three films are presented each with its own 1:85:1/1080p transfer--encoded with VC-1 on a 50GB disc. It has taken me a couple of weeks to write this review, mainly because of my mixed-feelings of the transfer. I am sure if you have been following the reviews all over the Internet, as well as on Amazon.com, you know by now the pros and cons regarding the transfer. The massive con here is, it is a Universal title. Universal has its own reputation of Blu Ray transfers. Other than Serenity, I myself am not familiar with Universal’s Blu Rays. But I know enough reading online to know what I was getting myself into. Still, I gave it the benefit of the doubt. ‘Can’t be that bad, can it?’ - I thought to myself. Needless to say, I was very disappointed when I first popped Jurassic Park in the Blu Ray player. Like all films in Blu Ray, the lighter textures look really great. Especially the daytime shots, with the tropic setting. Looks amazing. However, the darker textures (mainly the nighttime shots and internal scenes) looks very grainy. VERY GRAINY.
The Lost World is an improvement. Jurassic Park III is the best looking of the three films. But I doubt that will make the videophile’s jump UP and DOWN for this set. Here are my thoughts; Steven Spielberg is the kind of filmmaker that cherishes old film. It took him a few years to get used to the digital filmmaking. He honors the digital effects, yes, but doe not care for the bells and whistles George Lucas goes nutty for. And as of late, Spielberg has been very vocal about keeping his movies as is (he even boldly stated during one of his interviews, that he regretted the E.T. redux back in 2002). With that said, I think this is the transfer Spielberg would prefer. I am still on the fence here. Yes, it would have been nice to get a better transfer. The grain is very annoying. But at the same time, there are good spots in the film that looks sweet on a widescreen TV. This is not a pristine, top of the line, spared-no-expense – high definition transfer of Jurassic Park. But compared to the VHS, and the DVD years ago, it is a step up. Put the DVD copy in a Blu-ray player, you will notice poor resolution. Put the Blu-ray copy in the player, you will notice the resolution is slightly better (for instance, the money shot of the Tyrannosaur chewing through the fence and showing off its sexy body is more detailed and clearer to see). THE AUDIO I was so disappointed that the DVD set from years ago did not include a DTS track, after all, Jurassic Park was the very first film to introduce DTS in theaters. I am happy to say that this Blu Ray set includes all three films with a booming, blasting, boosting, and blaring 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. I have been having fun with both my own home theater stereo system, as well as my Sennheiser headphones. All three films sound GREAT. While Universal may (or may not) have remastered the picture quality to its true potential, Universal did a top-notch job in the sound department. After the Tyrannosaur roars, the roar echoes, as it seems even more menacing as before. After Grant/Tim climbs down the tree, car goes down with them, and they are ‘back in the car again,’ the voices echo as if they are in the car (I rechecked the DVD after hearing that, and did not notice the echo voices). And that is just a couple that I noticed right from the getgo. I have played the first movie several times since I bought this set, and have noticed quite a few sound effects I have not before. If there is one competition this set will have up against the Lord of the Rings and the Star Wars sets this year, it is the audio. Between the three, Jurassic Park sounds the best. THE EXTRAS Universal could have dumped this set with or without the features that was part of the DVD sets. But unlike George Lucas, they ported everything from the DVD sets (as well as the Beyond
Jurassic Park bonus disc that was part of the 4-disc DVD set ten years ago). Everything that was ported over is in standard definition. On top of that, Universal included a new documentary called Return to Jurassic Park, produced by the always delightful Laurent Bouzereau, whom is best for directing all of the making-of materials for Steven Spielberg’s laserdisc/DVD sets over the years. On the Jurassic Park disc, there is three Return to Jurassic Parks. Dawn of a New Era (25:30, HD), Making Prehistory (20:20, HD), and The Next Step in Evolution (15:00, HD). It was a pleasure to see what everyone looks like these days. I must say, I have always had a crush on Ariana Richards. She still looks good! Other than ‘looking back,’ a good majority of what’s been said has already been said. So a Jurassic Park nut like me that has read up everything that I could find over the years, has seen all the bonus material off the DVD sets years ago, may find this repetitive. On the The Lost World disc, there is two Return to Jurassic Parks. Finding The Lost World (27:40, HD) and Something Survived (16:30, HD). I found these two actually more interesting than the three on Jurassic Park. Steven Spielberg does not say right off the bat, ‘I didn’t want to do this, this isn’t a perfect movie’ like he did with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Dull Skull. But he admits that it is not a perfect movie by any means, but it did make a hell of a lot of money. He also admitted that he had in mind, a different story idea for where the sequel could go (which I would have been more interested in). On the Jurassic Park III disc, there is only one Return to Jurassic Park. The Third Adventure (25:20, HD). Other than the mention of the Jurassic Park ride, I found this to be as boring as the movie it is supposed to reflect. I bought the massive Gift Set which comes in a sturdy, card-board box that looks like a crate from the movie, and also includes a nice looking toy/statute of the Rex breaking through the Jurassic Park fence. I do not usually go for the corny studio ploys they do with these sets, but that Jurassic Park geek in me could not resist! Best Buy sells an exclusive and nice looking steel-box set, and if it were not for this gift set, I would have bought that set instead. FINAL THOUGHTS
Rewatching Jurassic Park in its somewhat HD glory made me realize it is not the greatest movie of all time (though, summer of ’93, it was in my world!) I know it has its shortcomings. Like all big blockbuster movies, style reigns over substance. But it is still a favorite of mine after all these years; the sounds, the visuals, the music, everything still gets me excited, thrilled and inspired every time I see it! The sequels, not so much, but the nostalgia of The Lost World still makes it enjoyable to watch, and I am not ashamed to admit it. Is this set really worth the money? Not really. Is this a must buy? Not really. But do I recommend buying this set? Yes. The ‘new’ revisited retrospectives are repetitive (say that a 100 times), but fun to watch nevertheless. The video transfer may divide buyers, and I do not blame them. But the kick-butt audio presentation makes up for it. If you see a good deal of this set on Black Friday, pick it up!
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was very close to the source material: cold, brutal, and relentless. And like the source material, it’s very hard to digest, which is why I fell in love with the source material: it’s honest about the world. The world is bleak, dangerous, and cruel. This movie isn’t based on an over-the-top super hero, or a cheesy slasher movie, or an unrealistic monster movie. The source material is about real people doing real, nasty, things. A man that made his career studying nasty people doing nasty things wrote it. And like in the movie Bambi, the real monster in this world is man. And unfortunately, it’s still a man’s world (in some cultures, that is - and some religions that keep up with the ‘man’s world’ tradition, which is one of my biggest resentments to religion). The original Sweden title for the source material here is called ‘Men Who Hate Women.’ It’s not as catchy as ‘Dragon Tattoo,’ but is more honest to what the story is about - and what the story represents. But as graphic as the movie is (and it’s quite graphic, including a rape scene that would make any stomach go uneasy), this story isn’t in any way, shape, or form - promoting nasty things. Instead, as all three books do well in - it is a character study, a profile of corruption, and exploiting the real horrors in life. A journalist that studied sex trafficking, Nazis, government cover-ups, and rape cases wrote all three books. It may make your stomach sick to know that there is authenticity with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. But as Stephen King once pointed out, truth is scarier than fiction. And to think somewhere out there right now, a woman is being raped and murdered, just because she is a woman…the world needs more Lisbeth Salander’s, Mikael Blomkvist’s, and Stieg Larsson’s.
Hugo Martin Scorsese spent his entire career proving that the power of the movies is magical. Sometimes he picked dark subjects. Other times, he would pick lighthearted subjects. But he was always passionate with every movie he made. While Steven Spielberg is my favorite of all time, Spielberg has his share of hits and misses. But. EVERY MOVIE Marty directed is f’n great. Mind you, I do have my favorites and nonfavorites. But putting preferences aside, you can’t deny Scorsese’s body of work. The latest from Marty: Hugo, is yet another shining example of Scorsese’s craft as not just a filmmaker but also a storyteller. The difference between a ‘fill-in’ director and a director like Martin Scorsese, Marty has a passion for what he does. This movie wasn’t made to win the box office (which is evident, since we all know what is winning the box office right now). This movie wasn’t made to earn money. This movie was made to earn the hearts of those that loves movies. Martin Scorsese finally picked a story that harnesses his deep love for movies. There are several scenes that describe a darkened room with a projected light aiming various moving pictures on a white screen as magic. I can imagine the feeling Scorsese felt when he read that in the script. It’s probably the same feeling I had seeing the love of film expressed in this film. Like the foreign film, Cinema Paradiso, Hugo is a love story of sorts. It’s a love letter to movies from a guy that doesn’t just make movies, but LOVES movies.
My Star Wars story. After reading Mitchell Hattaway’s well-written review of the Blu Ray set over at MovieFreak.com, it got me thinking of my own Star Wars story. Although it isn’t nearly as exciting as the many lucky peeps that has experienced Star Wars on the big screen back in ’77, I am sure this story relates to many others that grew up in an era before DVD! I remember my parents had a VHS copy of the original ORIGINAL trilogy. It wasn’t the greatest of quality, and I may have ruined it after repeat viewings. But man, did I play that tape over and over. This must have been in the late 80s, early 90s – before I was dazzled summer of ’93!
For some oddball reason, I always favored Return of the Jedi. I just love the darkness of it (despite the corny Ewokes!) And that epic space battle always gets me. By the mid-90s, the original ORIGINAL was released in THX surround/picture quality, and my parents grabbed it for Christmas that year. We never got into the laser-disc fad; it was always videotapes until the 2000s, with DVDs. Anyhow, I remember playing those tapes over and over as well. Wasn’t until ’97, I really got into Star Wars. The trilogy was re-released in theaters. I was a kid then, and never really paid any attention to the ‘special edition’ controversy. All I cared about is seeing each film, on the big screen! I was also into the books then. I bought the tie-in books (including the first one George Lucas wrote). And I was also into the video games (Rebel Assault and Dark Forces), and got into the other spin-off books (Shadows of the Empire, being my favorite). I was into the soundtracks, and collected the toys (pains me that the Micro Machine Millennium Falcon got killed many years ago! I also collected the movie posters (I still have them). I heard/read/and was excited for the prequel trilogy… I just turned 15 when The Phantom Menace came out. At first glance, I thought it was damn great. But after multiple viewings, the novelty wore off. I was working at AMC Forum 30 when Attack of the Clones came out. Once again, at first glance – I really enjoyed it. But, again, after multiple viewings, well, you get the idea. I should point out that I bought both films on DVD when they first came out – and I ended up trading them in at FYE after several years. Now, I could point out, like many have pointed out, that Empire and Jedi were better-directed movies because Lucas never directed them, but we won't go there. To be fair, though, I am a big fan of American Graffiti! 2004, the original trilogy got released on DVD. I remember it was HUGE! I remember I drove to the nearest Wal-Mart to purchase that bad boy. And as soon as I got home, I put the DVDs in the player and played those bitches. It wasn’t until that very moment; I started noticing the changes with the special editions back in ’97, and the changes that were made for the DVD. The way I feel then, and even now, is I am 50/50 with the changes. Some makes sense. Some don’t. Some I like. Some I don’t. What kills me the most is Return of the Jedi - my favorite of the series. The whole Jedi Rocks song-and-dance in the Jabba palace does not make sense. And the photoshop at the end of the movie also makes no sense to me. I still cringe at that part! 2005 comes, and Revenge of the Sith finally arrives! Much like the prequels, and the changes made in the original trilogy – it is a mix bag of good stuff and cringe-worthy stuff. Honestly, after all the changes done with the trilogy, and the over-exposure of the prequels, as well as all
the animated incarnations of the Clone Wars (which sounded much cooler in the original trilogy anyways!), I really got Star Wars-ed out! So with the release of this Blu Ray set, I have all sorts of mix feelings. Part of me, that Star Wars geek that still resides in me (it’s small, but it’s still there), wants it. The other part of me, the part that got rid of Menace and Clones – the part that still has a hard time with Jedi Rocks and a photoshop Anakin, doesn’t want to shell all that hard-earn-money into something that I have mix feelings for anyways. If it were an actual ‘complete’ set, then yeah – I would have pre-ordered that bitch! But let’s be honest here, this is Lucas we are talking about. A man that operates like Disney, but creates half-ass sets, thinking they can milk it like Disney (but unfortunately for him, he succeeds). A ‘complete’ Star Wars Blu Ray set would actually be in the hundred-dollar range for the amount of features I would want out of it. Not just that original ORIGINAL trilogy that I grew up with, but also butt loads of features. -Ewoke Adventures -Droid Adventures -Christmas Special -Star Tours -A retrospective of the books over the years and of course, the DVD features that never made it to the Blu Ray set… Now that’s a set I would buy – the Star Wars fan in me would get giddy just at the thought of it. Anyhow, that’s my Star Wars story. I am still a Star Wars fan at heart. But it doesn’t give me that nostalgic feeling Jurassic Park, Jaws, and Disney does. And I'll be honest here - any time ANY of the Star Wars films is on TV, I flicker the channels. But anytime WRATH OF KHAN, VOYAGE HOME, or FIRST CONTACT is on - I am glued to the TV. But we won't get into that debate!
Dear Roger Ebert, I've been a fan of yours for many years now. You've been a great inspiration to me, and there was a time I even wanted to be a movie critic, because of you. I started writing movie reviews for my school newspaper almost ten years ago and even ended up being a contributor to MovieFreak.com the year I graduated from high school (2003). I didn't quite make it as a critic, but I am always writing! I recently read your memoir, Life Itself, and once again, feel inspired by your writing. I even flooded my Wastin' Away Press blog via tumblr.com, with excerpts from the book (I hope you don't mind, I did quote you, and rest assure, these quotations are Ebert legit!
What I love about the way you wrote your book, it is very versatile that it could interest almost anyone to read it. -A journalist. -A movie buff. -A movie goer. -A writer. -Or just someone that enjoys reading celebrity memoirs. I was really moved tail end of your book. The fact that you are still writing to this day is inspiring. Truth be told, you could be spending the rest of your life doing nothing. But you choose to write, because writing isn't just your occupation - writing IS your life. Most people that don't write do not comprehend that. But every single writer does. No matter what one writes, every writer feels the same about writing. It's a shared understanding. But with you, writing has been more than just writing, it has been your voice. I can't imagine what it is like being in a room full of people, and not being able to keep up with the conversation as it is going. But I can imagine how much you have relied on your writing to communicate. I myself have a hard time communicating as I am talking. I find that I write much better (and I seem smart when I write, oppose to my big, loud, mouth!) I don't expect you to read this. But regardless, I feel compelled to let you know I love your book and enjoy your weekly reviews. Despite the fact that I disagree with some of your ratings (I am sure you haven't heard that one before!), I absolutely love your writing, especially when the creative mind of Roger Ebert runs wild with some of the god-awful films you had to review! Thank you so much for many years worth of great writing (and many more to come). Sincerely one of your loyal readers, Keith Helinski
The Lion King in 3D(!) The Lion King… I really benefited from being a ‘90s kid, because in my lifetime – I grew up with four instant Disney classics (plus the start of Pixar’s legacy). I still remember seeing The Lion King in theaters back in ’94. I still remember being obsessed with the music, and playing the score over
and over. I still remember getting giddy each and every time the classes I had throughout the years in school, played The Lion King. And I still remember when The Lion King came out on DVD. I was in for a shock when I found out about Kimba, the White Lion. I won’t go into details. Just google it! It pains me that one of my favorite Disney movies is an unaccredited remake! In fact, it pains me more than sitting through Lion King 1 ½ again! But it is what it is. And it doesn’t take away from the sheer experience of the Disney logo showing up on the screen, a sound of a lion roaring, and Elton John’s ‘Circle of Life’ immersing in your ear-drums! Except..maybe… …in 3D! or does it? At first, I didn’t like the idea. And I still don’t like the idea. I was all for having things in 3D. But now that EVERYTHING is in 3D, I don’t care for the 3D gimmick anymore. It works perfectly for flat movies like Avatar or My Bloody Valentine. But Lion King is a well-made Disney gem with flawless animation. It does not need the gimmick to enhance the magic of the film. Luckily, it’s only for a limited release. I went to see it with my grandma, who was more curious than me. This was her first 3D experience, and she bit into that eye-candy with delight. Me? I was impressed with the digital print. And I must say the backdrops did look amazing in 3D. But I still feel strongly about my convictions when I say, Lion King doesn’t need to be in 3D: it’s perfect as is. It is what it is. Hakuna Matata! It was a treat to watch my grandma giddy. That is the magic of Disney. Doesn’t matter what age you are. Once that castle magical ignites the screen with the music of ‘When You Wish Upon a Star,’ the kid in all of us comes to play! As unnecessary as this 3D gimmick is, I hope it gives many people that nostalgia I had, and I hope it brings magic to those kids that never experienced The Lion King on the big screen. If there is one thing I do wish Disney did more often – bring back their classics on the big screen again, like they once did many years ago. It doesn’t need to be in 3D. A digital print would be sufficed.
A short above Six Feet Under Once upon a time, there was a man named Nate. He worked at a grocery store. He had a happening career there. He was at the prime of his life. He was going to visit his family for
Christmas, when tragedy hit him from the side. He then got sucked into the family business he desperately ran away from all those years ago. Like all tragedies go, he was a mess at first. But he learned to pick himself back up. He also started becoming comfortable with the family business. He was an idealist of sorts. But he was also flawed. He tried his best in life, but against his own limitations, he always managed to screw things up. Especially when it came to relationships. He had as many relationships as the customers he dealt with at his family business did. Soon, tragedy hit him again. Nate then and there became the family business, rather than being part of it. The family business happens to be called The Fisher and Sons Funeral Home. And Nate happens to be a character from the show, Six Feet Under. Six Feet Under is five seasons worth, 13 (or so) episodes a season. It aired on HBO ten years ago. I got hooked a few years ago, and ended up picking up the series box set, which consists of a box looking like a tombstone underground. Six Feet Under takes a very touchy subject for everyone, and makes it almost comforting. It is never pretentious or preachy. It is sad. It is funny. But more important than that, it is real. And it eases the subject matter in real life a bit. I recommend you netflix it. It is the top of my own favorites, list.
The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (Extended Editions) SYNOPSIS The Fellowship of the Ring: With the help of a courageous fellowship of friends and allies, Frodo embarks on a perilous mission to destroy the legendary One Ring. The Two Towers: In the middle chapter of this historic movie trilogy, the Fellowship is broken but its quest to destroy the One Ring continues. The Return of the King: The final battle for Middle-earth begins. Frodo and Sam, led by Gollum, continue their dangerous mission toward the fires of Mount Doom in order to destroy the One Ring. CRITIQUE I once heard a Star Wars fan boy tell me that Peter Jackson ripped off George Lucas. He said, â€œCome on â€“ RETURN OF THE KING?!?! Peter Jackson obviously ripped off RETURN OF
THE JEDI!” I could enlighten you with the rest of the conversation, but I don’t recall much else because my intelligence dropped to the ground at that very moment! In case you have been living under a rock, The Lord of the Rings has been around for quite a while. I don’t wish to give the history of it. Just check the MANY documentaries that are featured on this set. It gives great detail about the books, and the man who wrote the books. But what I will do for you is remind you how much influence the books had. The Lord of the Rings certainly did not start the fantasy genre. The Wizard of Oz, maybe. The Bible, definitely! But The Lord of Rings is only 50+ plus years old. Sure, it has its AARP card handy. But it is not ancient by any means, even if it feels like it. It wasn’t until the ‘70s when people started getting turned on by Middle Earth. It inspired many songs by Led Zeppelin and Rush. It inspired Stephen King to write his magnum opus, The Dark Tower series. It even inspired George Lucas to make a certain space opera, something fan boys don’t care to admit! For many years, the talk of a movie adaptation plagued by, ‘it will never happen.’ But as Stanley Kubrick once said: “If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.” And Peter Jackson did both. The Lord of the Rings films are rare. For one thing, it is rare to see movie(s) as close to its source material as possible. It’s even rarer to find someone that is in deep love with the source material that they are adapting. There was a lot of fear that these films could fail. But it did the very opposite. It succeeded in ways that I am sure not even Tolkien could dream of. And even more rare, to have a trilogy that is as good from start to finish. Even the fan boy’s socalled ‘greatest trilogy,’ has its weak moments (especially anytime a certain someone goes slaphappy with the revisions!) These films inspired a new era for the fantasy and epic movies to come. It also made role playing games at friend’s house cool again, yearly visits to your local state’s Renfest not so embarrassing, and kids to read Tolkien’s classics. It made people want to revisit Middle Earth again. And I am sure these films will be beloved years from now. It goes without saying that these films also have its share of mockery. I think Kevin Smith did it best on Jay Leno (before he used that material in Clerks 2). Yes, these three films are VERY slow moving. But that’s what makes them great – it doesn’t rush into things or spoon-feeds the audience. It allows the characters to think and feel – and the payoff is greater when that extra amount of attention is given. THE VIDEO Lord of the Rings trilogy (all three films) is presented on two dual-layer MPEG-4 AVC video 50GB Blu-rays with 2.40:1/1080p widescreen transfers. All films are slightly darkened with some green tint (and it’s very obvious with any light texture).
There is some uproar with fans about the green tint. Personally, it didn’t bother me. It’s not like some controversial drastic change that makes you yell NOOOOOOOOO! The only real reason I decided to upgrade is the picture quality. As much as I loved my extended DVD sets, I noticed the poor picture quality as I was watching the DVDs on my widescreen TV. I don’t have the biggest TV on the face of the Earth, but the resolution was noticeable. After reading the reviews with this Blu Ray set, I bought it used via Amazon. It wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t too pricey either. I was out for the picture quality. I popped Fellowship into the player with no real high expectations. The few flaws with Blu Rays I noticed is dark scenes are sometimes hard to make out. The Harry Potter Blu Rays, for a good example, has a lot of dark scenes with poor resolution. Fellowship opens up with dark scenes. I was surprised with how clear it was. From the start of the New Line logo, everything is as perfect as it could possibly be. Even the LORD OF THE RINGS logo looked just right. I was in geek heaven from the getgo! One negative about the quality – the more pristine the picture looks, the more evident the blue screen ‘effects’ look. And one little, tiny, micro, Hobbit-size nit-pick: the movies on two discs. I am not sure if it would ruin the quality, but it would have been nice to see the movie(s), it its entirety, without changing discs. I am sure in the future; there will be a set like that. On the other hand, considering the books are organized in six sections – it’s understandable Peter Jackson has all three movies, organized on six discs. THE AUDIO English DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 blasts/booms/blares/and boosts the home theater system world in ways I haven’t seen (or heard) any other Blu Ray title I own has. Compared to my DVD sets, this set is louder, crisper, and better all ways around. Worth cranking it up! THE EXTRAS Take my word for it, this set is loaded! Everything from the extended DVD sets is ported here. They are on DVD discs though. The only Blu Rays is the movies themselves. I don’t care! And I’ll be honest; I never really went through the entire special features on my extended DVD sets. Maybe I should make an effort this time. The only other nit-pick I have is a few extra bonus materials that would have been nice to see. No, not the theatrical cuts (don’t really care for that!) But it would have been nice to see the 70s animated films included on this set. I am sure that is a studio issue, though. Also would have been cool to see Neil Peart, Robert Plant, Stephen King, George Lucas, J.K. Rowling, and many others talk about the influence Lord of the Rings had on them. No question
Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: the Gathering and the other entire role playing games out there also have LOTR influence. But that is just micro-nit-picking. FINAL THOUGHTS Let’s get this straight once and for all. This is the set to get. NOT THE STAR WARS SAGA SET! And you know why that is? I never once noticed Gandalf blurting NOOOOO at random moments, creating cringe-worthy reactions! Peter Jackson’s trilogy is by far superior in its scope, its direction, and its story telling. It is based upon the very material that is beloved by many, and has inspired many. I do expect more LOTR sets to follow much like the various DVD sets. But this is it for me. I am satisfied with the picture/sound quality. And with the gazillion hour’s worth of bonus material, there really isn’t much else they can do to these movies, other than maybe adding unnecessary scenes or dialogue! Who knows? Maybe in 20 years, Peter Jackson will get bored and add NOOOOOOOO to random scenes!
“Life isn't like in the movies” - A Cinema Paradiso Short Story. Totò' got off a blue bus. He held a suitcase in each hand. He sat them on the ground. He looked around to his old hometown. Everything changed. But everything is the same. He stared dead center to his old employer, the good ol’ Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, the place he grew up at. Totò' started at the theater when he was just a kid. The movie projector fascinated him and the magic the projector brought to people. His good friend, Alfredo, whom is like a father figure in Totò'’s life, showed him the ropes of the movie biz. Totò' literally grew up at this theater. He had his first kiss, his first fuck, his first crush, and his first love there. In fact, his love has never left his thoughts. He wanted to be with her forever, but fate had different plans. As a result, he left the theater to join the army. He decided to come back home after his duty was completed. Totò' stared at the movie theater with nostalgia. He noticed a man at the projector booth, leaning out of the window from inside the theater, having a smoke and catching a breather. Totò picked his two suitcases up, and walked toward the theater. He was both sad and happy to be back home. As he walked toward the theater, a dog approached him. Totò’s emotion changes rapidly as he dropped the two suitcases back on the ground, and knelled down to the dog’s level. He then petted the dog with a sign of warm friendliness. “At least someone is good to see me home,” Totò thought to himself.
Totò walked through his town to see his good friend, Alfredo. Totò reflected upon the girl that got away all those years ago. Alfredo comforted Totò, like a good friend should. Alfredo then told Totò' that he should move on with life, including his home. He said to Totò that this place is cursed. They both walked to the beach nearby. They sat at a bench. The sound of waves can be heard at a distance. Alfredo broke the silence. “Living here day by day, you think it's the center of the world. You believe nothing will ever change. Then you leave a year, two years. When you come back, everything's changed. The thread's broken. What you came to find isn't there. What was yours is gone. You have to go away for a long time... many years... before you can come back and find your people. The land where you were born. But now, no. It's not possible. Right now you're blinder than I am.” Totò' playfully asked: “Who said that? Gary Cooper? James Stewart? Henry Fonda? Eh?” Alfredo sighed and said: “No, Totò'. Nobody said it. This time it's all me. Life isn't like in the movies. Life... is much harder.” Alfredo sensed that Totò still does not get it. More aggressively, Alfredo said: “Get out of here! Go back to Rome. You're young and the world is yours. I'm old. I don't want to hear you talk anymore. I want to hear others talking about you. Don't come back. Don't think about us. Don't look back. Don't write. Don't give in to nostalgia. Forget us all. If you do and you come back, don't come see me. I won't let you in my house.” Totò' felt… “Understand?” Alfredo asked. Totò finally got it. His love that he was pinning over. His love for the cinema he would spend his entire life at. His life for the town that is dying. His friend, that is more like a father, wanted a better life for Toto than he ever had. Totò got it. With sentiment, Totò said: “Thank you. For everything you've done for me.” Alfredo said: “Whatever you end up doing, love it. The way you loved the projection booth when you were a little squirt.” That was the last interaction Totò had with his dear/old/friend: Alfredo. Totò ended up being a very successful movie director. He kept his promise to his friend, and never visited his hometown. He moved forward, instead backward. And never even thought about good ol’ Cinema Paradiso, until Totò got word that Alfredo died.
Now old memories creep up to Totò, and pat him on the shoulder. Old memories Totò has not thought about in a long time. Memories of how he got acquainted with Alfredo. Memories of the old theater, and how it burnt down. Memories of the new theater, and his teenager years there. Memories of his love/and/lost. And his last memory of Alfredo, telling him to leave town forever. He hopes he made his good friend, proud.
“It’s all happening!” – An Almost Famous Short. Imagine it being the 1970s. The Beatles came and went. Woodstock graced us all with love, peace, and rock ‘n’ roll; which ultimately meant getting high, fucking, and listening to some great tunes from poetic geniuses with noisy instruments! After the ‘60s British Invasion, the real invasion began. Zeppelin. Sabbath. Yes. Floyd. Ohhh, the list goes on and on! And if you were in a band, you were a Golden God, especially to those lovely band aides! But watch out for the enemy. They will ruin anything that is to the definition, cool. Yes sir, the ‘70s were a happening time for bands that wanted to make it famous, or almost famous. And the only way to do that: get your face on the cover of The Rolling Stone magazine. Whether you are in the band rockin’ out, a band aide admiring the rockin’, or a rock journalist writing about the rock – ‘it’s all happening’ in 1973!
Everwood - Season 4 SYNOPSIS Andy and Nina seem to be going around in circles with their love. Will they finally hook up or will Nina settle with that Party of Five guy? Ephram and Amy also seem to be going around in circles with their love. But Amy feels she needs to find herself, Joey-Potter-style. And Ephram, well, waits for her…will they get together? All of these (and more) enticing dramas unfold…
It has been little over a year since the last DVD release. How does the fourth (and final) season hold up after all these years (and compared to previous seasons)? It is time to reminiscent about Everwood, and it would not be right without talking about The WB… CRITIQUE In one corner, you had The WB (The Warner Brothers), leading basic cable network that housed iconic late 1990s and 2000s shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, 7th Heaven, Dawson’s Creek (to name some). In the other corner, you had UPN (United Paramount Network), another leading basic cable network that housed the Star Trek incarnated series’, Everybody Hates Chris, and Veronica Mars (among a few). Both networks do not exist anymore and resides in people’s memories, youtube tribute videos, and fan sites. Side note: The WB still has its site where you can stream old shows. To get into the whys/hows, just wikipedia both networks. What is known, and relevant to this review, by 2006, both networks merged into a powerhouse network called The CW (CBS and Warner Bros). Through its merging transition, there was a lot of drama with what show (from both networks) would get renewed and what show would get the ax. For better or worse, Everwood got the ax after four fairly successful seasons. It should be noted that the CW execs picked Runaway over Everwood, and ironically, Runaway lasted a whole whopping three episodes before getting the ax. Many fans were not too happy with Everwood’s demise. And even I will admit, it did not get a proper finale (though, the finale we did get did tie loose ends fairly well). Luckily, after some kick butt campaigning online, fans finally got the show on DVD. But it took a year with each DVD set’s release. If you recall or have read my review from last year regarding season three, I was not too keen with the way the show was going (which is why I have mix feelings about the cancellation of Everwood). To put it mildly, I think the writer’s could not think of anything else to write about. The fourth season is just, simply, boring. In fact, it is so boring that I kept noticing the repetitive music track over and over. With each comedic moment, a specific piece of music would be in the background. With every dramatic moment, this over the top dramatic score comes along. And it is never different. It is always the same score, episode to episode. That is something I never noticed with the previous seasons. I also noticed unfinished dramatic scenes that fade out. A good example. Andy and Nina are talking. Andy says something so jaw-dropping; we get a shot of her reaction. Fade out. Commercial break. Fade back in. No mention of previous scenes.
The story lines consist of mainly, ‘will they/won’t they’ (all across the board). I can not think of one story line, sub-plot, or scenario where ‘will they/won’t they’ comes up. I am not even joking. The first season was so damn strong and had such a dramatic season finale, that I was hooked by season two. And by golly, season two kept me hooked to that season finale. Season three, though weak in some parts, still kept me awake at least. Nothing exciting happens in this fourth season. The finale, as, ummm, okay as it is, ends on a whimper. In fact, it ends with everyone so gosh darn happy. Call me a sour puss, but I wanted to see the show end exactly how it started, with something dramatic and unexpected. That, to me, is true Everwood and The WB. The fourth season of Everwood felt more like something on ABC Family. YUCK! THE VIDEO 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation looks like a mess of things. Maybe it is my 27-inch Sanyo widescreen TV, BUT, the quality sucks. The darker scenes are hard to see what is going on (in other words, it is too grainy). Other scenes are blotchy. There were also moments where the video would be in slow-motion, but the audio would be in perfect tune. Maybe it is my Blu Ray player. Or maybe it is the DVD set. But it is worth mentioning nonetheless. THE AUDIO Much like the previous three sets, it is an average track, with music queues that fill the speakers and dialogue that is clear to understand. THE EXTRAS Deleted scenes, unaired scenes, cut scenes, alternate scenes, misplaced scenes, snipped scenes, spliced scenes, scene scenes! I think you get the picture. Also including is an alternate season finale (well, the last ten minutes anyway). Not much different, except, Madison shows up, rocking the Everwood-boat. I actually prefer this scene better. That is all we get. Considering the network (so to speak) canceled the series. And considering the studio had no initial plans of releasing the DVD season sets anyway. I did not expect a set full of awesome, amazing, epic features. I do have to add: the first season set had features that included: commentaries, featurettes, and other assortments. FINAL THOUGHT Everwood as a whole is a fantastic show that represented The WB’s era perfectly. It was a great blend of the sentimental life lessons of 7th Heaven without preaching (and had a great balance of
religion into the show without having faith shoved down the throat). It had a mix of teen angst without feeling like a Dawson’s Creek knock off (ahem, ONETREEHILL!) And it had doses of small town satire Gilmore Girl’s was known for, without feeling like a full-fledged comedy. Everwood was a damn good dramedy, and even to this day, I can sit down/watch it/and not feel ashamed, opposed to the shows I mentioned above. But Everwood did wear its welcome by the tail end of the third season. I hardly watched the fourth season when it aired on TV. And after stomaching the fourth season, I kind of see why The CW network was hesitant (and finally passed) the show up. The OC, on the Fox network, also had the same dilemma. Two solid seasons followed by two weak seasons, then canceled. This DVD set, I doubt, will sell beyond the Everwood fan-base. And I can not really recommend this set without recommending the first three seasons first. What I can do: recommend the series as a whole. Go to the nearest video store (that has not bankrupted yet!) and rent the first season or type Everwood in your queue list on Netflix. Once you reached the tail end of the third season, and then check this season out. It does have its small merits and Treat Williams is still damn good. Wonder what he is up to nowadays?
Super 8 It is not going to win any Oscars. It is not the best movie of the year. And as far as climaxes go, it is a bit of a disappointment. But for a Spielberg nerd like me, I recognized Abrams’s love letter with ease. The story is about a group of pre-adolescents that embark on making a movie for a film contest. That right there is pure Spielberg, since Stevie started his film career behind a super-8 camera when he was a little tyke. I still like to see his early short films get released on DVD someday. Anyhow, as these kids film one night, something extraordinary happens (following the Spielberg formula here). They film a truck colliding into a train. The train derails, creating all kinds of loud, crazy shit to happen (highlight of the film). There is no secret here; the train carries a strange alien that is very pissed off! From here, we are in Jaws/Close Encounters/Goonies/E.T. territory. The special attention to the group of kids adds an extra element that is missing from a good portion of summer movies these days. The main character has a likeness of both Elliot from E.T. and Mikey from The Goonies; and the girl in the group brings young Drew Barrymore to mind.
I was amazed more so to the attention of detail with the Spielberg-isms. Obviously, the kids/the plot of the story have Spielberg written all over it. But there is small subtle stuff throughout that I caught. A few to mention, there is an establishing shot of the town from a valley up above. It is at night. All the houses are lit up. Same shot used in E.T. The police chief in the town has some resemblance to Chief Martin Brody from Jaws. In fact, there is a scene where the townspeople hound the chief, and his response is the same Brody gives in Jaws. The air force plays a strong role in this movie; in fact, they create a hoax to get the people out of the town, similar to Close Encounters. Even some of the music queues throughout the score of the movie, has some classic John Williams elements to it. I do not know if it was by accident or on purpose, but the use of trains also goes back to Spielberg’s roots, since his fascination with filmmaking began when he started filming his train on his toy train set, colliding into another train. There is even a small little scene in Close Encounters with a toy train set. The conclusion of Super 8 is a bit of a downer though. The movie spends a whole lot building and building and building up to the climax (another check from the Spielberg playbook). Yet, there is a feeling that once Abrams got to the end of the story, he had no idea how to end it… so…it ends on a whimper (though, there is some E.T. feeling I got, maybe that is what his intentions were). Overall, it is one of the most original summer movies in a long long while. It kind of makes you think, ‘boy, they really do not make them like they used to.’ I am sure, if this was released in 1988; it would be the best movie of the summer, by far. It would get its marketing by word of mouth, rather than on facebook/twitter. People would make it an event to see this movie. Considering it takes a year for a movie to get released on video after its theatrical release, this would be the movie not to miss. This would be the movie everyone talks about for a few years after its release. T-shirts 20 years from now would bring back the nostalgia of this movie. But this throw back to a time when summer movies were about the human characters going through crazy shit, will be forgotten next week when the next, big, loud, obnoxious thing that will be forgotten next year anyway, comes around. I really wish Hollywood start making movies like Super 8 again. I am getting bored with the comic book/sequel/remake/3D mediocrefest that floods its way to movie screens. And this is why I do not go to the theaters much anymore.
Yo ho yo ho, pirate life fourth me
The fourth film comes sailin’ away. Poor Johnny. If he isn’t trapped in another Burton flick, he is stuck doing his Oscar Award nominated impersonation of Keith Richards. And in this one, he recites Grand Funk’s ‘I’m Your Captain’ while wooing Tom Cruise’s short-lived love interest. But that’s okay. At least we don’t have Legolas Greenleaf and the chick that loves starring in Jane Austen’s flicks! And it certainly isn’t a Pirate life 4 me without Geoffrey Rush spitting into the camera, on cue! There’s enough swashbucklin’, rum drinkin’, ship shootin’ fun for everyone! The bad-guy isn’t a squid this time around, but rather, the deep-voice gentleman that can’t seem to find credible work post-Deadwood. And mean looking zombie bouncers replaced the CGI fish people. We also have cool looking mermaids that do more than sing under the sea. They kick f’n ass (and look good doing it!) All and all, it’s great summer popcorn fun. And no matter what silly, absurd, illogical plot Disney comes up with next, as long as Johnny is back playing his best Jack, I’m sold.
Raise Your Glass: Stuck in the Twilight Saga To Kevin ‘Joker’ Bruinsma, the biggest anti-Twilight fan around. There is nothing more tortuous than being stuck at a place you do not want to be at (or, perhaps, do not belong). As life enjoys mocking the innocent, there is something quite tedious over the notion of doing something equivalent to pulling teeth for a loved one. That can be said about Ron, the hero to men everywhere. He risked his own sanity for his significant other. He did it with courage, patience, and daring diligence. In fact, he deserves a medal of recognition for his decency. Next time you go to the bar, drink to Sir Ron: the man of all men. You see; Ron did a real good deed for his woman. He drove to the nearest mall and waited in line for what seemed like hours late one night. No, it was not Black Friday. And no, it was not your typical line up of people. You are probably thinking, ‘who cares, what makes him so special?’
Well my friends, poor old Ron stood in a line at FYE, waiting for the newest
Twilight movie to be released on DVD.
As poor Ron walked into the store, footage of the Twilight movies was showing on the television screens mounted on the walls. As you guessed it, there was a line up of tween girls with TEAM JACOB and TEAM EDWARD shirts. And as predicted, their mothers accompanied them, also in TEAM JACOB and TEAM EDWARD shirts. It was pretty even with the amount of cougars and tweens. Hmmm…you wonder what would happen if dads and their sons had the same enthusiasm for the next Miley Cyrus flick? TEAM double standards, all the way! Ron, poor-poor Ron, stood in line. No fast pass could get him out of this. He was there, whether he liked it or not! TEAM EDWARD fan was in front of him. TEAM JACOB fan got behind him. And without even a warning, referee, or time out; friction emerged between the two teams. “Jacob SUCKS!” Team Edward fan said. “Edward SUCKS! Literally, he sucks!” Team Jacob fan said. “Oh yeah, Bella chooses Edward! Now why is that, I wonder? It’s because Edward is a REAL MAN!” Team Edward fan said. “Oh yeah, well…Jacob actually LOVES Bella. He certainly wouldn’t have Bella say goodbye to her family. Edward sucks the big one! In fact, I rewind Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire over and over just to see Edward DIE!” Team Jacob fan said. The verbal war between the two teams started getting more heated, and poor Ron was in the middle of it. “Oh yeah! Well…ummmm…” Team Edward tries desperately to come back with an insult worthy of instant ownage, but can only come up with…“Shark boy SUCKS!” Poor Ron. It was if World War 3 erupted in the middle of FYE, caused by crazed Twilight fans that could not agree which eye-candy team was better to look at. In his mind, he wanted to settle it straight and tell they were both completely and utterly insane for even fighting over something as mundane as Twilight. He wanted to tell all of them, Stephenie Meyer, the architect behind the Twilight fad, is a mediocre writer that ripped off the likes of Anne Rice,
Charlaine Harris, and L. J. Smith. Instead, he let the TEAMS go at it. He prayed silently that they would both knock each other out so he did not have to endure the ridiculousness he was in the middle of. Team Edward fan finally thought of a perfect comeback in her mind, and repeats it like so… “It must really piss you off that Bella chose Edward over Jacob, and that Bella has Edward’s daughter: Renesmee!” Team Edward fan said “It actually must piss you off that Jacob is really the one that is in love with Bella, since he falls in love with Renesmee, who looks like Bella.” Team Jacob fan said. “Eww! Jacob is a pervert for falling in love with Renesmee. And by the way, that’s not true love. As Bella says to Jacob, it’s always been Edward! So, there!” Team Edward fan said. “Edward is the one that’s a pervert, being a bazillion years old and all! And if I had it my way, Buffy stakes Edward: THE END!” Team Jacob fan said. They did not comprehend the fact that they are really talking about pedophilia, necrophilia, and bestiality, and the fact that Twilight is wrapped nicely in a preachy ‘abstinence’ bow! Instead, he ignored the two and saw the line up decrease as FYE management handed over the DVDs. One avid fan that didn’t seem to be on either team, yelled out: “This movie is like, the greatest movie ever!!!...” "...until the next Twilight movie comes out. Then, like, that will be the greatest movie ever!!!" Ron thought to himself. Ron looked up to the television screen, and watched Robert Pattinson act his heart out. Contrary to what the critics may say, he does not look like he is reading a queue-card at all. Then Taylor Lautner came on the screen, showcasing his shirtless craft. Girls started to scream at the eye-candy on the screen. For a product that is trying to teach girls that they should wait, their sexual urges reached out and tried to touch one of Lautner’s abs. Finally, Kristen Stewart, with all her range, came on the screen, looking confused as ever, as if she is contemplating what
to have for dinner: chicken or beef. One Team-Something yells out ‘BITCH’ as Stewart floated on the screen. Poor. Poor. Ron. The line got closer and closer to the registers. Team Edward fan in front of him and Team Jacob fan behind him stopped fighting. They were anxiously awaiting their DVD copy. And so was Ron, so he could get the hell out of there. He felt like he was in a Saturday Night Live parody skit of the Twilight phenomenon, but instead of laughing-out-loud to the silliness he was surrounded with, the girls was really serious about this Twi-madness! Ron finally got up there to the register, handed over the money, received the DVD, and left the store immediately. Team-Something fans were in the corner of the store, reflecting on their purchase. They analyzed the DVD packaging, and already fights were emerging between the two teams with who had more face-space on the DVD cover: Jacob or Edward! Ron noticed a young teenage boy that looked exactly like Edward Cullen, hanging outside the store. A few tween girls flock to him. No question he would be getting laid that night! Ron practically ran out of the store, out of the mall, and toward the car. He got in the car and slammed the door for dear life. He went where no man should have gone, and survived the horrific war that took place. So next time you have a drink, make sure to raise your glass up high and toast Ron, poorpoor Ron. You may laugh now my friends, but you certainly would not be laughing if you were stuck in the Twilight saga war zone between a Team Edward fan and a Team Jacob fan!
You Don’t Know Jack I was a little tyke when Dr. Jack Kevorkia flooded the local news with Jeffrey Figer by his side. I did not have any comprehension of what was going on. Over the years, learning as I went along (and not being spoon-fed in church), I have gained some appreciation for what ‘Dr. Death’
stood for. Without going into the endless debate about the subject matter, he stood by his beliefs 100%, and in some degree, had a legit strong point for what he was doing. But like all success stories that build on the momentum of sheer pride, that pesky ego and cockiness gets the best when someone is at their best. And that’s exactly what happened to Kevorkia. He utilizes screen time a little too much, and instead of continuing his quest, he was more concern about holding up his quest for all to see, taking away that very concept he started with. Al Pacino plays a flawless performance that is ever so creepy yet sincere to Dr. Jack Kevorkia mannerism. It’s so precise that many times, you often mistake yourself of knowing that’s Michael Corleone himself! Not one bit of the film feels Hollywoodize. It’s filmed in Michigan; set at the very places the real events took place. Characters are in Big Boys. Characters are drinking Faygo Pop. Characters are passing Oakland Country Jail. The cars have blue Michigan license plates (which makes me miss mine; it was so shitty when I had to change it because of MI law). No matter which side of the debate you are on, this is a must see film that presents a controversial moment in Michigan’s history – a moment I faintly remember as a kid. Schools didn’t bring it up because of the sensitivity behind it. My own family was divided on the debate (I do remember that). It got national coverage (from Newsweek to People Magazine). He was interviewed at a local radio station, Barbara Waters – he was a media whore. What killed (shameful pun) his ambition was when he filmed one of his cases on national TV. Had he not done that, he would be continuing his quest to this day. He would have gained a lot more supporters. There would have even been a chance of seeing his unique practice on a national level, rather than local. But because of his arrogance of pride, he got lost in his fight against Big Brother, rather than focusing on his stance in the first place. And that’s a repeated flaw that happens to every ambitious individual that gets lost in their ambition. Well done film from HBO, the ONLY network that is not afraid of telling real stories about real people on a real level.
2010: -Walt & El Grupo DVD review -The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story DVD Review -Waking Sleeping Beauty DVD Review -The Sorcerer's Apprentice Blu Ray Review -A Christmas Carol Blu Ray Review -The Psycho Legacy DVD review -Toy Story 3 movie review
-Alice in Wonderland movie review -Halloween II, Part 2 movie review - Everwood Season 3 DVD review -Avatar short -The Princess and the Frog movie review
Walt & El Grupo SYNOPSIS The year was 1941, and the world was on the brink of war. In an effort to improve relations between the Americas, the Roosevelt administration called upon one of Hollywood’s most influential filmmakers to embark on a special goodwill tour. WALT & EL GRUPO chronicles the amazing ten-week trip that Walt Disney and his hand-picked group of artists and filmmaking talent (later known as “El Grupo”) took to South America at the behest of the U.S. Government as part of the Good Neighbor Policy. – Credit to Walt & El Grupo facebook CRITIQUE At the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2008, I formed friendships with people that lived around the globe. We were all part of the Disney College Program (CP). The people outside the United States were part of the Disney International College Program (ICP), which is VERY big and VERY successful. Sure, there are pros and cons to the very concept of it (and I hope to see a documentary about it someday), the great positive point I like to make is the friends I’ve made at Disney, and how I still keep in touch with them. Most were from Portugal /Brazil/and Argentina. Best way to describe my experience; watch the original 1943 Disney film, Saludos Amigos. I was Donald Duck, meeting all the kinds of wonderful/interesting people, and got a worldwide perceptive on things that you don’t learn in school. I think if it wasn’t for Walt and his select group of people visiting South America in 1941, there would be no EPCOT – no Walt Disney World – and certainly no CPs/ICPs. And no question the significance of Disney’s trip in US history as well. With WWII unfolding, the Holocaust, and Walt’s own studio breaking into various strikes - Walt Disney’s trip to South America was in dire need, as well as perfect timing. Walt and his group of writers/artists were referred to as ‘El Grupo.’ Grupo is the Spanish word for ‘group.’ And they visited three countries within a few months span: Brazil, Peru, and Argentina. Walt & El Grupo reflects their trip with various interviews by families of both those that visited the countries, and those that lived in the countries that entertained ‘El Grupo.’ Archive footage, pictures, and letters are presented back and forth, telling the story of their visit. It’s their visit that inspired both Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros films. These two
films were supposed to represent the various differences of both North and South America, as well as spawn a friendship/understanding for both countries. On a political side, it was Franklin D. Roosevelt that had asked Walt to make this trip to South America, to have them alley with the U.S. before Germany gets to them. The two films made were to take Americans away from what was going on, and escape them to something/somewhere else. It was also a way to educate people – though, there are a few contrasting opinions about the approach Disney made with the two films. Some folks in their respected countries felt a bit offended with how their country was portrayed – and that was also presented in this documentary. I can’t say that I blame them. Disney has been known then, and even now – to take something like another countries culture and ‘Disney-ize’ a bit. Even stories of America history has been ‘Disney-ized.’ That’s one untold side of Disney I like to see made into a documentary at some point, as well as possibly a documentary of the early days of Disney’s CP/ICP, and the pros/cons of it. THE VIDEO Walt & El Grupo is presented in 1.78 widescreen. The archive footage, as well as excerpts of the Disney TV specials/featured films is presented in full-frame within the widescreeen format. The new documentary footage looks great. The old footage is a bit worn out and grainy, but still looks good for being footage from the ‘40s! THE AUDIO English and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital are presented and sound good for what it is worth. English subtitles occupy the Spanish speaking aspects of the film. THE EXTRAS Audio Commentary with director Theodore Thomas and historian J.B. Kaufman – I didn’t get a chance to listen to it fully. But I am sure it’s informative enough! Photos in Motion – All the pictures are showcased which were featured in the film. From the Director’s Cut – Stuff that were actually going to be put in the Saludos Amigos film. Saludos Amigos: Original 1943 Release – The entire film as is, and it should be noted that there is a disclaimer at the very beginning of the movie, telling viewers that there is a scene of Goofy smoking a ciggie in the film!
Original theatrical trailers – the trailers to Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. Only thing that would be cool was the addition of The Three Caballeros film. Otherwise, top notch features. FINAL THOUGHTS Walt & El Grupo is a well-made documentary that goes into some depth of a specific period of Disney’s unique history. It showed Walt Disney as a human being: smiling/dancing/smoking/having fun. It’s the side that the Disney Company doesn’t show with theme park attractions/movie archive footage/and their gazillion book releases. I don’t even remember the 2001 documentary, Walt: The Man Behind the Myth, showing Walt as a human being like this! This film also represents the time period well (WWII, Holocaust, and Walt’s own company falling from grace). What I was surprised about is the candid interviews that were made: not just from the Disney family as well as the family of the artists/writers that went along with Disney to South America, but the people’s family from South America that impacted Walt’s visit. Real people were interviewed. Not actors. Not celebrities. But real people. People with old film footage/black & white pictures/and letters written during that time. It’s as candid as it could be for a Disney-made-documentary. I am curious if Waking Sleepy Beauty, The Boys, and Walt & El Grupo is a start of a series of DVD releases (much like the Disney Platinum Edition DVD sets that went on a decade ago, as well as the Walt Disney Treasure DVD sets). I would love to see future documentaries, going into details of Disney crucial/controversial moments in its company’s history.
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story SYNOPSIS An intimate journey through the lives of Robert and Richard Sherman, the astoundingly prolific Academy Award winning songwriting team. CRITIQUE
Growing up with Disney. Working at Disney. I know the songs by heart. Every time I hear the music, it takes me back to instant nostalgia. From the music of Mary Poppins, to the hammered songs at the theme parks – there is no question the Sherman Brothers’ music is well known around the world. But only a few know about the Sherman Brothers’ themselves. Even I, a self-proclaim Disney fan, wasn’t all too familiar who the Sherman Brothers’ were. So I myself got educated throughout this documentary. And I have to say; there is a lot I didn’t know. Robert Sherman was born December 19, 1925. His parents were Russian-Jewish Immigrants. Robert’s brother, Richard, was born June 12, 1928. They both weren’t that close, despite their career together. Robert was in the Military during WWII (and walked on the concentration camps after the Jews were declared free). He loves to paint, and enjoys songwriting, though he preferred songs geared more for a mature audience. Richard’s heart belonged to only music. He was the one that was always behind the piano, playing. He liked the more ‘feel-good’ music, and preferred family friendly songs. The two, for better and worse, used each other’s strength/weakness’ to create music together. Their workmanship and chemistry got Walt Disney’s attention, and the Brothers (known by everyone as ‘the boys’) started writing songs for The Mickey Mouse Club in the 50s. Soon, they were making songs for theatrical releases – and it got them to their magnum opus of their career: Mary Poppins. In fact, ‘Feed the Birds’ is a personal favorite of Walt Disney himself. As soon as Walt died, their connection to the Disney Company faded. And they soon turned to other studios. As a result, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Charlotte’s Web came to be – two successful movies that have the Disney charm, but isn’t Disney. They returned to Disney in the 70s/80s, and worked on various projects (including songs for EPCOT). Through all of this – there was hostility, jealously, and ultimately animosity between the two brothers. As they got more successful, their relationship became rockier. And like any musician/group/band, the more successful you get, the more issues become apparent. Robert wanted his own separate life away from it all. Richard thrived on the success, and wanted more. And soon, they both partied ways. They both had their separate lives with their families. Robert continued on painting. Richard continued with his passion for music (and occasionally pops up for an appearance on the newest Mary Poppins laser-disc/DVD/Blu Ray release). The two would only meet together during parties/events/etc-etc. Even though they grown apart, they are still connected as brothers. There is still a lot of love between them. And they wrote some really fantastic music that will live beyond their years. The pieces now fall together, as I learn about who ‘the boys’ were. Interviews by the very people that were part of the success of these two brothers’ careers help fill in the gaps. From Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, to Debbie Reynolds and even one of my childhood heroes: John
Williams. Fans of ‘the boys’ also partake in this documentary. Big names like Robert Osborne (the TCM guy!), Disney enthusiast Leonard Maltin, and even Ben Stiller (whom holds a producer credit for this film) share their love for ‘the boys’, and try to shed some light on who these two people really are – and the accomplishment they achieved. THE VIDEO The 1:78 widescreen presentation is really good, considering it’s a documentary. Early footage of movies/TV clips of Disney is a bit grainy, but everything else looks good. I was even more shocked that non-Disney footage was featured (like Chitty Chitty and Web). THE AUDIO English 5.1 Dolby Digital sounds good as well. Because this is a film about songwriters, music plays a key part in this film. And LOTS of music is blasted through the speakers. Sounds great. Almost disappointed this film never made it to the Blu Ray release. THE EXTRAS Why they’re ‘The Boys’ – Briefly explains why they are called ‘the boys’. Goes as far back as The Sherman brothers’ grandparents, and it escalated to their friends and associates. Walt Disney himself always called them ‘the boys.’ And they are still referred to as ‘the boys’ to this day. Disney Studios in the ‘60s – A brief look at what the company was like in the 1960s. Lots of focus on Mary Poppins Casting Mary Poppins – Let it be known it was the Sherman Brothers that got Julie Andrews the role. Something I didn’t know, nor did I know that Andrews was actually holding out for the role in My Fair Lady. Glad she didn’t get the part. Can’t imagine anyone else playing ‘Poppins.’ The Process – Describes what it is like to write lyrics for a song. Pretty interesting. Certainly a little different to the process of writing a DVD review! Theme Parks – A really cool look at the Sherman Brothers’ influence on the theme parks, as well as the infamous ‘It’s a Small World’ song. I was a bit surprised with how Disney let the filmmakers give both the positive and negative side of how well but ANNOYING the song really is! Especially looped all day, EVERYDAY! I would rather be trapped in ‘Carousal of Progress’ for an entire week than 20 minutes worth of ‘It’s a Small World!’
Roy Williams – Williams is an artist that happens to work in the room next to ‘the boys’ room. Williams often overhear ‘the boys’ work, and drew pictures of how he imagined them working. A few funny drawings of Walt himself. Bob’s art – A wonderful look at Robert Sherman’s paintings throughout the years. Celebration – People that worked with him. His fans. And even ‘the boys’, themselves, praising the legacy of ‘the Sherman Brothers’. Sherman Brothers’ Jukebox – an interactive Jukebox, which has a handful of ‘the boys’ songs. You click the song, and you have a mini-featurette of ‘the boys’ reflecting on the song, them rehearsing the song and a brief performance of the song in whatever movie/show the song was featured in. This was an interesting idea, though, I kind of wish it was more complete (perhaps a second disc dedicated to just this idea of all their songs – and in complete form). FINAL THOUGHTS After many years of seeing their faces, I finally know who they are. It’s another well-made film that elegantly portrays two wonderful brothers that created some extraordinary well-known music. I was moved, actually. There is a sense of lost with these two brothers, and I am sure – regret. I was surprised on how detailed this film went (and the non-Disney footage it used to tell its story). I hope Disney keep this up. I want to see more of these types of films. I end my review with excerpt lyrics of one of my favorite Sherman Brothers’ tunes, which showcases their brilliance on wording every single word perfectly together. Now as the ladder of life 'As been strung You may think a sweep's On the bottommost rung Though I spends me time In the ashes and soot In this 'ole wide world T here's no 'appier bloke
Waking Sleeping Beauty
SYNOPSIS Far from a fairytale, Waking Sleeping Beauty is an unprecedented eye-opening look at the conflict, drama and tension that usher in the second chapter of Disney’s animation legacy. CRITIQUE I worked at Walt Disney World for a year between 2007 and 2008 through the Disney College Program, and I was part of the awesome custodial department at EPCOT: World Showcase. While I have some amazing stories to share, as I saw both sides of the Mickey-engraved-coin, one relevant story is the resentment toward Michael Eisner from everyone working for Disney. For the good and for the bad, he made some real changes to the Mouse-house. Eisner was one of the first ‘outsiders’ (along with the late-great Frank Wells) who took over the Disney company, the first that wasn’t Disney-blood and wasn’t part of the Disney tradition, and his changes were somewhat radical for the studio. These changes included the VHS releases of Disney classics, breaking the seven-year theatrical tradition, and shepherding the creation of Touchstone Pictures, a move that gave Disney an outlet to release adult themed projects, and Disney-MGM Studios, now called Disney Hollywood Studios. All these (and more) were a bit off-kilter to the Walt ways, though it wouldn’t be fair to say that he didn’t bring much success to the company, yet not single handedly, of course. Eisner was a contributor, along with the talent that surrounded him, and the talent he brought to the table. One key player in this story (and in the film) is Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was brought in as head of animation. He wasn’t well liked at first; tough on the animators, lacked the Disney knowledge, and was more interested in money rather than art (that much can be said now with what he has done with DreamWorks over the years, and what he will be doing in the near future). No matter what anyone says, it was his controversial shake up that made both art and money for Disney. Specifically, Katzenberg moved the animators from their comfortable offices in the building that created Cinderella and Peter Pan decades earlier and shipped them to trailers miles away from Disney Studios. Though a bit tasteless if you ask me, it’s the animators’ mistreatment that pushed them to that point where they felt they needed to prove something, and after The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, I think they did just that! However, it wasn’t just the animators themselves that made the magic work. In fact, names such as Howard Ashman, Ron Clements, John Musker, Alan Menken, and many more helped make being ‘Under the Sea’ fun, and let the audience ‘Be Disney’s Guest.’ It was the start of something new, ‘the Renaissance Era’ as most likes to call it. The Walt Disney Company went from being a self-parody of itself to a major success again. Like all great stories, however, it wouldn’t be compelling without that added element of conflict and drama. There are no real antagonists in this tale, yet like all great success stories, cockiness starts building up, egos start to clash, and fights start.
Tragedy hit twice for the company during this film’s time period, the passing of Howard Ashman right before Beauty and the Beast was complete, and the passing of Frank Wells before The Lion King was released. As soon as Disney lost Wells, the studio lost the era they were in, and even though we all know what happens next with ‘the colors of the wind,’ the focus of it all was great successful men, and the success that got the best out of them. The film leaves out some details, however. The original VHS cover case of The Little Mermaid with the penis looking castle, as well as some of the alleged sexual references in The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. The Lion King coincidentally sharing a lot of similarities to Kimba the White Lion, and their denial that there was ever a connection to the beloved Japanese 1960s animated series. Furthermore, it would have been interesting to see the company’s reaction to the anti-Disney documentary Mickey Mouse Monopoly, which has been shown in schools across America over the years. Though these tidbits aren’t really reverent to the documentary explicitly, it would have been worthy of a mention or perhaps set aside for a bonus feature. If the filmmakers intended to be honest in all areas they should be able to mention these without any sense of shame, and it was all within the era, which Walking Sleeping Beauty represents. THE VIDEO The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is raw, gritty, and looks perfectly fine as is. THE AUDIO For any documentary, I have it at moderate volume. Here, the English 5.1 Dolby Digital track is good at moderate volume. It’s all dialogue driven for the majority of the time, but noise levels grow louder when film clips are spliced in. THE EXTRAS Why Wake Sleeping Beauty?: Defends the movie, and its ten years in the making. Deleted Scenes: There are a few cool snippets here, as well as extended interviews of Howard Ashman that’s worth a gander. The Sailor, the Mountain Climber, the Artist and the Poet – talks about the good people that Disney lost during this films period. Studio Tours: Home movies of the Animation Builder, and the basis of the ‘archive’ footage. A Reunion: A couple of the animators that goes way back to middle school.
Walt: That era’s gifted people, talking about their love for Uncle Walt. Audio Commentary by Director Don Hahn and Producer: Very informative and adds a lot more perceptive to not just the film, but the time period as well. It includes interview excerpts of various people, including with Roy E. Disney, who was just as important in that era as everyone else mentioned in the film. FINAL THOUGHTS I am sure all the head honchos mentioned in this wonderful film feel that they single handedly made The Lion King all the way down to The Little Mermaid. And some of that ego is presented through subtext of the movie, but it was everyone, from all the hot shots to the animators and voice talent – everybody – who made the magic during that time period. It was even all the egos clashing that made four instant masterpieces. Waking Sleeping Beauty is a wonderfully edited time capsule of the unseen side of Mickey Mouse’s kingdom. It’s not really attractive, mind you, and certainly no pixie dust present, but one would be completely blind if they didn’t sense the magic. It doesn’t feel like a documentary with the archive footage shown throughout. There are no talking heads, no scenes of recent interviews (all the interviews are voice-overs). All sides are presented, with no filmmaker bias of either one (Michael Moore could take a lesson or two!). Walking Sleeping Beauty is honest, fair, and concise (though not complete). It’s what you wouldn’t expect from the Disney Company and because of that alone, it is worth seeing. Waking Sleeping Beauty is for the Disney enthusiasts and anyone who has ever worked for the company, but also for the rest of the populace curious about what it was like behind Mickey’s doors during The Little Mermaid to The Lion King time period.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice SYNOPSIS Bad-Ass-Evil-Sorcerer tries to defeat Bad-Ass-Good-Sorcerer. Bad-Ass-Good-Sorcerer trains three Sorcerer apprentices. In time, Sorcerer A falls in love with Sorcerer C, but Sorcerer B is also in love with Sorcerer C, gets jealous, and joins Bad-Ass-Evil-Sorcerer to defeat Bad-AssGood-Sorcerer, and the apprentices. Bad-Ass-Good-Sorcerer is defeated once and for all, and Apprentice B and C – as well as Bad-Ass-Evil-Sorcerer are trapped in a nesting doll. Sorcerer A sets out to find a successor for Bad-Ass-Good-Sorcerer and defeat Bad-Ass-Evil-Sorcerer, hence the title of the movie. And that, folks were just the first 10 minutes of the movie!
Sorcerer A finally finds the ‘chosen’ one and trains him, but the ‘golden child’ falls in love with a Bella-look-alike, adding that much needed montage of him deciding whether he should pursue the girl or save the world. Did I mention Sorcerer B is loose and wrecks havoc in New York City? Also, Bad-Ass-Evil-Sorcerer gets unleashed in the film’s climax where the ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ becomes the ‘Bad-Ass-Good-Sorcerer’ he was chosen to be. You know, in a nutshell. CRITIQUE The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is like a true Jerry Bruckheimer production – larger than life set pieces, jaw-dropping special effects along with a random plot, and dumbed-down dialogue. Oh, and Nicholas Cage being cooler than he really is, front and center, but luckily his mediocre acting doesn’t make his head explode this time! I really had zero expectations going into this movie, though I had read the criticism, specifically how silly it is. I’m a huge fan of ‘The Sorcerer's Apprentice’ portion in Fantasia so I kind of didn’t think this movie would work, but two hours later, to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it, silliness and all! There are some popcorn flicks you have to forgive and forget for their very obvious shortcomings, and enjoy them for what they are. This is one of those cases. For everything that is wrong with this movie – miscasting, over-explained exposition, dumbed-down one liners, and an overabundance of CGI – it actually works in its favor. Sure, it could have been better, but it could have been worse as well. Like Michael Bay worse. So there’s that. As predictable as the plot is, the ‘magic’ of the movie makes it quite enjoyable. Not knowing what these sorcerers are going to do with the various spells is real fun to watch, and it even makes a simple car chase sequence exciting. And yes, there is a cute reenactment of ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ sequence along with the music. THE VIDEO Disney presents The Sorcerer's Apprentice in a 2.40:1/1080p encoded MPEG-4 AVC video transfer on a 50GB disc. The movie looks amazing, making the CGI almost flawless. Colors are incredibly vibrant, the image absolutely well defined and great amount of detail. THE AUDIO The English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is pure ear candy. I watched the movie with my Sennheister HD 555 Headphones, and it constantly vibrated my eardrums. A real treat for a sound effect enthusiast like me! THE EXTRAS All features are presented in high definition:
Magic in the City (13:00): Shooting in New York City. The Science of Sorcery (11:00): Science behind the film's molecule-displacing sorcery. Making Magic Real (12:00): A look at the special effects. Fantasia: Reinventing a Classic (10:00): For everyone wondering where they got the brilliant idea of this film, blame Nicholas Cage. The highlight of this feature is seeing bits and pieces of the ‘Apprentice’ sequence in Fantasia in HD! The Fashionable Drake Stone (2:00): A look at the corny magician. The Grimhold: An Evil Work of Art (4:00): A look at the Nesting Dolls in the film. The Encantus (2:00): A look at the Book of the Dea*coughs*, I mean Book of Spells. Wolves & Puppies (3:00): A look at Horvath's canines. The World's Coolest Car (2:00): A look at how Nicholas Cage can be gone-in-sixty-seconds! Deleted Scenes (8:00): Deleted fluff. Outtakes (3:00): A few LOL moments here. It looks like there is a lot, but really it’s quantity over quality. There is no commentary, doesn’t include Fantasia’s ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ in full HD, no documentary about the history of ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ (like the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe poem, written in 1797 – or the Paul Dukas’ symphonic poem, composed in 1897). Too bad. This edition also comes with a DVD and a Digital Copy of the film in standard definition. FINAL THOUGHTS I think one of the sorcerers (perhaps the Bad-Ass-Evil one) put a spell on me to actually give this movie a decent review; I actually enjoyed it. For those that haven’t seen it yet and are reluctant to, know that it isn’t that bad! Rent it on a Saturday night, round up the kids, and prepare to be entertained. It’s a forgettable but harmless popcorn flick that does its best, knowing it isn’t the best! If you can accept that, it’s worth a rental (and even a used purchase).
Disney’s A Christmas Carol This one differs a little bit from the MovieFreak published review…
CRITIQUE Once upon a time, there was a film director name Robert Zemeckis who made great/top notch films (most notable, the Back to the Future trilogy). He was always fascinated with technology, and always harnessed the newest film technology into his latest projects, but without taking away the storytelling. He used doses of it to enhance the story, but never so much that the technology made the story. That was, until his first attempt with motion-caption came about with The Polar Express. Now there’s this impression that Zemeckis is a lot like a kid that learned the art of masturbation for the first time, and doesn’t know when to quit! His latest experiment, the overly ‘been there, SEEN THAT’ A Christmas Carol, is a lot like his last two offerings. Awesome special effects along with flawed-looking characters and a very thin story. I first saw it in theaters last year with the 3D gimmick. I myself am a big Zemeckis fan, and will go see something of his no matter what it is (he could film a toilet running for two hours [IN 3D!], and I would go pay and see it!) From the opening shot of the beloved ‘A Christmas Carol’ book (nice nudge to old Disney), to the street scenes with snow coming down – it was quite an experience. The big screen 3D appeal hides the flaws of the human characters very well. But watching it on the small screen, even with Blu Ray, the flaws are noticeable in great detail. Most noticeable is when Bob Cratchit slides down the street and grabs on to a street pole. From the moment he is swinging along the pole and plots down on the ground, it felt like I was viewing a video game. There are other instances like this when one character interacts with another character. Or when a character picks an item up or sets an item down. So much work went into the believable factor that it ended up being unbelievable anyway. But along with some really bad effects, there are really good ones. Scrooge walking down the street to his house by himself. The sound of the wind blowing and his walking stick hitting the ground is a fantastic simple yet sweet shot. The house Scrooge lives in has that Xanadu (from Citizen Kane) feel to it. And then there is the Christmas’s ghosts, which goes into the bells and whistles of the special effects the film offers. I thought it was cool in 3D, and it’s still cool on the small screen. Some of it (especially the scenes involving the Ghost of Christmas Future), I am surprised is in the film. Borderlines between PG to PG-13 thrill-meter! But was this film really necessary? The way Zemeckis made it sound through interviews on the Blu Ray, he had that ‘I made this just because I can’ vibe. I question that. ‘A Christmas Carol’ is such a great story in itself; do we need yet another adaptation?
One of my favorite incarnations is Richard Donner’s Scrooged, with Bill Murray at his best. It takes the source material, and honors it without following every little detail. It’s updated for our generation (though the movie was made in the 80s, I still find it current with the times). It’s a funny approach, and with heart. Murray gave one of his best performances to date (especially the tail end of the movie with his final revelation about himself; his speech at the end of the movie
still gives me Goosebumps). Although it was a Donner film, it does have a Zemeckis feel to it, well, his ‘once upon a time’ feel when he once delivered great films. I like to see another Death Becomes Her from him, where he goes back to the basics of not just storytelling, but brings out his dark humor side again! THE VIDEO Disney presents A Christmas Carol in a 2.40:1/1080 encoded with AVC and 50GB space, and it looks great. Color quality is at top form, not in the Pixar field but close enough. But just the same, as great of a transfer as it is – the flaws of the movie are noticeable in great detail. But no flaws in the presentation at hand, looks great on any TV (even a small, NONFLAT/WIDESCREEN TV!) THE AUDIO The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio kicked my ass and took names. I am new to the Blu Ray universe, and still find it amazing how it looks and sounds! Alan Silvestri’s wonderful score (as always) to the thunderous sound effects from all three ghosts makes up greatly to the lacking aspects of the film. I mentioned the sound of the wind and a walking stick hitting the ground in the review. It’s a simple scene with no music whatsoever, one of my favorite parts of the film in fact. But there is another scene that I haven’t mentioned in the review. Near the tail end of the movie, Scrooge meets The Ghost of Christmas Future for the first time. During that scene, we JUST hear the sound of a ticking clock. No music. No noise other than the inevitable passing second of each click. It’s these kinds of scenes that make Zemeckis a great film director. His movies are always sprinkled with quiet scenes like these. The opening sequence of Back to the Future with the clocks at ‘Doc’s’ house is a good example. Also included are the French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, as are English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles. THE EXTRAS All features are in HD glory! Behind the Carol: The Full Motion Capture Experience [With or without audio commentary with Robert Zemeckis] (1:35:48): Awesome picture-in-picture feature that presents both the film and the motion-captured sessions on one screen. I remember The Polar Express DVD set had an excerpt of the motion-cap sessions, so it is great to see the entire experience at hand. The added bonus of hearing Zemeckis talk about it makes the experience even better. Capturing Dickens: A Novel Retelling (14:43): A family friendly look at the making of the movie. Typical studio-influenced fluff to make the studio (and the filmmakers) looks good. Informative and comical, but doesn’t rank as the greatest documentary ever made (and with just less than 15 minutes worth, seems a bit lacking).
On Set with Sammi (1:52): Cute little piece about one of the kids in the film, and their experience ‘on the set.’ Basically what you would find on The Disney Channel often. Countdown to Christmas Interactive Calendar: Some stupid little featurette for kids, where they select 25 days leading to Christmas. Trailers, trailers, trailers. That’s all folks! If I were Disney, I would have included these bonus features that I had thought of. A Carol Christmas for many years to come: A nice LONG documentary about the legacy of Charles Dickens classic book and the influence it has made in pop culture. Include the many films/TV shows that are inspired/parodied by the story, or have it just confined to the MouseHouse. A Dickens tale: Another LONG documentary about the man himself. Two commentaries. One by scholars who proclaim the movie spot on to the source material. And a contrasting one with film critics, critiquing the use of motion caption (similar to The Matrix trilogy commentaries). Disney does offer options to buy this movie. A DVD set. A Blu Ray/DVD set. A 3D Blu Ray/DVD set. FINAL THOUGHTS Dear Robert Zemeckis (or do you prefer Bob?), As much as I enjoyed this film in 3D last year, it’s the 3D gimmick that hides the flaws of the movie. You used to be a storyteller that directed films. Now you are a director that hides behind motion capturing! Please come back to the real world! Please come back to us! We miss you! The critics miss you. The film audience misses you. And your avid fans (like me) miss you. In the mean time, although A Christmas Carol is okay/good/fine/decent – it is no where at its potential of GREAT/AWESOME/EPIC/ANOTHER ZEMECKIS’ MASTERPIECE. Even my least favorite movies of yours (Used Cars and Romancing the Stone) have something substantial to it: REAL ACTORS in REAL SETTINGS! I don’t really care for the ‘imagination’ of mo-cap. It still looks like cookie cut people in ‘too good to be realistic’ settings. In conclusion, please come back to that thing I like to call EARTH, and make something worth while again. Because like The Polar Express and Beowulf – A Christmas Carol isn’t a movie that’s going to be watched multiple times in my collection. But Death Becomes Her, Cast Away, Contact, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back to the Future, and Forrest Gump will always be. Sincerely one of your fans,
The Psycho Legacy SYNOPSIS In 1960 Anthony Perkins scared the world with his chilling portrayal of a murderous madman obsessed with his dead mother, catapulting the horror genre into a new realm of possibility. Alfred Hitchcock’s original Psycho spawned three sequels and one remake, and the series continues to affect popular culture 50 years later. The Psycho Legacy follows the indelible filmmaking legacy left by the Psycho movies and unravels the screenwriting, casting and directing of all the movies, examining their undeniable longevity and success. Interweaving ultra-rare and never-before-seen interview footage of Anthony Perkins and dozens of interviews including Robert Loggia, Olivia Hussey, Henry Thomas, Diana Scarwid, Tom Holland, Hilton Green, Mick Garris and many more, The Psycho Legacy is the first documentary to unite and explore decades of Psycho movies in one place, revealing surprises and insights into what is considered the grandfather of modern horror. CRITIQUE It seems fan-made documentaries of beloved series’s are becoming as frequent as remakes. Halloween: 25 Years of Terror. His Name was Jason. And probably one of the most detailed of them all, Never Sleep Again. I have a copy of all of them. I was wondering if a Psycho one would ever come around. Psycho really started it all. Though, there have been a few beforehand that captures the essence of modern horror (Vincent Price’s House of Wax comes to mind). But it was Psycho that really changed EVERYTHING. From film marketing, to story structure, to music – it’s hard to look at a horror movie after 1960 and not think, ‘wow, that’s like Psycho.’ The documentary at hand covers ALMOST everything in regards to Psycho. From Robert Bloch’s fantastic book (and his inspiration of the story – I will give you a hint, it also involves The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs!) And it covers the sequels in great detail. I really enjoy seeing the actors/filmmakers reflect. It’s neat seeing what they look like now, and it’s also enjoyable to watch them talk about the films without bias (AKA studio interference). I think that’s one reason why these fan-made docs are popular. I am a little disappointed that there wasn’t a mention about the made-for-TV Bate’s Motel, or the infamous remake. A mention of one of my favorite theme park attractions, Alfred Hitchcock: Art of Making Movies would have been a sweet bonus feature (I remember during the Psycho
segment of the attraction, Perkins did a wonderful video. That entire video could’ve made it on here. I am sure it’s on youtube). I am also a little disappointed on who the filmmakers didn’t interview. Surly John Carpenter, Wes Craven, hell – even Stephen King himself has credited Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho as inspiration for their careers. Brian De Palma and M. Night Shyamalan both have been known to rip off the style of Hitchcock’s Psycho. All through out the documentary, I was hoping they would pop up and say SOMETHING. Nope. THE VIDEO The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation looks good. THE AUDIO It’s an average track, with music queues that fill the speakers and dialogue that’s clear to understand. Since it’s a documentary, not really worth blasting it at high volume. THE EXTRAS -Extended and Deleted scenes -Full panel discussion with Anthony Perkins -The Psycho Reunion Panel -a Tour of Bate’s Motel And so much more. It’s almost overwhelming, and I didn’t get a chance to catch everything. But take my word; this DVD is more jam-packed than most of your major studio releases. I did get a chance to check out the featurette about the Psycho books. I own all three. And the featurette does a good job referring to all three books. Curious why they left out the remake. FINAL THOUGHT A bit incomplete in the realm of everything Psycho, but does a good job for what it does cover (which primarily the original film, and its three sequels). Anthony Perkins interviews are the highlight of the entire set. If you are a fan and plan on getting the Psycho Blu Ray, pick this DVD set as well.
Toy Story 3 Since the last Toy Story hit theaters little over a decade ago – Disney/Pixar has been busy with other projects, including two of my faves (WALL*E and The Incredibles). The first Toy Story set
the bar/tone/and future of animated movies (for better or worse). But compared to the later Pixfilms, it’s also a bit outdated. So when the idea of a third Toy Story is in the works, I was very worried Pixar wasn’t going to make it detailed. I was so wrong! Toy Story 3 not only captures the innocence, charm, heart, and wit of the previous two Toy Story films but it also provides great detail Ratatouille, WALL*E, Cars, and Up provided. It’s not just grounded to just Andy’s room, or a daycare center (which is what I was afraid of). The story in itself does tend to parallel a little to Disney's The Brave Little Toaster, but not by much. Pixar/Disney both is known to 'lift' story ideas (and likeness) from other films. But like the Mouse-house, they make up for it in the animation. The ‘toys’ are back in town with the majority of the original voice-talent. The antagonist of the film, though a bit predictable and of the same to the villain from part 2, is provided by Ned Beatty (who I have admired over the years). And of course – Tom Hanks/Tim Allen is great together, as they always have been. The highlight is Michael Keaton as the Ken doll. He provides the biggest laughs, and it's nice to see him in the spotlight again (he will always be my favorite Batman!) There are funny moments. There are sad moments. And the 3D hype adds an unnecessary but very enjoyable element to the film. Once again, Pixar creates a gem (and no doubt, an Oscar award winning film). They make it look so easy – and yet, other studios (including Disney, themselves) can’t seem to duplicate the magic Pixar is so gifted with. Pixar also delivers yet another solid short that is attached to the movie. I love their shorts. I wish studios (once again, including Disney!) offered shorts to their films. Toy Story 3 is not only the best movie of the summer, but also the best movie of the year. It has been a very boring year thus far (and a boring start for a new decade). Toy Story 3 finally woke up the slump.
Alice in Wonderland
SAVE THE DATE – MARCH 5TH! Disney Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland. Should have been a slam-dunk, eh? It’s May 12th. Anyone even remember the movie?!?!
It was a cute film that mixed the original source material and the beloved Disney classic in a semi-Tim Burton setting. The 3D gimmick made the movie uber-successful (though a bit overrated as well). The casting was a bit off though. I am sorry ladies and gents, but I don’t think Johnny Depp is THHHHAAAAATTTTT great! Every fanboy/girl proclaims he immerses in every movie he does. I ponder if those same people even seen all his movies (Sleepy Hollow, anyone?!?). He is a hit and miss actor. While he has made some fantastic performances, he also has his share of god-awful ones. Alice in Wonderland is a great example of the very craft of Johnny Depp; hit and miss. A scene where he is at top form is occupied with other scenes where you wish someone else played the Mad Hatter. And let’s not forget his screen time, shall we? Much like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the story and focus of the film is geared toward well – Johnny. It’s as if Tim Burton used Hot Topic regulars as a focus group to write the film. Had he used the Mad Hatter the same way The Joker was used in The Dark Knight, it would have been a much better film (and I would have wanted to see more of Mad Hatter WITHOUT seeing more of Mad Hatter!) With that said, this is not Alice in Wonderland but rather – Mad Hatter in Wonderland. Despite a wonderful performance by Mia Wasikowska, it just doesn’t seem like an Alice story. And since we are on the subject, was it really necessary for Alice to do all the things she did when she was a little girl in Wonderland – just because? For audience’s reasons – it’s understandable. But for story reasons – it’s off-putting. Okay, we get it – she has forgotten her last visit. But do we really need to reenact selective scenes from Disney’s film? Everything just seemed forced. Which leads me to this point: Tim Burton shouldn’t have done this, but rather American McGee’s Alice. That Alice is more of Tim Burton’s caliber. It would have been more visually stunning. The writing would have been better. If you must do it in 3D, that would have been cooler. And Depp would have fitted better in that Wondeland’s world – rather than the one he did with Burton. After all these years since it was first announced in the late 90s, I am still holding out for that Alice. I just wish this movie were a little different. It seems every ten years; Alice in Wonderland gets a revision – whether it’s a mini-series, movie, or something else entirely. Tim Burton and Alice in Wonderland should have been something of greatness – but just ended up being a slightly average movie. For a somewhat better ‘reimagining’ of Alice in Wonderland, check out Syfy’s Alice – which takes a sci-fi spin to the classic story. I want to see something more like that.
Halloween II, Part 2 Uh oh! He is on the loose again, providing madness and suffering on the screen. No, I am not talking about William Shatner-ed masked Michael Myers. I am talking about redneck obsessedRob Zombie, who once created some great music to play during Halloween parties and now has become one of the most mediocre directors of our time.
Watching the first Rob Zombie Halloween movie is like watching a childhood favorite being run over by a semi-truck. You would think lessons would have been learned by now. But because strangely enough, the remake cashed a lot of dough, and because Zombie’s T-Rex story folded for some ungodly reason – his ‘vision’ is now complete with his follow up. What are my thoughts? Glad you asked! Halloween 2, Part 2 – is like watching my childhood favorite having an autopsy after being run over by a semi-truck. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not ALL-bad. There are maybe, two scenes in the entire movie that I enjoyed – both are homages to previous Halloween flicks. The rest is pretty much like a Rob Zombie video. Spliced images that have no continuity followed by quantities of ‘F’ bombs, shock value kills with no pay off, and too many ‘WTF’ moments you have to rewind to believe. I was first excited a few years back, when I heard Rob Zombie was going to direct a Halloween movie. And when he said he is going back to the roots – I was even more pumped for it. Oh boy, did it need some fresh air. And given the fact that Zombie knows horror (not to mention his comments he made on the Halloween: 25 Years Later documentary), I was confident that he was going to make a Halloween movie we have never seen before. He kept one promise at least – it certainly is a different kind of Halloween. But I had no idea that all he was going to do was blend his House and Rejects style using the Halloween characters. I read fan-made scripts that are better than this. And to be perfectly honest, the Halloween series deserved better than this. No longer does Season of the Witch seem irrelevant to the series. I can now say that Revenge and Curse of Michael Myers doesn’t seem too silly anymore. And whomever casted Busta Rhymes in Resurrection deserves an Oscar for great casting. In other words, even the series really-REALLY low points don’t seem quite as bad when it stands next to Zombie’s two attempts. I am at the point where I just don’t want to see anymore Halloween! I am sure I will get a few, ‘it wasn’t that bad’ comments. But here’s the thing. I wouldn’t be so pissed off with Rob Zombie had he not make the comments he made on the Halloween documentary years ago, proclaiming that the series lost the human characters along the way and all it was, was an excuse for Myers to kill. Doesn’t that seem a bit hypocritical when the majority of Halloween 2, Part 2 – is watching a very annoying Laurie Strode scream ‘BITCH’ the entire movie and Dr. Loomis is presented as a greedy buffoon?!?! But what really staggers me is how Michael Myers is treated here. He dreams up his mom (just an excuse for Zombie to keep his annoying wife happy) with a white horse (I am not even kidding you) throughout the entire movie. She tells him he must kill his sister for the family to be together. We are now trailing in Psycho/Friday the 13th country. Whatever little resemblance this movie has to Halloween, it got lost! What bothers me is how Rob Zombie must think he is a cinematic genius. He probably thinks of himself as Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch but he ends up being right up there with Uwe Boll. What also bothers me is Halloween never really got a chance to be itself. Ever since the original back in ’78, many have duplicated the formula. And ever since the copy/paste knock off’s, the
Halloween series has tried to reclaim its glory using the knock off’s as inspiration. But if they made a movie like the original that was just as suspenseful but leaving out the blood and guts – would it make just as much money as the Saw movies? Has the general audience been spoon-fed so much that we wouldn’t be able to handle a horror movie without seeing EVERYTHING? Would Alfred Hitchcock himself, be able to make a successful movie today? I guess that’s what irks me the most. And Halloween 2, Part 2 doesn’t just disgust me – but it also scares me in ways that it never intended to do. Is this the future of horror?
Everwood - Season 3 SYNOPSIS This season, love is in the clear mountain air of Everwood. Back from a troubled summer at Juilliard, Ephram commits himself to his music and to Amy. Andy is drawn to a patient’s wife-and into an ethical dilemma. Dr. Jake Hartman moves to town and starts eating a lot of pancakes, as long as Nina’s serving ’em up. And mousey Hannah Rogers flips over Bright. But don’t expect love to conquer all, especially when the secret Andy kept from Ephram last season comes spilling out. Suddenly, trust is destroyed, lives are turned upside down and the bonds of love-romantic and father-son--are stretched to the breaking point. Andy wanted Everwood to be his family’s home. Now it may be just another place they used to live. CRITIQUE Before the WB/UPN merger which formed The CW (and ultimately, Everwood being canceled), the critically acclaimed series was airing its third season. Two new characters were introduced, including Party of Five’s very own Scott Wolf. It also had many funny moments as well as a few tearjerkers, which are spread out throughout the season. There was a lot of promise, and yet, the season doesn’t quite measure up to the solid first two seasons. The series in itself is very dramatic, and comes off as a family affair, but it’s clear from the start of the third season that it plays more as a soap; I didn’t quite enjoy it as thoroughly for the simple fact that it’s a bit bittersweet. The relationship between Ephram and Amy is bit underwhelming, while the love triangle of Dr. Brown, Dr. Hartman, and Nina is overwhelming. Further, the big ‘secret’ Dr. Brown has is what really kills the integrity of the show, which is unfortunate. After the emotional aftermath of the second season, the question became where do they go from there? And that’s the issue. Another reason why this season disappoints is that having three doctors is a bit of an overkill (mind the pun!) Yes, it worked in season 2, but it just seems desperate this time around. Nothing against Scott Wolf, but he doesn’t quite fit in (literally). His role exists purely to fuel conflict for everyone else without the payoff (which later leads to the fourth season). Also, I really enjoyed Madison in the second season, but wasn’t pleased by how the writers treated her. As well, I
expected Dr. Linda Abbott to leave by the tail end of that season, but I had wished that Marcia Cross stayed a little while longer (although things worked out fine for her when she got cast in Desperate Housewives). Despite my reservations above, I still love this show! Watching the season again reminded me of how much of a capable actor Treat Williams is. The entire show rode on his charisma, much like House M.D. rides on Hugh Laurie now. Williams is much underrated for his craft, and this show gave him the opportunity to showcase it. Despite a weak season, he is still what makes me love this show many years later. My very first column for MovieFreak was called “A Retrospective – The WB.” Since then, the WB became the CW and 7th Heaven finally ended (!), plus the majority of the shows I was into ran their course, ended or simply got canceled. Since I wrote that piece, I grew up a little; I don’t watch half of the shows and programs I did back in 2003, but one of the selective few I go back to is Everwood. Its replay value, exploring both teen and adult themes in an emotionally invested-way and strong acting from Treat Williams is what allows it to stay relevant. THE VIDEO The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation looks sleek. Colors look good. THE AUDIO It’s an average track, with music queues that fill the speakers and dialogue that’s clear to understand. THE EXTRAS Warner wasn’t too eager to release the remaining seasons on DVD after the first season, which was released during the show’s peak, had an excellent amount of bonus material, such as a featurette, a few commentaries, and deleted scenes. The second season was pretty much a dumprelease, with only deleted scenes. With season 3, we unfortunately only get selected outtakes. This is a bit disappointing of course, since the show was fairly successful at the time of its initial broadcast. The core fans deserve better in terms of extras, but then again, Warner was very confident years ago that the remaining seasons would never see the light of DVD-day. (Correct me if I am wrong, but it isn’t even syndicating on other networks, although you can watch streaming episodes on The WB website). Perhaps we should be grateful that we even have this release at all… FINAL THOUGHT
A weak season for a solid underrated gem of a show, it is worth a gander to newcomers and worth picking up for those that want to revisit Everwood. The lack of bonus material is disappointing, but expected. Let’s hope the fourth and final season will get its release next year (if not sooner) with some added material that fans can enjoy. Sometimes, one shouldn’t stop dreaming.
Avatar: short, sweet, to the point A long time ago in a galaxy – far – far – away… Ex-marine John J. Dunbar longs for the ‘final frontier.’ He is talked into, by the Bush administration, to go to Planet Skull Island because there is oil under the ground. There, he plugs into the Matrix using the Stargate to turn him into an eight-foot-Smurf. He then makes friends with the other eight-foot-Smurf's, and falls in-love with Pocahontas, who tells him about the ‘colors of the wind.’ He learns their language, culture, and finds that his own kind is evil. He sides with the locals and fights alongside them in an epic battle for Narnia: the Last Rain Forest!
The Princess and the Frog I consider the 2000’s, Disney’s 80’s. Aside from Pixar and the Pirate flicks, there really hasn’t been anything extraordinary from the Mouse-house. There have been a few decent attempts. But nothing that hits that Disney-mark. Nothing that would make Uncle Walt proud. Nothing that holds a candle or even remotely closely behind the beloved classics of the yesteryears. Until 2009. The Princess and the Frog makes a giant leap toward what Walt Disney Pictures have been known for, the good and the bad. This could be the start of another renaissance for Mickey. This has the feel of The Little Mermaid. It’s fresh and humorous, while nostalgic/romantic/and magical. But what is impressive the most is the daring animation. I am glad Disney is still making 2-D, by-hand animation. This could have been just CGI mishmash. Hell, this could have been in 3D. The story would have been translated just the same. But there would be something missing. Dare I say it: magic. One main reason why the name, ‘Disney,’ and the word, ‘magic,’ has always been paired together is the sheer style of the animation. Deep beneath the family-friendly and sometimes lack-of-character-development within the stories, lies beauty. Every classic Disney title, from Snow White to Lion King, is a work of art. For example – the rich vivid colors in Aladdin, or the
rough texture in Bambi, or the classy feel of Lady and the Tramp. You can always tell which film the animators have put their heart and soul into a feature picture. Princess and the Frog is one of them. It doesn’t need to be in 3D to jump at you. It does that already for you. But with its high praise, it has its share of its nitpicks. It is the first film for the Mouse with an African American in the leading role – and she is a frog majority of the movie. Some may read a little too much into that. When she is human, she does have a very strong resemblance to Belle (Beauty and the Beast). And once again, Disney plays with fairy tales with unrealistic happy endings. However, none of these nitpicks are from me. I feel this film is Disney’s very best in a longlong-while. It’s no instant classic by any means, but has the chops of being one (and perhaps after multiple viewings, it could be). It is true Disney at its finest. And hopefully, the beginning of a solid decade to come. Walt would be proud of this one.
2009: -Trick r’ Treat movie review - John Hughes tribute -Star Trek movie review -X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie review - Adventureland movie review - ‘Twilight’ is for Tweens! short story - High School Musical movie review - The Midnight Meat Train movie review - Friday the 13th (1980) DVD review My Bloody Valentine, in 3D movie review
Trick r’ Treat In my opinion, scary/horror/Halloween movies are enjoyed year round. So who cares if I am over a month late! Anyone who still hasn’t seen this fantastic movie, NEEDS TO SEE IT!!! I consider it the best movie of the year. Not only does it bring back the fun to the horror genre, but it also happens to be really good.
We open up on Halloween. A couple is seen arguing. And from there on, it does tend to lead to a Halloween throw back. But only for a short while before turning the wheels to a completely different story all together. I am sure those few that read my reviews aren’t familiar with the original 1970’s Tales From the Crypt, or Creepshow. That’s the most this film really steers its inspiration from. Except in this film’s case, it also has a Pulp Fiction feel to it, interconnecting the stories and going back & forth with it. It’s quite the experience watching it for the first time. You are unsure where things lead. And that’s what makes it fun, bringing back the unpredictable scares along with it. I had known about this movie last year, and was really looking forward to it. The trailer itself sold me. And had this been released in theaters along side both Saw (which overstayed its welcome four years ago) and the mediocre sequel to the mediocre Halloween remake, people would gone to this movie instead. However, unbeknown to anyone sane – the studio decided to dump this movie instead (like the fantastic Midnight Meat Train last year) to direct-to-DVD. That’s a huge mistake in part of the studio. A really GREAT movie in the horror genre is a rare thing these days. And what are rarer are critics all raving about it. This movie is already critically acclaimed in the DVD circuit. I am curious what top-notch critics would think of this. I am also curious how it would do up against the remakes and sequels. I urge EVERYONE to see it. I really LOVED this movie. It’s slick, scary, and very funny. It’s neither too campy nor not too serious. It’s what a horror movie is supposed to be. Fun and chilling. It also brings back the horror fan in me, which have been dying for an original piece. This is it, my friends. Just a shame it didn’t even get a chance to make its way to the general audience’s eyes. Instead, it’s beloved among the selective horror fan boys. I hope this cult instant classic finds more love. It certainly deserves it.
John Hughes I grew up with John Hughes like I grew up with Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock. Hughes movies appealed to all ages – and his craft of the imagination (as well as his understanding for reality) strikes a unique presence to his films. He really is the father of teen movies. And its unfortunate there hasn’t been too many teen flicks after that, in which is as honest as his films. Especially something to the likes of The Breakfast Club, which is as real as it gets for a ‘teen movie.’ Despite having a handful of teen flicks, he also did a few films that spoke to the family. For adults - Planes, Trains & Automobiles and She’s Having a Baby. And for kids, Uncle Buck and Curly Sue. He also produced and wrote a handful of other films during that time period, including my personal favorites ranging from National Lampoon’s Vacation, Great Outdoors, to Home Alone and the Miracle on 34th Street remake.
It’s a bit sad that he retired from the biz when he had such promise left to give. Every single movie he directed became instant classics. And majority of the stuff he writes and produces are gold. Mister John Hughes, thank you so much for your craft. Your movies teach us, makes us laugh, and even sometimes makes us cry. Your movies have what most movies these days lack: substance. Your movies are about something, and are with real people with real conflicts. You were already missed in the biz, however, you will surly be missed entirely. Rest in peace. Directed by John Hughes - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3udQw0SBzM
Star Trek A long time ago in the ‘verse far, far away… Trekkie-nerds had something to cling on to. Sure, there were the quantities of TV shows, two handfuls worth of movies, and a shit load of books. But like Star Wars, it became redundant and lost its magic. Then the announcement of a (shocker) Star Trek prequel came way. And then, the announcement of who was doing it puzzled some. I don’t mind J.J. I don’t think he is the mastergenius everyone proclaims he is. But I don’t think he is mediocre, like how others describe him as well. To me, I look at him like Joss Whedon. He has his hits and misses. Speaking of Whedon, if anyone should’ve directed a new Trek flick. It’s him. But nevermind about that! Star Trek takes a cop out that actually has rarely been done before, and does the unthinkable. Instead of worrying about following the rules, it basically demolishes what once was, and makes it its own. In other words, it’s an alternate version of Star Trek. For those that thought it sucked, you can cling onto the old classics. They won’t CGI new Kirk on old Kirk *coughs*unlikeStarWars**COUGHS*! For me, I got a kick out of it all. I am a surface Trekkie. I love the movies. Dig ONLY the originals and the generation afterwards of TV shows. So I knew all the somewhat forced puns, references, sounds, motifs, and catchphrases that are in the film. And each person has a likeness to their portrayal without actually mimicking them. ‘Bones’ was always my favorite out of the Trek universe, so I got a kick out of the new interpretation. From the getgo, I thought to myself, ‘yep – that’s Bones.’ From a visual standpoint, this competes to anything Lucas has come up with. It’s also very LOUD. However and probably the only dislike I have with this film…Star Trek has always done a very STEADY-CAM approach. I understand having everything handheld makes it fresh and ‘in the zone’. But I found the shakiness, at times, overkill. This isn’t Cloverfield. What works for one, doesn’t always work for everything. I didn’t mind it. I just found it overkill a bit. And also found the FLAIR/BRIGHTNESS/FLASH completely over the top to the point of unnecessary.
It’s fine for some scenes. But for softer, quieter scenes – not needed. Neither the original series nor the movies had that type of style. Not sure why it showed up in this film. One other thing I like to add. There are four types of people in the world. 1) People that ONLY like Star Trek, 2) People that only like Star Wars, 3) People that find both stupid, and 4) People that likes both. I am in the group that likes both. I grew up with both. When I was young, I actually preferred the Star Wars side of things. They were cooler. But as I grew older, and as the prequels dissolved my love for it – Star Trek has become a bit more of an appeal to me. With Trek, you get a lot more philosophy/science/and thought. It’s meant to be an exploration of different worlds/cultures and the interaction (good and bad) from it. I really enjoyed what they did here. It’s fresh. It’s new. It’s like taking something you love and know, and shaking it up. Sometimes, it works out (Batman). Sometimes, it doesn’t (Halloween). But in this case, I think everything fits well. It’s good to see kids back into it. It’s good to see it made some cash, and won over the critics. And I am curious how the sequel will do. I just hope they don’t always do the flashy BOOM, BOOM – and continue what Star Trek was always strong at – philosophical ideas, mix with great sci-fi yarn. Doing otherwise would be ‘futile!’
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Let’s forget the comics, if it followed the comics, and the comic fanboys. Let’s look at this film on its own merits, and the merits of the first three previous X-flicks. First off, is a prequel to Wolverine really necessary, when in fact, it was established between the first two X-flicks? Not really. But Hugh Jackman is great as the character, the character is a badass character, and if a character sells – the studio will milk the shit out of it (i.e. Friday the 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and all the Classic Universal Monsters), drive the vehicle to the ground until there is nothing left, and THEN - remake it all over again (so kids, coming in 2045: X-MEN, THE REMAKE!) However, even with the unnecessary of a prequel, it could’ve at least been done with taste, some quality, and fit in the world Bryan Singer started (for better or worse, OORRRRR, kick off its own franchise with style, go the Batman Begins road – and do its own thing). Neither really occurred. It both tried to follow the previous films, but disregard small (yet major) consistency, and failed standing on its own. Sabertooth and Wolverine’s relationship is a prime example. At first glance, I admired it. But from the big screen, it seemed more like a George Lucas-type cop out. Wolverine may lose his memory, but Sabertooth did not. Like I said, for better or worse – and with that little hiccup on Singer’s behalf – perhaps, a completely different take would have been nice.
This leads into another inconsistent continuity issue. The actual Weapon X story line, in which was hinted, back-flashed, and revealed between the first two X-flicks. And with so many obvious details made within comic to screen, and movie to movie, the writers (and director) failed to analyze the actual flash backs, of the Weapon X sequence. Between the first two films, Wolverine is shown leaving the experiment with bloody hands, and running in the middle of what seemed like a blizzard. Not yell, scream, pose for a cheesy money shot, run away, slice an obvious and unnecessary X through a wall, kick it, and fall into a waterfall, birthday suit and all. Now, he did lose his memories. It’s all dream sequences. I get that. But still, the dream should be consistent with reality. And the writers failed to add those little details in. The first twenty minutes of the film was the strongest of the entire film, though, with the amount of crap they put into the film – it could’ve been expanded to its own trilogy. The wars itself, which were seen through credits, would’ve worked as its own feature. The group he was in, and the Weapon X program, could’ve been its sequel. And the rushed climax could’ve been the X3, X3 sadly wasn’t. But instead, like X3, the plot is rushed and not thought through. Characters come and go, and are used as plot devices or exposition scenes (like the Blob, not a real significant character, and could’ve been cut from the film). We go from point a, to point b, to point c – without any development. And lets be honest here, from an action movie standpoint (which is the selling point), this was weak stuff. It almost reminded me how much I hated Indiana Jones IV. Too much phony CGI (and inconsistent effects, like the look/length of Wolverine’s blades). Too many cheesy money shot poses (like walking away from an exploding car, looking bad-ass, yet, unbelievably REDUNDANT!), and oh yeah, money shot of a AAAARRRRRRRAAAHHHHHH pose - did Michael Bay direct this!!!). And too many corny one-liners. By the way. Is X-Men Origins really necessary for a title? Just thinking about the title of the movie, makes me cringe. Seeing where this series is leading into, it is roaming into cheesy-Spidey-country. No thanks. Even Iron Man, which was fun and light, compared to the first two X-flicks, wasn’t that campy.
Adventureland It’s 1987. Whitesnake, Def Leppard, and Judas Priest were cool. Absurd over-the-top hairstyles with lots of hair spray were in. And Adventureland was the happening place. A sort of, run-down local amusement park, where working there is worse than a fast-food joint. In the same sort of spirit of working at a golf-course in Caddyshack, as well as the realism of being a teenager in Fast Times of Ridgemont High -–Adventureland gives a unique spin of working at an amusement park. A lot of what goes on in the film isn’t too far from the truth. People do throw-up on a regular basis. An asshole will purposely NOT throw their garbage in the garbage can (and make it so obvious for you to see). Games are in fact rigged. People can get their body parts chopped off if they aren’t careful on rides. Management is real passionate with their love for the environment. And to anyone else, it’s perhaps, a dead-end job.
A little bit of Disney, as well as my short time at Cedar Point. Some of the ‘amusement park’ tricks and lingo does sound all too familiar. But the actually story – first job at a local amusement park, resembles A LOT to my first job. Almost ten years since I applied (and got a job when I was 15) at National Amusements Showcase Cinema Sterling Heights. The people, the atmosphere, the things I’ve seen – all hit me as the film progressed. By the end of it – I kind of wonder why they haven’t made a movie about working at the movies. There were other scenes that just reminded me so much of Disney. The atmosphere of a busy night, and the slowness of a dead weekday. Fourth of July fireworks. And the romantic scenery of either being in the park without any guests, or being backstage with all the trailers and damaged parts. All and all, I don’t think Adventureland will appeal to everyone. It feels longer than it is (the relationships does sort of drag the movie down a bit). Its pure 80s nostalgia (which was also a plus for me, since I am a 80s/90s kid). And anyone that never worked at either a movie theater or amusement park will not really appreciate the hidden-gems (the corn-dogs are bad, yet they sell it anyways – CLASSIC!)
Silly Keith, ‘Twilight’ is for Tweens! – Keith then decides to seek help at the ‘Vampire Anonymous’ (which is a real movie!) Scenes after the credits roll of Twilight. Fade In. Ext. – Outside the window of Bella Swan’s room Edward Cullen: [stands there reciting Romeo and Juliet] O Bella, Bella! wherefore art thou Bella? Sworn my love, Ms. Swan. And you’ll no longer be mortal. Join me, and we’ll play vampire baseball all day, and eat garlic-free red-blood ice cream all night. We’ll walk on the sandy beach, because apparently, sun doesn’t kill us – just makes us glimmer. Bella? [he throws a small little pebble to her window, she notices, and walks toward it, opening the window] Bella Swan: [whiny] God, you watch me sleep like a stalker. Can you give me one second alone? I feel as though you are hovering over me! Edward: But I love you my love. I mean, weren’t you obsessive over me just days ago? Bella: Yes, until I studied women’s rights of the 60s in history class. I realized that loosing my identity, my self-confidence, my individualism to please some guy is superficial and quite misogyny. I know I am in high school, and I am supposed to be completely repressed over my sexual needs and supposed to be conflicted by my increasing indecisive emotions and feelings I
have, but this relationship is getting too f’ed up for me right now. I mean, I completely lost my self to the point that I want to kill myself for you. Oh wait…that’s in New Moon…I can’t tell from one movie to another! Edward: Wait a minute; this isn’t how the book goes. What the fuck (and that will be the only f bomb in this PG-13 movie)?!?! Bella: No, it’s not like we followed the first book anyway. And it’s not like this is Shakespeare. I mean, even Stephen King thought the Twilight series sucked. Edward: Fuck Stephen King. He is a hack. Bella: The Dark Tower!?!?! Hello?!?! You know something real original and not some watereddown Anne Rice?!?! Edward: How would you know that? Bella: I am right now in the middle of reading Interview with the Vampire. Edward: How? Aren’t you watching TV? I can hear it. Bella: Oh, yeah. I was going through my True Blood DVDs. And tomorrow, I am planning on having an entire day of vampire movies. You should come over and watch them with me. I promise my awkward lame father that doesn’t pay much attention to me, even though he got me a truck, won’t be around. Edward: Ok, cool. What are you seeing? Bella: The Forsaken, The Covenant, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Queen of the Damned. Those vampires don’t sparkle! Edward: Don’t think I’ve seen the first two. Bella: It’s similar to Twilight, but not as corny. Though, the concept of vampires is a bit corny – no offense. Edward: None taken. Bella: Anyhow, goodnight. I would kiss you, but then you would be seduced into sucking my blood. And well, we have to keep this abstinence allegory going. After all, this is geared toward tweens. Edward: If this is geared toward tweens, then… Bella: [cuts him off] Don’t even start. Don’t analyze. Don’t critique. Don’t question. Yes, this is sort of teaching kids the wrong way to go about love. But then taking it away from them is not
the answer either. They like what they like and us telling them what to like and not what to like is going against the principle of freedom, even if this story perceives women of not having their own freedom. It’s complicated, like this relationship. Edward: But don’t we tell people what to like, anyhow?!? I mean, look at me. I am a sex god! I don’t have to say anything, and girls flock to me anyways. Bella: And girls think I am the cunt from hell because I didn’t succeed in portraying Bella the way she is in the book, even though the book itself is no Gone With the Wind. But you don’t hear me complaining or questioning. I just accept what is. Though, I refuse to change who I am for a guy. No thank you. Edward: Change who you are?!?! In all due respect, you really didn’t show much of your ‘trueself’ anyhow. You showed more range and character development in In the Land of Women. And you also were decent in Panic Room. Both, you had plenty to say/do. You actually showed emotion. You doubted yourself, sure. But you weren’t afraid to be yourself. You showed none of that here. In truth, you were as dull as burnt toast. And to think, I was going to suck blood to a burnt toast chick. Let’s hope you show more range in Adventureland. Hell, they should’ve casted Evan Rachel Wood! Bella: [hurt] And who are you? Just because you played a small part in Harry Potter, that makes you the next teen sensation? In real life, you look like a mannequin. Edward turns his back on Bella. Bella turns her back on Edward. They think for a moment, and can not control their unattainable lust for another… Bella: [cont’d] Hell with it. Come in here. Edward: But my love, I am not supposed to…we shouldn’t…I can’t…I couldn’t. It’s immoral! Bella: Immoral?!?! I am about to sacrifice myself to a guy. Besides – I read the remaining books. Lets skip over the quantities of fluff to just us having the best vampire-human sex ever in the history of vampire-human sex – and me getting knocked up as a result. Of course, we are going to have some conflicts with our families. Someone wants my baby. Blah-blah-blah. And then it turns into a tween-Underworld. Edward: Wow. That’s awesome! I just hope the CGI is better by then, instead of looking like something that was made for CW television. And besides, I was kind of hoping to wait until we are married, and then have the best vampire-human sex in Brazil. Bella: …but I want you know. Edward: Doesn’t that ruin movie two and three?
Bella: You’re right. Okay. We will wait. Not because I want to wait. But because I have a studio contract, which will piss off all the little bitches that hated me! [Looks at the camera] IN YOUR FACE! Edward: [finishes reciting Shakespeare] Thou art a votary to fond desire. I shall see you again, my love. Bella: Ummm, me too. But please don’t be so obsessive. It’s freaking me out. And besides, wouldn’t want your vampire friends to think you are whipped or anything? Edward: You are right. And since you are on the topic, stop being such a psychotic bitch. It isn’t my fault I am so dreamy and glimmer in the sun! Bella: [under her breath] Don’t flatter yourself. Johnny Depp is so hotter than you! Edward leaves. Bella goes back to her reading. But little did she know, Shark Boy was lurking from a distance… Fade out.
Disney’s Saved By the Bell: The Next Generation - High School Musical Edition A jock gets shoved into karaoke at a party, stating he can’t sing worth a damn. The girl also shoved into this is right next to him that is just as awkward. But like all Disney productions – the obvious coincidence happens – they have pipes like pop stars. And yet another, ‘didn’t see that one coming,’ they become high school sweethearts (awwww, like it was fate or something!) That opens up the stereotype and safe High School Musical, which almost feels like an adaptation on the ‘idea’ of what high school is like (almost as if it was a 1950s TV special). Sexual tension is there, without any angst (though, if you do a google search of the name, Vanessa Hudgens, you’ll see something very not-so-Disney!). Ironic, perhaps? The plus side, they look like teeny-boppers, opposed to The WB/CW scene. But truth be told, John Hughes would be cringing over this. It’s fluff. Simply put. The girl next door. The cute guy. The jock(s). The token black guy. The nerd. The valley girl (blond, obvious choice). The stoners. The clash of cliques. And on queue, guy meets girl. Girl and guy fall in love, as if they were soul mates. Awww…the end! It’s so redundant and by the book, it’s not even remotely enjoyable. We see representation without any emotion. We see characterization, without any human flaws. We see likable classmates we knew in high school, except, we don’t really know who they are. We see teenagers – without showing the troubles/angst/and wonderment teenagers go through. Even last year’s Juno represented the teens of America better than Disney’s pixie-dusted interpretation. Then again, maybe I missed the point? Was this supposed to be a satire, like Clueless or
Heathers? What this supposed to be fantasy escapism, like their classic Prince/Princess films? I know this was geared directly toward tweens, but I am still trying to figure out why the appeal is so ridiculously high. I do find it amusing the instructor’s hatred toward cell phones portrayed in the film. That’s one tiny little aspect that’s lifted from the real world, and does occur quite often – even in the college classrooms. Then there is the ‘musical’ side of things. Disney had done better in the past. This is just mediocre at best. I do like the choreograph dance set pieces. That’s the hardest genre to direct. I admire the effort, though, it does too much of a Grease throwback. Also, is it a coincidence that this has a likeness to Saved By the Bell? So much, that even the high schools themselves, are similar? On one hand, we have Bayside Tigers. On the other hand, we have East Side Wild Cats. Hmmm…it could be just me! This is just not my cup of tea so I will stop at the first one and will not continue with the other two follow-ups. I don’t think I can cringe anymore!
The Midnight Meat Train Horror has been missing a key ingredient lately. The key ingredient that makes horror: horror. With the amount of PG-13 teeny horror (like that Twilight fluff, or the mediocre Ring craze), that key ingredient is played around a lot, but in the wrong areas. Queue suspense music. Camera gives a close shot of a reaction, as the inevitable occurs. We are given the delivery, but no pay off. We are digesting the goods without the enjoyment of the taste. Remakes are also popping up like crazy these days. Some are decent, while others make you question, ‘why?’ Sooo…what exactly am I talking about? Dread. I am not talking about torture porn, like what those crappy Saw movies display (and let’s be honest here, ‘Jigsaw’s’ philosophy on life got irrelevant after part three). But what I am talking about, is getting to know a certain character (or more) during the duration of the movie, and following them to the other extreme, dreading the inevitable. The Mist is a great example. While the ending is a bit, hmmm. Still a great payoff. And it all goes under that key ingredient in horror – dread. If there is one word to describe Midnight Meat Train, it is DREAD. The title does sort of give away what we are in store for. And not since the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, has meat been given the spotlight. Not sure if PETA would approve of this!
But I have to say; I haven’t seen a horror movie like this in a very-very long time. It brings a sleek studio-finance production into an independent-like style. It is certainly an art-house film. The editing itself is pure enjoyment. Remember the original Halloween? Remember the first time you’ve experienced it? Not knowing where Michael Myers will pop up? This film has some of that delivery – where the camera plays around a lot with reflected mirrors, turning the camera a little to the right or left of another character, revealing they aren’t alone in the room. And there was also a nice shot of a guy being sliced up, and the last thing that guy sees is his reflection from his own blood, splattered on the floor! Gross? Yes. But it’s also art in a different kind of way! So, why was this dump from Lionsgate? This has ‘cult classic’ written all over it. I can’t really answer that. For those that aren’t familiar with the story here – this was supposed to be released over the summer . In fact, I remember the trailer in theaters. But then, it got held back. Then, limited release. Then – NOTHING. Critics didn’t seem to mind. It has a 69 percent on rotten tomato dot com (which is fairly respectable for a slasher flick, mind you, the very first Saw has a 46 percent – and it descents from there on). It had enough of a fan base (Clive Barker and horror fans alike). What the fuck was Lionsgate smoking?!? The story, as follows: a photographer, looking to get that one photograph that will make him ever so content (and spawn a career that will provide for him and his long-term girlfriend, soon-to-be fiancée). But soon, hell does show its wrath. The photographer becomes obsessed over a butcher he followed one late night. And this isn’t just any butcher. Vinnie fucking Jones! I guess Daniel Day-Lewis didn’t want to do it! Type-casting, perhaps? But Vinnie fucking Jones?!!???! First of all, if my fiancée were the sexy Leslie Bibb, I would forget my worries and move. But this isn’t a feel-gooder romantic comedy we are talking about. And the title says it all! The photographer’s obsession becomes his flaw, and by the climax, he uncovers a secret about ‘the city’ that is too scary (and perhaps, absurd) for words. But remember who wrote the short story to this film. Clive Barker. And Barker has one strong talent, taking a simplistic story – and twisting it into something both absurd, but f’n’ scary beyond the imagination. From Candyman to Hellrasier, the man knows horror! Midnight Meat Train is a love letter to horror fans. It’s brutal, gory, and brings that one key ingredient 99.999999999% of horror movies these days either misses or does wrong: dread. And by the end of the film – you feel sad for the characters you devoted your time in, just to see them well, hmmm…but you also get that fix of TRUE horror. Not another remake or a fluff piece to please the tweens that doesn’t know the words – ‘stereotype,’ ‘cliché,’ and ‘repetitious!’
Friday the 13th Uncut Deluxe Edition SYNOPSIS Teenyboppers attempt to revive abandon campsite called Camp Crystal Lake, but soon discovers why it was abandoned in the first place. Chi chi chi, ha ha ha! Bodies start stacking up, as a killer is loose. And the day happens to be a Friday on a 13th! CRITIQUE Phone Voice: Who was the killer in Friday the 13th? Casey: Jason! It was Jason! Phone Voice: Nope. Casey: Yes it was! I've seen that movie 20 goddam times! Phone Voice: Then you should know that the killer was Mrs. Voorhees, Jason never appeared until the sequel! - excerpt from Scream That’s not entirely true. The very tail end of the film, little Jason attacks in the lake like the shark in Jaws (though, it was only a dream, or was it?!?). But I wanted to open up this critique with that quote, since a lot of people associate the hockey-masked Jason Voorhees with Friday the 13th. Mother Voorhees did the killing in the first film, Jason did the killing in the second film (without the mask), and it was the three-quel where he puts on the hockey mask for the first time (and since then, been infamous with that look). Looking at the first (and arguably best) Friday the 13th, it isn’t the greatest horror film of all time. It lifts a lot of the previous horror films trademarks. And it does well on being the very thing it strives to be: a Halloween rip-off. That’s obvious from its opening sequence; POV of the killer and the first demise that sets the tone of the film. But it also strives to lift moments from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The musical score and the surprise climax (plus the motherly-love theme) add an element of suspense to this first of a kind slasher experience. Oh, since I mentioned the surprise climax. Anyone remembers the moment when the only survivor, Alice, dreams up what is the last scare of the film? Carrie anyone?!? Sure, the mack-daddy of the genre – Psycho, started it. Many other films (including ahead of its time The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) attempted to break ground (and thrash throats) in this subgenre of horror. But it was Halloween that really perfected the art, the tone, and the films that followed. And it was Friday the 13th that blended all that came forth, and recreated what we know and love: T-N-A, blood & guts, with a little dash of suspense. It’s a real shame, though, that this series went from ‘Mommy Dearest’ to just boring Jason. Betsy Palmer, as Pamela Voorhees, is more frightening than any of the other 13th films that followed. Why? Because for a very second, Mrs. Voorhees seemed like a sweet and kind woman. That’s why when you see the victims are first approached by the POV of the killer beginning of the
film, they feel somewhat relaxed. The sight of Pamela Voorhees isn’t of fear. That is, until she pulls out a knife and starts slashing away. When it is revealed who the killer is, Pamela Voorhees admits her wrongdoing and her motives behind it. Of course, she is a psychotic beyond belief. But one can’t but feel a bit sympathetic for her. Her son drowns at a recreational retreat camp for kids while the teenybopper counselors have sex in a cabin not too far from the scene [*coughs*remake potential right there, but studio too dumb to see it*coughs*]. Her motive is to punish every single person that steps foot on Camp Crystal Lake property. It’s a little silly of a plot, but it works well. I didn’t mind the second film, but beyond that – it went from silly to just plain absurd (Jason in Manhattan, anyone?!? – or how about, Jason in space [Jason X]!?!?) For those that already have the Paramount-bundle box set, this is a very useless release. But for those that only liked the early parts of this series, this is worthy. Or is it? The uncut version isn’t any different from the cut version. A minor few seconds here and there. I wasn’t expecting two hours of extra footage. But I was expecting a few minor alternates to the murders/sex displayed in the film (especially since the MPAA is stern about that kind of content). But no such luck. The rated cut is 95 minutes. The unrated cut is 95 minutes. You do the math! THE VIDEO Paramount proudly presents Friday the 13th Uncut in 1:85 flat widescreen. And indeed, the film is cleaned up considerably. Though, it is a debate on whether or not a film like this should even be touched, loosing that grainy feel. There’s also a debate between the transfer of this release and the box set release. You can search on google and find out for yourself. I myself am not that picky, so it doesn’t bother me. And I must confess I actually love the transfer on this disc. Again, it’s cleaned up quite a bit. But nothing like the tragedy George Lucas does to his own films. You still get that 80s flashback watching this film. THE AUDIO The ‘Chi chi chi, ha ha ha’ is heard with clarity in its finest Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix possible. Like Halloween and Psycho, this is the kind of film where you don’t have to blare it for its sound effects, but for its effective musical score. THE EXTRAS The extras on this disc seem great on paper. But after watching most of it, it’s a bit repetitious (which I guess is fitting, since that’s the theme of the entire series: repetition!) First up, audio commentary with Sean S. Cunningham (director and creator of the film) and other key players attached to the film. I haven’t gotten the chance to listen to the track, and not sure if I will. I am very picky on commentaries these days, mostly because I find some quite boring. If you are going to repeat the information that’s found in the featurette’s, why bother (probably one
reason why Steven Spielberg refuses to do these). And on top of that, this commentary is not a sit-down commentary by everyone involved, but rather, spliced together interviews. Friday the 13th Reunion is a nice little featurette, which rounded up ‘some’ of the key players of the first film in a nice Inside the Actor’s Studio questionnaire with fans. It’s completely edited (badly, I might add) though. I have a feeling; the Anchor Bay’s very own His Name was Jason release [which comes out the same day as this DVD] might have the unedited version of this nice little reunion chat. Next up, Fresh Cuts: New Tales from Friday the 13th. More interviews with cast/crew on tidbits about the film. In other words, another gathering of repetitive information. Was the box set like this? Finally, The Man Behind the Legacy: Sean S. Cunningham. This is actually the best thing on the disc. Cunningham is no Wes Craven or John Carpenter. And he certainly isn’t the most fascinating person in the biz. But I like hearing him talk about nonsense because he doesn’t sugarcoat what he says. He admits, Friday the 13th is a Halloween knock-off. He admits that it’s not a perfect film, but recognizes its place in the genre’s history. His ego doesn’t get the best of him. He is happy with his success (judging by his house, in which is where the interview took place), but doesn’t babble about the greatness of the series. In other words, he doesn’t make it more than what it is – which is where MOST (if not, ALL) directors/creators has a hard time with. Cunningham seemed real! And I like that. Lost Tales from Camp Blood – Part 1 is a short film inspired by Friday the 13th, which is as repetitious and predictable as the latter part of the series. But one redeeming quality – it seems more relevant than the irrelevant remake which no doubt inspired Paramount to re-re-re-lease these films yet again! FINAL THOUGHTS Friday the 13th is not a great film, nor a favorite of mine. I’ll rank Psycho and Halloween above this. And films that followed in the footsteps of 13th, such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Hellraiser also rank higher above the 13th of Friday. But can’t deny the legacy of this franchise. And can’t deny what the first film does offer. Compared to other films of this genre, it’s weak. But compared to the latter films in Friday the 13th, it’s solid stuff. Especially with Betsy Palmer providing the scares and chills. Whatever you do, don’t piss ‘mommy dearest’ off! As for this release, if you already have previous copies, don’t bother. But I myself found this a treat since I never got a chance on getting this (though, I picked up the first film several times, as well as the boxset – but decided not to get it for, again, isn’t up there in my all time faves).
My Bloody Valentine, in 3D I don’t remember much of the 1981 film. I know it ranks highly among horror fans during the era of Halloween, Friday the 13th, and every other 80s slasher film. But for the life of me, I don’t remember much. So to compare the original to the new remake (like all the other remakes these days), I got nothing to add. But. All things consider when you take away the 3D gimmick, what do you have? An unnecessary remake that doesn’t add anything new and does not feel original one bit. It doesn’t fix the flaws – but only lifts every flaw from every slasher flick from the 80s to present day. Sex kills (and anyone caught in bed ends up dead). Big-breasted females running for dear life, making every mistake in the ‘dumb blond in horror film’ book. Cliché revenge from a cliché killer. And let’s not forget the worst dialogue EVER conceived (most coming from the mouth of the John Carpenter’s alumni, Tom Atkins)! Add all of that and a bag of potato chips, My Bloody Valentine is probably one of the dumbest slasher films ever done (though, compared to the later Jason flicks, this does have a touch of Shakespeare!) Still, given the horrid smell – it really was a lot of fun. Add that three dimensional effect to any movie – good or bad, and it has the potential of actually be a lot of fun to experience (I say, even give Passion of Christ the 3D treatment, and watch the masses flock – I know I would!) The 3D gimmick works well from the getgo. The first ten or so minutes grab you into the movie screen and do not let go. The essence of a slasher film is the blood and guts. You see more blood gushing than your typical torture porn (i.e. Saw). With that added 3D effect, it takes a really bad movie (and it truly is), and makes it an enjoyable experience. Hey, the gimmick works. And it isn’t just for kids!
2008: -Serenity movie review -The Dark Knight ramblings -Beetlejuice DVD review -Indiana Jones IV DVD review -Tiny Toon Adventures: Season 1 Vol. 1 DVD review - The X-Files: I Want to Believe movie review - Tropic Thunder movie review - Wall*E movie review - The Mist movie review
The Official Story movie review Across the Universe movie review The Incredible Hulk movie review - Cloverfield DVD review
Serenity I missed out in the Firefly craze during its short-reign on television, and haven’t experienced the canceled-series until just a few months ago. I had always heard about the show (and this movie that goes along with it), but didn’t know much about it. The show didn’t really impress me much. While it was certainly good – a unique sci-fi that isn’t just a Star Wars/Star Trek knock off, but actually something new/fresh/and different. It had its own mythology, and took much pride in it. By the end of it, there was a clear indication of great promise. But the show got nixed before it could explore possibilities. That is, until the movie (which again, I missed out on until now) got hatched. While the show didn’t quite ‘WOW’ me, the movie certainly did. And you have to respect how the movie came to be. Not often, do you see a continuation after a show being canceled. Only thing I can think of is Twin Peaks. Serenity grabbed me from the start, with its unique opener. And from there, I was hooked. This film reminded me of how great the original Star Wars trilogy was like. It reminded me how cool Blade Runner was. And it reminded me the Star Trek classics of its hey-day. Like the TV show this spawn from, it pleases the science fiction geek, but goes one step further as it does that. It actually transcends you into the story – something George Lucas forgot to do. The one thing I admired the most, is how it didn’t spoon fed too much. Unlike the recent Star Wars (or science fiction genre as a whole), it does not spoon feed too much information – explaining every reason behind the whys and whats. It does on certain key scenes. But it doesn’t, in other scenes. I like that. It goes back to Alien and 2001. Show, don’t tell. It’s also neat to be surprised. The biggest flaw of the Star Wars prequels is how predictable it was. The last act of Serenity is alone, the coolest set pieces I’ve seen out of a ‘space’ flick. Sometimes, simplicity is everything. And while there isn’t an epic laser sword fight on a lava world, it’s still much sweeter in the execution of it. You actually feel the characters are in danger. And at one point, one major character gets killed off unexpectedly. The visuals are also a nice ingredient to this rare gem. This came out the same time period as Revenge of the Sith. For being over-stuffed by eye candy, it’s nice to see something that doesn’t have TOO MUCH. It has just enough. And probably the ONLY science fiction film to acknowledge the fact that there is no sound in space, it’s sweet to see - but not hear. Like a classic silent film.
And once again, like the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as Star Trek – this film focuses a lot on characters. I especially liked Malcolm Reynolds, played by Nathan Fillion. This guy reminded me of a combination of Han Solo meets James T. Kirk. The nerd in me was just amazed. But to not take anything away from the remaining cast, this was a solid ensemble. You can tell everyone involve loves the material. I am not a huge fan of Joss Whedon. I don’t really care for his other projects he has done. But this film got me hooked enough to want another film like this, from him. Though, I don’t want to see quantities like Star Wars/Trek. Still, I like to see another Serenity. I am curious if there is anything else to expand on. Origins don’t do anything for me. The mysterious of each character appeals on its own. Don’t need to spoon-feed me. But, I am curious what comes next. Like Star Wars, I much rather see a sequel(s), rather than a prequel(s). And even if there would never be another movie like this again, I am still happy with that. The Dark Knight ramblings Often wondering when a movie will sink Titanic’s record, such a film will never exist for easily 20-50 years from now. It was quite simply, a different time then. In our times, a movie is released theatrical for 2-3 months, and then released to the home video market a few months later. This wasn’t the case for Titanic – hence why it is truly an unsinkable ship. In Dark Knight’s case – it is the next best thing to Titanic’s record. Very rarely do you see a film succeed very strongly financially, critically, and even so – win over the audience, in this magnitude. It’s also very rare to see a film like this, where it has so much history before – and shadowed afterwards with morbid curiosity. Some compare this to The Crow, forgetting it’s even bigger than that (The Crow didn’t make 68 mill, on its first day!) It’s no mistake that Heath Ledger’s death – months before hand, added easily a good half of what the film is making now. But the rare thing is – the movie is so good – and Heath’s performance is so perfect, that even if he hadn’t died, the movie would still make a ton of money, earn critics’ approval, and win over both fanboys and the general audience. That isn’t the case though. And what we have here is a kickass, but still a very morbid experience on celluloid. There are some scenes that will leave you with Goosebumps, for how great but intense situations come. And there are other scenes that will do the same to you, but it’s because it’s all a twisted and sick irony to the real tragedy. The film starts out with a bank heist – all arrange by The Joker [and in case you have been living under a rock, it’s whom Heath plays]. From there, things get intense as minutes go by. Plot points and things come up, all because of The Joker. Like Jigsaw in the Saw movies, Joker plans and re-plans havoc, along the way. Heath’s Joker may not be in the movie as much, but his presence is felt through the story, as The Joker causes hell for everyone within the story. Shock
moments become a common thing. Characters getting killed off left and right in unexpected ways become frequent. And the whole film sits very firmly on The Joker’s lap. Think of it like this: Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. He isn’t in the film very much – but his presence is so brilliantly conceived that it makes it – his film. The same applies to Dark Knight. The film’s title is understood (especially with the last running minutes of it), but it truthfully should be called, ‘The Killing Joke,’ or “Joker’s Last Laugh,’ or even, ‘The Joker Hour.’ People may go see this to see Heath – but what they got, isn’t Heath. Rent Brokeback Mountain or Casanova, for Heath Ledger. If you want to see Heath completely and utterly loose his self in a character – embodying soul and mind, then you will want to check this film out. From tone of voice to appearance – to even simple things like facial expression and movement is all from Heath’s flawless performance as the Clown Prince of Gotham. He doesn’t dance to Prince – and have a million punchlines a minute. He is sadistic. His one-liners are all out of sick irony. He is hard to keep your eyes off, for you question his motives, as well as what he will do next. But you wouldn’t want to be in the same room with this character. He has no motives. As Alfred, in the film, points out, “can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with; just want to watch the world burn.” That’s the kind of evil that’s represented in the very first Halloween movie. And that’s the kind of evil here. I haven’t seen a villain like this in a long long while. This Joker could, and will be ranked up there with Alex de Large, Nurse Ratched, Annie Wilkes, among others. When AFI redoes their 100 Best Villains, this Joker will be for sure included. This leads to the Oscar talk. I think it can happen. People tend to forget that Johnny Depp got nominated for his role in Pirates. The movies weren’t that great to warrant anything Oscar worthy, but Depp’s performance, much like what Heath did with Joker, is so unbelievable flawless where you don’t even notice the actor – but what the actor is playing. That’s the craft of acting. Many people believe Heath killed himself because of how sick and twisted the character he played in this film. Others’ believe it was an accident. Problem is, no one knows for sure. And it’s no mistake that a good portion of this film success is from Heath’s death. But like most critics and people that have seen this already, his death doesn’t make or break how fantastic the film is. If the movie wasn’t that great, it would be compared to The Crow: a cult film. But this isn’t a cult film. And with all this Heath talks, what about the other key players in this film? After all – it is a Batman movie. The supporting characters are very strong in this movie, which is also what makes this film rare, and can be compared to the more serious films – rather than the superfriends fluff. And with everyone eyeing Joker, there is another villain in the film that’s somewhat, overlooked. Two-face. This is a Joker film – but the center of it is Harvey Dent/TwoFace.
The previous Batman movies never really got this character right. He was either too over-the-top, or just not right. That’s a shame – because Two-Face is without a doubt, the coolest villain of them all. Cooler than even Joker. Two-Face is a great mirror to Bruce Wayne/Batman. His flaws rest on his bad temper he often gets. And that becomes his tragic flaw, as his success becomes his curse. The animated series got his origins down perfectly. This movie doesn’t really follow it as much, but for the way the film snowballs, it’s reasonable and even accepted. And we do get to see a lot of Two-Face to the tail end of the film (and without spoiling, I “could” see a come back in a follow up). Though – if they don’t go that route and go to the route everyone pretty much anticipates, I am also pleased for they did such a great job with the richness of the character (and the man whom played it – which, in all honesty, should have been Batman). Which comes to the title role: Batman. I enjoyed Bale in Begins. I thought he had the look. And I also think he made a good Bruce Wayne. But in this film – I am sorry to say, I wasn’t impressed. The look is still great. How he appears in and out of the shadows. And even how he fights – very close to the comics, as well as the animated series. But Bale’s irritating voice as Batman, really killed it for me. And what’s also sad – is that the supporting cast is good, that it’s almost as if everyone has upstaged Bale. On the flip side though, while I didn’t like Bale’s voice as Batman – this was the best interpretation of the character. In the comics, he is always known as a detective (after all, Batman was first introduced in the Detective comics). None of the previous films of Batman, EVER presented Batman like that. Batman was always perceived as a James Bond-type superhero. So it’s good to see that this film really takes a lot of love and care to the true essence of Batman. It’s just; the voice kind of kills it for me. But it’s manly, little nitpicking on my behalf. And while this is close to a masterpiece, I won’t call this a masterpiece. I hate the music. I hated the music for Begins, and it pretty much is the same here. One thing I can say that the Burton movies are far more superior with, and that’s Danny Elfman’s scores. I am unsure if those scores could fit the setting of these Batman movies, but I simply can not stand these films’s music. Overall, though, this film is top-notch stuff. And what’s going to be very interesting is where the third film will go. It was obvious with Begins, where the second film will go (but surprised us all on how great it will be). I have my doubts; the third film will top this. Much like Empire/Godfather 2/Aliens/T2/Khan, they made the second film so good –that they can’t top themselves. And yes, once more, the added aspect of Heath added something special to it. They could do a Return the King. It is possible. But if this is truly a trilogy – most cases, the third film always fails for it doesn’t give a proper send off, as it should. That’s what killed XMen/Spiderman 3. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The Dark Knight just came out a few days ago. It will do well for some weeks now (doubtful that it will stay in theaters for months), and the DVD sales will be even bigger. Easily, 90% of the world’s population went (or will) see this movie in theaters. It first started with anticipation – then curiosity – now, word of mouth (the same way Titanic did so well). But there are still those
that refuse to go see it in theaters. Dark Knight DVD sales will soar (breaking even more records), for a good 98% of the population will either rent it, or own it. It will have a long waiting list on netflix, and may even sell out in stores. I can’t stress it enough – The Dark Knight is really good. I won’t be surprised if it does get a nom itself, for best picture. I am not suggesting it, nor wanting it myself. Just pointing how it won’t be much of a surprise…
Beetlejuice - Deluxe Edition SYNOPSIS A young couple finds they are slightly dead. They cope while still living in their house, but soon find themselves in their own personal hell as their house gets invaded by new home-owners. The plot thickens as they are introduced to Beetlejuice, who offers to help them get rid of the new home-owners. Little did they realize; involving Beetlejuice pretty much causes hell on Earth. And as they realize this, they also realize that the homeowners aren’t as bad as they seem. But is it too late to make peace? CRITIQUE The 1980s had some odd films. Some of the odder ones, rest in B movie (or, perhaps, C-movie status) while holding the cult classic title (Killer Klowns from Outer Space anyone?) And of course, the supernatural was a big draw in those days. Steven Spielberg really started it with friendly aliens, unfriendly ghosts & gremlins, and evil spirits in Arks. Since then, send off’s started showing up. There’s no doubt, if it weren’t for Poltergeist, there would probably be no Ghostbusters. And without Ghostbusters, I doubt Beetlejuice would exist. And without Beetlejuice, I bet the forgotten odd Burton-esque 1992 film; Highway to Hell, (which still hasn’t seen the light of day on DVD) wouldn’t be born. After Tim Burton’s success with Pee-wee's Big Adventure, he was a shoe-in for Warner Brothers. He got himself attached to Batman (at a time when it was under development hell), but still needed to prove himself capable of such a massive project. He was handed the script for Beetlejuice, and immediately fell in love with it. And it truly was a film for him. He got a chance to work with stop-motion animation (which goes back to his roots as a filmmaker), as well as work with other special effects. This was the be-all, end all for him. And he exceeded beyond expectations. Beetlejuice is a droll dark comedy about life, death, and everything in-between. In true Burton fashion, it’s all style and no substance (which isn’t a bad thing, especially for a guy like Tim Burton). It’s over-the-top surreal fun. With the added ingredients of a great cast and a fantastic score by Burton’s right-hand man: Danny Elfman (make no mistake about it, much like
Spielberg/Williams and Hitchcock/Herrmann, it’s not a Burton movie without Elfman conducting). After the success of the classic The Fly, Gena Davis has proven herself as a talented and sexy starlet. And back when he was a thin young lad, Alex Baldwin was the obvious leading man type. Along with the always funny Catherine O'Hara, and also then ago and didn’t throw his career away Jeffery Jones, we already have a solid cast. Add the young and spunky Winona Ryder and the legendary Sylvia Sidney – we have here a vast amount of talented thespians to bring this oddball masterpiece to life. Wait. I forgot someone. Oh yeah, the title role. People were curious how Michael Keaton would do as Batman. Obviously, it turned out alright (and arguably, still the best Batman to date – sorry Bale fanboys). But, going back to Keaton – this fella is known for comedies. And the title role of Beetlejuice is his finest work then or now. What really is impressive is the amount of time he is in the movie. With no less than 17 of the 92-minute running time, Keaton utilizes the time well spent. His heavy tone (which must have given him a sore throat after a while) and his appearance create a classic cinematic character. The satiric approach toward life and death is most noticeable about this movie. There really hasn’t been a film like this, which makes it quite unique. Death is something that’s very sensitive to everyone. And the horror genre takes the concept to many heights, but rarely satirizes the idea. Where do we really go after we pass on? Heaven? Hell? Do we just turn off like a kitchen light? Do we transform into spirits (ghosts, if you will)? The harsh truth is no really knows. I guess that’s where faith comes in at. While we are alive, however, we can enjoy all the fruits that life offers us. Like watching this Burton classic and laughing how incredibly funny it is. THE VIDEO 1:85 of perfection. Beetlejuice never looked any better. This is the highlight of this set. If there is one reason to buy it, it’s this wonderful transfer. Much like the Batman Special Editions a few years ago, colors are brighter – shaper – and less grainy. It has the look of the 80s classic, without looking like a 1980s print. THE AUDIO 5.1 of surround sound excellence. Danny Elfman’s score sounds even better. Keaton’s rough voice sounds deeper. And the sound effects go even further, adding that extra dimension of the living and the non-living. THE EXTRAS Three episodes [A-Ha, Skeletons In The Closet, Spooky Boo-tique] from the tedious animated series back in the 90s. Two trailers (one for Beetlejuice, other for Pee Wee). And a false ‘Deluxe Edition’ label. How is this DELUXE EDITION?!?! It’s the 20th Anniversary of the movie, and this is all you can gather up?!?! THIS?!?!
It’s sad – Warner Brothers – when you give Supergirl, Batman & Robin, AND Catwoman the two-disc special edition treatment. Yet you drop the ball on Poltergeist last year and this film this year. But I know it makes no difference. The company that sent me this DVD isn’t in charge of making these discs. So there is no way of telling WB they fucked up yet again! FINAL THOUGHTS This is the release you want to get, and may want to even trade your old barebones for this particular release. The transfer alone is worth it. But bear in mind, this is still pretty much a barebones set. Don’t let the “20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition” banner deceive you.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Dull Skull SYNOPSIS Indiana Jones returns as he discovers the 'kingdom skull of the third kind.' CRITIQUE Let's get this straight from the getgo: I hated this movie before it was even made. I hated the idea of it. I mean, seriously. Indiana Jones IV. What is the point? Why must this movie exist? Indiana Jones and co. riding along in the sunset was a perfect ending to a nearly perfect trilogy. Why must we ruin that ending with an average homage? I can give you a guess of a guy that has made his career out of not letting go! My thoughts turned around when I heard (or, read) that Frank Darabont was going to write the script. This is the man who made such classic films as The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and the most recent gem, The Mist. I felt a sigh of relief. I knew this unnecessary sequel was in good hands. And after all, Darabont pretty much started his career with the Young Indiana Jones series. Who better to scribe this movie than him? Right?!?! Well. Harrison Ford loved it. Steven Spielberg loved it. But the party pooper, and, mind you, the producer of Howard the Duck, HATED it. So, while I was saddened that Frank got fired. I thought to myself, "good, no more Indiana Jones sequel.” Spielberg can now work on the movie I much rather see: Lincoln. But, nope. The man, who inserted irrelevant fluff into his classic films that made him successful in the first place, still wanted an Indiana Jones film. And his persistence irritated Spielberg enough to hire the dullest screenwriter Spielberg knows, and that got the boulder rolling in this unneeded four-quel. David Koepp took Darabont's rejected script, kept key scenes everyone wanted (as well as the basic premise), deleted a couple of sub-plots, added weaker sub-plots, and dumbed down the dialogue enough so the screenwriter of The Phantom Menace would be happy.
Now, as much as I hate the idea of this movie, if they insist on making this: DO IT RIGHT. The director of Attack of the Clones should have given Darabont's script the thumbs up. It certainly isn't perfect by a long shot. But it's the right step into the right direction. It kept the integrity of the Indy character, as well as Marion Ravenwood. The very first scene in Frank's script with the two of them together, she punches him in the face. That's the true Marion Ravenwood. And while the final film got a teaspoon of her personality, she ended up being a wasted opportunity and a useless supporting character. It never felt natural. This brings me to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Dull Skull. I really gave it the benefit of the doubt. And there were a few key things I liked about it (which pretty much is everything that stayed the same between Darabont and Koepp's script). But everything else, I cringed. First off, and the BIGGEST gripe I have – there was just too much CGI. The chase in the jungles, for a good prime example, is horrible. Some shots looked good. Other shots looked phony. In the same phony category that made the stampede sequence in King Kong nauseating. It was the sloppiest Spielberg movie I've seen (surpassing 1941 and Hook). In fact, comparing this to War of the Worlds, WOTW had balanced visuals that mixed well in the real world environment. And that's another thing – many set pieces felt, what's the right word – Lucas-ized. The first three Indy movies had real set pieces. They looked like real, lived-in environments. And apparently, Spielberg really wanted to go that route. Not too much on the CGI. Real location shoots. I mean, they did shoot in a real jungle, right?!? Well, seeing how Darabont's script was thrown out, I can tell the influence George Lucas made on this film (notice the Lucasfilm logo in the opening sequence?) And you can tell by interviews with Spielberg himself; he really isn't all too thrilled with making this film, or how it turned out. In fact, the first thing he says in one of the featurettes, "I didn't make this picture for myself, I made this picture for the fans and for those that wanted to make it." It's simple math. When a genius is forced to create something he really doesn't want to do, but does out of friendship, you are not going to get that masterpiece. In fact, you are going to get – nine times out of ten, a forced together item. And that's ultimately what this movie feels like. Forced. The backstabbing. The decent action scenes. The traps in the caves. And the climax. Everything seemed like it was pieced together forcefully, much like how the Star Wars prequels were pieced together (as well as the Special Edition inserts of the original trilogy). But that's another argument for another time. THE VIDEO The 2:35 scope transfer looks great, which is actually not great. What makes, "A Steven Spielberg film," a Steven Spielberg film? The film itself. You can nitpick on every single film he has done – analyze how strong/weak the story is. You can bash the guy down for being a sentimentalist (which killed the ending of Minority Report). You can even rant on his overrated status. But there is no denying; he is a master on what he does. And part of his magic is the film
itself. He has an ability to make film look like film. He experiments with the digital visuals in film, without experimenting with the digital prints of his film. All his films are flawed, which makes them flawless. Their imperfections are what make them perfect. They are hidden mistakes – both intentional; and non-intentional, which provides that old filmic atmosphere. The transfer is too perfect for an Indiana Jones film, let alone, a Spielberg film. There is no sign of black little pixels. And I bet the Blu Ray transfer looks even more ridiculously too perfect with every fine detail. THE AUDIO There is no question – whether you have a Spielberg film or a Lucas production, the sound quality will be at top form. It was probably the highlight of the theatrical experience, and it is the highlight on this DVD set. The 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound is quite remarkable. From the opening sequence up until the wedding conclusion at the very end – this movie is meant to be experienced LOUD. But that doesn't make the movie any better. THE EXTRAS Disc one, as follows. The Return of a Legend – Spielberg pretty much admits he didn't want to do this. Lucas and Ford's persistence (more so, Lucas) caved Spielberg into it. And that's pretty much the gist. Pre-Production – As the title suggests, goes in some detail about what pre-production is like, leaving mostly the animators at work. A lot of preparation on a lot of key sequences. Disc two, as follows. Production Diary: Making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – A really good, over an hour long documentary on pretty much – the entire production of this film. Where Lucasfilm lacks the actually punch of their motion pictures, their meat and potatoes are the 'behind-the-scenes' goodies. Other tidbit featurettes includes: The Crystal Skulls, Iconic Props, The Effects of Indy, Adventures in Post Production, Closing: Team Indy, Pre-Visualization Sequences, Galleries, and Trailers. It's obvious Lucasfilm was in charge of this DVD, but I am curious how different it would be as a DreamWorks set. Both provide very good sets. FINAL THOUGHTS Fans have already purchased this set by now. Others, who haven't seen it, may be a little curious. My opinion shouldn't have any merit to your decision. This makes a perfect rental on a Friday/Saturday night. If you are familiar with the first three films – a word of warning: this
movie sucks. If you aren't familiar with Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade – I suggest buying those STAT, and wait to digest the greatness of those classics before taking a risk on a poorly crafted companion piece.
Tiny Toon Adventures: Season 1 Vol. 1 SYNOPSIS “We're tiny, we're toony, we're all a little looney, And in this cartoony, we're invading your TV! We're comic dispensers, we crack up all the censors, On tiny toon adventures get a dose of comedy! So here's Acme Acres, it's a whole wide world apart, Our home sweet home, it stands alone, a cartoon work of art! The scripts were rejected, expect the unexpected On tiny toon adventures it's about to start! They're furry, they're funny, they're Babs and Buster Bunny, Montana Max has money, Elmyra is a pain! Here's Hamton and Plucky, Dizzy Devil's yucky, Furrball's unlucky, and Gogo is insane! At Acme Looniversity we earn our toon degree, The teaching staff's been getting laughs since 1933! We're tiny, we're toony, we're all a little looney, It's tiny toon adventures, come and join the fun! And now our song is done!” CRITIQUE 1988’s classic and unforgettable film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? brought so many possibilities to the table. Not just on the technical side, but also the idea of having various cartoon characters from so many banners in one existing world: Toon Town. Never before in film history was there an instance where Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny appeared in the same frame together. Unfortunately, that will never happen again. Nobody realized how much of a gold mine this was. The studios [Amblin and Disney] were so concerned about sharing the shorts they were making after the film’s initial success that they didn’t realize the potential of creating a television series with the idea of Toon Town as a backdrop. Yes, all of this is very sad, since it is simply a fantastic, nutty and magical idea. It brings all the vast history of the entire competing banner’s ‘toons together, creating a whole new world. I’m not sure if Tiny Toons has any correlation to the after-effects, or even inspiration from Roger Rabbit. I always believed it did, since the very setting Tiny Toons sits comfortable in similar
situations like Toon Town, having characters interacting with other characters throughout a given story line. There are also numerous times where those characters point out that they are only playing characters and aren’t actually those characters they are portraying. Like I said, a nutty idea. I was looking forward to this DVD set for a very long time. Now that I have it in my hands, for some oddball reason I just couldn’t get into it. I put the first disc in the DVD player and after a tedious hour’s worth with hardly any chuckle I started skimming through the episodes. Ejecting disc one, inserting disc two, I just started playing random episodes. That’s when it happened: I got real bored. Nutty! I don’t get it. I love Animaniacs. And I used to love Tiny Toons, so why wasn’t I getting into what should have been a droll, good time? Tiny Toons is, unfortunately, nothing more than recycled material from the Looney Tunes show years ago (which was far more superior, I might add). Nothing really amused my funny bone here. Actually, I take that back. The Wheel o’ Comedy had a nice little bit regarding the Psycho shower scene. Cute. Citizen Max was one-solid great homage of Citizen Kane. It was very well done, and is right up there with the Looney Tunes classic Carrotblanca. More, I enjoyed Cinemaniacs, a theater movie going experience through a few Tiny Toon parodies of classic movies. Aside from those cherry-picked episodes, I found the majority of the material boring and bland. I can see why it appealed to me as a kid and I can see now why I don’t like it. It’s not nearly as comical as the original Looney Tune classics, and it isn’t nearly as smart, entertaining and even as free as Animaniacs. What makes Animaniacs superior over Tiny Toons? For one, it takes what Tiny Toons attempted to do and completely goes wild with it. It almost has a similar flow to what made The Simpsons so brilliant (in its prime), that is, satirical jabs at everything, and not just pop culture but classic literature and historical moments, all the while creating a somewhat original and lived-in environment. Tiny Toons just feels like a recreation of Looney Tunes for the 90s. Now, this doesn’t mean I hate Tiny Toons in general. If memory serves correctly, there are a few made-for-TV movies featuring Tiny Toons that I love, such as How I Spent My Vacation and It's a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special. You can probably YouTube those two, since I’m unsure if they will ever get the DVD treatment. Until then, I may have to be cautious with the next Tiny Toons set. THE VIDEO Tiny Toons is presented in standard full frame format as it was made for TV in the early 90s. The transfer of the print holds a nostalgic look to it. The images look cleaned up just a little bit, but
with some grain, black pixels, and even a little bit of fading on certain spots. I am okay with that; it brought me back to the 90s. THE AUDIO Tiny Toons is presented in a cool Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 tracks which will suck you into Acme Acres with clear dialogue and loud orchestra. The cartoony sound effects will also make you feel like you are there while being slammed by an Acme anchor. French and Portuguese tracks are also included. THE EXTRAS The set has trailers of other WB animated sets, as well as a nifty ‘From Looney Tunes to Tiny Toons – A Wacky Evolution!’ featurette. A lot of people from the heyday to present day chat about the early years of Looney Tunes to the creation of Tiny Toons. As much as I don’t care for Tiny Toons I have to give some props to the show’s animators. They truly showed their own respect to the legacy of Looney Tunes. One little bit I didn’t know is how Paul Dini was involved with the show. He is the genius behind the early 90s incarnation of Batman and Superman: Animanted Series. Reading his impressive resume, he has been involved with cartoons for a very long time. He got his start on Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert show, and his resume expands all throughout the 80s, up until his huge break with Tiny Toons. FINAL THOUGHTS I will recommend this to any of the fans – the long wait is finally over. I will also refer this to Looney Tunes enthusiasts. But the rest of the population, and especially parents out there, this really only deserves a rental. Tiny Toons is a decent little prologue to the far more superior Animaniacs.
I Still Want to Believe in The X-Files The X-Files was one of my favorite shows of all time. Despite the last three seasons being a bit weak, the show as a whole is solid stuff, especially the first two seasons alone. It blends the chemistry of Moonlighting into a science fiction atmosphere that’s almost too serious for the genre. As a matter of fact, and as the pilot indicates, some of the occurrences in the show are supposedly based on fact, even if later seasons take a more silly approach towards UFO mythology. Even for those unfamiliar with the show there were a 1998 motion picture entitled X-Files: Fight the Future. It was admired by filmgoers, divided critics and loved by the majority of fans. It took the UFO mythology from the television series, and brought it into beautiful widescreen celluloid
and was a very cool experience even if it lifted a lot of ideas from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, its chief inspiration. Unfortunately, and sure to be a disappointment for many fans, the new film X-Files: I Want to Believe don’t involve the mythology stuff. None of it. AT ALL. This fact is by far the biggest drawback of film. So what does a slogan from the UFO poster (first seen in the 1993 pilot episode) have to do with the title? Manly, it is talking about the characters. The phrase is heard many times in the movie and, somewhat surprisingly, it is a great character-building plot device. I can forgive the weak plot. The opening – two sequences cut together one to the other foreshadowing a murder as well as the search party after – is very good. It’s also interesting to see no exposition. Unlike the unnecessary Indiana Jones IV that had to explain the reasoning behind each cliffhanger, this one goes from scene to scene without stopping to justify or defend what’s happening. Sure there is a lot of dialogue, but is more about religion versus science, faith versus fact, all of it harkening back to the show’s very first episode. This film does more than pays homage to its roots; it expands upon the character’s feelings, thoughts, ideas and concerns. In a way, it’s like Sex and the City in that it gives what its core fans want, if only so to speak. The difference is that with I Want to Believe, the filmmakers use a weak and poor excuse for a plot to leer us in. Also, it doesn’t further the mythology, which is exactly what made the show famous in the first place. I was expecting more, as I think were most fans. As a result, I don’t think it will do that well at the box office. But somehow, I actually admired the simplicity of the plot and the complexity of the intentions behind it. I, like most fans, love the characters enough where it doesn’t matter to me if they are stuck in a horrible Sci-Fi channel movie of the week. The X-Files, whether movie or television show, IS Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), their absence exactly why seasons eight and nine didn’t work (at least for me). I also admire the style of this film. The snowy atmospheric tone, its lack of a CGI, its talky moments, all of them reminded me of the first few seasons. That’s some achievement, especially given that it has been a real good gap of time since the show went off the air in 2002. I do have a question for 20th Century Fox. Why did you release this a week after The Dark Knight, arguably the biggest movie of the decade? Did you have no faith in this? Did you, the studio, not want to believe yourselves? This would have been best suited for release during Halloween (or maybe even the typically dead months of January/February). This is not a summer release and the box office will clearly show it like blood splattered in the snow. Despite all this I still want more and I also wish there were more films/shows like The X-Files: I Want to Believe. There is a lot of material out there. Linda Moulton Howe’s riveting book about
animal mutilations and abductions called An Alien Harvest would be a good place to start. The fictitious series Area 51 by Robert Doherty would also be very cool to see adapted. And there is so much more than that left to discover. Google ‘Coast to Coast’ if and you’ll see what I mean. The truth is certainly out there. You just have to believe.
Tropic Thunder It's a repetitive formula we've seen before. As a matter of fact, there was already a movie about three actors placed in a situation where they think they are part of a production, but finds out they are in a real world setting. That movie was called Three Amigos, starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short (all when they were in their prime). As droll as that movie was, it never really reached to its full potential. Now, jump back a decade later – Ben Stiller, son of Jerry Stiller, was part of a short-lived TV series that was ahead of its time. It had a formula that's also similar to Tropic Thunder, unkind satire to pop culture. Not like the pointless Family Guy, or [Insert Genre] Movie parodies, but something to the likes of Mad TV. Problem was, it was five years too early for people to be ready for that kind of structure. So Ben Stiller fell into the cliché and expected Hollywood routine. Occasionally, he would be part of unique dark comedies that's in the Danny DeVito directed films, league. But for the most part, he ended up being on the safe ground, with light-hearted humor, that hardly offends. Who knew, he had a big 'fuck you' under his sleeve. And you think about it, Tropic Thunder is a big 'fuck you' to all things, Hollywood. Nothing gets untouched! Rappers-turn-actors, action movie sequels, Eddie Murphy comedies, sappy artsy-fartsy Oscar fluff, war movies, directors, producers, actors playing special needs people, agents - all get attacked. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I have never EVER laughed that hard in a movie theater, in a long-long-LONG time. Forgetting Sarah Marshall was close, but way off. Tropic Thunder made my throat hurt, left my eyes teary, and left me numbed! The main focus will be Robert Downey Jr.'s stellar performance, as he points out in the film, 'I'm the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude.' This guy had such a turnaround in his career. He was always a gifted actor. But no one appreciated him for his real life problems plagued his craft. Thankfully, the 'dude' cleaned up, and is now the biggest star today.
But as great as Downey was, he isn't what made my throat hurt so hard. That goes to a veryVERY surprising role from none other than Tom Cruise, in an unlikely role from him. Majority of the movies he is in, he plays Mr. Teeth, the bright-white dentures that always smiles, as his charm outweigh his talent. Instead, he plays an over weight, bald, glasses-weaning studio executive. What comes out of this guy's mouth is anything but charming, yet will leave you with a sore throat. Critics are already declaring, 'Oscar worthy.' That is going a little over board. But I will be bold and say, this is very similar to Peter Sellers' infamous performance in Dr. Strangelove. This film will offend, it will leave you sore from excessive laughing, and it does what true satires do: poking fun while creating a concrete story. That's what differs satire from parodies. And it's refreshing to see something like this, especially from everyone that was involved with this film. I haven't seen a movie like this since Dogma!
WALL·E I love this movie. I absolutely, positively love this film. It’s hard to walk away from it and not have a smirk on your face. It’s hard to view this film and not have a sense of, “awwwwww!” It’s a cute, innocent film that doesn’t offend. It relies on visuals. It relies on emotions and reactions. There are hardly any expositions, or lots of meaningless water down dialogue. It’s a quiet, slow moving film that has no singing animals, no silly cheesy kiddy tricks, and certainly no fairly tale fantasy. It’s a sci-fi love story with LOUD subtle undertones to our own society. I was so surprised how subtle this film is. It doesn’t offend, obviously – where it doesn’t point fingers at one culture, or the other. What it does is give us a view of a possible future where an all mighty store bought everything out, where its big name is seen everywhere – from stores/banks/restaurants, to even its own government. It suggests that obesity and our reliance on technology will lead us further into a society where all we do is sit in moving chairs with a computer screen in front of us, deciding for us what to do, where to do it, how to do it, and will even feed us. The amazing thing is, as evident and LOUD as this was – and it is a huge part of the story, since it’s the causer of the main story – it’s not the main focus of the story. And that’s why 99% of the viewers won’t see the crystal clear correlation between what the filmmakers here wants to point out, and how our own society is (think, Borat). So it does not offend one bit. It’s neither liberal, nor conservative. It’s neither bias, nor open-minded. It just is… And let’s not get ahead of our selves. After all, Wall-E is, above all else, a simple love story. A love story that proves all else – love has no bounds. That should’ve been the exact slogan for the movie. Wall-E begins with Wall-E, a robot where its own existence is to clean up the filth on Earth humans left. His life is much like blue-collar workers – wake up, go to work, work, leave work, come back home, rest, and repeat the same thing the next day. Amazing, another nice little subtle
moment, unnoticed. But aside from that small little notion, Wall-E is very different. He is curious. And his curiosity sometimes gets the best of him. For a small little robot that has the complete likeness of Johnny Five* and talks exactly like E.T., he is a robot that truly grows on you. Much like Johnny Five or E.T. Wall-E is the most likable character I have ever seen on film. Wall-E’s world soon changes, as a strange rocket come slamming down to Earth. Out comes EVA. EVA is a more advanced robot, with shooting lasers coming out of its arms. EVA’s mission: to find plant life (another obvious E.T. reference). Wall-E falls in love. AWWWW… And EVA falls in love. AWWWW… But what’s a love story without conflict. And that’s where everything ties together. I will reveal nothing more. I am amazed though, how much emotion this film really teases you with. It’s the same like E.T. The more I think about it, I think it’s inspiration of both Short Circuit and E.T. was intentional – and the 80s items that’s found throughout the film suggests this theory. I can’t get the movie out of my head. It was done so well – and it was a movie I could really identify with. It is a nice little warning to all: we need to change our ways or ELSE! That’s very strong for a Disney movie. And it is also a nice little nudge to that sappy idealist out there that believes in true love, and how love does prevail and holds no bounds. Instead of a fairly happy fantasy of magic and unrealistic dreams – this hopeful masterpiece from the mouse-world presents a new spin – hope. *Disney has always been criticized on “lifting” stories, as well as likeness. From fables and beloved stories turned into Disney classics – to more recent times like the Lion King and Finding Nemo’s correlation to its supposed “inspiration” without proper acknowledgment. In Wall-E’s case, Johnny Five from Short Circuit. I am sure there are some that has never seen nor heard of Short Circuit.
Stephen King’s The Mist The very nature of horror is to strike fear and scare the living shit out of you. These days, the horror genre consists of remakes, rehash, and nothing that really holds any essence of what horror stands for. This past year, horror was lucky enough to have a few shining moments. 1408 – the first Stephen King adaptation of that year. And a very good one, at best. Blending The Shining in a modern ghost hunt, it really captivated me like no other film in a long while. And its ending is one for the books (pun glory!)
I am Legend – a zombie like tale with a unique style, plus the headline leading cool dude: Will Smith. While some CGI wasn’t the greatest, this film also left me captivated. It’s one of those films that you will never forget. Cloverfield – yet another stylish film that blends realism with surrealism, and takes hold of that fear we all experience on 9/11. It doesn’t make a mockery out of it – but does what horror does best, hitting you at full blast with everything it has. This leads me to the film I neglected to see all this time, for no apparent reason other than not getting around to it. But it was one of those films I wanted to see since it’s theatrical release. And that film is – Stephen King’s The Mist. Written and directed by Frank Darabont, the one responsible for The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile – both, fantastic adaptations of King’s work. This piece of work is a little different from Frank. We are use to intense and profound drama, with a little taste of magic and hope. This is a completely different extreme. What we have here is intense fear and paranoia, which is a perfect mixture for some good old fashion horror. The film starts out with David Drayton, painter (something we’ve seen before in King’s work), working on a painting. Power then goes out – storm occurs. Next scene, David and his family recoup from the storm, and realize they need supplies. David and his son heads to the store with his neighbor. And that’s mainly the remaining of the story – at the store. Mist appears – and that’s when the fun really begins! Much like say, Dawn of the Dead or Maximum Overdrive, you got a bunch of people trapped in a small place for a long period of time – in shock, fear, and completely paranoid over the happenings outside the place. They do crazy things. Say crazy things. Over the top? It’s reality. And it does happen…and that’s what makes some of the best tension any horror story could come up with. But this film’s scary parts lie with what’s in the mist. I am not going to spoil it. It’s rather – well – HMMM!…interesting. But I have to say – I haven’t seen gore like this since John Carpenter’s The Thing. Within the film, there are huge religious references – which in my opinion, adds even more tension to the already tense film. It’s a reality check to our own psyche – what we, as humans, always do in time when paranoia and fear run side by side. We relay on faith – and sometimes, those clouds our common-sensible judgment on the reality of the situation at hand, which is displayed in great depth in this film. The ending of the film is what really shocks and awe. It’s cold, hopeless, and despairing. The polar opposite of Frank’s previous films. Some don’t like it. And while I understand that, it just shows how incredibly tense this film is. With an R rating, it’s not for everyone. But for those that have huge appreciation for this genre, it’s worth it.
The Official Story Film starts with the film’s title. Then a perfectly cut fade out, fade in occurs – and we see a close up of a PA Speaker. Music could be heard through this speaker. Camera then tilts and reveals a crowd of kids. Seems to be an assembly at school. Camera moves very elegantly around, and then moves down to the people…. A national anthem can be heard – loud and proud. Camera gives us a good look at these kids…as medium and close up shots is being done. Then we get to the film’s leading lady - Norma Aleandro. She plays Alicia, a high school history teacher. We then cut-away to the actual class, as she instructs her students on their first day, the in’s and out’s of how she instructs. The first two minutes made me think automatically, “Wow – this has Spielberg written all over it.” An opening sequence with an object of some kind – and then a scene that follows with characters interacting with what’s going on. We see this lot in Spielberg’s historical-based films. But while the opening sequence had a spice of Spielberg-isms – this film is far from Spielberg. It has a deep and profound message that goes even deeper than what Spielberg could ever imagine. The Official Story is a 1985 Argentina film, which happened to win best foreign film at the Oscars that year. The Official Story titles sort of gives away some foreshadowing of what the film is about – misunderstanding and revelations. We, the viewer, are going along with the characters, as we get deeper to the ultimate “truth.” In a sense, that also reads off like All the President’s Men which occurred right around the same time this movie takes place in. Only difference is, this is even deeper than the Watergate scandal. Without getting into the details about what The Official Story entails, since it is a bit political on the Argentina side, it surrounds itself with the political aftermath – and it gives in great detail, what has occurred with the Argentina people, afterwards. Like Spielberg’s films, while the idea is the whole – what we see is just a tiny ounce of it through one single family (and with only a few tiny scenes where we see an overview of other people and their views). This is the simplest, yet perfect way of telling a story of this magnitude. Without being bias (which is very rare), this film shows empathy. And that’s what I truly endure with the film. It’s relentless on its emotions – and it reveals without revealing too much (and it grips the viewer like no other film – making us get the desire to learn more about the topic at hand). The film was filmed in Argentina with no Hollywood hands. Its authenticity can't be denied – yet, it has a flawless feel to it. The editing, the choice of camera angles, and even the music – it was crafted with very talented hands (and eyes). This is such a rare gem from overseas - and hopes to find more gems from Argentina...
Across the Universe I am a Beatles fan. I am not an avid fan (I myself prefer Pink Floyd). But I still very much so have a deep utmost respect and love for the band and its legacy. I do understand some of the heat that goes against the band (and all things considering, they are overrated to a certain degree). But I also understand why so many people love the band. I was curious, seeing the trailer, how this film would actually be like. I couldn't decide what it was. At first glance, it actually reminded me of Almost Famous (another music related movie that's top on my favorite's of all time, list). I had no clue it was a musical (though, reviews suggest otherwise – I was still shocked). I was also shocked just how f'n good it was, and how well it flowed. First off – the story revolves mainly a group of people that interacts with one another through stories (similar to Crash, I guess). But the core of the story is a love story between Jude and Lucy (very VERY obvious Beatles reference). The film spans the entire decade of the 60s – giving you a very trippy experience through all the good and hard times (there were a lot of stuff missing from this 60s experience – Apollo missions/JFK assassination, among other incidents, and was shocked not even a Woodstock reference – though, maybe I missed it somewhere). But there was a lot that was covered – the British Invasion, the Detroit riots, Vietnam, the draft, and the Kent State incident). Through all of this – we are treated to about 30+ Beatles songs, sung by the actors/actresses in the movie. Much like a musical, these songs go with the mood, scene, or moment that's going on in a particular sequence in the movie. For instance, one of the female characters sings, "I Want To Hold Your Hand," expressing her unrequited love and longing for someone. As much as the music was great (and it truly was with everything blending well together – and everyone that sang, sounded superb), the other draw to this film, is the visuals. At first, you think you will get a straight forward musical. Sure, there is a little bit of dancing. But not by much – what we get is an acid trip like none other. It would be like watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory changed up a bit – with a rock band playing the music, and Terry Gilliam directing. This is where CGI is put to the test, and succeeds. This film doesn't rely on it, but uses it as a tool – enhancing certain scenes. There were so many sequences that just were unreal. I am not even going to spoil – it's worth the experience alone.
I think what really put a smile to my face, is how well this was put together. And just how smart it was. The writer/director/and producer knew what they were doing, and knew the era they were representing, very well. For instance, you had one character name Sadie. Sadie is a reference to Sexy Sadie, a Beatles song. And what's also unique about her, is she has a Janis Joplin likeness – the looks, the voice – EVERYTHING! We also have a character name Jojo, which is a reference to both Get Back and Back in the U.S.S.R. Jojo also happens to have a likeness of Jimi Hendrix – the guitar style, the clothes, the attitude – EVERYTHING (and I am guessing, his name has a small resemblance to Jimi's Hey Joe). They both are dating in the movie. HMMM…. For anyone that does not see where I am going with this – Jimi and Janis share a likeness during his and her era. For much of the film – all I can think of is how cool this is, right beside Pink Floyd The Wall. There's just something about these types of films that attract me deeply into them. Maybe because I love rock music, and grew up with it. Maybe it's because it's a different type of filmmaking. Or maybe because, I am just born high – but never quite reaches complete trippiness to actually do that shit. Whatever the case maybe, I wish there were more types of films like this. Since musicals are big these days, and this does have a following I am sure – I say - a sequel! I want to see Lucy and Jude after the 60s, and into the 70s/80s! I want to see if they actually would outlive their own era. Use the AFTER THE BEATLES music, with solo stuff of the four Brits. I could even see a title – LIVE OR LET DIE. Or how about, JEALOUS GUY. Or I could even see, MAYBE I'M AMAZED. Obviously, IMAGINE would be out of the question! Either or, I want to see more films like this. It was so clever, so detailed, so f'n cool! ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!…and a little help from your friends!…
The Incredible Hulk I could be the only person on the face of the Earth that actually liked, enjoyed, and admired Ang Lee’s version of Hulk. It had fairly decent reviews, but critics didn’t really know what to think about it. Fan boys hated it – (though, it is far from the horrid Fantastic Four or Ghostrider!) To me, it’s an underated gem. I guess the biggest complaint people had, was it was too dramatic for its own good. And I guess it didn’t follow the source material as much. But regardless, I love it. So well executed with pacing (felt like an epic). In fact, it reminds me so much to Superman: The Motion Picture. And the funny thing is, it doesn’t try to be like it (unlike Spiderman!) Hulk was fantastically edited, which should have gotten a nomination for best editing that year at the Oscars. I think this was also a major turned off with the film. But to me, it was amazing watching an interacting comic book, in motion. And it fit well with the context and tone of the
story. Great score and acting accompanies this well-done and overlooked masterpiece that no one liked. I was hoping for a sequel, but instead – a revision is what we got (if anything needs revision, it’s that overhyped and overrated Spiderman movies). Initially, I hated the idea. Until I heard – Edward Norton was going to be in it. Ok. I liked Eric Bana, but I also like Norton. Then and there, I was curious. Hesitant, but curious. After seeing it – I can’t say that it’s any better than the 2003 version. Story wise, no. But effects, yes. Indeed, the green dude looks better. But aside from a very well done performance from Norton (whom held the movie together gracefully, as he always does), the movie is I am sorry to say – bland. First off – the BIG difference with Lee’s Hulk is – it was different. It had a different approach with a different slant. It slanted away from the source material a bit – and much like Tim Burton’s almost masterpiece of Batman, it represented a familiar story in a fresh new way. I guess fans didn’t like that. They wanted something that followed the source material more. They wanted a mindless action flick with, dare I say it, “HULK SMASH!” Ok. With this newer take – there were a lot (and I mean, A LOT) of scenes that just – hmmm… From the opening sequence, we have this just – oddball sequence that seems kind of almost mocking the styles used for Lee’s version. Then boom – we are in the middle of Brazil (shot beautifully, by the way). And we meet up with Bruce Banner in a similar way that made the campy TV show so popular… But like all the repetitive episodes after a while, this dries thin – and BOOM, the plot thickens. After all – there wouldn’t be a story without some kind of conflict. Bruce gets caught – there is a cool chase sequence on top of buildings (but, we just entered in Borune territory). And before long, BOOM – Hulk emerges. After things resolve a bit – we then get to chase sequence number two – and BOOM, Hulk emerges again. I can’t put my foot on it, but seeing something going down on a campus has been done before. I can’t think of it, but I know I’ve seen it (and it makes no sense whatsoever, since we have military risking lives among lives, plus the risk factor of being caught on the news and all- but hey, we learned from Michael Bay films – reality isn’t a factor in mindless action stuff!) Things resolve. Hulk is still Hulk – and Hulk saves his love interest. In a King Kong like tone, we see Hulk and Betty Ross in a very touching scene. Once again, King Kong comes to mind. Hulk turns into Bruce – and Bruce and Betty enjoys a nice evening at a motel room. Once again, a very touching scene that holds too much compassion to Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese in the first Terminator movie.
And like all predictable action movies (or should I say comic book movies…), we hit a climax where we see a super-duper villain that destroys things – and only the hero could save the day. Hulk emerges once again, and we are treated to a sweet, New York gets destroyed for the bazillionith time fight between good and evil. It was cool to see, but I would have preferred another setting... And, I am sorry - Liv Tyler was no Jennifer Connelly. William Hurt was no Sam Elliott. And I actually liked the parent/child theme throughout the 2003 version. It represented a nice layer to a simplistic story. Now, take away all the complexities of it – and what we got, a brainless action movie with very little thought. What made the X-Men movies so unique? It was presented so differently to all the other comic book movies. It was science fiction, with an allegory of diversity. What makes Batman Begins unique? It presented an already established story, in a realistic setting, and bringing new life to an overdrawn character. What made Iron Man such a breath of fresh air? It wasn’t your typical super hero movie. It had fun, it was serious, and it didn’t follow the typical formula Marvel films were known for. And what makes Ang Lee’s version of Hulk unique? It gave a completely different view of a simple Jekyll and Hyde like story. It was a Greek tragedy. Now, repetition turns me off. That is why I find the Spiderman movies overrated. I find them copycats of the Superman movies. And the same goes with this Hulk. While I enjoyed it enough to recognize what they were trying to do – and there some jaw dropping moments here and there, it was really Eddie’s performance that paid off. Sadly, there was a good portion of the movie cut. Studio wanted a leaner version. That’s a little discouraging. I want a tragedy – an epic. And I’ll say it one more time – I wanted a sequel of Ang Lee’s Hulk. Instead – I got a fairly decent film. But personally, and sorry fan boys – Ang Lee did it better.
Cloverfield SYNOPSIS A large “something” invades New York, crashing a 20-something party in the process. Through the lens of a handheld camera, a group of these 20-somethings journey through the chaos, to help a friend that’s hurt across town. Suspense and shock-value add tension to this modern day monster movie. CRITIQUE
Cloverfield is the very first theatrical event for January. Usually, a month packed with family friendly entertainment and fluff, this clichéd monster movie worked in all the right levels. It had a marketing team that was far more skilled than anyone working at Lucasfilm (I mean, did anyone else’s jaw drop during that teaser in front of Transformers?!) It had the biggest Internet buzz of all time (of course, The Dark Knight is rightfully taking that title, as we speak). The final product is a masterful B-movie that takes on anything the Sci-Fi network airs. With one handheld camera, people portray real 20-something people (which really aren’t too far off from real, 20somethings). And a style similar to Blair Witch Project, but instead of an annoying lady with an annoying voice, we got one annoying “average” 20something that sort of gives the “average” male commentary on everything that’s going on. If anything, it’s a BIG SCALE film school project of just a bunch of friends gathering around, and creating an amateurish monster movie. Only difference is attached to this simple style, it’s a large size studio movie in disguised. Cloverfield starts out with an introduction similar to Blair Witch Project – paragraphs on the screen, making the stance that this is an account of an event. After its introduction, we hear likable Rob, holding his handheld camera, and introducing us to his apartment. He wakes up his love interest, Beth. With quick interconnected cuts, making it seem like bits and pieces of what was on the camera, were taped over other bits and pieces on the camera. This is consistent throughout the entire movie, a nice plot device, to get us more in-tune with the characters, and feeling for them in the time of need. We then jump to Rob’s farewell party. He is leaving for a job in Japan, and his friends put together a nice “farewell” party for him. After about 20 minutes worth, with all the clichés of parties (idiot guys hitting on girls, drama among some of people and loud crappy music in the background). Before anyone even realizes until AFTERWARDS, the party is crashed by a LOUD SOUND, near by. The partygoers go up to the roof to see what the ruckus was. With lots of “oh my god, holy shit, what the fuck!” they see another explosion nearby, and lots of fireballs flying in all directions. They head downstairs, out of their apartment, and into the street. For anyone that has seen the teaser trailer knows what happens next…but it’s what happens after that, which makes things for an interesting thrill ride. What’s really intriguing here, as what the critics say about the movie, (with a solid 76% rating on rotten tomato), all are at the same level – it’s an intense simulator, simulating realism to what it truly is – a straight forward simplistic monster movie. It would have been more enjoyable with theater seats moving with the action, but hey, can’t have it all! The movie theater experience was enough already – seeing it in digital was a memorable one at that. What also makes this different from Blair Witch, is Blair Witch is about a group going into harm’s way, and documenting it. You see the group reacting to various things, off screen. It’s well done. But still, it’s missing something. A TRUE reaction, from a REAL person. If you don’t have that, it’s not believable.
With this film, you already have a plot at hand – a homemade recording of a party. Then it became something more, when “something” giant, crashes the party. We see this group of people, reacting in a VERY believable way. And anyone says different, is lying. This group is like you, your friends, my friends, and me. And the idea here is what YOU WOULD DO, in this situation. So this is where some of the critics parted ways in the movie. If your loved one – girlfriend – boyfriend – wife – husband – whatever, is at the other side of town. When a giant “something” or, bringing us back to the real world, a terrorist attack/school shooting occurs nearby, would you stay put, leave the area completely, or try everything you can to reach your loved one? Like one of those, “choose your own adventure” books; the question sticks to too many people’s perceptive of this film. And this is where I connected to the movie. Sure, it may not be the “smartest” idea. But at a time where chaos occurs, confusion arises, and emotions is at an all time high – you go with your heart and your gut. If death is truly nearby, you want to be with the person you love. The actual monster is one lethal thing. In some sequences, the quick visuals are perfect. In other scenes, it looks like cheap CGI. But the realism blends the whole entire thing, nicely, and you almost forget that it is a CGI-something. But with such a style, you are taking an absurd idea, and making it completely over the top. And for some, that’s what this ultimately is. When I saw it in theaters, I was in a packed house, with lots of teenagers. Some reacted to the scenes as it was intended – while others mocked what was there. At the end of the movie, I heard one teenybopper saying, “That was fucking dumb.” When you are seeing it on DVD, all by your lonesome – it’s a completely different experience. Both good and bad – it’s much better with a gathering. Going back to the Godzillia/Blair Witch correlation, I do see that. Going into the film, I pretty much anticipated it. But to me, there is more to it after the sheer experience. Right after 9/11, there was a documentary shown on TV called, 9/11. It was about two filmmakers, filming their own documentary about firefighters in New York. They picked one rookie firefighter, and were telling his story. It just so happens, they were filming that day, near the Towers, and before they could blink – they saw a plane heading into the first Tower. The camera then was directed to the sky, and without even realizing it, they captured the second plane hitting the second Tower. From there on, it was a 9/11 documentary – but even more than that, it was an actual account. The camera captured people’s reaction, as things happened that day. “OH MY GOD, WHAT THE FUCK, HOLY SHIT,” is heard crystal clear. People were standing at the actual sights, and taking pictures/video taping, as things occurred. Speculation of what was happening, were spread among the folks that were experiencing the event. If you want a true 9/11 motion picture, there you have – nothing’s more real and raw than the real deal. You can find it on DVD. As a matter of fact, it’s a coincidence that it’s a Paramount title.
I think the writers/producers studied that documentary, more so, than Godzilla/Blair Witch. And that’s why I think this is one of the most genius movie ideas Hollywood has come up with in a long time. It’s a new spin, on an old concept. And it does take things to new heights – the same way Jurassic Park did. I don’t expect this to appeal to everyone – some will hate it, some will love it. I, for one, love it. This is what the remakes of Godzilla/War of the Worlds should have been. And hope studios are taking notes, now. THE VIDEO The print on this standard DVD is decent. It’s not as impressive as what a Blu Ray transfer would look like, or the digital print I’ve experience on the big screen, but for all the flaws that’s part of the print, it fits well with the “home video” quality of the film. You also get a better appreciation, for you notice things more clearly (the CGI monster, and other “Easter eggs” within the film). THE AUDIO Not as impressive as the digital print in theaters, since YOU HEARD EVERYTHING, but the English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track is good, for what it is worth. From the first BOOM, to the last – and everything in between, it’s a film you definitely want to piss off the neighbors with. Of course, expect a lot of distorted voices and shaky camera moments with a film like this. 5.1 French and Spanish tracks are also included. THE EXTRAS Might as well call this a bare-bones release, since the extras are ridiculously light. The first, and probably highlight of the set is a commentary track by director Matt Reeves. Although there are a lot of quiet moments, for it being a solo-track. It is very informative on every aspect of the film (the genesis of it, the writing process, the filming, the marketing, and the audience’s reaction). I think one key aspect I was interested in, was how they were able to film grand-scale effects on a small scale camera – and it is revealed in great detail (something filmbuffs and prospering filmmakers may want to know). And one last key thing that interested me is how Steven Spielberg was asked to look at a rough cut of the film, and suggested to tweak the last act a bit. Four dinky featurettes are presented – all, with the same repetitive information that’s provided in the commentary track. But each one does reveal a little something about the film. The Making of Cloverfield reveals that the film was greatly inspired by Godzilla (which is fitting, since the teaser trailer gives a feel that it’s a re-remake of Godzilla).
Cloverfield Visual Effects and I Saw It! It's Alive! It's Huge are both simply repetitive info the making of featurette already covers, which is even more repetitive info the commentary track discusses. And Clover Fun, is nothing more than a gag reel. All of this looks good on a press release, or back of the DVD case, but it holds no substantial merit, and is nothing more than filler. Deleted scenes and alternate endings, with optional commentary by Matt Reeves, proves that despite the film being under 90 minutes long, there was no way of adding anymore to the film, since it’s well paced and well edited together. Adding anything else seems clunking – and these useless scenes prove to be true. Supposedly, there are a bunch of Easter eggs planted throughout the entire set, but I haven’t been able to find ANY. What I did find, was two teaser trailers to Paramount’s most anticipated films – JJ Abrams’s Star Trek, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. A nice addition (especially Star Trek, since that was in front of Cloverfield in theaters), but where are the Clover-trailers? FINAL THOUGHTS Cloverfield is a unique experience, which blends all the tools of filmmaking from yesteryears to today; this is what motion pictures are all about. It’s quality fluff, at its finest. And it was one hell of an experience on the big screen. It doesn’t measure much on the small screen. But it takes a simulated account, and makes it into just simply, an enjoyable movie. As for this set, I would Netflix it, but wouldn’t bother investing money until a better set comes our way (like a two-disc set full of REAL extras).
2006: Dawson’s Creek season 6 DVD review - Animaniacs Vol. 1 DVD review - Bambi 2 DVD review
Dawson's Creek - Season Six SYNOPSIS
It's a season of discontent for Dawson's gang with broken hearts and interrupted dreams causing major friction for all. Joey and Dawson rekindle their romance but the flame quickly dies out when he reveals he had a romance with an actress in L.A., the same actress who's coming to Boston to star in Todd's movie. Audrey's dad helps Pacey get a job and makes her singing debut with Emma's band, but her inner demons threaten to destroy everything. And Jen faces the biggest challenge of her life, one that will have a lasting effect on them all. CRITIQUE I was a senior in high school by the time Dawson’s Creek aired its final season. It was the first show that I followed religiously from day one; Wednesday night’s s at 8pm on The WB I glued myself to the TV. Season Five bored me for the most part and by season Six I just didn’t care. At the time I just didn’t feel for the show like I used to, and in fact I got burned out. Well, a few years have passed since the last time I’ve seen these episodes and interestingly my feelings toward this season changed in the other direction entirely. Rewatching the season over restored my love for the show. This season is pretty much “take it or leave it” material as it’s the last one. Even though it’s the least dramatic, all the characters finally get to have their fun. It’s very interesting to see them face “the real world.” One main reason why I like this season now is that I can actually relate to the events now as I too am facing a harsh time comprehending the real world; dealing with work, the opposite sex, family, and adult responsibilities. Not since the first season has Dawson’s Creek been so identifiable to my own life, and that’s why it’s hard to review this season because of the personal attachment to the show. But alas, the critique must go on. Katie Holmes is perhaps the best thing about the show and this season. She sparks the most interest, she’s on the show all the time, and there are a few episodes where it’s just her alone, and her character also does a lot of voice-overs. What started out as a show involving Dawson ended up with Joey taking the lead role. And while I found her quite annoying in season five, she is quite charming and very lovable in this season. Her on-and-off relationship with Dawson and Pacey, as repetitious as it is, is enjoyable to see. Moreover, her sideline love interest Eddie is also enjoyable right on cue. The character of Pacey is whom I always admired since I am a lot like him. No, I did not sleep with any of my teachers, but I am a complete smart-ass when the occasion calls for it. Even with the weak seasons he is still a solid character at heart. A lot of it comes down to the man behind the role, Joshua Jackson. In this season he becomes a stockbroker, which is a little out of the realms of reality, but hey, it is a fictional television series, so why not! As for Jen, I always found her completely annoying. It’s not Michelle Williams’ fault, but really, the direction the writers took her in did not pan out well. Looking back at everything this season, I think I skipped over her parts the most, fast-forwarding through her storylines. The arc of the series still revolves around Dawson. What got me into the show in the first place was neither the hype nor the teen/sex related content, not even sexy the Katie Holmes. Dawson Leery is a Spielberg-obsessed prospering filmmaker who wants to make movies, his room is filled with posters from the director’s movies, and he talks and references nothing but grade-A
nerd-ville films. As I pause from writing this review here, and take a glance around my room, I see nothing but movie posters as well. There is no doubt about why I like this show. Not since the first season has Dawson really gone anywhere with his passion of filmmaking. In this season the book is finally closed, as you will see him as an assistant director for a cheesy B movie. As the season draws to a close, it’s really the last handful of episodes that really tie the series together. The last four are the most enjoyable, because they deeply parallel the first season. Some shows end up going off on tangents and end up going into a completely different direction by the end of the series. But much more interesting and fascinating to watch is the concept of closure, which this season does perfectly. Granted, the show could’ve ended after season four and I would’ve been happy, but I also am satisfied with this season being the last. In short, I am content that Dawson’s Creek is now over. Contrary to what other reviews point out, this season set does include the extended cut of the series finale. The extended cut can be bought separately, and was released on DVD a few years ago, but I held off on buying it because I was hoping it would just be included with this set. So I waited three years and finally have my Dawson’s Creek collection complete. The extended version is flows better than the simple television cut, and one of the highlight is Andie’s cameo. Some people (including Dennis *cough*) dislike her for some reason, but I adore her. It was too bad she took off for the last two seasons, but her little cameo makes up for it. Moreover, the continuity level was really considered and explored in the series finale, and a lot of the credit goes to creator/writer Kevin Williamson. It was a great way to end the series, and it would’ve been nice to see Steve Minor direct it, yet beggars can’t be choosers. One thing to note, in the beginning of the pilot it’s established that Dawson is a Spielberg buff. In fact, the ending of E.T. is presented then and there. The last two seconds of the series finale establish Dawson getting a meeting with Spielberg. In fact, the last word spoken is “Spielberg.” Not to sound like a geek, but I thought this was a great homage to both Spielberg and the pilot episode. THE VIDEO Sony presents Dawson’s Creek in fullscreen format. No change of quality; it’s decent at best. Once again, like the previous sets, it would’ve been much better if the 23 episodes were expanded to six discs instead of a measly four! THE AUDIO Sony presents Dawson’s Creek in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. Sound quality is fine. THE EXTRAS The main extra is an audio commentary on the series finale by creator/episode writer Kevin Williamson and producer Paul Stupin. This is the same commentary track that’s available on the Series Finale DVD that came out a few years ago. Stupin, who has done commentaries for all the seasons except for season five, has without a doubt the most annoying voice you can ever
hear, but he is also very informative. It’s obvious he loves the show as that much is certain. So it was interesting to hear his thoughts. He continued the show after Williamson left, and did a decent job of that. But the highlight of the commentary is Williamson. He was the genius behind the show and a superb writer, and hearing his thoughts made the commentary worth the while. Also included is a bonus scrapbook with photos, character bios, sample script pages, trivia and other notes. It’s a nice tough, but a retrospective documentary would have been real nice. Heck, even the True Hollywood Story: The Dawson Kids could have made a nice addition. FINAL THOUGHT For fans, it’s the last they’ll see of Dawson and the gang. For newcomers, this season comes full circle with the first season and ultimately with the entire series. The last few episodes wrap things up nicely. This DVD set comes recommended.
Animaniacs - Volume 1 SYNOPSIS Steven Spielberg presents Animaniacs! The adventures or misadventures of the Warner Brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and the Warner Sister, Dot, who were so crazy that the studio execs locked them away in the water town at the Studio. The witty, slapstick humor with pop culture parodies and cartoon wackiness is on DVD for the first time ever with 25 fantastic Animaniacs episodes. CRITIQUE There are two ways to look at The Animaniacs. If you like Looney Tunes, you’ll like this show, but if you don’t like Looney Tunes, then nine times out of ten this show will give you a major headache. As a kid in the early 90s I was glued to this show. Much like Tiny Toons, I thought it was so freaking funny, and some of the regular gags were easy to recite to other kids at school. For example, Pinky and the Brain were quite notable for instance (so popular it generated its own spin-off series) for so many of their fantastic quotes. Brain: Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering? Pinky: I think so, Brain, but if we didn't have ears we'd look like weasels. Pinky: What are we going to do tonight, Brain? Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky: try to take over the world! And of course, Pinky’s famous line: ”narf.”
There were other notable subplot stories intertwining, but the main attraction was the Warner brothers (and sister). These were three different variations of Bugs Bunny, all running around creating havoc. Wakko, the leader of the threesome, had the best moments interacting with the other characters. Yakko had the best lines ever, just on the voice alone, which was a nice imitation of John Lennon. And the Sister Dot didn’t really add much, but that was the point of her character. Also intertwining with the show are characters from the Looney Tunes, Tiny Toons, and a few other special guests. The voices are one of the main reasons that make the show work. Much of The Animaniacs is a musical so it’s important that the voices work well. In addition, some of the musical numbers are so gosh darn funny I couldn’t stop laughing. The three songs I remember the most are “Yakko’s World,” Yakko sings all the names of countries in the world, “The Great Wakkorotti,” Wakko does a belching opera number, and “Wakko’s America Song,” Wakko sings all the names of the 50 states in America and their capitals. Unfortunately, some of the show’s stories are extremely dry. But then on the other hand, several stories are just freaking hilarious and smart. In addition, The Animaniacs does a great job at parody and satire by focusing on a single subject without going off on many tangents, such as The Simpsons, while parody in Family Guy and South Park often tend to go on forever. With Steven Spielberg as producer, who is a big history buff, the show seems to be geared more toward children, so it’s more likely that the show will poke fun at history in a smart and comical matter. Who could have guessed that a cartoon would offer some education value? Speaking of history, the Warners interacting with historical greats, like Albert Einstein, Michelangelo (and there is a nice little TMNT parody included), and Alfred Hitchcock (as a Hitchcock fan, I found “The Boids” was the most genius parody of them all), is extremely funny to watch. These interactions raised continuity problems, sure, but this is obviously a cartoon. Laid out by Looney Tunes themselves, it’s easily assumed there are no rules in cartoon land. This was also established very heavy in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? THE VIDEO Animaniacs is presented in fullscreen format. There’s not much remastering work in effect here, but that’s fine since it brought me back to 1993 all over again. THE AUDIO Animaniacs offers language tracks in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. To much surprise, the sound quality is grand. Since the show is in part a musical, attention would be given to the sound, more so than the video, but that’s not quite so. You can certainly blast this show at full volume through surround sound speakers. THE EXTRAS
Animaniacs Live!: Comic Maurice LaMarche hosts an in-studio-style interview via satellite bigscreen TV with Animaniac friends. This is similar to Inside the Actor’s Studio as it provides lots of insight. It’s a nice featurette, but the set is lacking in the extras department. I really wish a commentary track were included. In fact, for how much this show satirizes pop culture, it would have been nice to see a mock-umentary that tracks the Warners or the other Animaniacs characters. But that’s just a crazy thought! FINAL THOUGHT This set is a must for fans and comes highly recommended. The casual viewer will want to check it out as well.
Bambi 2 SYNOPSIS Bambi's austere father, the Great Stag of the Forest, takes his son under his wing when hunters kill the young deer’s mother. Bambi meets new friends and learns to live in the wild as he grows into a young buck. CRITIQUE Almost a year has passed since I reviewed the Disney Platinum edition of Bambi. That DVD (which I consider one of 2005’s best) contained a little teaser of the long-awaited follow up to Bambi. Here is an excerpt I wrote regarding this teaser: “I do have a thing about these Disney sequels. Not one of them captures the greatness of the first film(s). Each one of them follows the same damn formula. And the magic Disney once had is just simply lost. I question what Walt really thinks on how his “kingdom” has become. And at first, I completely cringed at the thought of a Bambi sequel. When I saw the preview, I thought the animation looked pretty elegant but otherwise a typical sequel. I then realized as I watched the sneak peek what the film is really about. It’s an in-between-quell of events within the original Bambi movie. That scene in the original at mid-half when the Great Prince of the Forest tells Bambi his mother died (in a vague but respectful way), that is pretty much where the sequel is going to expand on. In a way, it’s like The WB’s Smallville in a way, how it is an expanded story on a piece of element from the whole of the Superman story. I think if they tone down the dialogue, like in the first film, and take extra care with detail of surroundings and seasons, and keep the voices somewhat similar to the ones in the original film, they might pull it off. I do have my doubts and very little expectations, but not ruling the idea out completely until I see the film. I just hope they don’t do something distasteful and unneeded again, like Lion King 1 ½.”
Unlike the Bambi DVD from last year, in which I watched the film and the extras several times before reviewing it, I could only sit through this Bambi sequel once. I’ve read a few reviews on the web pertaining to this film, all raves. I beg to differ. I’ll get right to the point: I didn’t care for it one bit. The story is okay and the animation stays within the same style of the first (which is the only great thing I can say about this film). The continuity is consistent with the first (since it is an in-between-quel within the predecessor). Overall, there really isn’t much to complain about; I just didn’t care for it. To me, it had too much dialogue for its own good. That’s one of the most unique aspects to the first Bambi, lack of dialogue. This film also reminded me a little too much of the Rankin and Bass classic Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I was almost ready for one of the animals to say, “We won’t let Bambi be part of any deer games.” The director of this project is Brian Pimental who happens to be one of the writers for Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and A Goofy Movie (which is dying for a platinum DVD set itself). All three I consider instant Disney classics. I can’t say what he bring to Bambi 2 was completely horrible. In many ways it is a fine film that follows the continuity of the original. I just didn’t feel it was up to par. More so, I felt it wasn’t needed. Sure, a sequel, prequel, or whatever-quel could have been made, but the same can be said of other cinematic classics like ET, Casablanca or Gone with the Wind (which was tried, horribly). In the end, though, for those films that changed film history and still captivate us all (like Bambi), is a sequel really necessary? (Also, labeling said sequel Bambi 2 is horrible marketing. They should have gone with Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest. That at least wouldn’t have been so misleading.) THE VIDEO Walt Disney presents Bambi 2 in 1.78 widescreen format. Beautiful. Just beautiful. As I said before, they lifted the style of animation from the original Bambi, and while you aren’t getting an exact duplication it’s pretty darn close. The quality is top-notch. THE AUDIO Walt Disney Pictures present Bambi 2 in English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1), French (5.1). Again, the sound is top-notch. Dialogue is clear and the music is grand. THE EXTRAS Whenever you see a Disney DVD without the words, “Two-disc Set” or “Platinum Edition,” more than likely the set lacks extras. And while this isn’t exactly a bare-bone disc, the DVD lacks what most of the better Disney sets have included (even the horrible Lion King 1 1/2). With that said, the extras are as follows: The Legacy Continues: Making-of featurette includes interviews with director Brian Pimental and stars Patrick Stewart, Alex Gould, and Brandon Bairg.
Thumper's Hurry & Scurry game, Disney Sketch Pad, and Bambi's Trivia Track. FINAL THOUGHT Cherish the original, which is still available to own as we speak. Leave this one for the kiddies and die-hard fans.
2005: -MJR slogan right on the money column -Batman Begins DVD review -Star Trek First Contact DVD review -Gilmore Girls - Season 3 DVD review -The Phantom of the Opera DVD review -Stand By Me DVD review -Bambi DVD review -One Tree Hill First Season DVD review -Mary Poppins DVD review -Re-Defining the Movie Experience column
MJR slogan right on the money Published via local Sterling Heights The Source Newspaper… “It’s more fun at MJR,” as the slogan reads under the MJR logo in the new MJR Marketplace Cinema 20 theater, at the location of 15 mile and Van Dyke. To the majority of the MJR managers who came from other MJR locations in Metro Detroit, it’s just another MJR mark. MJR has been expanding throughout the years, and this is just another walk in the park for them. For the locals of Sterling Heights, it’s another option for motion picture entertainment. Since the closing of Showcase Sterling, which once dominated the same area, the other choice was AMC Forum 30. A fine theater AMC is, but quite a drive for those that live near the late Showcase Cinema. Now that MJR is open, patrons have a place to go at a convenient location again. I do notice the former regulars of Showcase, becoming welcomed MJR regulars. And the important quality to MJR, prices are cheaper than the going rate, which is a selling point for the theater. So indeed, ticket prices are far cheaper over the prices at the competition. For a new theater, you can’t beat that.
For me, as a former patron and employee of both Showcase Sterling and AMC 30, it is a great opportunity to get back into the theater life. I must say, the slogan is right on the money; MJR is exceptionally more enjoyable. I remember six years ago, being 15 and starting out at Showcase as an usher. Now I am back, doing the same exact job: tearing tickets, cleaning theaters in between showings, and sweeping the hallways with my handy broom and dustpan, thinking I am the God of the theater! The surrealism of working at a place across from a place I used to work and visit often throughout the years, that does not even exist anymore, still gets to me. I catch myself to this day looking back to the location Showcase once stood, and seeing just a pile of dirt. I was at the scene often over this past summer, watching both the fall of Showcase, and the rise of MJR. It was both an exciting moment of prospects, and a sad nostalgia of memories. Despite missing Showcase, I am having a blast and taking in everything in sight with this new MJR Theater. It’s an eye-catching experience, and is what has been missing about theaters for quite some time: the look and feel of the old-school theaters from long ago. With the eloquent looking mezzanine toward the end of the lobby above the concession stand, to the simple looking hallways with both the upcoming and vintage movie posters. Simply put, the atmosphere of the theater itself has a quality not seen in a theater since the days of the silver screen Hollywoodland era. But make no mistake about it; there are a lot more new aspects to the theater than meets the eye. There is a glass-cases projector in the middle of the lobby, looping trailers and upcoming attractions every two hours or so. Just in case people ask, that is what it’s exactly like upstairs in the booth, where the magic happens. There is also a digital projector called Real D, which is right now presenting Chicken Little in 3D. Yes, ladies and gents – 3D is cool again! Each auditorium is equipped with new large screens, which make film clarity a more enjoyable film-going experience. The surround sound fills your ears with so much excitement, making you feel like you are part of the presentation. The seats are more suited as La-Z-Boys, as they move back. Since there is tons of legroom, it’s like being in your living room. To top it all off and a bag of potato chips, the pop and popcorn are refillable at any size. Once again, it certainly is more fun-filled at MJR! In the end though: it’s the local patrons that win this competition between theaters. They finally have a new theater to explore…like 30 years ago when Showcase was first built all over again! And new questions arise… “What’s that projector in the middle of the lobby for?” “What’s upstairs in the balcony?” “What’s Real D?” “What does MJR mean?” “Is this a Magic Johnson theater?” I guess there’s only one way to find out. Check out MJR Marketplace 20 today!
Batman Begins - Two-Disc Deluxe Edition SYNOPSIS Batman Begins explores the origins of the Batman legend and the Dark Knight's emergence as a force for good in Gotham. In the wake of his parents' murder, disillusioned industrial heir Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels the world seeking the means to fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful. He returns to Gotham and unveils his alter-ego: Batman, a masked crusader who uses his strength, intellect and an array of high tech deceptions to fight the sinister forces that threaten the city. CRITIQUE Why is it that Roger Ebert, who has given the past four-part Batman series Tim Burton started three stars and below, but has given Batman Begins a four-star rating point blank? Why do many people consider Batman Begins the movie of the year? Why do many people from various Internet boards consider Batman Begins to be THE best comic book movie? Why was it a box office hit, when the last Batman movie made from Warner Brothers was a complete and utter disappointment, and left a gap in Hollywood for a long time in regards to comic book movies? Why was it a critical acclaimed movie to begin with? If you haven’t viewed Batman Begins yet, and are skeptical with these questions in mind, then you are really missing something great. The answers to these questions: A) Isn’t as over-the-top. B) Provides the best elegant cast since Mystic River. C) Has a strong plot-point many Batman films in the past, lacked. D) Turns a simple super-hero story into an epic film of proportion, almost ranking up there with Godfather of a tragic-flawed character. E) And for once, a comic book movie that goes to the heart of character development and realism, instead of providing a visual but poor written stunt show. Sure you got some CGI effects and a very cool car chase. But those are minor to the story. Yes, THERE IS A STORY! For once, a film is made that is wrapped around a story, not spoon-fed effects. Don’t get me wrong, I precious Burton’s vision. It is what got me into Batman in the first place. But this film surpasses any past Batman film, by far. For once, a film that mostly appeals to kids can appeal to adults for the psychological aspect of it. Batman Begins makes Tim Burton’s Batman look like something Walt Disney would make! Everyone I talked to about this film all had good things to say about it. In fact, since I bought the DVD when it came out, I’ve watched it quite a few times…and I still can’t find that many flaws. If I was a multi-million dollar director, this was exactly how I would make a Batman film. I am glad the horrid Batman & Robin happened. I am glad Marvel Studios stepped up the competition. Because without all of that, the Batman movie that should’ve been made a LONG
time ago, would never been made – since the series Tim Burton started, would still continue to this day. THE VIDEO Warner Brothers presents Batman Begins in a sexy 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen format. This film presents many stunning colors and locations. From white snow in the Iceland to the dark ghettos of Gotham, the transfer looks beautiful. THE AUDIO Warner Brothers presents Batman Begins in a very well toned English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 5.1. Much like the film looking great, it sounds great too. I knew watching the movie in theaters months ago, the sound through my stereo speakers with this movie will be grand. I played this movie on my computer, with my Panasonic bookshelf stereo system, and my household’s main TV with a stereo system hooked to it as well – and let me tell you, looks and sounds great no matter how you view it. Music, the dialogue, and the action scenes – everything sounds GREAT (not sure if I emphasized that enough!) Only thing I have to nit-pick about is the lack of a DTS track, which would have made the presentation even sexier. THE EXTRAS I want to say right off the bat (no pun attended); there is no commentary track. I think many reviewers have already pointed this out. Not sure why it does not have one, but I am sure when part deux comes out few years from now, there will be an ultimate, definitive, super-deluxe edition with a commentary track. And even though I was hoping for one, I am not gushing out in tears either. DISC 1: MTV's Tankman Begins: a spoof – the infamous MTV movie award parody. As much intentions as it is on being funny, I found it to be dry. I guess once you see a parody from MTV, you’ve seen them all. If Billy Crystal were involved, would be a whole different story! Theatrical trailer – self explanatory! DISC 2: Inner Demons Comic: Explore the special features through an exclusive interactive comic book – Depending on who you talk to and what their preference depends on what you get out of them. I’ve heard and read some people hate this feature, calling it “confusing!” However, the single disc is for the average moviegoer, I am sure, with less “confusing” menus. This two-discer is for those that cherished the movie to begin with, and for the die-hard Batman fans. And I, myself, found it to be the smartest version of menus yet. Similar to the menu setup of Universal’s Hulk, the menus are provided like excerpts from a comic book. With sound effects and animation, it makes it look like an interactive comic book…and it’s themed to each special feature.
The Journey Begins: Creative Concepts, Story Development and Casting – I found this to be old news, actually. Entertainment Weekly ran a great in-depth article during the time Begins came out in theaters, which explained between the time period after Batman & Robin came into our lives, and up to the pre-production of Batman Begins. But just the same, found this featurette enjoyable…and gives you ideas to how the writing process went down. Very un-major-filmlike! I guess, since the movie has an independent quality to it, it was written like an independent film. Shaping Mind and Body: Christian Bale's Transformation into Batman – The million-dollar question…does Bale add up to Keaton? I think that is an unfair question. Keaton will always be the untouchable Batman. He did a great job. But that is a different era and a different Batman altogether. Sure enough, Bale will never top what Keaton did in that role, but likewise, Keaton would have a hard time pulling off what Bale did. Basically – the Keaton role was an established Bruce Wayne and Batman. What Bale did – was through narrative advancement, show an uncertain Bruce Wayne, and a prosperous Batman in the making. There are a lot more dramatic elements to that role. Since Bale was already dark enough to play such a role (anyone that has seen American Psycho or Equilibrium, would agree with me), he was perfect for the role anyhow. And this featurette goes in great detail how Bale transformed into such an iconic and complex character. Even what Keaton did with Batman/Wayne, it was 2-dimensional in comparison to Bale’s Batman. The Tumbler: Reinvention of the Batmobile – featurette on “the tumbler.” This is also a debate. But truthfully, I think after watching it several times, I am satisfied with the beginnings of the Batmobile. The history of the automobile did not start out with a Corvette. Gotham City Rises: Production Design of Gotham City, the Batcave, Wayne Manor, and more – featurette of the production scale of the film. The production of the film is very huge. And for once, Gotham looks like a city and not some made-up fairyland from hell (like what was presented in the Burton films). Saving Gotham City: The Development of Miniatures, CGI, and Effects for the Monorail Chase Scene – featurette on the cinematic climax to the film. Genesis of the Bat: A look at the Dark Knight's incarnation and influences on the film – this is the highlight of the featurettes. Gives in great detail, many of the comics and such that inspired Batman Begins, including YEAR ONE, which was one of the many Batman projects Warner Brothers had as a potential film. Confidential Files: Go beyond the movie and discover facts and story points not in the film – tidbit facts and such, essentially filler on the DVD. Cape and Cowl: The new Batsuit – featurette on the nipple-free Batsuit. Path to Discovery: Filming in Iceland – featurette on the location of Iceland.
Confidential files/Character/weaponry gallery/Photo gallery/DVD-ROM features: Batman Begins mobile game demo & Web links – fillers, fillers, and more fillers! Exclusive collectible 72-page comic book containing: Detective Comics #27 (the very first Batman story), Batman: The Man Who Falls (a classic story that inspired Batman Begins), and an excerpt from Batman: The Long Halloween (a chilling story that also inspired the film) – cool stuff! FINAL THOUGHTS I am being bold here, but actually quite simply put, this movie an instant classic. It will be talked about twenty years from now, you’ll see. This is truly what motion pictures are all about. Quality acting, fantastic storytelling and entertaining by all means. Sure, two elements are missing from this set. But that does not take away the greatness this DVD does have – and the movie is a must own to all those moviegoers and buffs out there.
Star Trek: First Contact - Special Collector's Edition SYNOPSIS In their second big screen adventure, the year is 2373 and the crew of the Enterprise-E has learned the Borg has returned. Because of Captain Picard's past experiences with the Borg, Starfleet has ordered the Enterprise to stay out of the fight. Realizing too much is at stake, Picard disobeys orders and takes the Enterprise to Earth. His knowledge of Borg technology leads the Federation fleet to victory, but a Borg sphere escapes and opens a temporal vortex. The Enterprise pursues and travels back to April 4, 2063; the day before the first warp flight. CRITIQUE My mother has always been the “Trekkie” of the family. Some of that has rubbed off on me. I don’t really care for any of the TV series’, but for the most part – I love the Star Trek movies. The “First” of the “First Contact” title has many meanings. It was the “first” Next Generation film on its own (no passing the torch or intersecting, like in Generations). It was the first to really feel more like a true science fiction film rather than a Star Trek film. And it was the first in the series to get the PG-13 rating. In fact, when figuring out how Star Wars Episode Three will play out, graphic wise. Just take a look at First Contact. There are quite a few great aspects to First Contact. Up to this point of the Star Trek films, the special effects are at its best, making the philosophy-based science fiction even more surreal, but also realistic. It is also the most exciting of the series. That could be for many reasons. The restriction of having it PG friendly isn’t there, so it could spark more action/adventure. But I think because there is finally a villain in the series that actually is both creepy and violent. The
Borg is the most freakish species of the entire Star Trek mythology, which makes the film more compelling. Furthermore, the Borg is presented more like the Aliens in the Alien series or the Orcs in Lord of the Rings. I think one other aspect to this film is an underrated actor that goes by the name James Cromwell. He plays a unique version of an old character from the Star Trek mythology, Dr. Zefram Cochrane. What’s great about this is how he presented the character. The best analogy of this character is trying to imagine Han Solo of the Star Wars films as a complete and utter buffoon (like in A New Hope) but also, an old drunk. That’s Dr. Zefram Cochrane of First Contact. What is very interesting about the overview of Star Trek films are the ones that worked, and the ones that did not. In fact, there should be a study conducted just on this concept alone. What seems to be considered the classics and best from the Star Trek film series are the ones that aren’t watered-down but also doesn’t spoon-feed for the general audience. For instance, Wrath of Khan connects to things from the original series. And that elaborated to Search for Spock. With First Contact, it goes into many depths from the mythology of Star Trek, which makes it the strongest from the Next Generation side of the movies. Why is the Star Trek franchise somewhat failing now to the general audience? Because it has been over-exposed to death nowadays, and the quality isn’t even being considered. Insurrection is like a two-hour episode gone-bad from the Star Trek TV series. And while Nemesis isn’t too bad of a film, it basically is five Star Trek movies in one. The originality isn’t even there. So considering the obvious, First Contact is the last strong film of the Star Trek movie series. THE VIDEO Paramount Home Video presents Star Trek First Contact in 2.35 widescreen format. Because this was my first Star Trek film on DVD to own, I am amazed of the picture quality. It’s not an old film. It is only about nine years old. But nonetheless, the quality looks like it came out yesterday. No expected grain at all. Picture perfect. THE AUDIO Paramount Home Video presents Star Trek First Contact in English (DTS 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround). DTS and 5.1 English surround sound is the best options. I am also amazed at the sound effects. This is the third Star Trek/Wars comparison I shall make, but hearing First Contact in stereo surround sound on DVD is like hearing one of the remastered Star Wars on DVD in stereo. Very awesome. Worth being extremely LOUD! THE EXTRAS For starters, I wish Paramount put time and love into their other titles. I own half-a-dozen Paramount titles, that I wish has extras, but don’t (Better Off Dead, Explorers, Fire In the Sky,
Scrooged, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Summer School.) I understand the value of the Star Trek films, but those films shouldn’t be the only ones that have extras. On the other hand, TOO MANY extras get boring. How can a DVD have TOO MUCH? Quantity over quality. I shouldn’t be this truthful as I am reviewing but I must confess, I only got to about half of the special features. I’ll mention why in a little bit, but let me first go into the stuff I did watch. We have two commentary tracks on the first disc, one by director-actor Jonathan Frakes, and another by screenwriters Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore. There is also a text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda. I didn’t get into these commentaries at all. Frankes isn’t the most boring guy ever, but hearing one person talk is. I don’t really care about “our first day shooting!” I wish they included cast, writers, and crew – and maybe even some of the original Star Trek-ers. On the second disc, there are five sections worth of features. The Star Trek Universe, The Borg Collective, First Contact Production, Scene Deconstruction, and Archives. The Star Trek Universe is probably the best of the sections. S.T. Universe includes three featurette’s The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane is an interesting short featurette (all the featurette’s are short.) It’s similar to Marvel Comic’s “origins of” featurette’s on the Marvel movies DVDs. The third is called First Contact: The Possibilities. Basically, cast and crew gives their thoughts on the idea of whether or not we will either be contacted by UFOs (if we haven’t already.) The first featurette, I saved for last. Its called Jerry Goldsmith: A Tribute. Jerry Goldsmith (along with Alexander Courage, Jerry Fielding, James Horner, Leonard Rosenman, Cliff Eidelman, Dennis McCarthy, and many more) supplied the legendary score for Star Trek (both movies and TV.) Jerry Goldsmith recently died last summer. I am very familiar with Goldsmith, who is just as great of a composer as James Horner, Danny Elfman, and John Williams. He supplied scores to films like The Mummy remake, L.A. Confidential, Rudy, Poltergeist, and most recognizable – Gremlins. The tribute is well done with great taste, and certainly makes this DVD set a bit more special. The other featurettes include: # The Borg Collective: # Unimatrix One # The Queen # Design Matrix # First Contact Production: # The Story # The Missile Silo # The Deflector Dish # From "A" to "E" # Making First Contact
# The Art of First Contact # Scene Deconstruction: # Borg Queen Assembly # Escape Pad Launch # Borg Queen's Demise # Archives: # Storyboards # Photo gallery # Teaser trailer # Theatrical trailer I tried watching some of the featurettes but was bored to death. Maybe if they combined the featurettes into an ultimate documentary – maybe it would be better. Just because I didn’t enjoy the features, does not mean no one else will. There is still a lot considering. From my standpoint, I just didn’t care for it. FINAL THOUGHTS While this isn’t exactly “the best,” like what I considered the best such as Wrath of Khan or Search for Spock. This is probably the most action-packed, not as watered down with philosophical mishmash, and the last very strong film of the series. Star Trek is much like the James Bond series. It has expanded so much over the years, has so much history and mythology involved with it, and the rarest franchise where the eighth film of the series is just as strong as the first three of the series. First Contact DVD set comes highly recommended to ANY Trekkies, science fiction fans, or just lovers for motion pictures.
Gilmore Girls - Season 3 SYNOPSIS More fun, more flames, more flameouts: more Gilmore. This 6-disc set contains all 22 third-year episodes (plus bonus features) of the Gilmore Girls, the hit series known for its witty, rapid-fire dialogue and poignant, suds-free storylines. For mother and daughter Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, it's a year of change. Much of it is expected, like Rory's graduation from Chilton and the anxiety of waiting for college acceptance letters. But much of it is not. Rory starts the year with two boyfriends (that may be two too many). Lorelai rekindles the flame with Max (maybe). Lane meets Mr. Right (at last). Sookie gets a surprise (a good one). And so does the Independence Inn (not such a good one). CRITIQUE This season comes as my favorite one. Why? It was the season that got me into the series in the first place through re-runs over the summer that year. And it is the season that in my modest
opinion presents the best-gathered episodes. Not that Gilmore Girls presents weak ones, but with a handful of favorites of mine that I can watch over and over it’s within reason the third season is the finest one. While some of the dry soap opera parts do not interest me, I always find the writing quite amusing. Smart-smart writing is what I always say about Gilmore Girls. That holds to be true with the third season. One thing that really is comical and almost satirical about Gilmore Girls is its sense of being completely serious in a dramatic scene between the central characters, and then something silly is presented in the background with the supporting characters that surrounds the silly small-town of Stars Hollow. These moments really makes me chuckle. It’s an old comedic trick in the book, but when used in the right context can deliver a thousand laughs. This is one build up that makes the series funnier over majority of the sitcoms of today. Another key element that I love about Gilmore Girls is its essence of not being watered-down. Something I noticed with Dawson’s Creek seasons is a lot of filler story lines to move the series along. The same goes for WB’s 7th Heaven and Smallville. On the other end, Everwood and Gilmore Girls have strong story lines from beginning to end. While Gilmore Girls shifts from one direction to another (Rory and Dean break up, Rory and Jess hook up, and they break apart by the end of the series), it still has a strong lead that creates the build-up within the story lines, and keeps the humor as strong as possible. There is never a strong story line that leans on the weak ones. There is enough of a balance that even the less liked story lines are strong enough to stand on their own. In other words, the entire series blends with its dramatic soap opera aspect, the silly over-the-top ness, the pop culture references, or just the satirical approach with the entire package. It’s hard to define Gilmore Girls, and while this may be a guilty pleasure with me and hard to get other fellas into this show, there is a lot on the table to offer various taste buds. Some people just watch the show for the mother/daughter aspect of it. I simply watch it for the subtext within the writing, the real depth of it, which is pure satire at best. A story line that involves Jess (stand-alone story line with Jess) occurs at the end of the season, where his father shows up and Jess soon after, follows his father to California; a very unique and different setting for the Gilmore Girls series. Anyhow, ere was talk right after the season finale that year that a proposed spin-off series would involve that story line. It was scratched, which is somewhat understandable. The WB does hold success shows on their belts, but they also hold failed ones as well. And one thing WB did not want was another failed show evolving from a very successful one. There was a really good article a couple of months ago in the Entertainment Weekly publication that explains in great detail the shakedown of that entire mess. I, for one, was disappointed it never went through. It certainly is not Gilmore Girls by a long shot but it seemed compelling enough. The entire sequences that took place within that story line involving Jess truly opened the door for a spin off series worth attempting. I remember a spin off series that evolved from Dawson’s Creek that ringed around a side character that was newly introduced. Unlike that failure, this one had potential. Milo Ventimiglia
was well liked among fans. He had the chops to carry his own leading show. Unfortunately, it just never happened. So instead, WB invested money in shows like Tarzan and the epic Mountain, which got cancelled pretty soon after their premieres. One more thing to note, the best Gilmore Girls episode this season is the episode “Dear Emily and Richard.” In it, Sherry goes into labor, and that sets Lorelai reminiscing about Rory’s birth. I love this episode on many levels. For one, this was the first episode that introduced me to the show in the first place. I was all but curious after viewing it, because it was smart and well written. Continuity flows between the flashbacks. And this is basically the episode that explains the whole entire series in a nutshell. I guess another reason why I liked it so much was that it reminded me lot of Godfather Part 2 where the flashbacks intertwine (but do not connect) with the current time frame of the episode. The actress they picked looks so much like a 16-year-old version of Lauren Graham. Not since Dolores Claiborne have I seen an older and younger version of the same character done perfectly that you would think they are the same exact person. That’s a real challenge in film, and this episode of Gilmore Girls does it so eloquently and very well. THE VIDEO Warner Bros. presents Gilmore Girls in full screen format, the way it was filmed. As close to perfection as it could be. And my pet peeve with TV shows on DVD sets has finally been answered gracefully as there are no more “last time on…” clips in front of each episode. THE AUDIO Warner Bros. presents Gilmore Girls in Dolby English. What to be expected from a TV show on DVD. Clear, crisp, and un-stereo system worthy. THE EXTRAS I am sad to say I'm actually a bit disappointed with the bonus features this time around, but here they are. The Unaired scenes are available for selected episodes. I think they should be re-edited into the shows. All Grown Up is a documentary with the cast about their childhood experiences, it’s as decent extras as you get. Overview of the cast and their youth growing up. Only thing that sparked my interest was Alexis. Maybe because I have this minor, tiny, little, semi, micro, crush on her. Who Wants to Fall in Love is a montage of the best "love moments" from Season 3. It’s similar to the “yelling” montage on the second season set. Mostly filler, but nice. Our Favorite '80s features the cast and crew showing off their favorite '80s dance moves – a silly and unneeded feature.
A commentary track with Lauren and Alexis is badly needed, wanted, desired, and hopefully delivered the fourth season DVD. FINAL THOUGHTS While the bonus stuff is somewhat weak, don’t be discouraged. This is the best of best when it comes to Gilmore Girls. This is the season to get out of the entire series. Even newcomers can easily get into the series by viewing this season first and then go back to the beginning. You won’t be disappointed. The Phantom of the Opera SYNOPSIS The Phantom of the Opera is a magnificent tale that begins when an opera ghost terrorizes the cast and crew of the French Opera House while tutoring a chorus girl. He finally drives the lead soprano crazy so she and her friend leave. The girl is able to sing lead one night but the soprano doesn't want her show stolen so she comes back. The ghost demands they keep giving his protégé lead roles. Meanwhile, His pupil falls in love with the Vicomte de Chagny, but the Phantom is in love with Christine, his student. The Phantom is outraged by their love and kidnaps Christine to be his eternal bride. Will Raoul, the Vicomte, be able to stop this dastardly plan? Watch and find out. Courtesy of IMDb. CRITIQUE The movie starts out slow. It begins with black and white imagery, and we are then taken to a run-down opera house where it seems an auction is taking place (yes, there was a time long ago when eBay did not exist!) Within a few minutes… Auctioneer: Lot 666, then: a chandelier in pieces. Some of you may recall the strange affair of the Phantom of the Opera: a mystery never fully explained. We are told ladies and gentlemen, that this is the very chandelier, which figures, in the famous disaster. Our workshops have restored it and fitted up parts of it with wiring for the new electric light, so that we may get a hint of what it may look like when re-assembled. Perhaps we may frighten away the ghost of so many years ago with a little illumination, gentlemen? Just then – the loud “phantom” theme turns up in the background with great misc-en-scene CGI, the run-down black and white theater turns into an eloquent, colorful theater from the past. It’s a stunning sequence, and is one of the dozens of scenes that are impressive about the movie. Furthermore, the sequence that involved the chandelier itself at the tail end of the film gave me goose bumps; it’s amazing how a simple scene can be so sweet when done right. I saw Phantom of the Opera in theaters during its limited release in December of 2004 before it opened wide in January of 2005, and I must say I enjoyed it a lot. The production values – the
settings, costumes and film score – are superb. It’s like watching Titanic back in ’97 on the big screen for the first time; it’s a larger-than-life cinematic experience. Is it me or are musicals in movies cool again? Back in the 40s and 50s musicals were extravagant and sexy, however that trend died down over the years. It seems within the past few years musicals have come back with a bang. Simple yet great story, but also well acted and directed. These are things movies are missing these days. And indeed I felt like watching a musical version of the classic 1943 film (which was a remake of the 1925 classic). Oddly enough, Phantom has been done to death. The most popular adaptation to this date is the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical theater play, which I never had the chance of seeing, but it’s neat to see something remade close to perfection without silly, mediocre additions. With Phantom there is only one flaw I could see. The original story (and films throughout the years) is actually true horror at best. In fact, you can compare Vincent Price’s House of Wax to Phantom of the Opera. I think it’s the traditional story that’s compelling. A type of misunderstood being falls in love with someone beautiful but does not know how to deal with affection. Beauty and the Beast all the way down to King Kong have followed this formula precisely. The horror aspect of it isn’t so much blood and guts or bone-chilling scenes but a symbolism of being scared of indifference. Phantom follows the formula as well but not with the same result. It’s the main theme, obviously but because they cast pretty and attractive people to take part in the movie the theme isn’t carried on to the best of its ability. So at first glance it looks more like a chick-flick type musical, but rest assured, dig in a little deeper and you’ll still find some horror beneath the layers of the movie. Director Joel Schumacher, I would say, is a misunderstood monster himself. Indeed, he was the one who killed the Batman series with the god-awful Batman and Robin (which I’m sure he’ll never hear the end of). But I, for one, defend him for what he is worth. He is an iffy director at best. Sure, he can make awful movies from time to time but he can make great movies as well. I would put Phantom on his resume under great movies. It’s difficult to direct a musical, which is probably one of the reasons why it faded away throughout the years. Hats off to Schumacher for making a difficult musical a great experience. THE VIDEO Warner Bros. presents The Phantom of the Opera in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is an awesome transfer. I was worried that it wouldn’t look as beautiful as it did in theaters. I was not disappointed. The black and white parts have some grin with purpose. The majority of the film’s color palette is vivid and crisp. THE AUDIO
Warner Bros. presents The Phantom of the Opera in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 5.1. The key element of a musical is obviously the sound. The quiet parts are real quiet. You can hear a needle drop, that’s how quiet it gets during a few scenes. The loud parts are presented clearly and with great bass. It’s like a full-on opera. Versatile ranges of sound fill the ears with greatness. THE EXTRAS This is the bare-bones DVD with only the nifty and cool looking theatrical trailer included. There is a two-disc set to fill your special features needs. FINAL THOUGHTS Despite this being a bare-bones DVD, I am still happy with it. I watched the film several times before writing this review and it delivers each and every time. While it is not a movie for everyone (since it is a musical it can get a bit dry in spots) it’s worth it for fans of the musical and anyone who is at least familiar with the story. It’s a nice rehash to the classic horror story, and a well-done film that I think is underrated for what it is worth. Stand By Me SYNOPSIS In a small woodsy Oregon town, a group of friends--sensitive Gordie (Wil Wheaton), tough guy Chris (River Phoenix), flamboyant Teddy (Corey Feldman), and scaredy-cat Vern (Jerry O'Connell)--are in search of a missing teenager's body. Wanting to be heroes in each other's and their hometown's eyes, they set out on an unforgettable two-day trek that turns into an odyssey of self-discovery. They sneak smokes, tell tall tales, cuss 'cause it's cool and band together when the going gets tough. When they encounter the town's knife-wielding hoods who are also after the body, the boys discover a strength they never knew they had. STAND BY ME is a rare and special film about friendship and the indelible experiences of growing up. Filled with humor and suspense, STAND BY ME is based on the novella 'The Body' by Stephen King. CRITIQUE Different Seasons I once had a conversation with an acquaintance of mine about Stephen King. From my point of view, he is completely over-exposed with his books to films. I mean, you don’t see too many of Brain Lumley books made into a film. In fact, you don’t see any of Lumley books made into films (if you are a fan of Stephen King in any capacity, check out Lumley.) I still respect the hell out of King. His movies are really poor examples of an overview of King as a writer. You have to look at his writing pieces. The man is still a great columnist for Entertainment Weekly, great horror writer, satirist, and most important of all a great storyteller.
The conversation was basically on how King’s writing isn’t real. He writes macabre stories, as this person stated. I disagreed then and I disagree now. While Stephen King is best known for writing horror, he has a versatile wide range of craft to write other genres. Dolores Claiborne, for example, is a great realistic Hitchcock-ish suspense story. Both the book and the movie are vividly deep in its own subject matter. But it’s the four-short storied novel Different Seasons that really goes in depth of the human condition. All four stories explore characters going through a journey of re-discovering of them. And three of those four stories have become strong, hard-hitting important motion pictures. One of those stories happens to be “THE BODY,” which than got turned into STAND BY ME. Stand By Me Stand By Me is symbolism of friends standing together while innocence may be lost. In this story and film it is the Stephen King’s version of a coming-of-age story. All great writers at one time examine their own experiences as a kid and write a compelling story about it. Of course, with Stephen King, a dead body is the motivation for the kids to go along for the journey. Pieces of dialogue are somewhat vulgar in taste, making it even more realistic to the extent of watching a group of young boy’s bullshitting around with each other. I know I was like this when younger. As a film I always kept in my heart growing up I noticed a few tidbits I didn’t notice before. Keeping in mind that I recently reviewed Bambi not too long ago, I saw a few similarities between the movie and Stand By Me. Both dealt with the subject matter of death in a respected matter. Both dealt with loss of innocence and friends sticking by each other in a mature way. But I also notice, both are very quiet and atmospheric. There were nice establishing shots of Stand By Me of just the settings and surroundings. I also noticed the theme/score of Stand By Me is actually “Stand By Me” itself, where you’ll hear a string instrumental version of that Ben E. King classic song of the same title. With a dozen of coming of age stories (and coming of age stories doesn’t always have to reflect child’s innocence, adults can also lose their innocence in a compelling story (example, The Green Mile or Saving Private Ryan)), there is also a similar formula that is followed. Usually, an adult dwells on something, tells a story, narrates the story through voice over (or sometimes, flash-forwards occurs once in a while to show the adult at hand, taking a pause and then continuing on (example, Titanic), and then – relicts on the story after the story is told. Stand By Me is the utmost best with this formula – because it does it in such an original way (almost like it was the first to create this formula of storytelling), and it is also compelling from a writers pointof-view. Not all coming of age stories follows this (example, E.T.), but just about the majority does. In fact – it has become another movie-making cliché. Stand By Me takes place in Castle Rock. Castle Rock also happens to be a movie production company that either produced or financed a handful of Stephen King stories to screen (including
The Shawshank Redemption, from the same book as “The Body.” It’s similar to when Spielberg formed Amblin Entertainment that he used the ET logo for the production company logo. Castle Rock also happens to be setting for a good majority of Stephen King stories. THE VIDEO Sony presents Stand By Me in 1:85 widescreen format. For being a film that is 19 years old, picture quality is “picture perfect.” No grain from what I can tell. Darken just right, but not too dark. It is almost like the film was made yesterday; that’s how perfect the picture quality is. THE AUDIO Sony presents Stand By Me in English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.1), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 2.1). Real crisp and clear from the dialogue to music. THE EXTRAS The Good: The commentary by director Rob Reiner is informative and somewhat insightful. It’s always a pleasure to hear from him. Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me is a great featurette that includes just about everyone involved with the film, including Stephen King (which is a rare for a documentary, to include the author of the story that inspired the film.) There is even a short tribute to the late, great River Phoenix included in the featurette. Fillers include Stand By Me music video, an isolated music score, talent files, and some trailers that don’t quite reflect the film. There is a very elegant, nifty and exclusive 32-page collector's book that comes with the DVD, as well as an exclusive CD soundtrack sampler. The Bad: While hearing from Reiner is never boring, hearing one person talking is. There should’ve been a commentary with Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard Dreyfuss, John Cusack, Rob Reiner, and Stephen King. I mean, the DVD producer(s) gathered the majority of these people for the documentary, why not for a commentary track? The Ugly: As the “DVD features” section on Amazon for this title states, there really should be a “BUYER’S BEWARE” sticker on this DVD. To be perfectly honest, besides the book and CD
sampler, this is basically no different then the “special edition” title, which is a better buy anyway. This set is labeled the “DELUXE” edition for including a nice little book and a nice little CD. While the thought is good, it also unnecessary. This is what pisses me off about DVDs nowadays. While there may not be a sequel (thank god) attached to this for the re-release, there really was “no need” for this re-release whatsoever. FINAL THOUGHTS I love the movie to death. I am glad I finally own it on DVD but I would be much happier with the special edition. Unless you are a massive, avid fan and only buy things for the collector’s aspect of it, this Deluxe DVD comes recommended. For the rest of us, if you have the special edition, be happy with that.
Bambi - Special Platinum Edition SYNOPSIS The animated story of Bambi, a young deer hailed as the 'Prince of the Forest' at his birth. As Bambi grows, he makes friends with the other animals of the forest, learns the skills needed to survive, and even finds love. One day, however, the hunters come, and Bambi must learn to be as brave as his father if he is to lead the other deer to safety. Courtesy of the IMDb. CRITIQUE Bambi is a slow moving atmospheric feature film that runs only 70 minutes. It’s not the first animated feature film but was one of Disney’s first, and one of their best, I might add. When I was a kid, I grew up with the Disney films (at a time when Walt Disney Pictures came out with instant classics). Naturally, Bambi was one of the firsts I saw. What’s interesting from my point view is how I look at the film then and now. This film to a child’s innocent eyes is just an amazing animated film full of wonder and magic. Its enchanting coming of age tale only Disney pictures knows how to make. And it’s a sad tale at that. Before The Land Before Time, Kimba, the White Lion (which inspired Disney’s The Lion King, something Disney does not want to admit), and before Charlotte's Web – Bambi was one of the first family animated films that dealt with the subject of death, and as a kid viewing it for the first time truly brought tears to my eyes. But viewing it as an adult or perhaps movie buff is a whole different experience. This was the first time I watched Bambi all way through in a long, long time. And I guess, from all the film classes I took and even my own film study that I’ve been doing the last couple of years, I’ve noticed things I didn’t notice before. In other words, I noticed the settings and the way the film was presented more so than the actual story itself. And I have to admit, the detail of scenery is quite amazing, even for a 1942 animated film. It’s almost like viewing Citizen Kane or Gone With the Wind. I also noticed right away the lack of dialogue. Viewing the making of Bambi on
the second disc, someone mentions there are only 1,000 words all together throughout Bambi. Not sure if that is correct but I did notice more of the character’s expressions and the musical score than the actual dialogue. Not too many films today do it the way classic contemporary films did it during the silver screen era. There is only one film that comes to mind recently that used more mise en scene and acting over spoon-fed dialogue, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. What is also genius about Bambi are the seasons that it portrays. Spring, summer, fall, and winter all have special screen time to shine and even become characters of their own. With special detail of vivid colors, different musical themes, and even characters reacting differently to each season, it holds to be true that each season is a separate character in the film. This is a brilliant plot device that old films used but today hardly any film follows the example. The technical term for this is narrative advancement, which goes to show even animated films uses the same tricks of the trade as live-action films. I truly think this film should be looked at with a critical eye like Gone Wth The Wind and Citizen Kane. The historicity of the film is great. It’s just as much of a cinematic all-time classic. And as those two films made an impact in Hollywood filmmaking for many years to come, Bambi made an impact on animated feature films the same way. Bambi is so much more than family film about a deer and his trails of youth/life and innocence lost. It’s not just an emotional picture but a technical cinematic achievement as well. As many classics as Walt Disney has made throughout the years, Bambi is a lifetime classic. But acknowledging the fact that it is simply the best Disney film doesn’t take my words to figure it out. Moreover, the good thing about Bambi – unlike all the other Disney films out there - is it’s the one film that can be enjoyed without being a guilty pleasure. One thing to keep in mind is, because how slow-moving the film is, it’s not something to watch over and over. You have to be in the right mood to view the film. That is one of the unique traits of atmospheric stories. THE VIDEO Walt Disney Pictures present Bambi in 1.33 full screen format, as it was filmed and presented theatrically in 1942. The Picture Digital Restoration isn’t really truly noticed until mid-half of the film where the colors are bright during the spring, summer, and winter seasons. There is a documentary that explains how the picture was restored, available on the second disc. I’m going to stress that this was the best quality I have ever seen Bambi and arguably the best quality it will ever be. They were able to clean it up so perfectly that the colors jump out right at you, but they didn’t enhance anything massive, so there isn’t any CGI that does not belong. It still appears to be a film from the 40s, some people has a problem with that but for me it shows how much of a period film it is and also how films can live on perhaps forever. THE AUDIO Walt Disney Pictures present Bambi in English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish, Disney Home Theater Mix (Dolby Digital 5.1), and French. I have to admit, the music is really the draw of Bambi audio wise. There isn’t too much dialogue and not many sound effects either. Since
Disney didn’t master the recording of sound effects and such until the 50s, most of the sounds and dialogue here sound only mediocre. The stereo surround sound tends to get distorted a bit so it’s not worthy of a full volume blast. But it is worthy for probably medium volume. In the end, though, Disney was able to restore the sound to ever-so-perfection, so the music really sounds good. THE EXTRAS What the Disney studio figured out was to be able to blend the kiddy features with more adultlike features. You take a look at some of the archives and making of’s with this set, you would ponder whether or not Disney took a look at Warner Brothers four-disc Gone With the Wind set for pointers on how to make a set PERFECT in every remote sense of the word. With that said, the first extra I ventured on to was the 50-minute Making of Bambi. It was both insightful and inspiring, in a way. It explained both the up’s and down’s of the production of Bambi, as well as tidbits I didn’t know about before. I think the only thing missing was the author’s words and what was inspired to write the novel that turned into one of Disney’s best films. The next feature was the cheesy games and previews. Unless you are under 5, stay away from the games. They are geared towards kids. Don’t get me wrong, they’re kind of neat, but just a complete waste of time, and the animation is sort of phony. As for the previews, I wish studios leave the previews in a special section and not have them start when playing the DVD. Then there is the sneak peek at the new Disney direct to video sequel, Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest. I do have a thing about these Disney sequels. Not one of them captures the greatness of the first film(s). Each one of them follows the same damn formula. And the magic Disney once had is just simply lost. I question what Walt really thinks on how his “kingdom” has become. And at first, I completely cringed at the thought of a Bambi sequel. When I saw the preview, I thought the animation looked pretty elegant but other wise, a typically sequel. I then realized as I watched the sneak peek, what the film is really about. It’s an in-between-quell of events within the original Bambi movie. That scene in the original Bambi at mid-half when the Great Prince of the Forest tells Bambi his mother died (in a vague but respectful way), that is pretty much where the sequel is going to expand on. So it’s like The WB’s Smallville in a way, how it is an expanded story on a piece of element from the whole of the Superman story. I think, if they tone down the dialogue, like in the first film; take extra care with detail of surroundings and seasons, and keep the voices somewhat similar to the ones in the original film, they may pull it off. I do have my doubts and very little expectations, but not ruling the idea out completely until I see the film. I just hope they don’t do something distasteful and unneeded again, like Lion King 1 ½. Other tidbit featurettes include Restoring Bambi (similar to what the four disc Gone With the Wind set has) that goes into some depth on how they restored the film, and also explains why Disney is taking their time with each one of their titles.
Disney Time Capsule: 1942 - The Year of Bambi is a pretty good filler for what it is worth. Basically, it discusses the going on’s of the time period in which the film was released. It should appeal mostly towards kids but interesting for what is. Other extras include two deleted scenes, The Old Mill animated short, The Art of Bambi featurette, and Tricks of the Trade featurette. They’re nice to watch. Last but certainly not least, one of the best things I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing on any DVD set: Inside Walt's Story Meetings is a reenactment and account of dialogues from Walt’s meetings for pre-production of Bambi. A blast from the past, with voices that sound like the real people (at least, from what I can tell), and neat animation and storyboards that are presented while hearing the meeting. This extra is accessed when you click “play movie” on the first disc and then select “Walt’s Meetings.” This option allows you to watch the film while hearing various meetings condensed into what seems like one meeting. It’s similar to an audio commentary track but it’s ten times better. Well worth viewing, the best feature I have ever seen on DVD sets since getting into DVDs a few years ago. It’s cutting edge and just a fantastic feature to experience. FINAL THOUGHTS Disney is getting better and better with their DVD releases. After a failed attempt, they took a long break and figured out putting care and love into each and every one of their classic titles, and this shows with excellence as part of the special two-disc Platinum editions. I’m glad they are taking their time with them. I am completely happy with what they did with Bambi, from the great restoration to the kinds of extras.
One Tree Hill - Complete Season 1 I was quoted on wikipedia for this review… SYNOPSIS One Tree Hill follows the story of two estranged half-brothers living in a small North Carolina town, who carry on very different lives. Basketball prodigy Nathan Scott (James Lafferty, Once & Again) has inherited the throne of high school popularity once held by his father, Dan (Paul Johansson, Beverly Hills 90210), while Lucas Scott (Chad Michael Murray, Dawson's Creek, Gilmore Girls), also a talented player stays an outsider. Spending nights shooting hoops on a riverfront court, Lucas remains the son Dan never acknowledged. Now Lucas's and Nathan's paths intersect for the first time, and in the middle of the crossroads stands Payton Sawyer (Hilarie Burton, Dawson's Creek), Nathan's beautiful girlfriend who just may have more in common with Lucas. Throw in the quiet animosity between Dan and his
brother Keith (Craig Shaffer, A River Runs Through It), along with Lucas' mother, Karen (Moira Kelly, The West Wing) - all of whom must cope with the aftermath of their choices - and something has to give. CRITIQUE I was hooked on One Tree Hill last year. I knew it was nothing special, not a gem by any regards, but the great performances by fine actors and actresses, and the dramatic storylines that keeps one glued to the television screen week by week, made it quite an addictive series. Now looking back at it with a critical eye, the first season seems even weaker than my first viewing. Ever so often I hear people refer to the show as The WB’s version of The OC, but I disagree. Summerland is more like The OC with similar scenarios and settings, while One Tree Hill is more suited as a Dawson’s Creek knock off. In fact, story lines, characters, and even the themes are so similar that one would think One Tree Hill is like Dawson’s Creek: The Next Generation. One theme that really sticks out in this show that is unique to the rest of the shows is the theme of passion within each character. Each main character has a goal, passion, or desire that keeps them going, and more importantly keeps the storylines flowing. That’s a main point with Dawson’s Creek as well. And it should be noted Dawson’s Creek started out with four main characters intertwining each other. One Tree Hill does this, too, but also takes it a step further. Another comparison, a theme that’s also used as a plot device in Smallville, is the scenario of two similar characters, only different for how they are raised. The point, “If I was raised like him, I would I be like him” is a philosophical idea that is explored on greatly in the season. It’s also an interesting and deep subject matter, probably one of the more mature ideas The WB uses occasionally. What I like about The WB in general is its way of intersecting the pin-up teen stars and the veterans of acting together. Everwood appeals to me not for the teen aspect but how it’s truly Treat Williams and Tom Amandes’s show. The same goes for 7th Heaven, Gilmore Girls, and Smallville. With One Tree Hill, you have veteran actors Barry Corbin, Moira Kelly and Craig Sheffer. And what’s even more interesting with Sheffer, there is a 1987 film called Some Kind of Wonderful where Sheffer plays a teen who bullies a character named Keith who works at an auto shop. Less than twenty years later, Sheffer plays a guy named Keith who owns an auto shop. I bet not too many people who watch the show know about that little piece of trivia. THE VIDEO Warner Brothers presents One Tree Hill in 1.33:1 fullscreen format. Like most of WB’s TV show sets, it’s expanded to six discs for better video quality, and once again WB does it with excellence. But why are the “last time on ONE TREE HILL” teasers included with the episodes? It makes sense showing this for the TV broadcast it’s unneeded for the DVD.
THE AUDIO Warner Brothers presents One Tree Hill in English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. As most TV show sets, itâ€™s better than TV quality. Dialogue, music and sound effects sound clear and are easily understandable. THE EXTRAS The extras are average. Not great but not awful either. The commentary tracks come in two sets. You have two commentary tracks by producers and creators of the show Mark Schwahn and Joe Davola on "The Pilot" and "To Wish Impossible Things." It's what to be expected, informational but sometimes also boring. And two commentary tracks by the cast on the season finale "The Games That Play Us." One commentary track is by Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz, and Sophia Bush. This one isn't as boring but not as informational. The second one is by Moira Kelly, Craig Sheffer, Paul Johansson, and Barbara Alyn Woods. As the first one by the young cast, comical but not informational at all. The contrast between the young cast and the older cast is quite interesting, but I find what they did with the commentaries on this DVD not so great. In my opinion, when a TV show wants to do a proper commentary track, they should check out the ones from the Everwood First Season set. Both equal to producers and the stars of the show, both informational and comical, and it isn't as repetitious as each one has a handful of the same people but one or two different stars, which was neat. This set, didn't follow that formula at all. But at least there is something to show for it. The two featurettes isn't that exciting as well. We have "Building a Winning Team: The Making of One Tree Hill," which was an interesting "making of," as they spill the beans right off the bat on how One Tree Hill was thought of as a movie project a while ago. But like most featurettes, it tends to drag with the clichĂŠ "...and I got the script" from the stars. The other featurette is called "Diaries from the Set," which is strictly behind-the-scenes footage within the shows cast, and basically shows you how the young cast of the show are just normal young people having fun. There are twenty additional scenes that equal about forty-five minutes all together, which is a little more than the time of one single episode. I got some beef with these "deleted scenes." I've been noticing with the Gilmore Girls, Everwood, and Smallville DVDs that they include the unaired deleted stuff that got deleted strictly on time constraints. I am glad that they include the scenes onto the DVD, but feel they are sloppy on that since they could very well just simply add the scenes into the episodes itself. It's understandable why things get deleted, just the same with theatrical stuff. But I can NEVER understand why if deleted scenes are included on the DVD, why stop there and just add them in the pesky film.
DVDs are a great market, with no time constraints and gives you some freedom to do whatever you want. In fact, it's a shame I am not in charge of these releases, I would take out all those pesky "last time on [insert show]," do the commentary tracks CORRECTLY, do the making-of CORRECTLY (I mean, the good questions aren't even being asked, what compelled the creator of the show to come up with the idea of it?), and insert the deleted scenes back into the episodes in which they were deleted. But what do I know?!?! I am just a pesky little reviewer! There is also a music video for "Oh, Chariot" by Gavin DeGraw and "Christmas Elf Gag," which is supposed to be a funny scene with Paul Johansson and Barbara Alyn Woods, but I found it to be a mediocre filler. FINAL THOUGHTS One Tree Hill wasnâ€™t a favorite of mine and now viewing it again it turns out somewhat below average. There are decent, repetitious storylines present in between the fine direction and great acting, yet this doesnâ€™t quite make it a great show. This DVD is worth a rental but not worth purchasing, except for big fans of the show who should find this release a treat.
Mary Poppins - 40th Anniversary SYNOPSIS Experience the extraordinary animation, dazzling special effect and award-winning music of Walt Disney's Mary Poppins in this fully restored and remastered 2-Disc 40t Anniversary Edition. Join the "practically perfect" Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) for a "Jolly Holiday" as she magically turns every chore into a game and every day into a whimsical adventure. Along the way, you'll enchanted by unforgettable characters such as the multitalented chimney sweep Bert (Dick Van Dyke). CRITIQUE 1964. The time period in which Disney had so much credibility. So much promise. The only iffy things Disney did were risks on big massive productions like Mary Poppins. It's a shame where Disney is at now. I'm pretty sure Uncle Walt himself would be disappointed. I grew up with Mary Poppins like anyone else as a kid. I remember seeing it years and years ago every year on TV around Thanksgiving. It was almost like a tradition in a way. Before there were the magical moments and stories of Harry Potter, there was Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins, outdated in today's standards of filmmaking, still has lots of magic to entertain and enchant. Plus, I always get a kick out of Dick Van Dyke's character and his comical approach to it. Mary Poppins is a full-on musical with very little breaks between the song and
dances. Some of the song and dances are a bit dry, while others are still a feast for the eyes and ears. THE VIDEO Walt Disney presents Mary Poppins in 1.66:1 widescreen format. This is, without a shadow of doubt, the best quality I have ever seen of the film. The picture is darkened a bit but also preserved the vintage quality - so it isn't cleaned up as much as like Star Wars for example. I would say, Disney approached this the same way Universal approached the remastering of The Birds, the picture is darkened, and certain unnoticeable scratches get cleaned up while preserving the feel of the film. Considering how many times this film gets reissued, this is again the utmost best picture quality. You are truly getting your money's worth. I am somewhat curious how Bambi will turn out this March. THE AUDIO Disney presents Mary Poppins in English 5.1 stereo surround sound, as well as in French and Spanish. Once again, Disney delivers with its own Enhanced Home Theater Mix, something of a trademark with Disney DVDs nowadays. I was somewhat skeptical on how the audio would turn out, but as I viewed the film I was amazed how it presented itself. I expected the dialogue and such to be distorted, but thatâ€™s not the case. The music is presented clearly and the sound effects blast from the speakers. THE EXTRAS * Commentary by actors Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Karen Dotrice, composer Richard Sherman, and archival recordings from others including Walt Disney * "The Cat That Looked Like A King" new animated short * "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Making of Mary Poppins" - new 50-minute documentary * Deleted song "Chimpanzoo" * "A Musical Journey with Richard Sherman" * "A Magical Musical Reunion" with Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Richard Sherman * Sing Along Songs * Deconstruction of a Scene: "Jolly Holiday" & "Step In Time" * "Movie Magic" - Special Effect featurette * Dick Van Dyke Make-Up Test * The Gala Movie Premiere, trailers, stills, publicity & art galleries * "I Love to Laugh" Set Top Trivia Game * Poppins Pop-up Fun Facts Viewing Mode There are actually more extras than what is even listed here. From the few Disney titles I have, this is the most jam-packed DVD from them up to this point. It is really hard to pass this up.
FINAL THOUGHTS For the amount of stuff that's inside this DVD, not to mention the cinematic achievement this film is, it's a must for every DVD collection!
Re-defining the Movie Experience Published via OUR TIMES - a small Journalism publication at Macomb Community College. This is a condensed version of the ‘Movie Buffs vs. Movie-Goers’ column that was featured on MovieFreak.com. There is a difference between the moviegoer and the movie-buff. Everyone walking into a movie theater or video store, or watching a film on TV, is general a moviegoer. What he or she sees at the moment is for entertainment value and interest. If the person likes it enough, he/she will buy it. But whether you are a moviegoer or a movie buff, you should have a decent movie collection (Blu Ray/DVD/VHS). As a member of the latter group, I suggest you at least se the following films and then consider adding them to your collection: I highly recommended seeing The Passion of Christ- at least once. Why? Check your religious beliefs at the door. The way it was made and the way it was directed has more depth and greatness than the subject of the movie. Likewise, see The Exorcist. It is sick, disgusting, and disgraceful. But the way it was made is genius (i.e. in the scene when Father Merrin stands in front of the house, the light from the bedroom window spotlights him just right). Also, I’ve seen some harsh reviews regarding the new The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. But has anyone bothered to notice the use of light and shadows during the whole film? I recall watching The Grapes of Wrath in 9th grade and people complaining it was black & white. While watching To a Kill a Mockingbird in 10th grade, people complained again. Finally, seeing Citizen Kane in 11th grade, people did the same. These black & white films make things surreal, out of the realm of reality. Could you be a critic?
Movie critics basically began as movie buffs. If critics don’t love movies as a whole, they have no business writing about them. Movie critics are biased since everyone is somewhat biased. The true critic, however, will analyze both the greatness and the flaws of a film from a favorite to a non-favorite. So, see EVERYTHING! One more thing to note. Movie critics aren’t meant to speak for the average movie-buff. Movie critics are there for moviegoers who aren’t educated much in the movie department and seek an overall review of what a film is ‘about.’ If you are a moviegoer, why not expand your tastes to the outer limits once in a while. Movies can be more than just entertainment. They’re art and different world waiting to be discovered. Movie-buffs might stop analyzing films and simply enjoy them for what they are – just plain fun. Whether you’re a moviegoer, movie-buff or movie critic…you must admit one thing: we all love movies!
2004: -The Polar Express movie review -Fire in the Sky DVD review -Kingdom Hospital DVD review -Dawson’s Creek Season 4 DVD review -ALF Season 1 DVD review -Candyman DVD review -The President's Analyst DVD review -Rock ‘n’ Roll Away from the Ordinary column -Remember the old Showcase Cinema column -Movies We Don’t Want to See column
Fun and Magic Aboard the "Polar Express" The Polar Express is above all else magical. It’s a X-MAS cliché wrapped in a new Christmas bow with all the bells and whistles that filmmaking has to offer, especially with that same old message of “believing is seeing” mishmash. The Polar Express tells the story, based cover to cover and page to page off of the Chris Van Allsburg classic story, about a boy (voiced by Daryl Sabara, who starred in Spy Kids, with the motion capture performance supplied by Tom Hanks) who doubts Christmas. Like most cliché Christmas stories, a magical scenario take place soon after. Here, a mysterious and magical train that goes by the name Polar Express (and is presented more like a main character rather than a
setting) comes to the front door of the boys’ house. A nice man, the Conductor (Hanks), exits the Express, confronts the young boy, and invites him to board the train. In reality, if a strange train with a strange-looking man invites a little kid onboard, well, in most cases, the wise choice would be to decline the offer. But since this is a well-intentioned Christmas story, all aspects of realism and disbelief (and perhaps paranoia) are thrown out the window. And like that, the boy gets on the train after thinking about it once or twice. And voila, for roughly an hour and ten minutes, magic, thrills, chills, and bits and pieces of character development occur. With that said, a very cool song and dance, some nice on-screen moments of heroism, and cutting edge rollercoaster-like thrills adds to the delightfulness, and makes The Polar Express comparable to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in some ways, The train, as the Conductor says in his first scene, is heading to the North Pole. And as predicted, that is what happens. For a good percent of the time, the characters are on the Polar Express. As the boy and the few friends he made on the train can’t help it, they explore by accident the various spots at the North Pole once the Express arrives there. Thrills and magic also occur in other scenes. There really aren’t many provoking thoughts to pick with this film. It’s like trying to critically rip apart Miracle of 34th Street. So in terms of substance, The Polar Express is a twodimensional story we’ve all seen before. But what makes this film breathtaking, exciting, thrilling, and awing, is the misc-en-scene of the film. Much like the recent The Lord of the Rings trilogy, we are seeing a familiar story in a fresh new way. With the advancement of technology, the surrealism and detail is really, really captivating. There were scenes when I just flat out said “wow!” Robert Zemeckis, who we’ve all seen before on breaking the barriers while telling a story on film, presents a film that ideal, perhaps one we haven’t seen in a long-long time. A tasteful Christmas movie that isn’t too over-the-top or cheesy, and most importantly doesn’t make fun of itself, such as Elf and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Some people may question whether or not technology advancement is a good thing for movies, but The Polar Express adds the substance of story, acting and surrealism from the memorable films of the 1940s and 50s - the magic of those beloved ’60s and ‘70s made-for-TV Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass specials and the advancement of filmmaking. Kids will eat this film up for how magical it is. Parents shouldn’t be disappointed because it is truly entertaining, meaning it’s not another dry kiddy flick. Moviegoers will be rewarded for the visual aspect of the film. And, lastly, movie buffs and critics will eat it up for how much detail is put into it, and the list can go on and on. If you are willing to put all realism aside for ninety minutes and explore a surreal magical world that is familiar to us all but is also presented in a fresh new way, then come aboard The Polar Express. It’s anything but a bah-humbug experience, and will even make those who despise the thought of seeing Christmas ads the day after Halloween join the Christmas-mood!
Fire in the Sky SYNOPSIS The film tells the comprehensive story of a logger named Travis Walton who mysteriously disappears in 1975 only to turn up bloodied and bruised five days later. Walton and co-workers accidentally discover a UFO and unfortunately they all escape, except Walton who is elevated aboard the bizarre aircraft. Onboard he undergoes painful unearthly medical treatments and tests. CRITIQUE Not many films have freaked me out, literally. Pet Sematary, Jurassic Park, and Fire in the Sky are probably the top three and only film(s) that truly got under my skin – by visual or psychological sense. Fire in the Sky is about an alien abduction, something that has always been laughable on screen. Not too many films even depict UFOs realistically. A UFO is either a dark sci-fi monstrosity or causes the end of the world, like in War of the Worlds (now becoming a remake with Steven Spielberg). The alien(s) inside the UFO is either a friendly little blob like E.T. or disguised as a human like Starman, played by Jeff Bridges in the John Carpenter film. UFO’s have always been main attraction to science fiction but rarely does the concept present itself realistically. I’m not going to get into the realism of things here, but there are “true” stories out there that carry as much weight as some cliché sci-fi film, but also blend some realism to it. Close Encounters, up to the last 30 minutes, is probably the best example of when you blend real accounts with a fictional story. Fire in the Sky comes second for its dark and serious tone. It does not make fun of itself like most sci-fi stories do and it doesn’t spin fantasy into it. Ultimately, you have a story here that tries very hard “not” to be over the top; instead it lets the account speak for itself. The people in this story are realistic, and the event also sparks a Roswell (the “true” story of it, of course) quality where a town is turned around by an amazing and unordinary story. And it goes without saying, the last 25 minutes of this film is the scariest, freakiest, and most realistic moment in cinematic history. Nothing before and after Fire in the Sky has really upstaged the wonderful and well-directed scene in the film. This proves you don’t really need gore and excessive profanity to make something scary as hell! One way of looking at it, parts of this film are more graphic than scenes from the Alien series. THE VIDEO Paramount presents Fire in the Sky in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Seeing the entire picture the way it was intended makes the story seem even freakier; since you get the full picture you see a lot more detail inside the spaceship and the medical sequence. I can’t be all-sure but it does seem Paramount cleaned up this film the best they could. This film has always been dark, and some grain is spotted, but it’s not too noticeable, though.
THE AUDIO Paramount presents Fire in the Sky in English 5.1, English Dolby, and French Dolby Surround Sound. Much like the picture, the soundtrack is improved. Dialogue is clear, and the sound effects come across effectively. THE EXTRAS This is a big letdown, because this film is screaming for a commentary and/or a retrospective documentary. FINAL THOUGHTS I’m almost positive that every person after viewing this film will look at UFOs or just the idea a little differently. And I’m sure just about every person who has viewed this film will agree with me, it freaks the living shit out of you. This is truly a film to watch with the lights down and the volume up! If you’re looking for a scary movie for either a sleepover or a late-nighter, this is it!
Kingdom Hospital - The Entire Series SYNOPSIS Horrormeister Stephen King presents Kingdom Hospital, a hospital with a bizarre population that includes a nearly blind security guard, a nurse who regularly faints at the sight of blood, and a paraplegic artist whose recovery is a step beyond miraculous. When patients and staff hear the tortured voice of a little girl crying through the halls, they are dismissive of any suggestion of mysticism or unseen powers, all but at their own peril. The series stars Andrew McCarthy, Bruce Davison, Diane Ladd, Ed Begley, Jr., and others. CRITIQUE Much like this summer’s critical dud, Van Helsing, Kingdom Hospital failed for various reasons, but two big ones were finding its audience and timing. Much like someone finding their love of their life, the long journey of a show or movie finding its audience is sometimes more difficult than other times. The Shawshank Redemption, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Citizen Kane all failed at the time period it was released because it failed critical attention and it had a hard time finding its audience. Considering this series was pushed in the beginning and middle of 2004 to the ABC Network audience on prime-time television – it’s almost common sense why the show failed. Another factor is timing. I’m sure, like Van Helsing – if this show was released to the mainstream public around Halloween time – it would have done just a tad bit better.
And that’s only half of it. The show pretty much plays out like a novel. I’m sure you will get confused attempting to read chapter five of The Shining without reading the first four chapters. The same can be said with this show. There are various sub-plots and situations happening all at once and it would be rather confusing to figure them out if you haven’t paid attention the first part of the show. One real example is every now and then about half of the show – we see this headless guy trying to search for his head. This is sort of an inside joke to something that occurred in the first half of the show. This show mixes horror and drama with satire, really. Stephen King’s best stuff is the more serious but his best creative pieces of work come from his more sick and twisted sense of humor side. Films like Creepshow and Maximum Overdrive are examples of King’s dark humor. And that’s really what this show presents – a comical approach of a haunted place with both zany and lovable characters. There are no weak moments in the series. It pretty much ends on a cliché note but nonetheless, considering how much of a failure this was on TV - viewing it on DVD with no commercials and wasted five minute recaps of previous episodes. It’s both a pleasure and treat to view the episodes in tact and for own viewing pleasure. THE VIDEO Columbia presents Kingdom Hospital in 1.78:1 widescreen format. The colors are clear and the presentation is very good. THE AUDIO Columbia presents Kingdom Hospital in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. Most TV series converted to DVD still don’t work with stereo surround sound. Even Smallville sounds a bit awkward and distorted in stereo. But with Kingdom it works well. The music (and there are moments when the music plays a big role) and sound effects are just done right without flaws. Even the dialogue sounds clear without obvious distortions. THE EXTRAS • Commentary by filmmakers • Featurette: Patients and Doctors: The Cast of Kingdom Hospital • Featurette: Designing Kingdom Hospital: A Tour • Featurette: The Magic of Antubis • Inside the Walls: The Making of Kingdom Hospital The commentary track on the episode “Thy Kingdom Come” is the selling point of the extras. We get to hear from Stephen King, that is a treat all on itself. Hearing him, you can tell the guy is above and beyond intelligent and funny, his twisted sense of humor also shines in real life. King
is mostly the man that keeps this commentary together since there are a few annoying quiet moments. FINAL THOUGHTS Since it’s out on DVD, I urge readers to please give this show a chance. There are some special and funny moments to gather from this show, and you don’t have dozens of commercials to bother you like on TV. Watching the series in its entirely on DVD was a pleasure and highly entertaining.
Dawson's Creek - Complete Season 4 SYNOPSIS It’s senior year for Dawson, Joey, Pacey, Jen and Jack! After spending the summer together, Joey and Pacey find it difficult to keep their romance going with the realities of school, college applications and their strained relationship with Dawson. Dawson rediscovers his true life’s dream, Jen turns over a new leaf after getting a new boyfriend, and Jack tries to rebuild relationships after revealing he’s gay. Features new music selected by the executive producer. Four discs include all 23 episodes from the fourth season. CRITIQUE THE RELATIONSHIPS Dawson’s Creek creator Kevin Williamson left the show during the second season and somewhat during the third to pursue other projects, and then various writers came and went. It was obvious watching the series roam off in all sort of directions that there really wasn’t a grasp or idea of what to really do. Of course, the first season was the mack-daddy that started it all, and it’s the suspense of “will she – will he” of Joey and Dawson that kept the series compelling. In a sense, the show is complete and utter teen soap opera that’s over the top, but can anyone argue differently that in general teen life doesn’t follow the same kind of path? In Season 2, the show has a strong focus on Joey and Dawson for a bit, but then it just destroyed itself. Soon, they went back together, but then they decided, “Let’s call it quits.” As for Season 3, it was iffy at first, however as it moved along, stories got more enjoyable with Joey/Pacey in the mix, and a bit compelling with Dawson’s over the top tragedy. Now with Season 4, I recall parts of the marketing for the season, such as the cheap tagline, “Her choice changed everything.” So, Joey picked Pacey this time around, a choice that destroyed the buddy-buddy relationship of Dawson and Pacey. Who in the real world hasn’t been in a situation
like this, right? Also, you can’t blame either party, so the exploration of this new event became compelling in each succeeding episode. The Joey/Pacey relationship is by far the best of the whole series because it is was entertaining, romantic, and just fun to watch. The writers built up their relationship quite well as if it was forbidden love, and then they let it evolve by itself throughout the majority of the season THE STORY LINES Like the first three seasons, there are key story lines that really worked while others just bombed. I’m going to say this from the start – the fourth was the last strong season Dawson’s Creek had. The fifth and sixth seasons were kind of dry and simply weaker than the first four. I would have been happy with the series ending with this season right here, but I’ll go into more detail about that in a little bit. The story line of the love triangle seems to have Joey and Pacey in one direction and Dawson on the other side. Joey is sometimes the monkey in the middle, and Dawson is at times the third wheel and this type of narrative carries much of the season. Of course, there are other story lines that worked well, perhaps not as intricate as the love triangle plot but equally satisfying. Dawson finds a new love interest as Pacey’s older sister makes an impact. If you listen to the commentary track, the producer proclaims that this was a weak one, but I beg to differ. The story was very strong, and I enjoyed it more than the kind of cliché story with the older/sexy Eve from the third season. Other strong story lines include: Andie makes an early exit to go find her in the middle of the season. Pacey works his ass off in school as Dawson finds a former director and mentor in the form of a cranky old man. The evil Drue Valentine and Jennifer interaction, which is a backstory into Jen’s New York past, sort of plays off like Abby in the first two seasons. And, of course, the whole senior year aspect of the series comes up quite a bit, so the characters go into this both liberal party mood and an emotional ride toward their last moment together as high school students. THE EPISODES “Coming Home” is the first episode of the season, and it’s very strong from beginning to end. Other strong episodes include “The Te of Pacey” and “A Winter’s Tale”. I really like it when Dawson’s Creek decides to sometimes trail off into a different direction than the norm. In other words, each season carries at least two or three episodes that really stand on their own. In this season, they are “Two Gentlemen of Capeside” and “Unusual Suspects”. Their story lines have a sort of “spin-off” approach to them. If the producers (and I think they should’ve!) would’ve stopped after this season, calling it quits, I would’ve been happy and satisfied, because episodes “The Graduate” and “Coda” have that formula where the show sort of ends on this happy note, and also both episodes contain that perfect “closure” to the characters. But obviously the producers didn’t take that road and, for the good and the bad, two more seasons exist.
THE VIDEO Columbia Tristar presents Dawson’s Creek in 1.33:1 full screen format. Like all the prior season sets the studio shoved all 23 episodes on four discs when they should’ve expanded the set to five or six discs for better video quality. Picture quality is fine, it’s nothing special, but some issues persist. One good thing to note is that with this set there are no more “last week on” clips before each episode. THE AUDIO Columbia Tristar presents Dawson’s Creek in English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. If you know enough about the show you know this is a series that focuses more on dialogue than anything else, but this presentation makes the songs and sound effects easy to pick up. Even the crappy international theme song that was picked for the DVD is clear. THE EXTRAS - Commentary by executive producer Paul Stupin on Coming Home and The Graduate - Trivia game The first season DVD includes two extras: "Dawson's Creek: From Day One" retrospective featurette and “Season One Time Capsule.” I figured Season 2 would have something similar, like Season Two Time Capsule, but nothing. Also, it would’ve been nice to have commentaries with some of the cast. I know some of the cast is big names right now, but it would show some class on the studio’s part if they would put some effort (and a budget) into these releases. FINAL THOUGHTS If you already have the first three seasons, you might as well continue your collection with number four. I’m guessing the Dawson’s Creek series will finish up its run on DVD in the first half of 2005.
Alf - Season 1 SYNOPSIS ALF, the impetuous alien who plummeted from outer space into the Tanner family garage back in ’86 is now crash-landing on DVD! Earth has just not been the same without this cosmic superstar and his wisecracking antics! Catch ALF in all 25 out-of-this-world episodes from the complete first season of his award winning’ primetime TV hit. CRITIQUE
Before I go in-depth with the season or the DVD itself, let’s take a blast from the past of my childhood. Most children probably grew up with either Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse, but I grew up with ALF. I had the ALF stuffed animal, the ALF 50-piece jigsaw puzzle, the ALF books, the ALF bed-set, and you name it. And I was even ALF for Halloween when I was really little. So yeah, ALF was huge part of my childhood. The kicker is, however, I haven’t been able to catch any ALF reruns in years! Much like Salute Your Shorts or Hey Dude from Nickelodeon, this four-disc DVD set was a long time coming. After watching the first season all way through, I kind of understand why critics hated the series. For one thing, ALF is beyond cheesy. When the camera is focusing on ALF from the angle of his neck-on-up, you can tell it’s a puppet. When the camera is focusing on ALF’s whole body, and especially when he walks, he looks pretty phony, kind of like a midget or kid in a suit. But despite that, I still love the show to this day. The concept of ALF is a bit corny. But underlining jokes and humor is topnotch. Remember how corny Mr. Ed was?! But the humor was still brilliantly presented. That’s how you’re going to have to look at ALF. It’s what happens when ET, Howard the Duck, Mr. Ed, and Garfield are mixed in a blender: Cheesy, but satisfying and funny as hell. The season went on with ALF's crazy ideas and going on(s), while the family tries to fix it by the end of the episode. It's almost like the Family Matters effect - Urkel is so annoying and causes so many problems yet you can't stop but admire him. THE VIDEO Lions Gate presents ALF in fullscreen format. In some forms, the presentation looks better than the one on TV. Let’s just say you can tell it’s from the 80s! THE AUDIO Lions Gate presents ALF in 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround. Not a show worthy enough to blast in stereo. Dialogue and jokes are heard with clearness. The few off the wall sound effects are sometimes distorted but otherwise they sound fine. THE EXTRAS There is no featurette describing the show’s history, success, and where the concept came from. There isn’t even any commentary by ALF himself (or the man behind ALF.) NO PROBLEM! The original un-aired pilot episode, gag/outtakes, ALF trivia facts, and a very comical interactive menus hosted by ALF himself, are presented. I think the concept of the show finally being released is a special feature all on its own. Yes, a retrospective making of or commentary would’ve been real nice. But I can’t really complain. FINAL THOUGHTS
ALF was my childhood. Looking back and rewatching the shows brought back some old memories, like looking through a time capsule. On one hand, the show is silly through the eyes of a prospering 20-year-old critic. On the other hand, it’s still a favorite of mine and it still holds the same laughs to this day. This is only recommended for people that dig the show, but in my blood it’s a MUST-BUY!
Candyman - Special Edition SYNOPSIS A children's story comes to terrifying life in this gut-wrenching thriller about a graduate student whose research into modern folklore summons the spirit of the dead. Helen Lyle laughs when she interviews college freshmen about their superstitions. But when she hears about Candyman, a slave spirit with a hook hand who is said to haunt Chicago's notorious Cabrini-Green housing project, she thinks she has a new twist for her thesis. Braving the gang-ridden territory to visit the site of a brutal murder, Helen arrogantly assumes Candyman can't really exist...until he appears, igniting a string of terrifying, tragic slayings. But the police don't believe in monsters, and they charge Helen with the grisly crimes. And only one person can set her free: Candyman. CRITIQUE Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman...Candyman! Where to start on the movie Candyman? Well, first off, when I was a little kid there was this urban legend, if you will that if you say the words "Bloody Mary" three times in front of the mirror, you die. When I was a preteen and was full into Boy Scouts, I went to this one-week summer camp and during that experience there was this urban legend that if you yell out (forgot what exactly) someone's name in the woods you die that night. And in recent years, emails and instant messages will come and go saying something like, "If you don't do this in five seconds or less, you will die." The point is, as fictional as Candyman is, the idea behind the film hits real hard on the concepts of urban legends. Much like the "don't walk under stairs" bad luck, people actually believe in these things. In Candyman, however, the urban legends become true which makes the film even more shocking. One thing we've learned from Hollywood in recent years is blood and guts don't seem scary anymore. Because gore is used excessively now it isn't scary anymore, although Hollywood believes the more "guts" the more glory. Sometimes - very rarely but it does happen - blood and guts can be scary (and creepy) if done right. Clive Barker has found a way to make blood and guts scary again, and not many writers can do it. With Candyman, it's everything a cliché slasher has, plus more, such as intelligence. The movie is basically what you get when you mix Silence of the Lambs and A Nightmare on Elm
Street together in a blender - you get something like Candyman that provided some use of a brain, some psychological touches, and gore added on for good measure. And what would Candyman be without its main star, Tony Todd. Well, all I'll say is he's a lot of fun in the movie. Candyman is written well and realized kind of beautifully - from the cast to the dark setting of Chicago, and from the gore to the twist at the end, and not to mention the tragic, flawed, political, and romantic side of it all. I will say this, though, the first time I saw the movie (eight years ago maybe) I got pretty freaked out. There are seldom times when a movie freaks me out, usually it's the movies that make me think, "Is this actually possible?" Looking back at Candyman, the movie delivers a lunch in a disturbing way. With all the surprising gore factor and twists, what makes the movie really freaky are the last twenty minutes or so. THE VIDEO Columbia presents Candyman in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen format. It was digitally remastered the best possible way. Because this was a horror film filmed little more than ten years ago, it doesn't have the best quality but it is ten times better than the VHS copy or a TV presentation of the film. THE AUDIO Columbia presents Candyman in English and French Dolby Digital Surround. This is the first time I've seen Candyman in surround sound, and the experience was pretty good. Dialogue is clear and the score sounds pitch perfect - actually it's best score to a horror flick since Halloween and Psycho). The few sound effects are also perfected nicely. The best audio quality is when Tony Todd (Candyman) speaks in either through voice-overs or giving a nice speech; the voice is as haunting as the voice of Darth Vader himself. THE EXTRAS *Filmmaker's Commentary *Clive Barker: Raising Hell *Sweerts to the Sweet: The Candyman Mythos Featurette *Bernard Rose Storyboards *Bonus Previews I would say the highlight (even though it's real short) is the Clive Barker featurette. I've seen this name countless times - in books, movies, video games, collectible toys - he is the British Stephen King, and I had no idea who he really was. The featurette goes in some depth about the guy's inspiration of telling a gory yet scary story - it's very interesting to say the least. The Candyman "making of" is a nice touch and a nice little more then 20 minutes worth of retrospective on the movie (and or series). It's insightful but I would've expected something a little longer. The commentary is pretty much pieced together from interviews, and I would much rather have seen the cast and crew gather around and record some kind of commentary rather than what is presented here.
And what is really pathetic are the bonus previews... without a Candyman trailer!!! Plus, to add insult to injury, the bonus previews are unrelated to horror flicks. I would've expected at least the three-part Candyman series trailers, but nada! A grave mistake. FINAL THOUGHTS This DVD does not have enough material to sustain a "special edition" title but nonetheless, the movie is worthy to own. Highly recommended to horror fans. Newcomers to the film should check out the DVD - recommended.
The President's Analyst My first DVD review for MovieFreak… SYNOPSIS With the responsibilities of world peace, the national debt, and dessert choices at state dinners constantly on his mind, it seemed like a good idea to find the President of the United States an analyst to help him deal with these burdens. In The President’s Analyst, Dr. Sidney Schaefer (Coburn) wins the coveted job, but not without a price – governments from all over the world are soon targeting the hapless doctor. Some want him to spill whatever secrets may have been discussed in the Oval Office, while others want to silence him permanently to prevent him from possibly revealing that very information! CRITIQUE From the start of DVD, studios have slowly but surely released their old titles to DVD-land, fulfilling vintage movie-buffs' and goers' collections to the deepest core. It’s almost like CDs in a way, when record companies slowly but surely release those Vinyl classic albums on CD. There are still many albums that haven’t gotten the CD treatment, and I suspect that’s the same with DVDs. But rest assured one of many titles has finally gone to DVD, the well-known satirical 1967 flick starring the late-great James Coburn, The President’s Analyst. This is my first time viewing of the film, but as I watched many other films came to mind before and after this 1967 flick. For the time period and with some of the romantic and cheesy moments, Breakfast at Tiffany's came to mind. In the parts where Schaefer is being chased by all sorts of agencies, I was reminded of Pink Panther and North by Northwest. And for the over-thetop ness and satirical aspects which run all straight through the film, films like Dr. Strangelove and The Producers seemed topical and/or similar. But the most obvious of aspects that came to mind while watching this movie was the real-life scenarios this movie attempts to satirize. Even if the events take place at the tail end of the 60’s,
much recent headlines of going-on’s in DC pretty much parallel this film. Despite the outdated sound quality and picture quality, and even the filmmaking, this film can very well be compared to politics of governments today, especially to the Homeland Security act. The President’s Analyst starts out rather comical, yet slow and eventually works its way up the chain to the protagonist being chased by sinister people. There are many hidden jokes and gags to find, and my guess is you have to watch the film a few times to catch them all. But one thing that really got a laugh out of me is that by the middle half you have all these countries with agencies and spies attempting to get at Schaefer one way or another. It’s funny in an over-the-top way, but also in the way of how it's realistic; sad but true, and that’s really the whole concept of satire. Also, since it takes place in the 60s, much of the 60s music and influence is carried out nicely, including a couple of scenes featuring hippies. The only complaint I have is how the President of the United States was portrayed. The poster art from the 60s and the front cover of the DVD has James Coburn to the left sitting in the chair and to the right; you see what appears to be the President lying down on the couch. However, you never get to see the President in the film at all. Now, I understand why this was done in one reason, they made the President more symbolic than what he truly is, but it's still a letdown. I was very interested in the interaction between the analyst and the President, as well as seeing the “hence-the-title,” and I thought in some form or another it would've been shown. I’m sure this would’ve made the film more comical than what it was trying to do. With The President’s Analyst, writer/director Theodore J. Flicker presented a dark-satirical tale with much care and passion. His script is just pure brilliance; much of the dialogue is very easyfollowing, charming, witty, and entertaining. Much of the film has that amateuristic feel, and it was obvious the director wasn’t trying to be artsy-fartsy but rather just trying different things most directors are interested in when they start out. Flicker is not a total stranger of that time period; he has been involved with many known and unknown projects, including the popular Dick Van Dyke Show. THE VIDEO Paramount presents The President's Analyst in 2:35 widescreen format. Seeing as though this is part of the fine-line of Paramount’s widescreen collections, much care went in for at least attempting to darken the picture so it fits and enhances the viewing in widescreen form. I have many of their titles so this isn’t the first to be updated with picture quality. And the fact that it’s a 60s film, there are a few grainy spots here and there, and the tail end of the film sort of fades out of the darker color, but through and through, the film is presented to near perfection as the print allows. There are a few scenes where the color red is seen (films like Charly, Creepshow, and Marine also have this effect.) It’s a silly filmmaking technique, but it worked well here. The picture quality defeats the awkwardness this effect may have on people viewing the film. THE AUDIO
Paramount presents The President's Analyst in only Dolby Digital English Mono. Dialogue is clear. Music is fantastic, especially if you like the similar 60s movie scores and influenced rock – n- roll. But it is distorted and sort of awkward on the ears when heard in stereo. It didn’t seem like much care went into the sound quality. I have some DVDs of films that go back to the 60s and 40s and their sound quality was remastered. This film didn’t seem like it got that treatment. THE EXTRAS There are no extras, unfortunately. If you want to consider the cheaply done menus as an extra, then that’s all you get, as well as the feature presentation. Commentary track, “making of,” hell – even some trailers dating back to the release of the film would’ve been nice. Some nifty movies get the whole package deal and some movies don’t. It seems Paramount is good at presenting a film in widescreen but they don't make a concerted effort when it comes to sound quality and extras. FINAL THOUGHTS The DVD is worth buying despite the lack of extras. For some DVDs you just have to realize that the extra is the movie itself, nothing more and nothing less. The President’s Analyst is a brilliant satirical masterpiece, and even though it's outdated, the message isn’t, and several of the film's elements can be paralleled to events at this point in time. Sure, the film is over the top and beyond, but isn’t that what satire is? Worth are purchase for vintage film aficionados and/or government buffs, or analysts.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Away from the Ordinary Published via OUR TIMES - a small Journalism publication at Macomb Community College. Much of the (mainstream) music today doesn’t have the depth it once did. The concept of mainstream is what will sell and what won’t. In fact, when it comes to the genre of rock, solos are beginning to seem shorter and shorter. Isn’t it the music that expresses the exact message the ‘artist’ wants, not the lyrics? While rap is all about the impressive rhyming scheme, bubble-gum music is about what current guy (or girl) is in love with this week – or something more thought provoking like shopping. Where is the soul that once backed the concept of music? But it’s not just that – at one time, concept albums (which are another way of saying, “rock album”) told an entire story of an album. Pink Floyd The Wall, Queensrÿche Operation Mindcrime, and The Who Tommy, for example. It seems people are being spoon-fed music these days, and that is what the majority wants – right?
Within the past year, I was subjected to something unique and completely different. Of course, it was somewhat familiar with various styles that were inspired by other bands. But something was totally different. For starters, it isn’t on the radio or MTV. So that would mean it’s underground, right? Wrong. From the Dutch-land comes a fella that goes by the name, Arjen Anthony Lucassen. He is compared to Eddie Van Halen for his signature guitar riffs. Arjen has been involved with a few bands since the 80s. In the mid-90s, he started his own band (project) called Ayreon with his debut album, The Final Experiment. It’s a concept album that tells the story of a final experiment that might save Earth… Soon after, Actual Fantasy came into our lives. It’s a very different in story, style, and a completely different vibe from Experiment (unlike some bands, Arjen doesn’t release the same album – each is completely different from the next). Actual Fantasy is what the title suggests, very fantasy oriented. In fact, it has a lot of The Neverending Story vibe to it. That’s another unique trade-off with Ayreon (or any of Arjen’s projects): it’s usually inspired by movies. What’s considered Ayreon’s best by many fans: Into the Electric Castle. A double CD rock opera of great proportions that combines The Lord of the Rings to The Dark Tower (ironically, Arjen doesn’t read books). Arjen had this brilliant idea of making a story with two parts. Part one would be different from part two. The entire story was called The Universal Mirgrator. Part one, release first, is a more atmospheric and melodic experience called The Dream Sequencer. The journey breaks the barriers of time and space. The second release is heavier – more or less prog-metal – but concludes the story. This is called Flight of the Migrator. A fella from Iron Maiden lent his voice for one of the songs off the Flight album. At this point, Arjen took a break from the melodic and versatile side of Ayreon and went straight for metal. Star One: Space Metal - a head-banging album with some prog thrown in. Arjen then went a different direction and formed another band (project) called Ambeon. Those who follow the bands Nightwish or Evanescence should consider picking this one up somewhere down the road. The woman supplying the lyrics sang for this entire album. She was 14 years old. Arjen’s newest Ayreon release is The Human Equation, a combination of various styles and vibes of the past. Tired of repetitious music? Check out Ayreon/Arjen Anthony Lucassen. It’s quite an escape from the ordinary.
Remember the old Showcase Cinema National Amusements Showcase Sterling Heights Cinema has had many visitors and families throughout the years. In fact, for three straight decades it stood the test of time as this area’s most-beloved movie theater. I had the distinct pleasure of both playing the role of patron and employee the last decade or so of Showcase’s life. I vividly remember going to Showcase Sterling and seeing what became my ultimate favorite movie for nearly more than 10 years, Jurassic Park, back in ’93. And I had the honor to be a part of Showcase Sterling’s family as usher in ’99 through ’02. Like many others, Showcase Sterling has impacted my life more ways than one. The memories I had both, as a guest and worker, will never leave me. Showcase Sterling’s last huge attraction was Titanic, back in December ’97 and through most of the beginning and mid-half of ’98. That 10-week stretch will not be copied ever again. Not even the last remaining Sterling Heights theater, AMC Forum (or as Sterling locals call it, ‘the forum’) can live up to Showcase’s 30-year legacy. It’s unfortunate that Showcase had to close its doors in mid-March. Anyone who had worked at Showcase the last five years or so knew it was unavoidable. In fact, there were some close calls a few times and many rumors of its demise throughout the years. Many of the rumors indicated that either the theater would get a complete makeover or would expand. Neither happened, as we all can see. But nonetheless, talk is still occurring among former workers and Sterling Heights residents. And now local newspapers in Sterling Heights report that the theater might have another life. How I would go about reviving the old theater? It depends on what is happening. The talk among a lot of people is not so much what is going to happen, but whether or not a theater will replace a theater that in the end couldn’t survive. What company would open a theater there? I can’t see AMC doing it. I can’t see Star Theaters doing it either. Ideally, I have a feeling it’s either an independent company or a company that isn’t well known in the metro Detroit area. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens. All of us (from former workers to former guests) are in the dark to what the future holds on Showcase Sterling. Another factor is the economy. Let’s face it – the economy isn’t that great these days. It has become a depressing scene to drive up and down Van Dyke and notice every other building is closed. Is it even worth replacing a theater with a theater? Do we need it? I’m pretty selfish so I, myself, think it’s needed for us who live closer to the old Showcase Sterling than the Forum. I was able to roller blade and ride my bike during the summers to Showcase. It’s not like I don’t have a way to get to the Forum. It’s just that the idea of convenience was the main attraction the last couple of years at Showcase.
Whatever happens, if anything happens – we shall be the audience as the powers-that-be decides what is best for both them and us. I just hope the rundown but loveable building doesn’t sit there and rot. There is some life that can be done in that area. We just have to figure out what and soon.
Movies We Don’t Want to See Published via MovieM.com. The site doesn’t exist anymore. I actually wrote this a year prior for The Vanguard school newspaper, and decided to revamp it a little bit... As the winter season commences, many moviegoers hope to get some more movie mania with the new releases. While films like The Matrix: Revolutions, Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King will run face first in the box-office records, people who never get the fundamentals of a good film always state “where did they come up with this stuff?” It’s a shame people really don’t know half of where these “brilliant” works of art comes from! The entire purpose of movies is to entertain or make a bold point. Movies bring hope and excitement in our everyday lives. People go to movies to either get away from the world they’re in or to revisit the forgotten history of world’s past. People may not realize how much work goes into a film. Film studios have meetings to discuss various projects amongst the stack of screenplays and treatments on their desk. A lot of projects take at least 2 or more years to be developed. It took George Lucas ten years before he even thought about doing Star Wars prequels. It took more than a decade for Spiderman to get going. And what seems like an endless quest to find the “right” updated Superman movie (even though they have the future of Superman sitting on The WB lineup - Wednesdays at 8 p.m.) It seems as though Hollywood studios just don’t care anymore. They often over-market films or produce films so badly; no one in their right mind would pay $7.50 to see. The audience perhaps has become somewhat gullible (anyone who thinks that Signs or The Ring are great films has some “gullible” issues to deal with.) But audiences aren’t stupid. They see right through a plot-less flick (Men in Black 2 - enough said) and write evil thoughts about what they saw to some Internet forum. Many people feel that some films aren’t meant to be. Here is a list of films people hope “won’t” get made, just under the simple fact that it would be a root canal experience to witness these films with their very eyes. A chick-flick version of 9/11 would be the most immoral - tasteless act anyone could make. We all know a 9/11 film is bound to happen sooner or later, but hoping Michael Bay or James Cameron doesn’t helm the film adaptation of the tragic day is something everyone is praying for.
One other aspect to consider with this “someday” film is that one can’t create the whole event in a three-hour time slot. A lot happened that day. This would be no different then re-creating World War II in one film, from beginning to end. Impossible! The closest one will ever get to a 9/11 film as of right now is the Jules and Gedeon Naudet’s documentary about New York firefighters. However, it was filmed around the 9/11 event from where the Twin Towers stood by accident. There was also a semi-decent film of Showtime reflecting the Bush administration at the time of the crisis. Another Jason sequel is as painful as Pokemon 6! Everyone agrees; Jason X is one film that should have been axed! The acting in “Jason X” was so horrible that the film itself made Scary Movie look like an Oscar contender for Best Picture of the Year. Even though Freddy vs Jason was a guilty pleasure, the Friday the 13th series should have ended when Jason took over Manhattan. Regardless that the first film was a cult classic and made Friday the 13th a household name, the Jason sequels has no plot driven elements whatsoever. Most of the “hack ‘em whack ‘em” pictures has some sort of a plot including Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and yes, even the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But it’s embarrassing just to think Jason is up there with the likes of the “Boogey-Men.” It’s time to stop Jason once and for all. When push comes to shove, VH1 will probably produce an epic 10-part mini-series called The Michael Jackson Story. While America has gotten a little “too-much” dirt on Jackson, VH1 won’t hesitate to miss this opportunity to grab what they think will be “the most watched series any has-been producer could make.” No-no-no-no-no! Even The 2Pac Story has more depth than this freak without a leash. Even though people still consider Thriller as the best-invented video ever made, Jackson doesn’t deserve to have his life story made (yet again.) It’s bad enough getting through the day without some half-fictionalized gossip on “Entertainment Tonight!” This is one project people hope to God will never be made or even thought of in that matter! When Hollywood gets tired of “originality,” they start remaking beloved classics. It’s only a matter of time before Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes into our inner hearts once again. (But tell me the marketing doesn’t look somewhat intriguing.) There should be a new law: Nobody should remake any Alfred Hitchcock film ever again since Gus Van Sant killed the name Psycho. Even more of a reason to leave well enough alone Hitchcock films is masterpieces on their own. Tim Burton should have stopped at Sleepy Hollow when he remade Planet of the Apes. Marky Mark’s performance was just as bad as the Planet of the Apes TV series.
And there is a deep dark secret through the horror websites that it’s a possibility Halloween might be rehashed. After casting Busta Rhymes for the last Halloween flick – it’s understandable why they want to redo all eight films just to make up for it. Within the decade, Hollywood will remake Fahrenheit 451, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Stepford Wives, The Fly and War of the Worlds. While it isn’t clear why stories have to be re-told again, if Hollywood even thinks about touching Citizen Kane, Casablanca, or Jaws, there could be mass riots. People all over will then know Hollywood has lost all touch of originality and reality. But we do know one thing; nobody in his or her right mind will remake Ed Wood films. “Sequel-itis” is a curse Hollywood has had from day one. Sequels usually make or break the original film, creating a window for even more sequels. When it comes to sequels, the audience usually hates the idea but studio executives can’t get enough of it since box office numbers are higher with sequels then the original. But there are only so many sequels one big time Hollywood studio can make. While some studios still makes sequels to horrible films, there’s a sign of relief for some people who haven’t seen a single sequel to these already gone bad films like Howard the Duck, Ready to Rumble, and Eight Legged Freaks. One thing life has taught people: don’t underestimate Hollywood. Better check Variety (Hollywood’s Wall Street Journal) for up-to-date gossip on future projects. There is probably a meeting going on right now where movie execs are discussing the future of some bad excuse of a film. If Hollywood keeps it up - downloading movies off Kazaa (shhh) won’t be the only reason movie theaters are going out of business.
2003: -The WB column -The Texas Chainsaw Massacre review -Freddy Vs. Jason review -Terminator 3 review -Smallville column -The Osbournes column
A Retrospective: The WB - Under the Influence of WB-it is I started watching the WB in 1998 with the big Dawson’s Creek series premiere. Before I knew what was coming, I fell under the influence of WB-itis. What can I say; I am a sucker for melodramas with movie/music references! I’ve seen shows come and go (Popular, Glory Days, Roswell), I’ve seen shows I haven’t really gotten into until the second or third season (Gilmore Girls, Smallville, 7th Heaven), and I’ve seen shows where I started watching the first episode from its premiere up to now (Dawson’s Creek, Everwood). From the small town clichés and
tough issues adolescents go through in a pretext of an hour-long show, I present a retrospect into the world of the WB. Shows That Are Entertaining... 7th Heaven: Through the hour-long version of Full House—the redundant issues and morals that are presented—and the annoyance of Mackenzie Rosman (Ruthie) the show isn’t that bad. I do have a problem with the show after a while, which is why I don’t watch too much of it or I will have a mental breakdown. There are moments, mind you. And when do you have two cast members from the Star Trek galaxy without a Star Trek reference? Some of the issues are heartfelt (racism, suicide, sex), some are silly (herbal pills), but it’s mainly a feel-good show. Everwood: I really like this show. Add comedy with drama without making it too kiddy (7th Heaven, for example!) sells. I always admire Treat Williams so it’s great to see him in a main cast role. The boyfriend in a coma subplot is a little daytime soap opera, but somehow it works. I will admit I did shed some misty moments at a few parts, though I laughed at a few parts as well. If this show grabs like it has for the next two years (meaning, if it doesn’t become a cliché), then I will buy the entire series. It’s amazing how powerful some the episodes can get. It is drama like never before. Gilmore Girls: I wasn’t too keen at first regarding this show, considering the title has “girls” in it. My first thoughts were this is going to be a sappy chick show. Boy was I wrong. It’s about a sarcastic mother, a charming gal I wish I knew, a clichéd small town I wish I were in, and a dysfunctional family that makes my relatives sane (well, almost sane). Wow, what a show! I laughed more with this show than I have with most sitcoms. It produces more laughs than sappy moments, basically making fun of the idea of a cheesy cliché small town. Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel are great together. I rave every time there are two characters talking to each other without spoon-feeding what they are talking about. It’s real and raw. If I still go crazy over this show after this upcoming season (4), then I will “probably” buy the entire series someday. Smallville: I hated this show when it first came out. Come on, Lex Luther and Clark Kent are friends? It seemed unrealistic. But as I think for a moment, is Superman really realistic? Not really. I accidentally sat down one day and watched an episode from season two and fell in love at that moment. From there I downloaded the last season off Kazaa and was blown away with the show. I became Superman-obsessed once again. Although some story lines are corny (for example: second show from the first season, a bug boy who goes crazy after a rejection from Lana). But beneath the corny story lines it’s refreshing to see writers create something old in a new way. The movies/comics/spin off’s never explored the emotions Clark Kent went through in wake of discovering his special powers. While Warner Bros. is struggling to get the new Superman movie in order, I believe that if the WB sticks by the Smallville show they have possibilities to carry it on to film. But that’s just a crazy idea from a fan. What do I know?! Some comic references do get annoying after a while (not to mention—a very clever send off of Hulk in the beginning of the third season.) But overall I still admire the show and am very much hooked in the Smallville frenzy. It’s sure enough that
the series will fit in very nicely before Superman: The Movie and Superman 2 in my DVD collection! Dawson’s Creek: People have asked me why I liked this show back in the days. And people still wonder why I am Dawson’s Creek-crazed after all these years. Well, it’s because Katie Holmes is breathtaking and I myself have a personal connection to the show. Under the “who’s going out with who” and soap opera story lines, this show is basically about an aspiring filmmaker named Dawson Leary. And while I may not admire all that the guy has done, I do somewhat relate to him—being a movie-buff/Spielberg fanatic. My room is also full of Spielberg posters. My beliefs in movies are the same: faithful hero of the show. Oh, and did I mention Katie Holmes is hot? So those who rant on Dawson’s Creek for being a chick show and how the sex overplays everything, which is not the case here, require a medical check-up or something. Sure the soap opera angles get annoying after a while, but I see this show as nothing more than about a filmmaker on a quest for his dreams. Dawson’s Creek ended its run this year. Shows That Didn’t Last… Popular: I will admit that I had interest in this show when it first appeared. The girls were hot (immature, yes), and the popular vs. the outcasts goes on at every school. But then it got too “Jerry Springer”-ish (Popular girl becomes sisters with outcast girl because their parents are getting married.) Why didn’t it work? Call it a lack of interest and plot flow! For its short but sweet title that relates to everyone it did have potential, but it was horribly produced. Glory Days: I liked this show. I don’t understand why it didn’t work out. I mean, the pilot was brilliant; Kevin Williamson wrote it. Why was it canceled? The real reason: The pilot made no sense to the rest of the show. If you set something up for it to be explained later then it would work. But having loopholes so deep that it’s confusing gets the “rejected” stamp. If the writers had actually connected the loopholes then it would had worked out, at least to some degree. Now Glory Days rests with the forgotten shows that will remain locked in a vault forever. Roswell: I recall watching this show for one main reason; the title. It’s about damn time there is a show about the Roswell incident. As the series went on so did my brain cells. How dare the WB for making a real event (believe what you want) into a soap opera. It was like watching Titanic all over again, though at least that movie was believable. I won’t list the flaws of this show since there are so many to name, but I will say that once WB dumped it on UPN’s doorstep it got worse! Birds of Prey: I was attracted to the idea. Catwoman and Batman had an affair and they have a child. The idea was intriguing, not to mention great for marketing purposes. Why didn't it work out? Well, the pilot itself was confusing. The special effects were as awful as The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (yet another rejected show, but not from the WB). Also, the cheesy punch lines that happen to be a third rate rip off to Dark Angel made matters worse. I wish the writers would do a Bruce Wayne prequel (like Smallville) or something. Do it already! It can’t be any worse than Birds of Prey, right?! Shows That Just Got Here…
One Tree Hill: Two high school students who hated each other become brothers over a backstory involving their parents some years ago. This could be a guess. But isn’t that the same damn thing in Popular? Chad Michael Murray (who’s a regular WB-et) finally has his own show for once! It’s good to see Craig Sheffer again (although the character he plays is a Some Kind of Wonderful part for him!) After watching the pilot it is very catchy indeed. It’s a great drama, but the rap could be toned down just a tad! Tarzan: The marketing looks like a cheap Calvin Kline commercial. I’m not much into the “apeman” but I had to catch the pilot anyway. I can’t tell if this is going to be a cheesy “Charmed”, a successful Smallville, or trashy Birds of Prey. It’s noted that the special effects are beyond obvious of “fake-ness.” The acting isn’t the greatest either. The story line is worse than even Disney’s animated version. And to top it off, the interaction between Jane and Tarzan isn’t even romantic. It will take a lot more than “from the producer of Spiderman” to save this show. Sitcoms, Ehh… I don't care for the WB sitcoms. You have Reba who is annoying. You have Sabrina, who died a long time ago on TGIF's doorstep. And let’s not forget the college-fest version of Candid Camera (i.e. Jamie Kennedy Experiment). Wow, a handful of sitcoms that all have nothing interesting to show. The only thing that’s worthy of your attention is What I like About You. Amanda Bynes is funny on rare occasions. The Bottom Line… Something tells me my love for the WB isn’t a fad (like TGIF for example). It started with a connection to Dawson’s Creek and from that point it just grew. In a society that has unintelligent “come-and-go” shows, it’s refreshing to see a network stay committed with feel-good and drama shows. I am a sucker for melodramas and sideline (not slapstick) humor. And as long as the WB keeps this formula going I see no reason for the network not to last a very long time.
Does the old rusty 20th century saw need a 21st century upgrade? – A retrospect into the world of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ Before I analyze the original and the remake, let me explain the concept of a ‘remake.’ The exact definition of a ‘retelling’ is to tell again or in another form. And the correct definition of ‘rehash’ is to present or use again in another form without substantial change or improvement. Before there were written books and motion pictures, stories were retold from generation to generation. Mythology, the bible, and camp stories are all passed on stories that one day found print. It’s unknown that what is known now could be 100,000,000th version of what was first told.
It has nothing to do with originality; it has to do with passing on a story one era to another. When we think of ‘retold’ stories now, our first thoughts are; ‘originality has lost its mark.’ That is not the case. Of course it’s within a larger scale but the main idea still exists. Even if the original told story is perfect in every aspect, it’s still common for it to be retold. It’s quite possible that the original story that was once told is a retelling of another story. And it could be predicted that what we grew up with now possibly be retold on a different form within the next generation. Which then begs the question: did a campy/cheesy low budget independent horror cult classic needed to be retold? I mean, we already had Massacre sequels. We also had House of 100 Corpses and Jeepers Creepers, which could be considered ‘rehash’ of Chainsaw. But somehow, that wasn’t enough. After impressive marketing that kind of gives hats off to the marketing of the original and convincing interviews from the filmmakers and cast, a new question arises – does the new saw add up to the old saw? Well, it’s like comparing a 1980’s Zenith to a 2000 Dell. The original film is scary enough. Started a chain, which then made Halloween – the prime modern slasher. And the original film developed a sense of gore, something unseen in those days of cinema. But what made the film plausible to disregard Texas as a real horror in the fact that the acting is so terrible that it makes the Scooby Doo gang more real! And the characters are so dumb-witted that you are glad they are tortured (something you really don’t want in a horror film). If one knows the original somewhat by heart, they can tell right away the differences the remake presents and what the original had. It’s noted a certain key scene is missing to the remake, but it’s also noted that filmmakers of this retelling wanted to make it creepier than comedy. I guess that’s why ‘the dinner scene’ was cut right off (pun glory!) The story as follows: five sex-crazed college brats drive along in a ‘Mystery Machine’ type vehicle through Texas in the middle of nowhere. They came from a drug transaction in Mexico and they are on their way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert (70s galore). It’s not before long that they stumble upon a hysteric hitchhiker (who then shoots herself in the van). You can see now where this leads to… I was impressed by how well done this remake is, and its homage to both the original film and the shocking history it’s based upon.
Krueger/Voorhees Ok, for a project that has been in the works for a decade, I had huge expectations. The computer effects can’t be phony, the characters can’t be all hopeless, and the plot can’t be all terrible (referring to the ever so tortuous Jason X). From reading rejected screenplays (Freddy controlling Jason all these years to Freddy cult-ets resurrecting Jason), I expected something in the lines of New Nightmare. Instead, I got something in the lines of a Freddy/Jason sequel.
The teenager blood baths do get annoying after a while. That’s what made New Nightmare unique. It was a mature/adult version of Freddy, from a well-respected director who started Freddy. It would’ve been nice to see Wes pull this off. However, Ronny Yu filled in nicely (anyone remember Bride of Chucky, especially the beginning), and made what he had to work with, work. The characters: The cliché hack-em-whack-em victims, I meant characters, are the same as they were portrayed in the 70s and 80s. Smoking pot, having sex, sometimes saying stupid shit, and gets slaughtered. There was only one guy that bothered me, the kid-looking-pot-head. Jason Mewes should kick that guy’s ass. Kelly Rowland played the typical token black person, entertaining and annoying up her last breath! Monica Keena plays a similar role Heather Langenkamp played in the first Freddy flick. Then you have some of the horny guys and girls that get slaughtered, and of course, can’t forget the brainless police officers. Ah, and let’s not forget Jason’s mother. Sure, this had a Psycho tone to it. Paula Shaw tried so hard to be a Betsy Palmer who played Jason’s mother in the first Friday, wasn’t as convincing to me though. Was actually quite annoying. Freddy: He is indeed my favorite of the two, just for being a smartass! Something off about this guy, no matter how bad the movie really is Robert Englund always has something to say. His comeback wasn’t as great as New Nightmare. But the plot to get Freddy back is, hmm…wtf?!? Freddy died because the town’s people ignored his presence. 100+ rejected screenplays and that is the best you can come up with?!?! Jason: I never liked Jason. I loved the first film. Something about Kevin Bacon getting sliced up. No, that is not it. Oh, yeah. JASON WASN’T IN IT (ending doesn’t count!) I find the Jason movies to be the driest of all hack-em-whack-em. A slice and dice revenge over being drowned doesn’t do anything for me. I love the Halloween movies because of the psychological aspect of it. The same goes with the Nightmare and Psycho movies. But a killing rampage, nothing else, doesn’t do anything for me. So while Jason was on screen, I yawned a lot! Who wins?: In a case of fan vs. fan, I hate to give out the ending (oh no!) but they both win AND lose. No gambling on this battle. A very satisfying ending gives both a smile and a “glad I saw it on the big screen since I never got a chance to see any Freddy flick on the big screen” feeling in my stomach. It did homage to both franchises. But the bottom line, I didn’t love this movie. I enjoyed it. I liked it. Hell…I had a great time. But it’s far from love. For a movie that has been in development hell for a decade, I expected better, wanted better, and hoped for better.
He’s back…the flair’s back…yet the drama isn’t “I thought we’d prevented Judgment Day. But now…it’s all starting again,” Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton in the Universal Studios attraction, said. That’s exactly what the tone
is for T3 (technically T4 if you don’t disregard the attraction as a sequel). And later in the movie, Arnold states that mommy and Johnny boy didn’t stop Judgment Day just postponed it. T3 hits where Matrix Reloaded tried and failed to bring out a sequel with lots of effects and no bore. But what T3 fails in is the comparison of T1/T2. T1 became a cult classic with its effects, direction, while allowing a follow up to take place. T2 became timeless when the direction of CIG started affecting movie magic. I remember the first time I saw T2, I was amazed in disbelief. Robert Patrick’s performance as the ruthless villain scared the shit out of me (similar to what the T-Rex’s and Raptors did in Jurassic Park). I was hoping T3 would dazzle me in that same direction. What made T2 even better than T1 were the drama, the plot, and the darkness that it portrayed. T3 is nothing more than a reproduction of both flicks. Nothing new; just the same plot one twice. I see now what the writers were trying to do. They weren’t trying to work a new cult classic or make a breakthrough film but simply a summer box office flick that will be forgotten years from now (will anyone remember it 2013?) Aside from the crane scene, I did not enjoy T3 one bit. Just let it die, already! At least let it die in dignity!
Show of tomorrow wow viewers Published via Stevenson High School ‘The Vanguard’ newspaper… When I was five years old, I was a huge Superman fan. Not the comic books, but the Christopher Reeves' films. I had the Superman action figure, the red "S" shirts, and even the Superman movie poster. Now, fourteen years later, I'm 18 and hooked again with Superman mania. The WB's successful show, Smallville has re-discovered my childhood all over again (or also called the Peter-Pan syndrome). This inventive show marks the dawn of probably the best show ever on The WB or even TV history. The idea of backtracking to Clark Kent's (soon to be hero) teenager days is the best prequel idea ever. Not even George Lucas himself could be as creative as Smallville's creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, as they show the relationship between Lex Luthor (soon to be villain) and Clark Kent. At first, I didn't see it as realistic, but as I gave it a try, it really seems more possible then any of the Superman spin offs that failed over the years. As seen with the original 1978 film, most of us know how Clark Kent got here and who he was destined to be. But the film never explores the emotion Kent's goes through during the process of learning all of his "abilities." Nor does it explain how Lex Luthor got as evil as he did. The comics never explore these aspects either, so a TV show was only destined to be made. After years of wondering, fans now get the full story of Superman.
Twelve years ago, a meteor shower collides to a small town called Smallville, Kansas. During the meteor shower that destroyed or impacted the lives in this small town, Jonathan (John Schneider) and Martha Kent (Annette O' Toole) finds a spaceship with a little boy in a cornfield, outside of Smallville. They fall in love and adopt him (as later, fans see Lex Luthor's dad is involved with the adoption). He grows up to be Clark Kent (Tom Welling). The show doesn't quite revolve around Kent though. We also get to see the subplots that involve Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) and his, dad Lionel Luthor (John Glover). Fans see a good side of Lex Luthor, which makes him, seem like a likeable guy. We see once in a while, the twitch of evilness in Lex's eye. We also see the inner changing parallel of jealously between Luthor and Kent (Clark over Lex's money, Lex over Clark's family). Smallville is best compared to X-Files because of the different kinds of "weird stuff" that goes on in this small town (which the meteorites from the meteor shower are to blamed 99.9 percent of the time). While this goes on, Kent is usually the one that saves the people from the edge of the seat scenarios that takes place with each episode. The show has many levels, which makes it a perfect Superman prequel and aside from Superman, makes an effort to be as separate from the Superman saga as possible. So it also has that drama/soap opera appeal too. I admire the soap opera angle with the love triangle of Clark, Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) and Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk.) The show stays true with the film series (a little side note: Annette O'Toole played Lana Lang in Superman 3) and the comic books. It's neat watching the show's writers pull clever angles and characters from both, so fans will be glorified. (It's rumored the character Chloe Sullivan is cousins with Lois Lane!) Each episode goes closer in depth with the Superman origins. The writers have two aspects to work with the movie series and the comic books. They found a way to connect those aspects, while pulling something new and fresh, that's more than the writers of Enterprise could do! Even though we won't see these characters in Smallville forever, I vote to see this series last as long as 7th Heaven. Smallville is on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. or the encore repeats Sundays at 5 p.m. on The WB. Whether you watch it on Tuesday, Sunday, or just download the episodes from Kazaa, Smallville has enough drama and excitement to seek anyone's glare of entertainment. Smallville has become my favorite series, even topping my once favorite show, Dawson's Creek. That's no small accomplishment. In the cliché lingo of 4 stars out of 4 stars, I give this show a 3.5 out of a 4!
The Osbournes: America’s misfit family Published via Stevenson High School ‘The Vanguard’ newspaper…
Everybody thinks just because I was an obsessive Ozzy Osbourne fan back in 7th grade, I would be so excited for this very unintelligent show called The Osbournes, however they were wrong. This show has a severe case of overateditis. Actually, the only good aspect about this show is that it shows what people who do drugs on a weekly or monthly basis will be like in thirty years, walking-talking zombies. I grew up with Ozzy's music from a rock `n' roll-like family, but I knew Ozzy had the biggest ego of all time (coming from a guy that bites off bat and pigeon heads over being drunk). He has an even bigger ego than pop-gone-bad Steven Tyler and solo-gone-bad David Lee Roth. Ozzy Osbourne has influenced and inspired a lot of bands we see today. To put it more lightly, Black Sabbath created heavy metal. If it weren't for Ozzy and crew, who knows whom we would be idolizing now. But creating an "in-your-face, we-are-rich-and-stupid, you're-not" show is a little less than creative. However, I do give MTV credit. It's about time they actually do something that involves some form of music since they usually do shows like Road Rules or Real World, which defeats what MTV is about and stands for. But a show displaying real intelligence could be much better. Imagine Martin Scorsese directing an episode of Undressed. That would be more entertaining then seeing an episode of The Osbournes. Come on. If you have a bunch of cameraman all around your house, wouldn't you act a little less than ordinary? That's what makes the show unrealistic. If you had hidden cameras all around the house, maybe it would work out. Some of our rock legends even disagree about this new chapter in Ozzy's life. "I think it's a shame because I think Ozzy is being laughed at," Alice Cooper said during an interview on a radio station. "And, really, what does that kind of television say about our society?" Even "Uncle" Ted Nugent said during a TV interview, "[The Osbournes display] an indictment to the soullessness of modern man that we get a kick out of witnessing a magnificent creature reduced to a blithering, hopeless idiot." Ouch! If that's not enough, what gives Sharon Osbourne the right to insult Ozzy, her family, and rock `n' roll as a whole? This business deal Sharon made isn't a good one, since she is the brains of the already gone brain cells of Ozzy Osbourne. She has made her family now commercialized to a point where it's not about rock `n' roll anymore; it's about their riches. I went to "The Merry Mayhem Tour" last year at this time, and was never so excited for a concert as I was back then. But three months later when the first season premiered, I flat out lost all respect for the guy. While others who aren't even Ozzy fans are getting into this show, I hate it. The only reason why I watch it is to see what crazy thing Ozzy will do next. Other than that, I think I'd rather watch a toilet flush, since it has that same-effect. For being a devoted fan over the years, that says a lot. I would rather see a movie version of Ozzy's life from the days of the slaughterhouse back in the 1960s to the days of Randy Rhoads
death back in the early 1980s. That would at least be more tasteful than what is shown of Ozzy Osbourne. If this show teaches kids anything, it's to say "no" to drugs.
2002: -Red Dragon movie review -Signs movie review -Spiderman movie review
‘Red Dragon’ brought emotion to the big screen Published via Stevenson High School ‘The Vanguard’ newspaper… I was flat out smiling after the credits rolled during the closing of the remake/prequel, Red Dragon. It had that same touch and emotion on the big screen via Hannibal. This beginning of a perfect-lined trilogy starts out differently to the cheesy, yet underrated Manhunter (Michael Mann’s original Hannibal Lector film). The film begins with how Dr. Hannibal ‘The Cannibal’ Lector is captured and locked up in the first place, giving the full understanding to this infamous, yet charming character, which is recognized everywhere. Sir Anthony Hopkins shines on screen with an absolute brilliant performance. His third and last attempt at evilness is understood to be the best yet. When I heard about this remake, I was worried on two names that seemed not to fit this perfect saga: director Brett Ratner (famous for his Rush Hour films) and a fine actor named Edward Norton. Now. I may have not given Mr. Ratner a chance because he seemed to follow the same path as directors Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) and Ridley Scott (Hannibal). Ratner’s direction with camera angles and the darkness of Red Dragon seemed to have improved as being a fine director. As for Edward Norton (famous for beating himself up in Fight Club), I still don’t picture Norton as Will Graham. The story follows as Graham is pushed out of retirement. He tries to unravel a monster of huge proportion, a killer under the name Red Dragon. Similar to The Silence of the Lambs, Dr. Lector helps out Graham to catch the Dragon. This film is best compared to a jigsaw puzzle. It has that edge-of-the-seat-don’t-know what-to-expect feel to it. It’s a privilege to see a thriller without the cheap gore or cheap scares. On the other hand, it’s no different than Manhunter in a lot of ways, besides the performance of goodie-goodie Hopkins. This new updated version is just as comparison as seeing Manhunter on a special extended version on DVD.
The plot is the same, the scenes are the same, and even some of the dialogue is the same. But what is different from the 1986 version and this new 2002 version is that the subplot of the relationship between Graham and Dr. Lector. Red Dragon could have been produced better if there wasn’t an Edward Norton in the picture. I don’t quite imagine Norton as retired FBI agent Will Graham. I thought William L. Petersen in Manhunter had done a better job bringing out Will Graham from the inside. What was missing from Manhunter, in which makes the film forgettable, is the missing link between Dr. Lector and Graham, in which Red Dragon easily portrayed. Red Dragon is not for everybody. It has the psychological controversy of The Silence of the Lambs. And the fine-dines and gore of Hannibal. In the words of the evil genius Dr. Hannibal Lector, ‘Ta-ta.’
‘Signs’ overrated Published via Stevenson High School ‘The Vanguard’ newspaper… M. Night Shyamalan, the shining new writer/director of the overrated The Sixth Sense and the underrated Unbreakable, had us going all summer long. He had marketing with crop circles and slogans like ‘It’s Happening.’ Signs grossed $60 million in its opening weekend. Up to the opener, I was looking forward to Signs. It’s about time Hollywood makes a movie about crop circles (because whether or not you like to believe in UFOs, these strange shapes appearing in farmers crops overnight, are supposedly being reported). That’s what I thought, until I got an hour into the film. The first forty-five minutes of the film is the best filmmaking I’ve seen in a good, long, while. It starts out in an abnormal morning, in which family man Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) finds crop circles in his crops. From there, the story gets kind of suspenseful, in terms of the way the direction of the film goes. The plot seemed too much like Daphne Du Maurier’s original story of The Birds (which Alfred Hitchcock took and changed around to make his own version). From there, I got thrown away. The whole crop circles angle was very pointless to the ending of the film, not to give anything away to those who hasn’t seen it. Picture this: you’re an alien that is afraid of water, yet you are about to raid a planet that is two-thirds water. The few compliments I do give to the film are Mel Gibson, for his choice of picking such a different project. This doesn’t go along with the freedom, kicking butt Brave-Heart, the wholesome melodrama The Man Without a Face, nor the epic saga Lethal Weapon. I will also give two thumbs up to the score of the film. James Newton Howard didn’t make the film too bad with the haunting music, that is compared to how John Williams approached Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters and E.T., the beautiful yet undeniable creepy score, moves the film along.
As for this uprising writer/director, Mr. Shyamalan is the new kid on the block who does have talent for directing a film. In his films, I saw some camera angles on both Unbreakable and now, Signs, which I had never seen before. But as for screenwriting, he should have somebody else write out the scripts for him. He’s decent on character development, needs work on dialog, and certainly is horribly in terms of plots and sub-plots. What I hear from the rumor-mill, Signs is going to be a trilogy. Whether or not good old Mel will rejoin this already gone bad series, Signs could have been done much better. And adding the fear factor of crop circles does not help. Even though this wasn’t a cliché in your face, blow up the world type sci-fi flick, it still runs with War of the Worlds and Independence Day, with the misconceptions of UFOs, whether you believe or not, the truth is out there.
A look at the Spider-web Published via Stevenson High School ‘The Vanguard’ newspaper… Words can’t describe the new movie, Spiderman, but numbers can. A whopping $114 million for opening weekend. Comic book fans got what they have been waiting for. Believe it or not, this film has been in development for decades. And if it weren’t for director Sam Raimi, best known for directing the Evil Dead Trilogy, there wouldn’t be any discussion on how good Spiderman was days after it opened. In all respect, it’s the best movie I have seen in a long time. It has all the elements of being a perfect popcorn flick, maybe even more. But the debate toward the film is whether or not it adds up to the comic book. When you adapt something to film such as a comic book, you keep it as similar as possible, but also change parts to please the moviegoer audience. Unlike Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, this is a film you can watch without being a Spideynut. The movie starts off as the comic has. Normal outcast Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) goes on a field trip to a spider exhibit. For those of you who hate spiders, this is the only time you’ll see them. During the field trip, a spider gets loose and bites Parker. Parker then goes through changes, which includes better eye vision, muscles (which I think the ladies might appreciate), wall crawling, the webs, and spider-sense, which picks up danger before it comes. One thing the comic fans debate about is that in the comics, Parker makes his own webs with an invention he had made on night. But in the film version, you’ll see the webs coming from his wrist. One-thing fans don’t realize is there’s only a two-hour time slot here. In that time, you have to develop characters, get through the plot, and put those elements from the comics to the film.
One complaint I have is Norman Osborn (William Dafoe), the man behind the alter ego, Green Goblin. Even though Green Goblin looked so sweet flying around on his glider invention, Norman Osborn lacked character development. Not giving anything away, but the love story didn’t really extend in the film, but that’s where the sequel comes in at. Spiderman 2, set for May 7, 2004 (as of right now), will include the villain Dr. Octopus and the continued love story between Parker and Watson. As of right now, if you haven’t seen Spiderman, I highly suggest it. One warning though. If you experience dizziness or are afraid of heights, I don’t suggest this. It’s basically like a two-hour ride compared to the Spiderman ride at Universal Islands of Adventure in Florida. You actually feel like swinging with Spidey through the skyline of Manhattan throughout that ride. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t say, enjoy the ride!
A Moviefreak Retrospective by Keith Helinski, Part Two If you actually read every single review, you are my hero! If you skimmed through it, you are still my hero! I can’t even imagine how many grammar mistakes, spelling errors, and ramblings you went through to get to this point (!), but I thank you nonetheless! I noticed some things while I was going through everything. First off, I wrote a lot! Secondly, I rambled a lot! Thirdly, I didn’t know what I was writing about most of the time! And fourthly, I gave the impression that I knew what I was writing about half of the time! But I think what I noticed the most is how much I loved writing about what I was into at the time. Ten years ago, I thought Dawson’s Creek and Smallville was the best thing on Earth! Now there’s an LOL for ya! I want to stress a few things. First off, it may seem like this is a lot of writings, but this is just a good handful. I cherry picked what I liked from MovieFreak, what I written in college/high school, and my recent ramblings. There is a whole bunch that I would have LOVED to include with this collection I don’t have any more. Writings that got deleted off old Myspaces/Live Journals. Writings that got lost during a dead hard drive last year (lesson learned: back up your stuff!) But despite the lost goodies that would have made this collection even better, I am content with what I could find. MovieFreak tells the story about a young lad, learning how to write. It also tells the story about the young lad’s piss-poor taste in TV shows! There is a Lulu version of this ebook that is slightly different to this version (but not by much). I like the idea of having two different MovieFreak’s out there. I want to take this opportunity here to again, thank Dennis Landmann. He kept me part of the site, despite the better writers on the site. It’s difficult to find middle ground with five+ DVD
critics, and he did the best he could to satisfy me with my own requests over the years (and my DVD collection benefit from it!) I did a little bit of freelancing, supplying guest columns at a few local newspapers over the years (which I included a couple in this collection). I never made it bigger than MovieFreak, but that’s okay. I am all over the Internet (which has its own pros and cons, the cons is I can’t delete the mediocre stuff I’ve written!) Sara Michelle Fetters, whom is one of the main writers off MovieFreak, gave me the best advice back in 2008 while she was proofreading my X-Files review. She told me what most English teachers tell their students; less is more. I always had a problem rambling, and I still do from time to time. The gist of the advice is trying to organize my thoughts for the reader’s sake. All writers are aware that indulgence can be a lethal habit (my Dark Knight ramblings, case-in-point!) I learned, slowly but surely, how to structure my writing better. And I owe Sara some gratitude for that advice. I should note that her reviews are kick-ass, and you should be reading them! Anyhow, this is goodbye to MovieFreak.com… What I used to love reviewing movies at age 17, I don’t anymore at age 27. And clearly, my writing is going into a different direction (let it be known that I had a difficult time writing that Jurassic Park Blu Ray review, but it was smooth sailing (and quite enjoyable) writing the Cinema Paradiso short story). I do want to make something clear. Spielberg is still my hero. Disney is still my magical gateway. I still read Ebert’s (as well as Sara’s reviews) weekly. And I still have a soft spot for The WB (though I can assure you that Dawson’s Creek or Smallville is nowhere near the top of my favorites, lol!) Concluding this ebook and to show how much of a moviefreak I am, I am going to send you off with quotes from some of my favorite movies/TV shows I cherish over the years. Your job, try to guess every single one of them! Ready… …okay… …here we go! (Quotes ‘borrowed’ from imdb.com) K.H.; June 2002- December 2011.
Look at this. I'm so ticked off that I'm molting. Hey, Lonnie, get your ass away from there! Look at this: an entire generation of Cinderellas and there's no glass slipper. Life isn't like in the movies. Life... is much harder. How do you explain school to higher intelligence? No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how. I do wish we could chat longer, but... I'm having an old friend for dinner. Bye. The future is just a fucking concept that we use to avoid living today. Never knock the way another cat swings, man. I know this sounds crazy, but ever since yesterday on the road, I've been seeing this shape. VoilĂ ! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V. Do I still have to sleep in the cupboard? I would have never done it, Lisbeth. But I understand why you did. I don't know what you have experienced. But I was about to die in that cellar, and you saved my life. Whatever you have seen, you don't need to tell me. I'm just happy that you're here. Eight jack-o-lanterns, eight victims. So we're gonna place these jack-o-lanterns down by the lake as an offering to those who died. It was not my intention to do this in front of you. For that I'm sorry. But you can take my word for it, your mother had it comin'. When you grow up, if you still feel raw about it, I'll be waiting.
Faith is like a glass of water. When you're young, the glass is small, and it's easy to fill up. But the older you get, the bigger the glass gets, and the same amount of liquid doesn't fill it anymore. Oh, we have 12 vacancies. 12 cabins, 12 vacancies. Hey Angel, get out of that bathroom now. Hello, I'm Tom Hanks. The US Government has lost its credibility so it's borrowing some of mine. This is called farming! You kids are gonna grow all kinds of plants! Vegetable plants, pizza plants. Gee, the lack of humility before nature that's being displayed here, uh... staggers me. I was just thinking that of all the trails in this life there is one that matters most. It is the trail of a true human being. I think you are on this trail and it is good to see. Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I'd like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fatass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol? Y'all got on this boat for different reasons, but y'all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave. Yes. Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime. For example: You're walking along, minding your own business. You're looking neither to the left, nor to the right, when all of a sudden you run smack into a pretty face. Woo-woo! You begin to get weak in the knees. Your head's in a whirl. And then you feel light as a feather, and before you know it, you're walking on air. And then you know what? You're knocked for a loop, and you completely lose your head! It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage. Professor Marvel never guesses, he knows! Fuck me! He's gone completely around the bleedin' twist! Broadcasting beautiful views 24 hours a day: you're tuned to the Scenery Channel.
It seems despite your exhaustive defensive strategies, you still have a bit of a security problem, Headmaster. Just a minute... just a minute. Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You're right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I'll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was... why, in the 25 years since he and his brother, Uncle Billy, started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn't that right, Uncle Billy? He didn't save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what's wrong with that? Why... here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You... you said... what'd you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken down that they... Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you'll ever be! I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart! Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown... THROW IT! Jack, please, I'm only an elected official here, I can't make decisions by myself! I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies. We are not going to stand for weirdness out here! We don't care whether or not we care! And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say. Did anyone ever tell you, you look like a penis with that little hat on? I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve. This is very cruel, Oskar. You're giving them hope. You shouldn't do that. *That's* cruel! I was hiding under your porch because I love you. Soon you'll know us all too well, with my apologies.
No fucking shit, lady. Does it sound like I'm ordering a pizza? There's a man out there I haven't seen in fifteen years who's trying to kill me. You show me a son that'd be happy to help. My son... my life that could have been... and wasn't. How do I feel? Old... worn out. This town is like one big outpatient mental institution. Some places are like people: some shine and some don't. I don't think it's nice, you laughin'. You see, my mule don't like people laughing. He gets the crazy idea you're laughin' at him. Now if you apologize, like I know you're going to, I might convince him that you really didn't mean it. This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story. Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte... just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that when you're in the water, Chief? You tell by looking from the dorsal to the tail fin. What we didn't know, was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin', so we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know, it was kinda like old squares in the battle like you see in the calendar named "The Battle of Waterloo" and the idea was: shark comes to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin' and hollerin' and screamin' and sometimes the shark will go away... but sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a shark... he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'. The ocean turns red, and despite all the poundin' and the hollerin', they all come in and they... rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don't know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday morning, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boatswain's mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he'd been bitten in half below the waist. Noon, the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us... he was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and starts to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened... waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb. My first day as a woman and I'm getting hot flashes. Let Jesus fuck you, let Jesus fuck you. Let him fuck you.
Give my regards to King Tut, asshole. Rock 'n' roll by its very nature leads to a breakdown in discipline. Little souvenir from the old home town. I spared no expense to make you feel right at home. Nice fucking model! I told you kids to stay out of my butt! Are the birds gonna eat us, Mommy? Trust no one, Mr. Mulder. If you ever wonder where your dreams come from, look around: this is where they're made. Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe? That's a piecrust promise. Easily made, easily broken. I make the illogical logical. Hey, Dillon. Ever play skin the cat? Here's how it is: The Earth got used up, so we moved out and terraformed a whole new galaxy of Earths. Some rich and flush with the new technologies, some not so much. The Central Planets, thems formed the Alliance, waged war to bring everyone under their rule; a few idiots tried to fight it, among them myself. I'm Malcolm Reynolds, captain of Serenity. She's a transport ship; Firefly class. Got a good crew: fighters, pilot, mechanic. We even picked up a preacher for some reason, and a bona fide companion. There's a doctor, too, took his genius sister outta some Alliance camp, so they're keepin' a low profile. You understand. You got a job, we can do it, don't much care what it is. Look at me, Damien! It's all for you. The irony of religion is that because of its power to divert man to destructive courses, the world could actually come to an end. The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having in key decisions made by religious people. By irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken. George Bush prayed a lot about Iraq, but he didn't learn a lot about it. Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It's nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don't have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it's wonderful when someone says, "I'm willing, Lord! I'll do whatever you want me to do!" Except that since there are no gods actually
talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas. And anyone who tells you they know, they just know what happens when you die, I promise you, you don't. How can I be so sure? Because I don't know, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not. The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting shit dead wrong. This is why rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you actually comes at a terrible price. If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you'd resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife, for the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers. If the world does come to an end here, or wherever, or if it limps into the future, decimated by the effects of religion-inspired nuclear terrorism, let's remember what the real problem was that we learned how to precipitate mass death before we got past the neurological disorder of wishing for it. That's it. Grow up or die. That tall drink of water with the silver spoon up his ass. You know, outside the circus, most people were afraid of me. But I didn't hate them. I pitied them. Do you know why? Because most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes. The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It's a good non-specific symptom; I'm a big believer in it. A lot of people will tell you that a good phony fever is a dead lock, but, uh... you get a nervous mother, you could wind up in a doctor's office. That's worse than school. You fake a stomach cramp, and when you're bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It's a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school. I would have been here right after you called, but I had to shake the weasels. They're all gonna laugh at you. But when it comes down to it, who's holding the umbrella? Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine. I guess sometimes the past just catches up with you, whether you want it to or not. You son of a bitch! You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn't you? You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the headstones! You-only-moved-the-headstones! Why? *Why*? The bitch hit me with a toaster!
It's a funny world we live in. Speaking of which, do you know how I got these scars? It's a dinglehopper. Humans use these little babies... to straighten their hair out. See? Just a little twirl here and a yank there and voila. You've got an aesthetically pleasing configuration of hair that humans go nuts over. You can start by wiping that fucking dumb-ass smile off your rosey, fucking, cheeks! And you can give me a fucking automobile: a fucking Datsun, a fucking Toyota, a fucking Mustang, a fucking Buick! Four fucking wheels and a seat! Look! Or I will cut your eyelids right off your face. We are supposed to be righteous. That's a beautiful thing. And we're losing it. If I lose that, that's everything. That's my soul. Here's the thing... I don't give a tuppenny fuck about your moral conundrum, you meat-headed shit-sack... That's pretty much the thing. Innocent? Is that supposed to be funny? An obese man... a disgusting man who could barely stand up; a man who if you saw him on the street, you'd point him out to your friends so that they could join you in mocking him; a man, who if you saw him while you were eating, you wouldn't be able to finish your meal. After him, I picked the lawyer and I know you both must have been secretly thanking me for that one. This is a man who dedicated his life to making money by lying with every breath that he could muster to keeping murderers and rapists on the streets! A woman... so ugly on the inside she couldn't bear to go on living if she couldn't be beautiful on the outside. A drug dealer, a drug dealing pederast, actually! And let's not forget the diseasespreading whore! Only in a world this shitty could you even try to say these were innocent people and keep a straight face. But that's the point. We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it's common, it's trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon, and night. Well, not anymore. I'm setting the example. What I've done is going to be puzzled over and studied and followed... forever. But why is the rum gone? How do you like that? The guy gets laid more times dead than I do alive. On August 29th, 1997, it's gonna feel pretty fucking real to you too. Anybody not wearing 2 million sunblock is gonna have a real bad day. Get it? You mustn't mind the tree monsters. Their bark is worse than their bite. Ha ha ha ha! Giving V to Jason Stackhouse is like givin' ho ho's to a diabetic! No ticket. What do you want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau's famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau's, who is, in this critic's opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau's soon, hungry for more. I think we've been successful in destroying these people's film. I will remind them that I said 'you will regret it'. I said 'don't be surprised when you discovered how boring we really are.'. When you love someone, you've gotta trust them. There's no other way. You've got to give them the key to everything that's yours. Otherwise, what's the point? And for a while, I believed, that's the kind of love I had. That's where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory. James T. Kirk was considered to be a great man. He went on to captain the USS Enterprise... but that was another life. A life I will deprive you of just like I did your father! You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the road sides, you will play golf, and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. You're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. Wait till they get a load of me! Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract. You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you're going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole. I think positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time.
I hope you've enjoy this tour through some of the greatest moments at the movies. But we've only scratched the surface of what Hollywood has to offer. There are still thousands of other great movies out there waiting for you.
MovieFreak links MovieFreak [http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/moviefreak/17270093] Jurassic Park Trilogy [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/publish/bluray_jurassicpark.shtml] Waking Sleeping Beauty [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/publish/dvd_wakingsleepingbeauty.shtml] The Sorcerer's Apprentice [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/publish/bluray_sorcerersapprentice.shtml] A Christmas Carol [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/publish/bluray_christmascarol.shtml] Everwood Season 3 [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/publish/dvd_everwood_s3.shtml] Beetlejuice [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/publish/dvd_beetlejuice.shtml] Tiny Toon Adventures: Season 1 Vol. 1 [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/publish/dvd_tinytoons_s1v1.shtml] The X-Files: I Want to Believe [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/publish/movies_xfiles2-review2.shtml] Cloverfield [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/publish/dvd_cloverfield.shtml] Dawsonâ€™s Creek Season 6 [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/exec/view.cgi?archive=3&num=612] Animaniacs Vol. 1 [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/exec/view.cgi?archive=4&num=787]
Bambi 2 [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/exec/view.cgi?archive=3&num=506] Batman Begins [http://www.moviefreak.com/artman/exec/view.cgi?archive=2&num=215] Star Trek First Contact [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/s/startrek_firstcontact_ce.htm] Gilmore Girls Season 3 [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/g/gilmoregirls_s3.htm] The Phantom of the Opera [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/pq/phantomoftheopera.htm] Stand By Me [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/s/standbyme_deluxe.htm] Bambi [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/b/bambi.htm] One Tree Hill Season 1 [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/o/onetreehill_s1.htm] Mary Poppins [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/m/marypoppins.htm] The Polar Express [http://www.moviefreak.com/reviews/pq/polarexpress_2.htm] Fire in the Sky [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/f/fireinthesky.htm] Kingdom Hospital [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/k/kingdomhospital.htm] Dawsonâ€™s Creek Season 4 [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/d/dawsonscreek_s4.htm] ALF Season 1 [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/a/alf_s1.htm] Candyman [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/c/candyman_se.htm]
The President's Analyst [http://www.moviefreak.com/dvd/pq/presidentsanalyst.htm] A Retrospective: The WB [http://www.moviefreak.com/features/keith/wbretrospective.htm]
MovieFreak is a collection of movie reviews, short stories, and columns written by Keith Helinski over the years. Features published pieces...
Published on Jan 24, 2012
MovieFreak is a collection of movie reviews, short stories, and columns written by Keith Helinski over the years. Features published pieces...